Tule Lake National Monument

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Tule Lake National Monument
Tule Lake War Relocation Center.jpg
View of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center
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LocationNortheast side CA 139,
Newell, California
Coordinates 41°53′22″N121°22′29″W / 41.88944°N 121.37472°W / 41.88944; -121.37472 Coordinates: 41°53′22″N121°22′29″W / 41.88944°N 121.37472°W / 41.88944; -121.37472
Website Tule Lake National Monument
NRHP reference No. 06000210 [2]
CHISL No.850-2 [1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPFebruary 17, 2006
Designated NHLFebruary 17, 2006 [3]

The Tule Lake National Monument [4] in Modoc and Siskiyou counties in California, consists primarily of the site of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, one of ten concentration camps constructed in 1942 by the United States government to incarcerate Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast. They totaled nearly 120,000 people, more than two-thirds of whom were United States citizens.


After a period of use, this facility was renamed the Tule Lake Segregation Center in 1943, and used as a maximum security, segregation camp to separate and hold those prisoners considered disloyal or disruptive to the operations of other camps. Inmates from other camps were sent here to segregate them from the general population. Draft resisters and others who protested the injustices of the camps, including by their answers on the loyalty questionnaire, were sent here. At its peak, Tule Lake Segregation Center (with 18,700 inmates) was the largest of the ten camps and the most controversial. [3] 29,840 people were held there over the four years it was open. [5]

After the war it became a holding area for Japanese Americans slated for deportation or expatriation to Japan, including some who had renounced US citizenship under duress. Many joined a class action suit because of civil rights abuses; many gained the chance to stay in the United States through court hearings but did not regain their citizenship due to opposition by the Department of Justice. The camp was not closed until March 20, 1946, months after the end of the war. Twenty years later, members of the class action suit gained restoration of US citizenship through court rulings.

California later designated this Tule Lake camp site as a California Historical Landmark [1] and in 2006, it was ranked as a National Historic Landmark. [3] In December 2008, the Tule Lake Unit was designated by President George W. Bush as one of nine sites—the only one in the contiguous 48 states—to be part of the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, marking areas of major events during the war. [4] In addition to remains of the concentration camp, this unit includes Tulelake camp, also used during the war; as well as the rock formation known as the Peninsula/Castle Rock. The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act, signed March 12, 2019, split up the three units of the monument, creating a new Tule Lake National Monument. [6]


Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in early 1942 as a response to the attack on Pearl Harbor, authorized establishing an Exclusion Zone on the West Coast, from which local military authorities could remove certain populations under wartime exigency. Military commanders ordered the forced removal and incarceration of the nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast of the United States, two-thirds of whom were United States citizens. A late 20th-century study revealed that internal government studies of the time recommended against such mass exclusion and incarceration, and the study concluded this decision was based on racism, wartime hysteria and failed political leadership.

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) built ten concentration camps, referred to euphemistically as "relocation centers," in remote rural areas in the interior of the country. Tule Lake Relocation Center opened on May 27, 1942, and initially held approximately 11,800 Japanese Americans, who were primarily from Sacramento, King and Hood River counties in California, Washington and Oregon, respectively. [7]

The Tulean Dispatch is a newsletter that was established in June 1942 and ended in October 1943, when Tule Lake became a segregation center. It was the shortest running newspaper of the ten concentration camps. [8]

In late 1943, the WRA issued a questionnaire intended to assess the loyalty of imprisoned Japanese Americans. The "loyalty questionnaire," as it came to be known, was originally a form circulated among draft-age men whom the military hoped to conscript into service—after assessing their loyalty and "Americanness." It soon was made mandatory for all adults in the ten camps. [9] Two questions stirred up confusion and unrest among camp inmates. Question 27 asked, "Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?" The final question 28 asked, "Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power or organization?"

The first question met resistance from young men who, while not opposed to military service outright, felt insulted that the government, having stripped them of their rights as citizens, would ask them to risk their lives in combat. Many responded with qualified statements such as, "I'll serve in the Army when my family is freed," or refused to answer the questions altogether.

