Welcome to our Classroom, where teachers, students and others interested in knowing more about United States history can find resources on the multifaceted experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Lesson Plans (Grades 9-12+)
Teachers, please note: each lesson plan has been designed in multiple parts, so that teachers can take parts of the lesson and use it according to the amount of time available.
The lesson plans can be used in whole or in part(s).
Executive Order 9066
Courage During World War II
World War II Propaganda and Japanese Americans
Suggested High School Reading
Suggested General Public Reading
Ten-hut! Welcome to Boot Camp, where you’ll get your “basic training” on the major ideas involving the history of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II.
Topics are arranged in alphabetical order.
Need more info?
- Take a minute and get more details on these ideas and events. Visit History in a Minute.
- Find definitions of terms in our Glossary.
100TH INFANTRY BATTALION (SEPARATE): The first group of Japanese American World War II combat infantry soldiers, originating from Hawaii, and activated in June 1942. Together with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in US military history.
442ND REGIMENTAL COMBAT TEAM: A US Army regiment made up of Japanese Americans from Hawaii and mainland incarceration centers, activated in February 1943. Together with the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in US military history.
1399 ENGINEER CONSTRUCTION BATTALION: An all-Japanese American non-combat unit stationed in Oahu, Hawaii, during World War II. Activated in April 1944, the 1399 constructed more than 50 defense projects in and around Oahu, including a half-million gallon concrete water tank that is still used today.
1952 NATIONALITY AND IMMIGRATION ACT: Racial barriers to immigration and citizenship are lifted, and the Issei (first-generation Japanese Americans) are allowed to apply for citizenship for the first time.
ALIEN LAND LAWS: Measures preventing primarily Japanese immigrants from owning or leasing land in the Western states, including Arizona, California, Oregon and Washington.
ALLIES: The WWII international military and political alliance whose chief forces included the United States, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, China and other members of the United Nations.
ARMY NURSE CORPS (ANC): ANC nurses worked in field hospitals, evacuation hospitals, hospital trains, ships and planes. Japanese American women were allowed to join as early as February 1943, but only a small number of Nisei served.
AXIS: The military and political alliance of Germany, Italy, and later Japan, that fought the Allies in World War II.
BRUYÈRES and BIFFONTAINE, FRANCE: Northeastern French towns liberated by the 100th/442nd in vicious fighting in October 1944.
CASSINO, ITALY: The location of the 100th’s last (as a separate unit) and arguably toughest battle, where it earned the nickname of “The Purple Heart Battalion” because of the many casualties it suffered.
CHILDREN IN THE CAMPS: Of the more than 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who were forcibly detained in the incarceration centers through WWII, about half were children.
CIVIL LIBERTIES ACT OF 1988: Provided a formal apology and reparations of up to $20,000 to those held in incarceration centers during World War II.
DACHAU SUBCAMPS: In May 1945, the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, which had left the 442nd Regimental Combat Team to support the Allies’ final drive into southern Germany, came across the subcamps, or satellite camps, of the Dachau slave labor complex and helped to liberate a death march in the German countryside.
DATE OF INFAMY: Phrase coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to refer to the day that the Hawaiian island of Oahu, particularly the Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, was attacked by the Japanese. December 7, 1941.
DECLARATION OF WAR: On December 8, 1941, Congress, with just one dissenting vote, approved President Franklin Roosevelt’s request to declare war on Japan.
DISCRIMINATION: Along the West Coast, people of Japanese ancestry were denied the right to own land, their children were sent to segregated schools, and they weren’t allowed to marry outside of their race.
END OF THE WAR: The war in Europe ended on May 8, 1945, but the end of World War II did not occur until the formal surrender of the Japanese on September 2, 1945, in the Pacific.
ENDO EX PARTE: Court case of Mitsuye Endo, a former Japanese American state employee who was incarcerated in the Tule Lake camp. She agreed to be used as a test case to challenge against the incarceration of Japanese Americans, and the Supreme Court released her from the Tule Lake incarceration center, ruling in December 1944 that she was a “loyal and law-abiding citizen,” and that such citizens should not be detained longer than necessary.
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066: Issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, this order created restricted “military areas” along the West Coast and paved the way for the mass removal of all people of Japanese descent.
FORCED REMOVAL or MASS REMOVAL (a.k.a. “EVACUATION”): Families were ordered to leave their homes, their businesses, and their schools, and then were sent to live in one of ten hastily built incarceration camps in remote locations throughout the Western states and Arkansas.
GO FOR BROKE: Slang term often used in craps shooting (game of dice) to mean “shoot the works” or “give it your all.” The motto of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who “gave it their all” on the battlefield.
