This exercise comes from writer Lawson Fusao Inada, a Japanese-American who spent time in a Japanese internment camp in California during the Second World War. The exercise is a reproduction of actual orders delivered to Japanese Americans in 1942. It has been used in classrooms at East High School, in Anchorage, for a number of years. It is an excellent prompt for serious reflection and writing about the historical implications of WWII for Japanese-Americans in the U.S. (including Alaska) and the concepts of justice and freedom.
Preface by telling students to imagine themselves Japanese-Americans in the year 1942. Hand out the following page for them to read. It contains instructions given by the government to Japanese-Americans, including the fact that they have only one week to prepare to move into the internment camp -- and how to begin preparing.
INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE ANCESTRY
The Following Instructions Must Be Observed:
1. A responsible member of each family, preferably the head of the family, or the person in whose name most of the property is held, and each individual living alone, will report to the Civil Control Station to receive further instructions. This must be done between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM on Monday, May 4, 1942, or between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM on Tuesday, May 5, 1942.
2. Evacuees must carry with them on departure for the Assembly Center, the following property:
- Bedding and linens (no mattresses) for each member of the family
- Toilet articles for each member of the family
- Extra clothing for each member of the family
- Sufficient knives, forks, spoons, plates, bowls, and cups for each member of the family
- Essential personal effects for each member of the family
All items carried will be securely packages, tied and plainly marked with the name of the owner and numbered in accordance with instructions obtained at the Civil Control Station. The size and number of packages is limited to that which can be carried by the individual or family group.
3. No pets of any kind will be permitted.
4. No personal items and no household goods will be shipped to the Assembly Center.
5. The United States Government through its agencies will provide for the storage, a the sole risk of the owner, of the more substantial household items, such as iceboxes, washing machines, pianos, and other heavy furniture. Cooking utensils and other small items will be accepted for storage if crated, packed, and plainly marked with the name and address of the owner. Only one name and address will be used by a given family.
6. Each family, and individual living alone, will be furnished transportation to the Assembly Center or will be authorized to travel by private automobile in a supervised group. All instructions pertaining to the movement will be obtained at the Civil Control Station.
J.L. De WITT
Lieutenant General, U.S. Army
Have students write an essay that takes an inventory of the following:
1. The top-ten priority items they would take with them, explaining why.
2. The top-ten priority items they would leave, and explain why.
Here are some helpful reminders for deciding what to take and what to leave:
- You can only take what you can carry. Nothing will be shipped to you. Everything else should be sold, stored, or given away. (You can't leave things with friends because they'll most likely be going with you.)
- Don't worry about money. Even if you do have money, you may not be able to spend it.
- Don't worry about anything. In terms of health needs -- prescriptions, diets, dental care, eye care, respiratory ailments, current illnesses, hospitalization, pregnancies, ambulatory equipment, prosthetic devices, and your mental well-being -- there are supposed to be people and facilities to take care of you.
- For those of you still in school, consider this a vacation.
- Have you made sure you can carry everything? Are you sure it won't break? Is your name on everything? The government cannot be held responsible.