Many interns had problems with the second question. Many were insulted that the question implied they ever had allegiance to a country they had either left behind decades before or, for most US citizens, never visited. Others, especially the non-citizen Issei, feared they would be deported to Japan no matter how they answered, and worried that an affirmative answer would cause them to be seen as enemy aliens by the Japanese. Issei, and many Nisei and Kibei who held dual citizenship, worried they would lose their Japanese citizenship, leaving them stateless if they were expatriated from the United States, which they feared was inevitable, given what had already occurred. In addition to these concerns, some inmates answered "no" to both questions in protest of their imprisonment and loss of civil rights. [10] Often Issei and Kibei, who spoke little or no English, simply did not understand the poorly phrased questions or their implications, and did not answer.

Tule Lake Segregation Center

Japanese Americans who protested or resisted the unjust World War II detention were segregated and imprisoned at Tule Lake. More than 24,000 men, women and children were confined here. NPSTuleLakeSC2006(12.43.47).png
Japanese Americans who protested or resisted the unjust World War II detention were segregated and imprisoned at Tule Lake. More than 24,000 men, women and children were confined here.

In 1943 the center was renamed the Tule Lake Segregation Center. [11] The War Relocation Authority proposed to use it to separate inmates suspected of being disloyal, or those who protested conditions and were disruptive in their camps. It was fortified as a maximum security facility and it quickly became the most repressive of the government's 10 concentration camps. [3] Interns who had responded with unqualified "yes" answers to the loyalty questionnaire were given the choice to transfer from Tule Lake to another WRA camp. Approximately 6,500 "loyal" Tule Lake inmates were transferred to six camps in Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Arkansas.

The more than 12,000 imprisoned Japanese Americans classified as "disloyal" because of their responses to the poorly worded loyalty questions were gradually transferred to Tule Lake during the remainder of 1943. [7] [12] Unsanitary, squalid living conditions, inadequate medical care, poor food, and unsafe or underpaid working conditions prompted prisoner protests at Tule Lake and several other camps. On November 14, after a series of meetings and demonstrations by prisoners over the poor living conditions at the overpopulated camp, the army imposed martial law in Tule Lake. [7] [12] The Army had additional barracks constructed early in 1944 to accommodate a second influx of segregated inmates, pushing the already swollen population to 18,700. [12] The camp quickly became violent and unsafe.

Inmates transplanting celery at Tule Lake TuleLakeInternmentCamp.jpg
Inmates transplanting celery at Tule Lake

Martial law in Tule Lake ended January 15, 1944, but many prisoners were bitter after months of living with a curfew, unannounced barracks searches, and restrictions that put a stop to recreational activities and most employment in camp. [7] On July 1, the Renunciation Act of 1944, drafted by Attorney General Francis Biddle, was passed into law; U.S. citizens could, during time of war, renounce their citizenship without first leaving the country—and once they did, the government could treat them as enemy aliens, and detain or deport them with impunity. Angry at the abuses of their U.S. citizenship and convinced there was nothing left for them in the country of their birth, or coerced either by WRA authorities and pro-Japan groups in camp, a total of 5,589 Nisei and Kibei internees [12] chose to renounce their citizenship. [13] [14] Ninety-eight percent of those who renounced their citizenship were inmates at Tule Lake, where conditions had been so harsh. [15]

During 1945 after the war's end, the other nine WRA camps were closed as Japanese Americans gradually returned to their home towns or settled elsewhere. Tule Lake was operated to hold those who had renounced their citizenship and Issei who had requested repatriation to Japan. Most no longer wished to leave the United States (and many had never truly wanted to leave in the first place). Civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins became interested in the issues of the internment of the Japanese Americans and learned about the loyalty questionnaires and other issues. Collins helped shut down the Tule Lake stockades, [16] and he helped 3,000 of the 4,327 Japanese Americans originally slated for deportation remain in the United States as their choice. [15]

Those who wanted to stay in the United States and regain their citizenship (if they had it), were confined in Tule Lake until hearings at which their cases would be heard and fates determined. After the last cases were decided, the camp closed in March 1946. Although these Japanese Americans were released from camp and allowed to stay in the U.S., Nisei and Kibei who had renounced their citizenship were not able to have it restored. Collins filed a class action suit on their behalf and the presiding judge voided the renunciations, finding they had been given under duress, but the ruling was overturned by the Department of Justice. [12]

After a 20-year legal battle, Collins finally succeeded in gaining restoration in the 1960s of the citizenship of those covered by the class action suit. [17] [18]

Victory for Tule Lake draft resisters

Mr. Masaaki Kuwabara (1913-1993) MasaakiKuwabara(2.28.30).png
Mr. Masaaki Kuwabara (1913–1993)

Some of the Japanese-American draft resisters wanted to use their cases to challenge their incarceration and loss of rights as US citizens. United States v. Masaaki Kuwabara, [19] was the only World War II-era Japanese-American draft resistance case to be dismissed out of court based on a due process violation of the U.S. Constitution. It was a forerunner of the Korematsu and Endo cases argued before the US Supreme Court, later in December 1944.

