Hoshidan members
leaving Tule Lake
Tule Lake incarceration camp, California
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Chapter 4 – Strife

The World War II confinement system forced the Nikkei to make decisions that sent families and friends on diverging paths, and punished individuals who protested the government’s treatment of them. Almost as soon as the detention camps opened in spring 1942, government officials established policies for resettling “loyal” Nikkei in areas away from the military exclusion zones. People could obtain temporary leave to replace farm workers called away by the war. Humanitarian and religious groups sponsored Nisei college students out of camp and onto campuses. Individuals could exit to take jobs outside camp if they could demonstrate that they were not a security threat and could find housing and employment in communities that would not object to their presence. The leave policies favored young, Americanized Nisei and largely left the elderly Issei behind.

Another path out of confinement was military service. The segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought in heavy combat in Italy and France, and their record of brave service helped to redeem Japanese Americans in public opinion. Nisei and Kibei soldiers also served in the Military Intelligence Service in the Pacific. Over 300 Nisei men demanded their civil rights be restored before they would report for duty and were sent to federal prison for draft evasion.

Hoshidan members leaving Tule LakeA separate path that affected lives was the segregation enacted after the loyalty registration in 1943. Those who answered “no, no” to two controversial loyalty questions that asked people to serve in the U.S. military and “forswear” allegiance to the Japanese Emperor were classified as disloyal. They were moved to the Tule Lake incarceration camp in northern California, which was turned into a high security segregation center.  In winter 1944-45, over 5,500 Nisei at Tule Lake renounced their U.S. citizenship, meaning the government could deport them to war-devastated Japan. The renunciants were influenced by parents who wanted to repatriate, by pro-Japanese factions, or by anger over how the country of their birth had rejected them. Most sought to reclaim their U.S. citizenship after the war.


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Japanese repatriates leaving for Japan(1945)
Seattle, Washington
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration"

Excerpt from Densho Archive

I decided I would like to leave camp because life in camp is not a very pleasant life at all. And I had friends in Chicago already who had received permission to leave and were living in Chicago. I and several thousands of others then left immediately, and most of us went to Chicago because the job opportunities were good in big city. There was a labor shortage because of the wartime. The companies were more than happy to hire Japanese Americans who are very hard workers, conscientious workers. Most of these jobs were menial in the services, for example, hotel maids and working in restaurants as dishwasher. And we were happy to be out. We were happy to have a job, to enjoy this freedom once again as citizens. Free at last, free at last.


George Yoshida

left Poston, Arizona, incarceration camp in 1943 at age of 21