The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 11: Internal Resistance and the JACL

April 29, 2015 2:29 am Published by Leave your thoughts


Life in the internment camps was difficult, unpleasant at best. Although most Japanese accepted their plight with traditional resolve, not everyone was content to suffer in quiet. In particular, much of the discontent emanated from the Japanese American Citizens League’s (JACL) role in the internment process.

Founded in 1929, the JACL was formed to advocate rights for Japanese Americans and to encourage and foster business relationships for Nissei; it also created cooperation within their ethnic group. Following Pearl Harbor, however, the JACL found itself in an unfortunate position as the official liaison between the Japanese community and the government. And with this association came resentment. One reason was that JACL members did not include Issei, the older, more respected members of the Japanese population. As a result, the JACL was hardly representative of the community. A second, more relevant reason was that the JACL cooperated with the government in the internment of its own people.

Those in the JACL who thus participated in the process were often called “informers.” Protestors complained that if the JACL had done its job and stood up for the Japanese back in Washington, that they then might not have been interned.

Looking back, from an historic viewpoint, the JACL was in a no-win situation. In fact, had the JACL not cooperated with the government, things could have been much worse: massive protests or rebellion would have been proof to nonJapanese citizens that the interment had been the correct thing to do. And that, in turn, would have delayed the release of Japanese from the camps. In fact, it wasn’t long after the initial internment that the government realized that what it had done was a mistake and began to unravel the process. Of course, by then, Japanese American lives had already been devastated.

Up next: The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 12: Yes/Yes or No/No

Previous: The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 10: Life at Tule Lake

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This post was written by paulmarktag