This is a page of the loyalty questionnaire administered to Japanese Americans while they were imprisoned in concentration camps. Take a look at questions 27 and 28.
Imagine if you were a young American citizen of Japanese descent incarcerated in a concentration camp and presented with these questions.
- How would you respond?
- Why would you respond in this way?
- What questions or concerns would you have?
The War Department and the War Relocation Authority (WRA) scored the answers to the loyalty questionnaire by ranking them according to Americanness and Japaneseness. Especially problematic were questions 27 and 28. Question 27 asked if Nisei men were willing to serve on combat duty wherever ordered and asked everyone else if they would be willing to serve in other ways, such as joining the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps. Question 27 was an insulting question to some who were angry about being incarcerated. Question 28 asked if individuals would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and forswear any form of allegiance to the Emperor of Japan. The problem this question posed was that Issei were not allowed to become American citizens—if they forswore allegiance to the Japanese emperor, they would become stateless, without any connection to a government; and the Nisei, who were American citizens, never had any allegiance to the Emperor of Japan.
At most of the incarceration camps, Japanese Americans answered “yes” to both questions 27 and 28. However, many were uncomfortable making this agreement to serve in the military at the same time that the US government was suspending their constitutional rights. For this reason, there were some who answered “no” to both questions. Labeled as disloyal, they were sent to the Tule Lake Segregation Center.