Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo



Registration Program

Program Implementation. The residents of Manzanar first learned of the forthcoming registration program when Assistant Project Director Robert Brown appeared before the Block Managers Assembly on January 29, 1943. Brown emphasized the Army's role in the registration, explaining "that just the Army would arrive and induct the members in this center." [48] Later on February 8, Brown informed the Block Managers that the Army was coming to implement the registration program and that the registration would apply to the entire center. Brown noted:

that they [the WRA] are working out a schedule by which everyone in every relocation center can register for this program. This program does make it easier to get clearance and leave permits for relocation purposes . Therefore, it serves a two-fold purpose. [49]

Lieutenant Eugene D. Bogard, Sergeant Irving V. Tierman, Sergeant James A. Hemphill, and Sergeant Kenneth M. Uni (the members of the Army team who were to supervise registration at Manzanar) were also introduced to the Block Managers on February 8. During the ensuing discussion, Throckmorton, Manzanar's project attorney who had attended the registration program training sessions at the War Department in Washington during the previous week, summarized the thrust of the registration process:

The Army plan is to form a combat unit composed entirely of Japanese-American soldiers, and those who volunteer will be given the opportunity to join this unit. He also mentioned the fact that it is under consideration as to the possibility of Japanese Americans eligible for other branches of the service, and even the AACS for the women. The citizens who are registered in this program will be given recommendation for any type of service if they qualify . . . The military officials are trying hard to get the Japanese back into normal channels. They figure that if the Japanese ate trustworthy enough to join the army, public opinion will favor the actions of the Japanese as a whole. The Army does not expect every loyal person to volunteer, but they will be given an opportunity to declare themselves loyal regardless of whether they are going to volunteer or not. This is the first step towards a solution to this whole evacuation program. [50]

In conjunction with the meetings held for the Block Managers, other meetings were held with the evacuees on a block-by-block basis. At these meetings, the Army team presented the information on its check-sheet. Reiterating the various factors that contributed to the registration program, Lieutenant Bogard stated in the Manzanar Free Press on February 11:

It is the intention of the Army to begin both the reestablishment of the Japanese population as a constructive part of the war effort and also to utilize the registration as a means of demonstrating the loyalty of the Japanese people once and for all. [51]

The actual registration program at Manzanar began on February 12, 1943, with five blocks in the center used as registration areas: one block for the Army team registration, and the other four for the female citizens and the alien males and females. The registration for the latter group was finished in four days, while the former was not completed until February 22 because of the stipulated requirement of having Questions 27 and 28 answered in front of a member of the Army team.

During the registration, the impracticality of Question 28 on the WRA form was quickly realized by the Manzanar appointed personnel. Upon consultation with the Washington Office on February 12, the Manzanar staff was "authorized to change the question in any way [they] saw fit or omit it entirely for aliens." Throckmorton informed Merritt, who was not present at Manzanar during the registration because of an appendicitis attack, what happened next:

Relying upon this verbal authorization. . . . I contacted the Negotiating Committee, consisting of 2 citizens and 2 aliens, in order to obtain its advice as to how the question should be altered for aliens. . . . We immediately agreed the question should be so formed that an alien could answer it in the affirmative without renouncing his Japanese citizenship. . . . the question that was finally agreed upon was as follows: "Are you sympathetic to the United States of America and do you agree to faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces?" [52]

The question as revised by the Manzanar staff was not used until February 13, but because of quick action, the Issei who registered on February 12 were not required to answer Question 28. At the other camps, the reaction of the project directors and their staff was one of wait-and-see for official recommendations or revisions. This waiting policy was well advised, because on the evening of February 13, WRA Director Myer sent telegrams to each center detailing the reworded question as formulated by the WRA.

