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Loyalty
The Questionnaire

In 1943, every resident in the internment camps was required to complete one of two questionnaires misleadingly entitled "Application for Leave Clearance" to distinguish whether they were "loyal" or "disloyal". After Pearl Harbor, all citizens of Japanese ancestry had been classified 4-C: "enemy aliens."





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The first form was aimed at draft-age Nisei males, the second at all other residents. Many feared that even satisfactory completion of this second form might jeopardize them. If they were accepted as loyal, they might be forced to leave camp. Forbidden by law to return to their homes in the West Coast military zones, and with little or no money and virtually no hope of finding work, many internees chose to remain in camp.




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On both forms, Question 27 asked if an individual would be willing to serve as a combat soldier, nurse, or in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. This test of loyalty was by no means objective. For internees, military service would mean leaving parents and family behind in the harsh conditions of the camps. Japanese men had also been told they would serve in a segregated combat unit, a prospect many found distasteful. Finally, when the draft came to camp, many believed they should resist the draft as long as their constitutional rights were being violated.




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Question 28 was even more complex: "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States... and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?"

Many internees feared this question was a trap. Would a "yes" answer indicate that they had once sworn allegiance to Japan? Some refused to answer, or answered "no" to both questions, as a matter of principle. For Issei, who had been denied U.S. citizenship on the basis of race, the issue was even more complex, because either response could conceivably make them stateless.

Mary Tsukamoto: Respect for Government and Elders (oral history transcript)




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Almost 75,000 people filled out the questionnaires. A total of 6,700 answered "no" to questions 27 and 28. For this defiance, these residents were nicknamed "no-nos."

"Well if you want to know, I said 'no' and I'm going to stick to 'no'. If they want to segregate me they can do it. If they want to take my citizenship away, they can do it. If this country doesn't want me they can throw me out. What do they know about loyalty?" —Internee, Manzanar Community Analysis Report, 1943

Morgan Yamanaka: A No-No Response (oral history transcript)




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"What kind of Americanism do you call that? That's not democracy. That's not the American way, taking everything away from people... Where are the Germans? Where are the Italians? Do they ask them questions about loyalty?" —Morris E. Opler, Manzanar Community Analysis Report, 1943

Mutsu H.: Nisei Means American Citizen (oral history transcript)




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The loyalty forms aggravated existing tensions among camp residents. Some trusted the government, while others suspected that trick questions would be used as a basis for segregation, family separation, or other forms of punishment. Many residents, dispossessed and locked away behind barbed wire, chose the loyalty questionnaires as the issue on which to take a stand.


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