This is the Manzanar Relocation Center in Manzanar, California. This is mess-hall number 15. As you can see, it is very crowded and much like a cafeteria. Living in the camps, an evacuee was treated more like a number than a real person, as shown by the massive cafeteria and similar living situations.
“We saw all these people behind the fence, looking out, hanging onto the wire, and looking out because they were anxious to know who was coming in. But I will never forget the shocking feeling that human beings were behind this fence like animals [crying]. And we were going to also lose our freedom and walk inside of that gate and find ourselves…cooped up there…when the gates were shut, we knew that we had lost something that was very precious; that we were no longer free.” – Mary Tsukamoto
“Most of the 110,000 persons removed for reasons of ‘national security’ were school-age children, infants and young adults not yet of voting age.” – Michi Weglyn
“At Gila, there were 7,700 people crowded into space designed for 5,000. They were housed in messhalls, recreation halls, and even latrines. As many as 25 persons lived in a space intended for four.”- Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
In 1993, more than fifty years after the opening of Japanese Internment Camps in the United States, then-President Bill Clinton sent letters to each survivor of those camps, asking forgiveness on behalf of the American people. This letter was the result of a piece of legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 which apologized for these internment camps on behalf of the United States government. The government distributed more than $1.6 billion in damages and reparations to Japanese Americans who were afflicted by this internment and their children, totaling about $20,000 per person.
Early in 1943 the US Government (the War Relocation Authority) released a questionnaire for those men who were over 17 and interned. It was entitled “Statement of U.S. Citizenship of Japanese American Ancestry.” Within it it contained the following questions:
Question #27 asked: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?”
Question #28 asked: “Will you swear unqualified allegiances to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or other foreign government, power or organization?”
There were men who answered no to both of those questions on many grounds, but one of the most prominent reasons for replying with a negative to #28 was the men believed that if they forswore allegiance it implies that they previously had allegiance. The man pictured above is Frank Emi, who openly alleged that those in Internment Camps should not be forced into a draft by a country that had incarcerated them. He formed the Free Play Committee that stood to oppose the draft. “For refusing to serve Emi, his fellow FPC participants and more than 300 internees at 10 camps were prosecuted. Emi served 18 months in a federal penitentiary in Kansas. The bulk of No-No Boys faced three-year sentences of three years imprisonment in a federal penitentiary.” (Source)
What I find most surprising about this entire ordeal is that the Japanese American Citizens League condemned men for sticking up for their beliefs. They criticized their character and emphasized that it was they who were making the Japanese-Americans look bad. In a period such as this, one would at least expect those who are equally persecuted and demeaned to stand by them in the defense of their beliefs, but they actively turned against them. This speaks volumes about the environment that the Japanese faced during the Internment period. Not only were they forced into these horrible conditions and stripped of their property, they were denounced for resisting. There was no where to turn (Nittle).