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AFSC Oral History Project: Japanese-American Internment

AFSC Oral History Project: Japanese-American Internment

Photo: AFSC / Archives

Personal accounts of individuals who were placed into internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and accounts of people who assisted in the relocation of Japanese American students from the camps to colleges and universities around the country.

The transcriptions of twelve 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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