Myer placed emphasis on the latitude possible in the handling of the question for aliens. He stated in the telegrams that the "substitute Question 28 may also be answered by aliens in a qualified way if they so desire." [53] When Throckmorton received the Myer telegram, he felt that the question formulated by the Manzanar staff was preferable even though he later expressed the opinion that the Manzanar form of Question 28 for aliens was "a strongly worded question." At the time, however, he felt that the Manzanar wording of the question was the best available. [54]

Rather than re-start the registration for the Issei, the Manzanar staff decided to use the question they had devised and at a later date repoll the aliens asking the question utilized at the other relocation centers. This policy was responsible for considerable confusion and misunderstanding for both the WRA and the evacuee population at Manzanar. [55]

Although the Manzanar staff anticipated that the aliens at Manzanar would be able to have a chance to answer the question as formulated in Washington, Project Director Merritt had to request permission for such action. In making this request on March 24, Merritt asked that citizens also be permitted to answer the revised question:

I cannot conscientiously refrain from bringing out this point which will now adversely affect the lives and position of so many of our people, nor can I refrain from urging upon you that we have an opportunity to recanvass the alien groups who have answered 'No" or who have answered "Yes" with qualifications, putting before them another opportunity to cancel their previous reply and answer the revised question sent out by Washington. . . . If this recanvass is permitted by you, I feel certain that we should also then allow our citizens to revise their answer. . . . [56]

At a special meeting of the Block Managers Assembly on March 30, 1943, Merritt solicited the opinion of this group on whether or not the aliens should be re-polled. According to the minutes of the meeting, Merritt explained why Manzanar had used a differently-worded question:

Mr. Merritt said that if the alien residents of Manzanar who answered "No" to Question 28 or gave a qualified answer wish to answer the question as it was asked at the other centers, he would advise the Washington authorities accordingly, and do everything possible to extend them the privilege of doing so. He explained that the reason for the different wording of Question 28 at Manzanar was due to the fact that we completed our registration in four days, and used a wording for Question 28 which was hastily made under pressure of completing the registration, and although Washington approved by telephone, this change of wording from the original wording, which was sent out from Washington gave them an entirely new wording for Question 28. Mr. Merritt stated that this matter is already causing adverse comments between the centers, and they result in unfavorable reactions. He said that for this reason he was laying the whole matter before the Block Managers to obtain their reactions and for them to obtain expression of opinion from the residents of their blocks. [57]

After discussion of Merritt's comments, the Block Managers Assembly agreed that the aliens should be given the opportunity to re-answer Question 28 based on Washington's rewording.

Approval for the re-polling was also received from Washington, and from April 12 to April 24, the 3,500 Issei at Manzanar answered the reworded loyalty question. Of this number, 3,418 or 97.68 percent of the Issei were able to answer the revised question with a "Yes' — a sharp contrast to the responses elicited during the earlier questioning.

As aforementioned, the results of the registration in the relocation centers were well below the expectations of the Army and the WRA. Instead, the number of persons who responded in the negative were surprisingly high at Jerome, Gila River, and Manzanar, and at Tule Lake a large number did not even register. At Manzanar, there were 6,897 persons of 17 years of age or over who filled out one of the two questionnaires. Of that number, 4,269, or 61.89 percent of those questioned, answered Question 28 with a "No' or a qualified answer before the re-polling of the aliens. Those who answered an unqualified "no" numbered 2,645, or 38.35 percent; while those who definitively answered "Yes" were 2,628, or 38.1 percent.

The answers to Question 27 on the Army questionnaire by male citizens at Manzanar also revealed a lack of interest in volunteering for military service. Only 94 Nisei out of a possible 1,909, or about 4 percent of those canvassed, eventually joined the 100th Battalion/442nd RCT. Of the 1,909 total registered, 960, or 52 percent of the male citizen group, answered Question 28 in the negative.

Even though Question 28 on the WRA questionnaire had been revised by the Manzanar staff largely on account of the Issei, they still reacted to it negatively. Of the 3,356 alien males and females registered at Manzanar, 1,978, or 59 percent, answered Question 28 in the negative or with qualifications. The female citizens also reacted negatively to Question 28. Of the 1,632 female citizens who answered the question, 731, or 45 percent, answered "No" or qualified their answer. [58]

Thus, at Manzanar a majority of both the male citizens and Issei, as well as nearly half of the female citizens, had answered "No" or qualified their answer to the "loyalty" question Bothered by this development, WRA officials undertook a series of studies and investigations to determine the reasons for this unexpected evacuee reaction to the registration program.

