On-line Book
Book Cover
Cover Page


Table of Contents





Brief History

Gila River


Heart Mountain







Tule Lake

Isolation Centers

Add'l Facilities

Assembly Centers

DoJ and US Army Facilities



Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Confinement and Ethnicity:
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An Overview of World War II
Japanese American Relocation Sites

by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord

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Chapter 3 (continued)
A Brief History of Japanese American
Relocation During World War II

Indefinite Leave Clearance

One of the goals of the War Relocation Authority was to determine which evacuees were actually loyal to the United States, and then to find places for them to work and settle away from the West Coast, outside of the relocation centers. At first, each case had to be investigated individually, which often took months, since each person had to find a job and a place to live, while convincing the government that they were not a threat. Eventually, to streamline the process, every adult evacuee was given a questionnaire entitled "Application for Indefinite Leave Clearance" whether or not they were attempting to leave. Unfortunately, these questionnaires had originally been intended for determining loyalty of possible draftees, and were not modified for the general population, which included women and Japanese citizens. The controversial questions were Numbers 27 and 28:

No. 27: Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?

No. 28: Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and foreswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese Emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?

The first question was a bit strange for women and the elderly, but otherwise relatively straightforward. However, the ambiguity of the second question was especially inappropriate. For Issei, who were not allowed to become American citizens, saying yes effectively left them without a country. On the other hand, some of those who already felt loyal to the United States considered it to be a trick question. No one was sure what the consequences would be, but each family debated how to answer these questions.

Many of the relocation center directors saw the dilemma in the loyalty questionnaire and got permission from the Washington Office to change the wording. At Manzanar the wording was changed to "Are you sympathetic to the United States and do you agree faithfully to defend the United States from any attack by foreign or domestic forces?" With this change many Issei at Manzanar answered "yes" (Smith 1995:292-293).

However, even with the changed wording controversy remained. While some of the "no-no boys" were truly more loyal to Japan than to the United States, in many cases people compromised to keep families together. Others answered "no" as a way of protesting the injustice of the entire relocation rather than suggesting loyalty to Japan. Some did not want to imply that they wanted to apply for leave, since now that they were settled in the relocation centers, they considered them to be a safe haven and did not want to be forced out into the unknown. The questionnaire and segregation was one of the most divisive events of the entire relocation.

Those who answered "yes" to the loyalty questionnaire were eligible to leave the relocation centers, if they found a sponsor. One of the largest single sponsors, Seabrook Farms, was also one of the largest producers of frozen vegetables in the country. The company, experiencing a labor shortage due to the war, had a history of hiring minorities and setting them up in ethnically segregated villages. About 2,500 evacuees went to Seabrook Farms' New Jersey plant. They worked 12-hour days, at 35 cents to 50 cents an hour, with 1 day off every 2 weeks. They lived in concrete block buildings, not much better than the relocation center barracks, and had to provide for their own food and cooking (Seabrook 1995).

Through the indefinite leave process, the overall population of the relocation centers was reduced. On June 30, 1944, the Jerome Relocation Center was converted into a POW camp for Germans, after the 5,000 residents remaining were transferred to other centers. This closure not only saved administration costs, but also was used to show that the relocation program was working. Over 18,000 evacuees moved out of the relocation centers in 1944. By the war's end over 50,000 Japanese Americans had relocated to the eastern U.S. (Table 3.5).

Table 3.5.
Relocation Center Statistics (Tajiri 1990:117).


WCCA Assembly Centers90,491West Coast54,127
Direct Evacuation17,915Other U.S. Areas52,798
Department of Justice Camps1,735Department of Justice Camps3,121
Seasonal Workers (WCCA)1,579U.S. Military2,355
Voluntary Residents219Unauthorized Departures*4

*Smith (1995 :419) characterizes these four people who left the centers without permission as three persons with a history of mental problems who disappeared and one person under suspicion of murder who likely fled.

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Last Modified: Fri, Sep 1 2000 07:08:48 pm PDT

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