Judge Louis E. Goodman went out of his way to help fellow native Californian and lead defendant Masaaki Kuwabara by hand-picking his defense attorney, Blaine McGowan, who entered a Motion to Quash Proceedings based on the government's abrogation of his client's due process rights, guaranteed to every American citizen by the U.S. Constitution. Without explicitly describing Kuwabara as a victim of federal anti-Japanese racism, Judge Goodman viewed the man's experience in this light. He ruled against the United States, which incarcerated the defendant in a U.S. concentration camp; categorized him as a Class 4-C Enemy Alien; and then drafted him into military service. Kuwabara refused to obey the draft until his rights as an American citizen were restored to him.

Events since the late 20th century

Japanese-American activists revisited the civil rights issues of the forced relocation and incarceration of their people from the West Coast. They were the only ethnic group associated with the Axis Powers who were incarcerated en masse in the United States. In Hawaii, where 150,000 Japanese Americans comprised one-third of the population, only a small number were interned during the war. Japanese-American groups began to organize to educate the public, build support for their case, and lobby the government for redress. Finally the Japanese American Citizens League joined this movement, although it had initially opposed it.


Starting in 1974, Tule Lake was the site of several pilgrimages by activists calling for an official apology from the U.S. government for the injustices to Japanese Americans, both citizens and non-citizens. The pilgrimages (every even year, around the 4th of July), serving educational purposes, continue to this day. This Redress Movement gradually gained widespread support and Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It included an official governmental apology for the injustices and payment of compensation to camp survivors. A similar law was passed in 1992 to provide for compensation to additional Japanese Americans.

Groups making the annual pilgrimage have organized them around specific themes, and used them as a basis for education, as in the following:

Recent themes

Federal grant program

On December 21, 2006, U.S. President George W. Bush signed H.R. 1492 into law, creating the Japanese American Confinement Sites grant program. This authorized the appropriation of $38,000,000 in federal grant money to preserve and interpret the system of Japanese-American incarceration sites, including the temporary WCCA sites, the ten WRA concentration camps and the Department of Justice internment camps. [20]

Monument management

Map of the Tule Lake National Monument Map Tule Lake National Monument.png
Map of the Tule Lake National Monument

The Monument is jointly managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) with a total area of 1,391 acres (5.63 km2). [21] [22] [23]

The national monument consists of three separate units: the Tule Lake Segregation Center near Newell, nearby Camp Tulelake, and a rock formation known as the Peninsula/Castle Rock near Newell. The Tule Lake Segregation Center is solely managed by the NPS. Camp Tulelake is jointly managed by the NPS and USFWS; the USFWS manages/owns the land, and the NPS maintains the buildings and provides interpretive programs. The Peninsula/Castle Rock is solely managed by the USFWS. Locally, USFWS responsibilities are handled by the administration of Lava Beds National Monument and the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Notable inmates

Recent UC Berkeley valedictorian Harvey Itano at Sacramento Assembly Center in May 1942, prior to his departure for Tule Lake Sacramento, California. Harvey Akio Itano, 21, 1942 graduate from the University of California wher . . . - NARA - 537777.jpg
Recent UC Berkeley valedictorian Harvey Itano at Sacramento Assembly Center in May 1942, prior to his departure for Tule Lake


Since the end of World War II, there has been debate over the terminology used to refer to Tule Lake, and the other camps in which Japanese Americans were imprisoned by the United States Government during the war. [26] [27] [28] Tule Lake has been referred to as a "relocation camp," "relocation center," "internment camp", "concentration camp", and "segregation center," and the controversy over which term is the most accurate and appropriate continues into the early 21st century. [29] [30] Activists and scholars believe the government terms: relocation and internment, are euphemisms for forced deportation and concentration camps.

