Classroom Resources

Educators who want to use UPROOTED in their classrooms have several options available to them. The three family stories have been designed as solo experiences for a user to explore individually. Each story takes approximately 40 minutes to fully complete, which should allow most educators to assign one story per class period. Depending on how much class time is available, teachers can (1) choose one story to assign the whole class, (2) divide the students between the three stories, or (3) assign all three.

The resources below are intended to supplement Minoru Imamura’s web story. The discussion questions can be used as a personal reflection assignment or for small group discussion. Teachers can pick and choose which supplemental readings and viewings they would like students to explore in more detail.

Discussion questions:

  • Chapter 1: What do you think motivated the Alien Land Law of 1913? Who benefited from it?
  • Chapter 2: How was Min’s family structure impacted in camp?
  • Chapter 3: Why do you think Min answered “Yes, Yes” to the Loyalty Questionnaire? How would you have answered it?
  • Chapter 4: Why do you think Gayle’s parents didn’t talk in detail about their incarceration experiences?
  • Chapter 5: How did visiting Amache deepen Kara’s understanding of her grandpa’s incarceration experience?

Supplemental materials: The Loyalty Questionnaire

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, U.S. military leaders questioned the loyalty of Japanese Americans serving in the United States military. Initially, all Japanese Americans in the military were either discharged or shifted to menial duties. Meanwhile, all draft eligible Japanese Americans were reclassified from 1-A to 4-C, a category reserved for “aliens” ineligible to serve, even though these men were U.S. citizens. As the demands of the war effort increased, the government saw the need to change this policy. In the spring of 1943, Japanese American men of military age were reclassified as 1-A, making them once again eligible to volunteer for or be drafted into service.

In the wake of the policy change, President Roosevelt activated the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a segregated unit consisting entirely of Japanese American soldiers. Serving on the European front, they engaged in a number of notable campaigns and suffered great casualties. More than 800 soldiers from the 442nd were killed or went missing in action.

Taking into account its size and length of service, the 442nd emerged as the most decorated unit in military history. The members of the 442nd collectively earned an astonishing number of awards: 21 Medals of Honor, seven Presidential Unit Citations, 9,486 Purple Hearts, 29 Distinguished Service Crosses, 588 Silver Stars, and 5,200 Bronze Stars. However, the bravery and sacrifice of the 44nd Regimental Combat Team are just one piece of the story of Japanese American military service during WWII.

The injustice of young men being drafted while they and their families were incarcerated sparked considerable controversy in the camps. Many refused to report for induction in eight of the ten incarceration camps. Eventually, a total of 85 draft resisters from the different camps were imprisoned in federal penitentiaries, although they were later granted a full pardon after the war.

Another source of controversy was the “Loyalty Questionnaire” developed by the Army in 1943 to survey all U.S. born Japanese American men over the age of 17 and subsequently adopted by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) for all adult incarcerees. The questionnaire included two questions that proved especially problematic. Questions 27 and 28 asked incarcerees if they were willing to serve in the U.S. military and if they were willing to swear loyalty to the U.S. and forswear any allegiance to Japan and the Japanese Emperor. These two questions were answered in the negative by roughly 12,000 of the 78,000 people forced to fill out the questionnaire. Their reasons for doing so varied, but many had concerns that answering “yes” would be interpreted as volunteering for armed service or — for those born in Japan — could result in losing Japanese citizenship and becoming stateless. Young men who answered no to both questions became known as the “No-No Boys.”

In the postwar period, the “No-No Boys,” the draft resisters, and their families were often shunned and stigmatized by members of the Japanese American community, particularly by veterans’ groups. By the 1990s, community perceptions began to change, and today they are celebrated by many for their brave acts of resistance in the face of great injustice.

Loyalty Questionnaire - This primary source is a blank copy of the “Loyalty Questionnaire” administered to every adult Japanese American incarceree.

Discussion questions:

  • What do you think was the government’s motive in asking about religion, language, membership in clubs and organizations, sports and hobbies, and subscriptions to newspapers and magazines?
  • How would you feel if you were asked to “prove” your loyalty to a government that had imprisoned you without justification?
  • Look closely at the wording of Questions 27 and 28 on page four of the questionnaire. How do you think you would have answered those questions if you were a young Japanese American man? Why?

Letter from C. W. Pence, Colonel, 442nd Infantry Regiment - This is a letter from a colonel in the 442nd Infantry Regiment to Kiku Saito, a Japanese American woman who is incarcerated at camp Amache in Colorado. It informs Kiku that her son James has arrived at the 442nd training camp in Camp Shelby, Mississippi.

Discussion questions:

  • Why do you think Col. Pence wrote this letter and others like it to the mothers of recently enlisted Japanese American soldiers?
  • At the time that he enlisted, James Osamu Saito was incarcerated at camp Amache along with his siblings and their widowed mother. According to Col. Pence’s letter, James volunteered for service “without compulsion or persuasion.” Do you think this is true?
  • In the letter, Col. Pence includes a quote from President Roosevelt. Do you agree with Roosevelt’s definition of “Americanism” and “a good American?”

Fair Play Committee bulletin - The Fair Play Committee was a group of draft-age Nisei men (U.S. citizens born to Japanese immigrant parents) at the Heart Mountain incarceration camp that advocated for a restoration of civil rights as a precondition for compliance with the military draft. This statement outlines the committee’s opposition to the selective service.

Discussion questions:

  • At the time, members of the Fair Play Committee and others who resisted being drafted were often accused of being draft dodgers and disloyal to their country. Do you think this is a fair characterization of their actions?

  • What are some of the key reasons for the FPC’s opposition to being drafted? Do you agree with their argument?

    In the announcement of an upcoming meeting at the bottom of the page, there is a note stating “Parents, brothers, sisters, and friends invited.” Why was it important for the FPC to include more than just draft-eligible men in their membership and meetings??

Yukio Kawaratani oral history excerpt (3.5 mins) - In this video clip from Densho, former incarceree Yukio Kawaratani talks about why his family answered "No-No" on the so-called "Loyalty Questionnaire."

Discussion questions:

  • Yukio says many Issei, or first-generation Japanese immigrants, struggled to answer Question 28, which asked if individuals would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and forswear any form of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. What were some of the reasons why?
  • Yukio was surprised to learn that it was his mother who drove the decision to answer “No-No” on the “Loyalty Questionnaire.” What were factors that influenced his mom’s decision?
  • Tule Lake was the camp where many of the people who responded “No-No” and deemed “disloyal” were sent to. How were the conditions at Tule Lake different from Poston, the camp that the Kawaratanis left behind?