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Questions of Loyalty

On February 8, 1943, the WRA (War Relocation Authority) and the Army distributed applications for leave clearance titled "Statement
of U.S. Citizenship of Japanese American Ancestry." All inmates

Rabbit in the Moon

1:30 Min.


"The questionnaire began wrenching and divisive arguments. . . If we passed the test, could we be forced out of the camps into hostile communities? Could families be separated?"

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seventeen years old and older were required to complete the questionnaire, one which was to provoke the greatest upheaval within the camps.

Two questions, intended to separate the "loyal" from the "disloyal," most disturbed the internees:

-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 allegiance 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 any other foreign government, power, or organization?"

WRA Director, Dillon S. Myer, later admitted: "A bad mistake was made in the loyalty question." For one thing, question #27 put to the Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrant), whose average age was 54, was not conceivable, while question #28 forced them into an untenable position: they had not been allowed U.S. citizenship, and now they were being asked to renounce allegiance to the only country of which they were citizens.

The Nisei (second-generation, U.S.- born Japanese Americans) were understandably outraged. Among other citizens, loyalty was never questioned, yet the Nisei were once again asked to prove theirs. Also, they knew that, should their parents answer "no" to both questions, a "yes" on their part would mean certain physical and emotional separation from them.

The requirement to fill out the poorly worded questionnaire resulted in dissension among camp inmates as people were classified based on their answers.

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