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Conscience and the Constitution

'For Better Americans in a Greater America'

"When an immigrant becomes a patriot, he usually becomes a 200% patriot. I think the JACL leaders were trying to be 200% Americans."
--Roger Daniels, University of Cincinnati

The Japanese American Citizens League was the only national organization of its kind, forged at a national convention in 1930 from groups of educated doctors and lawyers with such names as the American Loyalty League and the Progressive Citizens League. Only the Nisei, born in America as citizens, could belong. In 1940 a 25-year-old college speech teacher from Utah, Mike Masaoka, was appointed to lead the organization through the coming war.

JACL's response to the expulsion order was to pledge "cheerful cooperation" with the government, in exchange for humane treatment. Some JACL officers bragged of leading raids with the FBI to arrest Issei leaders they suspected of harboring sympathies for Japan. Under Masaoka's leadership JACL also opposed all constitutional challenges to which the JACL itself did was not a party.

Documents and Video Get RealPlayer 
"The JACL Creed" (1940)
Written by Mike Masaoka in 1940 and printed in the Congressional Record on May 9, 1941.
text text

JACL officers' testimony (February, 1942)
Before a congressional committee, JACL officers proudly testify to their cooperation with the FBI in the arrest of Issei leaders and state the conditions under which they would encourage all Japanese Americans to comply with forced expulsion.
Tokie Slocum (excerpt)
original original photograph photo

Jimmie Sakamoto (excerpt)
original original

The Decision to Cooperate
JACL testimony: Mike Masaoka (February, 1942)
Before the same congressional committee (above), Masaoka states the conditions under which JACL would encourage all Japanese Americans to comply with forced expulsion. 4 pages
original original

AP, "Jap League Aids Exodus" (February 28, 1942)
Masaoka waives the right of all Japanese Americans to protest or challenge the mass expulsion.
original original

JAMES OMURA on Mike Masaoka (40 seconds)
"Mike Masaoka was a young man, had wavy hair. Very attractive to the girls and to the public, I imagine. He was using slogans, various slogans, such as "The end justifies the means." Well, he says, if we all didn't evacuate that the army would come in with men, with guns and tanks and assassinate us. I didn't believe that was possible."
video video: 56k | DSL

BILL HOSOKAWA on the decision to cooperate (26 seconds)
"What choice do you have? When you are faced with a young guy with a gun pointed at you and he's got a very nervous trigger finger, and they say, 'This is what you guys are going to do,' you don't say, 'Now wait a minute. I'm going to stand on my constitutional rights.' That's a very difficult situation. And Masaoka and the others were aware of the Constitutional implications."
video video: 56k | DSL

Mike Masaoka chats with friends
photograph photo

Opposition to Test Cases
JACL Bulletin #142 (April 5, 1942)
Mike Masaoka declares the JACL as "unalterably opposed to test cases at this time."
original original


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Copyright 2000 Frank Abe and ITVS. All Rights Reserved. MKM