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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.

Discussion Questions

Below are some general discussion questions that can be adapted to many instructional settings:

  1. The collection includes three yearbook entries describing the “Japanese Students’ Club.” What was the purpose of the club? How did they contribute to campus life and engage in the community?

  2. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt visited Puget Sound in December 1941. According to the December 16 issue of The Trail, why was she visiting campus? What did she say about the Japanese American community in relation to the war?

  3. View the "Instructions to all persons of Japanese ancestry..." poster in the collection. What directions were Japanese Americans given regarding their "evacuation?" How much time were they given to prepare? How would you prepare if you were given the same directions?

  4. This collection includes multiple letters between Kenji Kurita and President Thompson. What was the relationship between them and why did Kenji ask for President Thompson's help? Why is Kenji separated from his family in Hawai'i?

  5. Shigeo Wakamatsu appears multiple times throughout the collection. Through the records, what can you learn about his time at Puget Sound? in the February 20, 1992, issue of The Trail, what can you learn about his life after Puget Sound?

Classroom Activities

Below are a few classroom activities that can be adapted to various instructional settings:

  1. What was the timeline and/or main events of the forced removal of the Japanese American students represented in this digital teaching collection? Use the materials in this collection to create a series of chronological notes that includes 5 to 10 supporting details. This activity will reveal how incarceration affected the Japanese American students at Puget Sound, the Japanese American community in Tacoma, and reflect how this event affected communities nationwide. 

  2. Japanese American students were forced to leave college campuses for incarceration centers across the United States during World War II. What significant challenges would college students have faced when forced to leave school, and upon returning to their academics? Browse the materials in this digital teaching collection to gather different perspectives and further your understanding. Write a short narrative describing what it would feel like if you were removed from school, how that would impact your relationship to academics, and how you would handle your future studies. 

  3. Many of the experiences described in the letters in this collection have a fairly neutral, even positive, tone. Why is that? What is not addressed in the letters? Can we read “between the lines?” Generally speaking, forced removal would have been a stressful and traumatic experience. Using the sources in this collection, find accounts that represent multiple perspectives (ages, genders, etc.), and use the power of inference to explain why those who were incarcerated may have attempted to hide some of their true feelings about what day-to-day life in the incarceration centers was really like.

Lesson Plans Coming Soon!

Puget Sound's team of instructional librarians have crafted complete lesson plans to be used in a variety of classroom settings. These are currently being finalized and will be uploaded Fall 2021. Thank you for your patience! If you have any questions, please email archives@pugetsound.edu