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AFSC Oral History Project: Japanese-American Internment

Photo: Archives / AFSC

This oral history project includes personal accounts of people forcibly relocated to internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. It also contains accounts of those who assisted in achiveing the release of Japanese American students from the camps by placing them with colleges and universities around the U.S. 

Read the stories. 

The transcriptions of 12 in-depth interviews with Japanese-Americans and Quakers who supported them, offer great insights. For example, staffer Tom Bodine sheds light on his AFSC colleague Floyd Schmoe and student resister Gordon Hirabayashi, as well as the political climate of the times. Regarding the fear driving camp administrators, Bodine says:

"Their constant concern was that they were fighting a war with Japan and there were Americans who were in the hands of the Japanese in camps in various places; in China and Singapore. The American government was terribly worried that the Japanese government would hear about our treatment of Japanese, Issei or Nisei, and take it out on Americans in Asia. So I think their concern was as much for the American soldiers who might be bothered or treated badly as it was for the decent people in the camps who were being beaten up on by some ruffians from the community that didn't sign the loyalty oath."

In addition, Bodine talks about preferring to live in the camp during his visits, under the exact same conditions as the inhabitants. This was the best way, he felt, to have young detainees approach him about college application and freedom. However, at Lake Tule, which developed a reputation for being the place where “disloyal people were stored,” he was not allowed to sleep and eat with Japanese residents; he had to stay with the military officials. (Note: Lake Tule housed not only Japanese-American dissidents but also German and Italian POWs.)

The 229 pages cover interviews with:

  • TAKASHI MORIUCHI
  • SUMIKO KOBAYASHI
  • FRED SWAN
  • TOSHIYUKI FUKUSHIMA
  • THOMAS BODINE
  • HELEN ELY BRILL 
  • KAY YAMASHITA
  • LAFAYETTE NODA
  • NOBU HIBINO
  • GEORGE OYE
  • VIRGINIA HECK
  • WILLIAM STEVENSON. 
Created Date 
Feb 4, 2016

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