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Conscience and the Constitution


"The WRA ought to take immediate steps to segregate the known agitators. Most of our chapter leaders have signified their willingness to name those whom they consider inimical to center welfare if their own names are not revealed."
--Mike Masaoka, January 14, 1943

Mike Masaoka was 26 years old when the JACL bid for power and influence with the wartime government, and got it. Under Masaoka's leadership, JACL leaders advised the War Relocation Authority on how to modify Japanese American behavior inside the camps to create "Better Americans," and offered guidance on how to identify and segregate so-called "agitators and troublemakers."

In a 1988 interview with the filmmaker, Masaoka implied but would not directly say that he was compelled to write memos like these under pressure from the government.

Documents and Audio Get RealPlayer 
Letter to Milton Eisenhower (April 6, 1942)
Masaoka outlines a sweeping program of cultural indoctrination and behavior modification to the War Relocation Authority.
original original

Masaoka on the street (April 6, 1942)
Mike Masaoka photographed in San Francisco witnessing the expulsion. Men on the street appear to be having words with him.
photo photo

"Confidential Statement" on segregation (January 14, 1943)
After the riot at the camp at Manzanar, California, Masaoka urges a program of sorting and forced segregation that would soon be realized at the camp at Tule Lake, near the California-Oregon border.
original original

MIKE MASAOKA on his wartime memos to the government (1988)
40 seconds

The word "shibai" used by Masaoka is Japanese for "show" or "performance."
original transcript
original audio


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