In 1998, use of the term "concentration camps" gained greater credibility prior to the opening of an exhibit at Ellis Island about the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. Initially, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the National Park Service, which manages Ellis Island, objected to the use of the term in the exhibit. [31] But, during a subsequent meeting held at the offices of the AJC in New York City, leaders representing Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans reached an understanding about the use of the term. [32] After the meeting, the Japanese American National Museum and the AJC issued a joint statement (which was included in the exhibit) that read in part:

A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are. Although many groups have been singled out for such persecution throughout history, the term 'concentration camp' was first used at the turn of the century in the Spanish–American and Boer Wars. During World War II, America's concentration camps were clearly distinguishable from Nazi Germany's. Nazi camps were places of torture, barbarous medical experiments and summary executions; some were extermination centers with gas chambers. Six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Many others, including Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and political dissidents were also victims of the Nazi concentration camps. In recent years, concentration camps have existed in the former Soviet Union, Cambodia and Bosnia. Despite differences, all had one thing in common: the people in power removed a minority group from the general population and the rest of society let it happen. [33] [34]

The New York Times published an unsigned editorial supporting the use of the term "concentration camp" in the exhibit. [35] An article quoted Jonathan Mark, a columnist for The Jewish Week , who wrote, "Can no one else speak of slavery, gas, trains, camps? It's Jewish malpractice to monopolize pain and minimize victims." [36] AJC Executive Director David A. Harris stated during the controversy, "We have not claimed Jewish exclusivity for the term 'concentration camps.'" [37]

On July 7, 2012, at their annual convention, the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League unanimously ratified the Power of Words Handbook, calling for the use of

truthful and accurate terms, and retiring the misleading euphemisms created by the government to cover up the denial of Constitutional and human rights, the force, oppressive conditions, and racism against 120,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry locked up in America's World War II concentration camps." [38]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Camp Tulelake

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Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara (1895–1965) was a Japanese American internee at Manzanar and then Tule Lake who renounced U.S. citizenship under the Renunciation Act of 1944 in protest of the internment. After the end of World War II, he emigrated to Japan, where he lived until his death.

The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was a group organized in 1943 to protest the draft of Nisei, from Japanese American concentration camps during World War II. Kiyoshi Okamoto formed a "Fair Play Committee of One" in response to the War Relocation Authority's controversial loyalty questionnaire in 1943, and was later joined by Frank Emi and other inmates of the Heart Mountain camp. With seven older leaders at its core, the Committee's membership grew as draft notices began to arrive in camp. To challenge their forced "evacuation" by the government, they refused to volunteer or participate in the draft, but the Committee required its members to be citizens loyal to the United States willing to serve if their rights were restored. By June 1944, several dozen young men had been arrested and charged by the U.S. government with felony draft evasion. While the camp at Poston, Arizona produced the largest group of draft resisters, at 106, the Fair Play Committee was the most prominent inmate organization to protest the draft, and the rate of draft resistance at Heart Mountain was the highest of any camp. The number of resisters eventually numbered nearly 300 from all ten camps.


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Further reading



Nisei Draft Resisters

  • Free to Die for their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II, 2001, by Eric Muller.


  • Native American Aliens: Disloyalty and the Renunciation of Citizenship by Japanese Americans during World War II, 1985, Donald E. Collins.

Tule Lake

  • Tule Lake, 2006, a novel by Edward T. Miyakawa.
  • Kinenhi: Reflections on Tule Lake, by the Tule Lake Committee (1980).
  • Tule Lake Revisited: A Brief History and Guide to the Tule Lake Concentration Camp Site, Second edition, 2012, by Barbara Takei and Judy Tachibana.
  • Tule Lake: An Issei Memoir, by Noboru Shirai; an autobiographical account, published in English in 2001 by Muteki Press. ISBN   0971610800; ISBN   978-0971610804. Originally published in Tokyo, Japan, in 1981, by Kawade Shobo Shinsha, under the title, Kariforunia nikkeijin kyōsei shūyōjo.

U.S. concentration camps

  • Concentration Camps U.S.A: The Japanese Americans and World War II, 1971, by Roger Daniels.
  • Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism, 1987, by Richard T. Drinnon.
  • Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps, 1976, by Michi Weglyn.