Denshō

Denshō: The Japanese American Legacy Project, located in Seattle WA, is Discover Nikkei Participating Organization since February 2004. Its mission is to preserve the personal testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated during World War II, before their memories are extinguished. These irreplaceable firsthand accounts, coupled with historical images, related interviews, and teacher resources, are provided on the Denshō website to explore principles of democracy and to promote tolerance and equal justice for all.

Updated November 2006 

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Common Myths of WWII Incarceration: “More Than Half Were Children”

“Half or more of those removed from the West Coast and incarcerated in concentration camps were children.”

In recent years, this has to have become the most common misstatement of fact about the Japanese American wartime incarceration. It appears all over the place—in print publications, in films and videos, and on various reputable websites. I was reminded of this one most recently when I watched Letters from Camp produced by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center in which Muslim American children and Japanese American former incarcerees read from letters Japanese American children wrote to librarian Clara Breed while imprisoned. Yup, …

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Photographer Russell Lee

Photographer Russell Lee (1903–86) is best recognized for his work with the Farm Security Administration (FSA). His photographic career extended from 1935 until his retirement in 1973. He worked for the largest federal documentary project in the history of the United States, and it was during this time that he documented several hundred images of the forced removal and confinement of Japanese Americans in the spring and summer of 1942.

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Early Life

Russell Lee was born on July 21, 1903, in Ottawa, Illinois. His parents divorced when he was five years old and he lost contact with his father. …

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Detention Facility at Nyssa, Oregon

From May to November 1942, Nyssa [pronounced NISS-a], Oregon, served as the site of the first farm labor camp organized during the wartime Japanese American experience. Established as a result of the “Oregon Plan” for the forced removal and confinement of the state’s Nikkei residents, the camp held approximately three hundred fifty laborers at its peak. These workers provided critical agricultural labor in eastern Oregon’s Malheur County. By the summer of 1942, the camp became so well known that the Pacific Citizen referred to it as “the camp without a fence.”1

Organizing the Nyssa Tent Camp

In …

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Oregon Plan

During the April 7, 1942 Salt Lake City governors’ meeting, George K. Aiken, executive secretary to Governor Charles Sprague of Oregon, presented the state’s plan for the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The so-called “Oregon Plan” was ultimately rejected by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) but led to the establishment of a Japanese American farm labor camp in Nyssa, Oregon, the first such labor camp organized during the war.

Background and Development of the Oregon Plan

By mid-March 1942, WRA Director Milton Eisenhower contemplated the establishment of labor camps for Japanese Americans. …

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Terrorism, 1945 Style

One of the articles I’ve been working on for the Densho Encyclopedia on and off is a piece on the terroristic incidents that greeted the first Nisei to return to the West Coast in the early months of 1945. I had remembered reading a bit about houses being burned down, shots fired, and the like and wanted to have a short piece on that mostly forgotten topic.

In looking at the secondary literature, I was surprised to find that very few authors did more than touch on this subject. The book that devotes the most space to this topic, Audrie …

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