WRA and Army Investigations of Evacuee Reaction to Registration. In their haste to rectify the weighty problem of Japanese American loyalty, the Army and the WRA had underestimated the high number of negative responses that would be made during the registration program. For the Army, the registration results appeared to have corroborated their long-held contention that "disloyal" Japanese Americans made necessary an evacuation of all Americans of Japanese ancestry from the west coast. The strong negative response, and especially that of the Nisei, however, appears to have bewildered the WRA. At Manzanar, Lucy Adams, head of the Community Services Section and one of the principal appointed personnel in administering the program, noted:

All of us I think have been startled by the sweeping repudiation of loyalty to this country, or of hope of any future here. You expected it among the Kibei, but not among the citizens. And to find, by the hundreds, products of our high schools and colleges who've never been in Japan answering "No" to the loyalty question and adding "Want to go to Japan,' and listening to the reasons they gave, was shocking. Our first reaction, mine anyway, was anger. I wanted to wash my hands of the whole traitorous bunch and consign them to any concentration camp the public wanted to set up. [59]

In order to understand the reaction to the registration, both the Army and the WRA undertook analytic studies of the program's results. At Manzanar the first analysis of the registration program was provided by Project Director Merritt. In a letter written to WRA Director Myer on February 17, Merritt summarized his understanding of the causes for the negative responses by male citizens to Question 27.

There are, of course, the pressures of the older people who have answered "No" to their loyalty question, and there is the threat of physical violence which lies hidden in certain groups, particularly in the Kibei group who are openly anti-American. [60]

Merritt's singling out the Kibei as "anti-American" and as a primary factor for negative answers was echoed by Lucy Adams less than a week later. In a letter on February 23, she observed:

Another group, including some of the more highly educated ones, has made up its mind that the price in racial discrimination which they'll have to pay to stay in America is too high, and that the only worthwhile future is in Japan. . . . this group, which includes most of the Kibei, is the dangerous one and I believe the source of a lot of the intimidation and the propaganda.

Adams also echoed the project director's solution for the reluctant male citizen volunteers:

I agree with Mr. Merritt that the soundest thing, and the only one that will prevent the infection of disloyalty from spreading is to make them all immediately subject to the draft, and those who refuse to take the soldier's oath can then be dealt with under the penalties provided. [61]

While Merritt and Adams viewed disloyal groups, such as the Kibei, as subversive forces that worked against the registration program, the first compendium of reasons for the answers to the "loyalty registration' at Manzanar developed by a "representative group" of evacuee residents of the camp did not list such groups. In a report compiled on February 26, this evacuee group listed eleven reasons for the negative responses:

  1. Inability to separate loyalty question from question on volunteering for service in the Army

  2. Belief that there is no future in this country for Japanese or Americans of Japanese ancestry

  3. Bitterness and rancor left from experience of evacuation

  4. Family pressure and family ties

  5. Fear that answer to "Yes" on the loyalty question would lose them any rights to Japanese citizenship which they may have

  6. Emotional confusion

  7. Broken promises made by the Army when evacuation first took place, and by the government

  8. Age and lack of leadership among Nisei

  9. Failure of Issei to understand the program

  10. Rumor that answer on loyalty question would determine the Camp to which individuals would be sent, and anxiety of families to remain together

  11. Hope that answer to "No" of loyalty question would prevent their being taken into the Army. [62]

On the same day that this report was issued another summarization of reasons for the negative answers was presented by the Army team at Manzanar. In the Army summary, many of the causes listed by the Manzanar evacuee group were reiterated. However, the army pinpointed several additional reasons. The Army list included:

  1. Influence of parents

  2. Bitterness and resentment caused by the evacuation and treatment since

  3. Belief that Japan will win the war and a desire to be on the winning side

  4. Threats by agitators; propaganda and rumors

  5. Belief that racial discrimination will make any future in the United States too difficult, and that a return to Japan is the only solution

  6. Lack of faith in the good intentions of the government

  7. Bitterness left by Manzanar riot

  8. Previous lack of assimilation in American society

  9. Belief that the answer "no" would keep the individual from being drafted, and possibly insure his return to Japan

  10. Ignorance and misunderstandings

In addition, the Army report listed three reasons for the scarcity of Nisei volunteers for active duty in the armed forces. These included:

  1. Opposition to a Combat Unit composed of Japanese-Americans, because it continues the racial discrimination and segregation which they feel is the root of their troubles.

