Internment Archives

What's In the Archive

There are over 400 documents in this archive. They range from one page memos and reports to books and reports that contain hundreds of pages. One similarity they almost all have is that they are generally not readily available to the student or scholar interested in the Japanese evacuation. Most are primary source documents.

The collection contains material from:

Included in the collection are a series of books produced by the War Relocation Authority as final reports on various aspects of the evacuation. While these are bereft of any appreciation for the military need for the evacuation, they do represent a record of the efforts made to provide for the hapless Japanese who were caught in the struggle between Imperial Japan and the United States.

Of particular interest in this series are those books dealing with the legal basis for the evacuation, the handling of evacuee property, and the statistical summary of various aspects of the program. Other volumes, absent any understanding of the threat involved, base their understanding of the event on an expository cobbling of racist slights, acts and motivations of a variety of people and organizations. Herein lies the genesis of the idea that one of the first acts taken by the U.S. Government in the war with Japan was not motivated by security concerns but rather by self-defeating, pathological racism among the leaders of our nation. Simplified and repeated endlessly over the years this cynical view has obtained prominence in popular evacuation history.

Much of the material in this archive relates to the intelligence available at the time the evacuation was ordered. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), which later recommended the payment of redress and an apology to Japanese evacuees, ignored the vast majority of what is here, was totally ignorant of MAGIC, and erroneously concluded that there was no military necessity.

In order to understand the flaws of the Commission's investigation the intellgence section of its report and the addendum the general counsel wrote on MAGIC after the report was published have been included in this archive. Once they are compared with the vast amount of intelligence information that is found in the rest of the archive, it will quickly become obvious that the Commission should have spent more time understanding the intelligence that actually led to the evacuation instead of investing so much effort in building a case based on "racism, war hysteria and a lack of political will."

Many individuals have used the Commission's findings to support their own private belief that there was no need for the evacuation. They have also ignored the preponderance of intelligence evidence that has been available as well as the international modus operandi of Imperial Japan. When they have tried to discredit the legal basis for the evacuation much of their effort has been directed at the Final Report submitted by Lt. Gen. John DeWitt, Commanding General, Western Defense Command, who in the melodrama of historical revision has been cast in the role of villain for ostensibly ordering the evacuation. A copy of that report is included.

The section most criticized and claimed as evidence that there was no threat deals with DeWitt's justification for the evacuation. To appreciate the irony of the report one must recognize that in 1943 no one in his right mind would compromise the source of the most important intelligence of the war, MAGIC, or for that matter, any other intelligence related to our security to justify a population evacuation. What was needed was a cover story, a story plausible enough to justify an operation, in this case the evacuation, without revealing the real reasons. The idea that racism might have played a role was plausible and certainly would have been understood and believed by the quintessential racists of Imperial Japan.

In the past quarter century a very stylized version of the evacuation has emerged which is loosely based upon this plausible yet incorrect cover story. As you read the documents in this archive, especially the MAGIC intercepts and agency reports, you will gain a much better understanding of the intelligence that actually led to the evacuation. You will also learn that the evacuation and subsequent internment were carried out by a variety of people and organizations struggling to organize the nation for war, solve problems never faced before, and in most cases do the right thing even as the survival of the nation was at risk.