GOTHIC LINE/PO VALLEY CAMPAIGN: The final campaign fought by the 442nd, which made its way along the Apennine Mountains, taking town after town, to eventually break through the Gothic Line and gain the surrender of the Germans in May 1945.
GUADALCANAL: Campaign in the South Pacific on and around Guadalcanal Island where a brutal, decisive six-month battle between American forces–including the first graduates of the Military Intelligence Service–and Japanese troops took place from August 1942 to February 1943.
HIRABAYASHI V. UNITED STATES: The court case of Nisei Gordon Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student who turned himself in to authorities after violating curfew and intending to refuse exclusion orders. The Supreme Court in June 1943 upheld his curfew conviction and ruled that the curfew and detention of Japanese Americans were constitutional.
IMMIGRATION: Japanese immigrants began to come to the US in the 1860s, settling in Hawaii and on the West Coast.
INCARCERATION (a.k.a. “INTERNMENT”): About 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced to live in incarceration centers in remote areas in the West and in Arkansas.
INCARCERATION CENTERS (a.k.a. “CAMPS,” “AMERICAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS,” “INTERNMENT CAMPS,” “RELOCATION CENTERS”): These were barracks-style quarters behind barbed wire, where people of Japanese ancestry were kept under constant guard and prevented from coming and going freely.
There were ten incarceration centers set up by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) during the War:
GILA RIVER: Located on an Indian reservation south of Phoenix, Arizona, Gila River Relocation Center operated under the WRA from July 1942 to November 1945 and at its peak held more than 13,000 incarcerees from California and later from the Jerome Relocation Center when it shut down.
GRANADA (a.k.a. “AMACHE”): Granada Relocation Center in southeastern Colorado, in operation from August 1942 to October 1945, held the smallest number of incarcerees of the ten incarceration centers, with its peak population at more than 7,000 people of Japanese ancestry.
HEART MOUNTAIN: Heart Mountain Relocation Center in northwestern Wyoming housed as many as 10,700 incarcerees of Japanese ancestry from California and Washington and operated as a WRA incarceration center from August 1942 to November 1945.
JEROME: Open from October 1942 to June 1944, the shortest period of time for any of the incarceration camps, Jerome Relocation Center was surrounded by the swamps of southeastern Arkansas and at its peak held about 8,400 incarcerees mostly from California, with some from Hawaii.
MANZANAR: The Manzanar War Relocation Center in the California desert held the former Japanese residents of Bainbridge Island, Washington, and Terminal Island, California, in early 1942 before it was taken over by the WRA in June and operated as an incarceration camp, with 70% of its incarcerees from the Los Angeles area, until its closure in November 1945.
MINIDOKA (a.k.a., “HUNT CAMP”): The Minidoka Relocation Center in south central Idaho, opened from August 1942 to October 1945, held more than 9,300 Japanese Americans from Alaska, Oregon, and Washington at its height.
POSTON: Officially the Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston in the Arizona desert was opened from May 1942 to November 1945 and was the largest of the camps in terms of size, with most incarcerees coming from California and about 470 transfers from the Justice Department internment camps.
ROHWER: Located in the swamplands of southeastern Arkansas, the Rohwer Relocation Center, opened from September 1942 to December 1945, was one of the last to close. Its population peaked at 8,400, with its incarcerees including persons of Japanese ancestry primarily from California and former residents of Jerome Relocation Center when it was closed.
TOPAZ: Officially known as the Central Utah Relocation Center, Topaz was in operation from September 1942 to October 1945 and at its height held approximately 8,100 incarcerees from California.
TULE LAKE: The largest of the ten incarceration centers established by the WRA, Tule Lake Relocation Center in California held as many as 18,700 detainees from California, Oregon and Washington. Converted into a maximum-security segregation center, it was the last camp to close in March 1946.
ISSEI (pronounced “Ees-say”): The Issei, or first-generation Japanese in America, were the first to settle in Hawaii and on the mainland.
IWO JIMA: One of the bloodiest battles in US Marine history, with the 26,000 American casualties outnumbering the 22,000 Japanese casualties, took place from February to March 1945, ending when the Marines captured the small, strategically important Japanese island of Iwo Jima.
JAPANESE IN HAWAII: In Hawaii, where more than one-third of the population was Japanese, just about 1,000 “high-risk” Japanese were imprisoned during World War II, with more than 150,000 allowed to remain home for economic reasons.
KIBEI (pronounced “Kee-bay”): Kibei were children of Issei who spent some time in Japan to attend school during childhood and adolescence, so their primary language tended to be Japanese. Many Kibei served in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS).
