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Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II (book)

Creators: Martin W. Sandler

Book cover. Courtesy of Walker Books for Young Readers
View in the Densho Encyclopedia

Lavishly illustrated large-format juvenile book for that provides an overview of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans, military service, and the redress movement.


Author Martin W. Sandler tells the story of Japanese American wartime incarceration in nine chapters. The first covers Japanese migration to the U.S., the anti-Japanese movement, and the status of the Japanese American community just prior to the war, while the next two cover the attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent rise of anti-Japanese sentiment and the run up to Executive Order 9066 and expulsion of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Chapters four and five focus on life in the " assembly centers " and War Relocation Authority -administered concentration camps (here referred to as "removal centers") respectively, while chapters six and seven cover the exploits of Japanese American soldiers in Europe and in the Pacific. The last two chapters cover the closing of the camps and the redress movement (chapter eight) and prominent Japanese Americans as well as Nikkei response to the threat to civil liberties brought about by the 9/11 terrorist attacks (chapter nine).

In addition to the main narrative in each chapter, there are numerous sidebars on topics ranging from the photography of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams to the response of the Quakers and excerpts from documents such as the Japanese American Creed , Gerald Ford's "An American Promise," and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 . Imprisoned includes numerous photographs and images of works of art, many of which take up full pages. It also includes a bibliography of books and websites, information on visiting some of the sites of the camps, and very brief notes on sourcing and acknowledgments.

Additional Information

Sandler (1933– ) has authored nearly fifty books for children, most on American history, including six volumes in the Library of Congress Young People's American History series and six more in the Oxford University Press Transportation in America series. In addition to teaching at the middle school, high school, and college levels, he has has produced and written television documentaries.

The text contains numerous factual errors, most minor, but a few more serious. Among the more serious: the invention of the "Woodland" assembly center (page 52) and the identification of Jerome as having "served first as an assembly center" (74); writing that that the Roberts Commission report stated that the Pearl Harbor attack "was immeasurably aided by Japanese American spies" (24; while the report implied this, it does not mention Japanese Americans); claiming that, "Two-thirds of those interned at the largest of the detention centers were under the age of eighteen" (54; the real figure is closer to 1/3); and citing 120,000 as the number of Japanese Americans who were transferred from the assembly centers to WRA camps (70; the actual number was a little over 90,000).

A brief two-page sidebar on Mike Masaoka contains several errors. It first claims that he was named Japanese American Citizens League national secretary "in 1942, just before the outbreak of World War II" (99; he was so named in August 1941). It then claims that he was not sent to camp because of "the high esteem in which he was held by non-Japanese Americans" (as a resident of Utah, he lived outside the restricted area and was thus not subject to forced removal). Finally, Sandler writes that after he and his brothers tried to buy a house for their Issei mother, Masaoka led a "successful legislative battle that resulted in revocation of the Alien Land Law in several states" in 1959. This is wrong on several levels: the battle was a judicial, not a legislative one (see Masaoka v. California ); the relevant lawsuit was filed in 1950 and decided by the California Supreme Court in 1952; the case only involved the California law; and earlier legal decisions had largely made the alien land laws unenforcible prior to the Masaoka case.

Among the less serious errors: claiming that Nikkei took train rides to the assembly centers (53; while a few did, the vast majority took buses); citing the medal ceremony for war hero Kazuo Masuda in December 1944 rather than the actual date a year later (110); citing the number of Medals of Honor awarded to Nikkei soldiers for service in World War II as 20, rather than 21 (112); claiming that "for more than three decades following the conflict, the public didn't even know they [Nisei in the Military Intelligence Service] had existed..." (126; while some aspects of their service remained secret, their existence and the general outlines of their achievements were certainly known at the time); and citing Miné Okubo's Citizen 13660 as an example of "former internees" telling their stories due to the redress movement (139; Okubo's pioneering work was first published in 1946).

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like A Fence Away from Freedom: Japanese Americans and World War II by Ellen Levine; The Invisible Thread by Yoshiko Uchida; Dear Miss Breed: True Stories of the Japanese American Incarceration During World War II and a Librarian Who Made a Difference by Joanne Oppenheim

Media Details
Author Martin W. Sandler
Pages 176
Publication Date 2013