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Japanese-American Internment in American History (book)

Creators: David K. Fremon

Non-fiction overview of the incarceration experience written for middle school readers. One of the relatively few such books written for this age group, it is part of Enslow Publishers' "In American History" series.


The 128 page volume is divided into ten chapters covering the attack on Pearl Harbor and its aftermath, Japanese immigration and the anti-Japanese movement , the road to Executive Order 9066 , the roundup of Japanese Americans and their incarceration in both the " assembly centers " and War Relocation Authority administered concentration camps, unrest in the camps, military service , key legal cases, resettlement and the closing of the camps, and the postwar years, including the redress movement . It also includes a handful of "Source Documents," including an excerpt from President Franklin Roosevelt 's December 8, 1941 speech, an account of exclusion written by a Tule Lake inmate, and a reproduction of an exclusion order poster . The book is illustrated with historical photographs and includes a chronology and suggestions for further reading.

Additional Information

Author David K. Fremon (1949–99) was a well-known political writer in the Chicago area, known for his acclaimed book Chicago Politics Ward By Ward (1988) and for his contributions to the Chicago Tribune and other publications. He began writing books for young people in the 1990s and authored several other titles for Enslow including works on the Alaska Purchase, Watergate, Oskar Schindler and others who aided Holocaust victims, the Salem witchcraft trials, Jim Crow, and the Great Depression. Japanese-American Internment in American History is based entirely on secondary sources, with the exception of a 1994 interview with Shigeo Wakamatsu, a Chicago area Nisei community leader.

Though Japanese-American Internment in American History is sympathetic to Japanese Americans, it contains many errors. Some of these exaggerate deprivations faced by Japanese Americans or their positive reactions to them, for instance mostly false claims that "[w]hite camp employees read evacuees' incoming and outgoing mail" (page 66) or the exaggerated claim that "sixteen thousand Nisei served in the Pacific" (86; the correct figure is about 6,000). Fremon also claims the 442nd Regimental Combat Team "saw action in Europe in the fall of 1943" (82; they didn't get there until June of 1944).

Accounts of many key events contain errors or misinterpretations. In his account of the Manzanar uprising , Fremon has Harry Ueno in prison as Fred Tayama is being beaten up (68); Ueno was in prison because he was accused of beating Tayama! His account of the Mitsuye Endo habeas corpus case has Endo contacting the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) who secured lawyers for her (94). While Endo was among those who contacted the JACL, it was for a completely separate matter, that of being among Nisei workers fired by the State of California prior to exclusion. Months later, she was approached by attorney James Purcell about taking part in the habeas corpus case. Fremon also refers to her choosing to remain in Tule Lake while the case wound its way to the Supreme Court; however, she had moved to Topaz after segregation in 1943. Fremon also largely mischaracterizes the draft resistance movement, blaming it on "insulting documents" that draftees had to fill out. There are similar types of errors in accounts of the Korematsu case and of the redress movement.

Finally there are numerous cases of misidentifying or mischaracterizing people, titles, and camps. In a map of the WRA camps and "assembly centers," Merced is mistakenly identified as a WRA camp (55), the Rafu Shimpo newspaper is referred to as the Rufu Shimpo (125), and Bill Hosokawa 's notable 1969 book is comically mis-titled Nisei: The Outlet Americans (124). Historian Roger Daniels is "Roger Davis" (54), John Christgau is "John Christgan," Daniel Okimoto is "David I. Okimoto," and Stephen S. Fugita is "Steven S. Fujita" (all on 124–25). The WRA is referred to as the WPA (96).

In 2015, Enslow reissued the book in a new format under the title The Internment of Japanese Americans in United States History . This 96-page volume contains the same text as the original version, but without photographs or the "Source Documents" found in the earlier publication. It does include a new (and much briefer) "Further Reading" section. Other than the ones in the old "Further Readings" section (pp. 124–25), all errors remain in the new book.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like Looking Like the Enemy: My Story of Imprisonment in Japanese-American Internment Camps: Young Reader's Edition by Mary Matsuda Gruenewald; Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi; Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Media Details
Author David K. Fremon
Pages 128
Publication Date 1996