KOREMATSU V. UNITED STATES: Court case of Nisei Fred Korematsu, who was arrested and imprisoned for refusing to leave his California home despite “evacuation” orders. The Supreme Court in 1944 determined that the military was justified in excluding Japanese Americans and upheld the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066.
LEGACY OF THE JAPANESE AMERICAN SOLDIER: The war against racial prejudice was fought by the Nisei soldiers, their families and others who believed that all Americans, regardless of race, deserved equal treatment then and for all time.
LOYALTY QUESTIONNAIRE: In 1943, every resident held in the incarceration centers was required to complete this US-government issued Application for Leave Clearance, which included two particular questions that “tested” whether those of Japanese ancestry were “loyal” or “disloyal” to the US.
MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SERVICE (MIS): MIS soldiers, many of whom were Nisei, performed combat intelligence and psychological warfare in the Pacific, translating enemy documents, interrogating Japanese prisoners of war, intercepting enemy communication, and persuading enemy units to surrender in the Pacific Theater. They used their knowledge of the Japanese language to perform these important tasks.
NATURALIZATION: In 1870, Congress allowed free whites and those of African descent the right to become naturalized citizens, a right that did not extend to Asians until 1952. Naturalized citizens are those who become citizens, as compared to those who are automatically born as citizens.
NISEI (pronounced “Nee-say”): These children of the Issei, or first-generation Japanese, were born in the United States and were American citizens by birth.
NO-NO BOYS: A derogatory term used to refer to those who answered “no” to Questions 27 and 28 on the loyalty questionnaire and were thus generally considered to be “disloyal” to the US.
OKINAWA: The final battle in the Pacific was at Okinawa, a large island located at the southern tip of Japan, where Military Intelligence Service linguists proved vital for interrogations of POWs as well as the rescue of civilians, because of their familiarity with the Okinawan dialect.
PEARL HARBOR: Naval base on the island of Oahu in Hawaii that was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941, resulting in more than 2,300 US personnel killed. This event led America into World War II.
POW (PRISONER OF WAR): A member of the armed forces of a nation who is taken by the enemy during combat.
PROPAGANDA: During World War II, propaganda encouraged Americans to support the war effort, but it was also used to fuel anti-Japanese feelings.
QUESTIONS 27 AND 28: The controversial questions on the loyalty questionnaire. The first question asked if one would serve in the armed forces, and the second, Question 28, asked for “unqualified allegiance” to the US to the exclusion of any foreign allegiance.
RENUNCIATION: At the end of 1944, the government instituted a program that would allow Japanese Americans to renunciate (give up) their US citizenship, which previously was impossible on US soil without a charge of treason.
RESCUE OF THE “LOST BATTALION”: Arguably one of the most grueling battles of the 100th/442nd in which the unit rescued more than 200 members of the 1st Battalion of the 141st Regiment, a Texas-based unit, which had been surrounded by Germans in the Vosges Mountains of France in October 1944.
RESISTANCE: Although most members of the Japanese American community complied with government exclusion orders, a minority resisted in protest and were subsequently arrested and imprisoned.
SALERNO, ITALY: The location of the first battle for the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate).
SANTA ANITA (RACETRACK) DETENTION FACILITY: A racetrack in Los Angeles County which served as the temporary home for many Japanese Americans at the beginning of their forced removal in 1942. Many families lived in converted horse stalls for as long as seven months until more permanent barracks could be constructed in remote areas of the country.
TRANSLATION OF THE “Z-PLAN”: The translation of the “Z-Plan,” Japanese combined fleet commander Admiral Mineichi Koga’s naval strategy for the Central Pacific, in 1944 by the Military Intelligence Service is considered to be one of the most significant intelligence feats in the Pacific War.
VARSITY VICTORY VOLUNTEERS (VVV or “TRIPLE V”): A group of 169 University of Hawaii ROTC cadets of Japanese ancestry who had been expelled from the Hawaii Territorial Guard after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, who were determined to prove their loyalty to the US and petitioned the military governor to form a civilian labor battalion, and who served for one year on the island of Oahu. After the labor battalion was disbanded, many members joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
VOLUNTEERING FROM THE CAMPS: Between 1944 and 1945, more than 2,000 Nisei volunteered from the incarceration camps to serve in the US military.
WOMEN’S ARMY AUXILIARY CORPS (WAAC)/WOMEN’S ARMY CORPS (WAC): The Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps formed in 1942 and was replaced with the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), which allowed Japanese American women to join in November 1943.
YASUI V. UNITED STATES: The court case of Minoru Yasui, a Nisei lawyer who presented himself for arrest for violating curfew in order to challenge the exclusion of Japanese Americans, in which the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that the military was justified in the exclusion.