  2. Fear that their families remaining in the Center will be ostracized and possibly terrorized if their sons volunteer.

  3. Family pressure against volunteering - even when the parents are loyal.

The army report concluded that "with more than 90 percent of the persons interviewed, the answers given, and the reasons assigned for them, were genuine, at the moment. [63]

The latter statement echoed the opinion that Merritt had expressed some days earlier regarding the validity of the registration results. The project director had observed in his aforementioned letter to Myer on February 17:

What now is most needed is the creation of policies to meet the conditions that are disclosed by the first valid conclusions we have ever been able to reach on the matter of loyalties. [64]

Thus, the first administrative reactions to the registration program results were a sense of shocked disbelief followed by generally repressive proposals. Finally, the results of the registration were accepted. Certain groups and factors, however, appear to have become pinpointed as the principal causes of the negative answers at Manzanar.

In another letter to WRA Director Myer on March 5, Merritt again pointed out the Kibei as "troublemakers" who played a significant role in the large number of negative answers to the loyalty question at Manzanar. He stated:

Among those answering "No" to Question 28 one group stands out. These are the Kibei with no other members of the family in this country, all of whose education and most of whose lives have been in Japan. . . . we found only one of these among the "Yes' answers, and he had changed from "No" to "Yes". This is a group which should be carefully checked, and probably included in any plans for segregation.

Merritt continued by explaining that other groups, or "gangs,' were also responsible for "No' answers:

Among young men between the ages of 17 and 20, the strongest influence governing answers to Question 28 appears to be the gang rather than the parents. A sampling. . . . shows that in the cases of some of these gangs, the parents and sisters often answered "Yes" to 28, while the boys without exception said "No," and often added "want to go back to Japan". [65]

While Merritt believed that "gang" or peer pressure was the primary cause for a "No" answer for young men and Nisei in general, he believed that family ties were the greatest influence for 'No' answers. In another letter to Myer on February 27, he noted:

The motives lying behind the "No" answer of citizens stem largely from the attitude of the father who is a non-citizen. . . . the father signs "No" on his question of loyalty in the spirit of self-preservation. . . . the tradition of family unity being the basis of Japanese philosophy of life, the father, mother and son, therefore, will sign "No" to the loyalty question.

The project director also pointed out that the failure of the registration program was due in part to administrative mismanagement and lack of sensitivity to a complex situation. [66]

Throckmorton described this administrative failure in a letter to Merritt on March 2. He noted:

In the first place, the program was launched without sufficient preliminary education. To virtually all of the evacuees, the Army was a tough agency, personified by General DeWitt and the Military Police, which had led them into assembly and relocation centers. . . . there is also the factor that we were not allowed sufficient time to make an adequate presentation of the plan. . . . once registration was started we had to devote most of our energies to the procedure of registration and we were able to deny rumors and get out further information only by means of printed bulletins.

Throckmorton also analyzed the causes for "No" answers on a generational basis. For the Issei, he listed two principal reasons. The first was that "the Issei do not now plan to relocate. . . . on the contrary, most of them are at present planning to return to Japan when the war is over." The second reason given by the project attorney was linked with the first, in that the Issei who would return to Japan hoped that life would be financially easier there. Thus, "most of the Issei, primarily from economic motives, answered the loyalty question 'No.'"

