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Japanese American Incarceration During World War II

This digital teaching collection focuses on the experiences of Japanese American students at Puget Sound who were incarcerated during World War II.

Overview Essay

Between 1880 and 1942, Tacoma, Washington, was home to a large and thriving Japanese American community. Despite multiple anti-Asian and naturalization laws, Japanese Americans created a bustling community called Nihonmachi, or Japantown, in downtown Tacoma where the University of Washington Tacoma is now located. This community included businesses, hotels, places of worship, and a Japanese Language School. Many Japanese Americans who grew up in Tacoma and attended the Japanese Language School went on to become students at what was then the College of Puget Sound. 

On December 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II and raised suspicions of the large Japanese American communities on the West Coast and in Hawai’i. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized what was to become the mass forced removal and incarceration of all Japanese Americans on the West Coast. As a result, some 110,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed from their homes and communities. Many Japanese Americans were first sent to “assembly centers,” which were makeshift incarceration facilities to provide temporary housing. Fifteen of these emergency camps--such as “Camp Harmony,” which was located at the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Washington--were set up by the army pending the construction of more permanent incarceration centers. Ten incarceration centers were constructed further inland in desolate areas far from population centers and were run by the War Relocation Authority. There were some opportunities to leave these centers through work or college placement, but most remained in the camps until 1945, with the last incarceration center, Tule Lake, not shutting down until March 1946.

Thirty-six Puget Sound students were forcibly removed and incarcerated. Many of our students were first sent to Pinedale Assembly Center in Pinedale, California, and then on to Tule Lake incarceration center in Newell, California. The materials in this digital teaching collection, ranging in date between 1937-1992, reflect our student’s experiences before, during, and after WWII. Our materials also include the experience of a Willamette College student named Kenji Kurita, who was a former student of R. Franklin Thompson, our university president who began his new role at Puget Sound in the spring of 1942. 

If you would like to learn more about Japanese American incarceration during WWII, we recommend you explore the Densho Encyclopedia, which includes entries on many of the topics mentioned above.

Puget Sound Japanese American Students Incarcerated during WWII:                

Yoshiko Fujimoto

Yoshiye Jinguji

Hugh Y. Seto

Thomas Goto

Waichi Kawai

Thomas Seto

Toru Hamaguchi

Leo Kawasaki

George Takahashi

Jack Hata

Aiko Kimura

Masao Tanabe

Ken Hayashi

Hatsuye Kurose

Yutaka Tanabe

Tsuyoshi Horike

Takanobu Matsui

Minoru Tsuchimochi

Ken Inaba

Ryo Munekata

June Uyeda

Ben Ishioka

George Keiji Omori

Shigeo Wakamatsu

George Ishioka

Kenji Oyanagi

Salem Yagawa

Masaye Jinguji

Waichi Oyanagi

Genji Yamamoto

Masayoshi Jinguji

Hidemaru Sato

Margaret Yamamoto

Michiko Junguji

Mayme Semba

James Yoshioka