A WWII-Era Protest Letter, Sent By Japanese-American Internees Resisting the Draft

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
Dec. 5 2013 12:20 PM

A WWII-Era Protest Letter, Sent By Japanese-American Internees Resisting the Draft

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

Second-generation Japanese-Americans interned at the Heart Mountain “Relocation Center” in Wyoming used this form letter to protest the government’s demand that they register with Selective Service. The letter was entered as evidence in a court case brought against seven organizers of draft resistance at Heart Mountain.

In 1942 and 1943, Japanese-Americans, who were classified as “enemy aliens,” were exempt from the draft; beginning in 1944, they were newly eligible. The leader of the Heart Mountain resisters, Kiyoshi Okamoto, an internee in his mid-50s, was personally ineligible for the draft, but saw the government’s service requirement as another in a long list of wartime outrages against Japanese-Americans. Okamoto, by all accounts a remarkable man, undertook a campaign to convince the Nisei (second-generation Japanese-Americans) to refuse the government’s request.

Advertisement

The sixty-three Heart Mountain draft resisters weren’t opposed to military service; many indicated that if they were given an answer as to their citizenship status, they would be happy to enlist. Kiyoshi Okamoto wrote in an impassioned essay also entered into the court record: “If the Nisseis are Americans and Citizens of this Nation by right of birth and Constitutional grant then, let be decided once and for all and without equivocation our positions as members of this Nation.”

Okamoto and six other leaders of this resistance were convicted of violating the Selective Service Act, and sentenced to four years in federal prison. Their sentences were overturned on appeal in 1946.

26,000 Japanese-Americans served in the military during the war.

DraftResistanceLetter

The National Archives.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

Here’s Where We Stand With Ebola

Even experienced international disaster responders are shocked at how bad it’s gotten.

The U.S. Airstrikes on ISIS in Syria Will Probably Benefit America’s Other Enemies

Divestment Is Fine but Mostly Symbolic. There’s a Better Way for Universities to Fight Climate Change.

It’s Not Easy for Me, but I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

It Is Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Are Lighter-Skinned Latinos and Asians More Likely to Vote Republican?

How Ted Cruz and Scott Brown Misunderstand What It Means to Be an American Citizen

  News & Politics
The World
Sept. 23 2014 10:55 AM This Isn’t the Syria Intervention Anyone Wanted
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 23 2014 10:03 AM Watch Steve Jobs Tell Michael Dell, "We're Coming After You"
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 23 2014 11:33 AM High-Concept Stuff Designed to Remind People That They Don’t Need Stuff  
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus
Sept. 22 2014 1:52 PM Tell Us What You Think About Slate Plus Help us improve our new membership program.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 23 2014 11:30 AM A Rope Mistress, the Rubber Master, Sadomasochist Sisters: Portraits in Kink
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 10:51 AM Is Apple Picking a Fight With the U.S. Government? Not exactly.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 23 2014 11:00 AM Google CEO: Climate Change Deniers Are “Just Literally Lying”
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.