Throckmorton also listed two major reasons why Nisei said "No." The first was a protest over the loss of their citizenship rights and discriminatory treatment, while the second was the "family tie." He commented further:

Most of the Issei are, at this time, planning to return to Japan after the duration and, generally speaking, they insist that the children go with them. The children accept the obligation to support the parents in their declining years and, for this reason, they are forced to plan for a future in Japan. . . . most of us, who have worked with the registration at Manzanar, are of the opinion that this is the main reason why many of the Nisei have answered the loyalty question negatively. [67]

On April 3, 1943, Morris E. Opler, the recently-arrived Community Analyst at Manzanar who had the task of defining trends, themes, and factors that had caused problems in the camp, issued his first study on the registration program at the center. In his report, he also placed emphasis on the family as a determining factor to explain Nisei answers to the loyalty question:

Once their parents. . . . determined that they would answer "No," the children were faced with a grave problem. . . . the pressure upon the children was intolerable. . . . the feeling of loyalty to the old people and the resolve to share their fortunes and keep the family united was the dominant factor in no answers of citizens.

Opler also introduced an element of skepticism in relationship to the accuracy of the registration program. He noted that

for all realistic purposes and in spite of the intentions of the framers of the questions, it is very doubtful whether these questions should be called loyalty questions at all. In a good many cases (the great majority, I suspect) the final decision had relatively little to do with affection for Japan or disaffection for the United States.

In addressing the question of why the Issei had forced their children to answer "No" to the loyalty question, Opler identified two major factors to explain the Issei's rationale:

In my judgment the element of protest dominated any element of affirmation. It was not interest in Japan, but blind resentment over discriminatory treatment which entered prominently into the decision; [and]. . . . the loss of confidence in themselves and in the American public which evacuation has entailed.

The Issei, according to Opler, had lost confidence in their ability to manage their lives "outside" of the centers. This was mainly due to the fact that the average age of the Issei was 56, too old they thought to restart their economic lives, and that many Issei had lost all of their money, land, and business as a result of evacuation. Any Issei who still retained sums of money was afraid of losing it in a further move or as a result of relocation. The fear of relocation was caused by the nature of the questionnaire filled in by the Issei which had been titled, "Application for Leave Clearance." Many respondents usually

assumed that if they answered all questions, and particularly Question 28, in a manner satisfactory to the authorities, they would be sent out to face the competitive system in the outside world at this time.

Issei fears and insecurities had thus mandated their "No" answers as well as the "No" answers of their children.

Opler examined the question of why so few Nisei had said "Yes" to Question 27 relating to volunteering for the military. The chief reason for this development, according to his analysis, was the argument presented by the male citizens that asking them to volunteer for the armed services from behind barbed wire was "superpatriotism expected of them" that oddly contrasted "with the abridgement" of their "citizenship rights." Another reason was that many of the male citizens were Kibei who had left Japan to avoid serving in the Japanese Imperial Army, and now they felt little inclination to be members of the U.S. Army. In addition, the attitude of Sergeant Uni, the only Japanese American on the army team at Manzanar, had contributed to the "No" answers. The sergeant was a person

who came from Hawaii [and] whose antipathy to Terminal Island and the residents of Little Tokyo was outspoken and most vigorous. We had many substantiated reports that young men would come before him at the time he was writing answers to various questions, and the sergeant would say, 'Another Terminal Islander — I suppose you are another 'No-No' boy and want to go to Japan?' Careful examination of the registration documents will show that in many cases 'wants to go to Japan' was written in the handwriting of the sergeant and that the person being interviewed vigorously denies that any such thing was ever said.

Opler concluded his report by stating that his study

by no means does justice to the complexity of the situation. But it indicates, I hope, that the "no" of a resident of Manzanar, like that of some young ladies, should not always be taken at face value. It suggests, I hope, that a complex situation cannot be properly described by a word of limited meaning, such as 'loyal' or 'disloyal'. Most of all, I trust I have made clear my conviction that the problems of Manzanar are not be settled with an adding machine. [68]

On May 21 Lieutenant Bogard, head of the Army recruiting team at Manzanar, refuted Opler's basic contention that the registration did not assess evacuee loyalty. He stated:

Attempts have been made. . . . to minimize the importance of the numerous negative answers of aliens and citizens at Manzanar to the 27th and 28th questions on the Selective Service and WRA Questionnaire. . . . it is believed by the Army Team that most of the decisions made by both the aliens and citizens definitely indicated their affection or disaffection for the United States.

Bogard also questioned the validity of Opler's opinion that the "loss of confidence of the Issei in their future and rehabilitation in America" had been a determining element of affirmation, thus making interest in Japan a matter of secondary importance in a decision to answer 'No" to the loyalty question. He explained:

It seems apparent that if the Japanese aliens do not believe their future and rehabilitation in America is possible, their loyalty likewise does not lie with the United States but rather with Japan, and their negative response to the 28th question truly reflects their disaffection for the United States.

He did agree, however, that parental pressure was responsible for the decisions of many Nisei:

The negative attitude of a majority of the parents in the Center was, in the opinion of the Army team, the strongest single reason causing male citizens to answer "no" to the loyalty questions The parents opposition to the War department's program was based on the deep-seated belief that Japan will win the war. Such matters as 'discrimination', 'harsh evacuation treatment,' etc., were used by the parents and Kibei to stimulate resentment in the children. [69]

Thus, both the WRA and the Army arrived at similar conclusions concerning the reasons for the highly negative response of Manzanar's evacuees to the registration program. These common factors, most of which applied to the other nine relocation centers, included fear of the world "outside" of the center, fear of making a living on the 'outside," and protests that their constitutional rights had been abrogated by the government. All that remained was the decision about what to do concerning the evacuees who gave the negative answers. [70]

Two alternative explanations for the results of the registration program were proposed by a nine-member panel of Manzanar appointed personnel, consisting primarily of heads of departments and sections including Opler. While the principal concerns of this group were directed toward an appraisal of the Nisei's plight, the alternatives they outlined for the WRA on May 18 were applicable to all Japanese Americans who had answered "No" to the loyalty question:

For some time, and particularly during the past few weeks, the newspapers, the congressional record and radio programs have been filled with references to the alleged 'disloyalty' of a substantial portion of young Americans of Japanese ancestry. It is charged that a particularly large proportion of the Nisei or American born persons of Japanese ancestry at Manzanar have 'proved' themselves 'disloyal.' The charges come from political figures who have toured a Relocation Center for a few hours or who have obtained their information from a prejudiced and disgracefully untrustworthy west coast press.

There is no evidence that any of those who talk so loudly or violently about the 'loyalty' or 'disloyalty' of the Nisei has ever come to know one of these young people, or has taken the pains to inform himself concerning the difficulties and perplexities with which we have confronted these young citizens. Yet these poorly informed politicians and professional patrioteers, with the noisy blessings of every organization which belongs to the extreme reactionary and fascistic fringe to spur them on, are riding the crest of war emotionalism and are demanding penalties and reprisals of one sort or another against those who they label 'disloyal.' Their proposals run an ominous gamut; from segregation of those termed 'disloyal,' through the establishment of strict, Nazi-type concentration camps for them, to the cancellation of their American citizenship and their deportation to Japan.

We speak for the Nisei. We speak for these young Americans because we believe that every American citizen must receive a fair hearing and just treatment in his native land if citizenship as such is to survive as a meaningful and dynamic concept. We speak for the Nisei because by doing so we strike out against the dangerous and un-American forces which have launched an unscrupulous campaign to discredit them. . . . Those who agitate for segregation, concentration camps, cancellation of citizenship, deportation and the like, are the mouthpieces for one or another of equally unwholesome and disreputable groups.

We have our answers now. We can make of them what we will. . . . we can take these answers literally and translate them into segregation or into legal penalties. . . we can loose the floodgates of fear, and watch the troubled waters engulf minority group after minority group until one-third of our population is viewing the other two-thirds with hostility and suspicion. We can write a black chapter in American history which will send the social historian to Nazi Germany for parallels.

Or we can act, even in time of war, like socialized human beings who have some comprehension of complex human situations. We can recognize that no setting was more unauspicious for a determination of simple loyalty than the one into which the Nisei were injected. We can recognize that the answers wrung from them under the strains and perplexities with which they were faced is no more an indication of disloyalty than medieval trials by torture were an evidence of witchcraft. No segment of our population or of any population would have answered differently in the same circumstances. A much more pressing question is that of America's loyalty to fair-play and the democracy credo. [71]

The WRA largely ignored this plea for sympathy and understanding, opting instead for segregation of the "disloyal" elements at Manzanar and the other relocation centers.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002