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About this collection

On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service bombed Pearl Harbor. On February 19, 1942 , President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066. This order called the mass removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast Military District 1 to relocation camps located further within the United States interior. Also known as the exclusion zone, the West Coast Military District included all of California and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Arizona.
President Roosevelt then created the U.S. War Relocation Authority (WRA) on March 18, 1942 with Executive Order 9102. The WRA was responsible for relocation, internment, and reintegration of over 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans during World War II, 62% of which were American citizens. Expeditiously, the WRA built ten relocation camps in California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arkansas. The Japanese Americans were brought to the camps by trainloads from the Pacific Coast region.
During this time, 1941-1943, those interned in camps were prohibited from serving in the US military. However, in 1944 the government re-instituted the draft for all Nisei, first generation Japanese born in America. Soon following, resisters of conscience were put on trial, most given 3-year sentences. A number of the resisters were removed from internment camps and sent to the Tucson Federal Prison Camp, also known as the Catalina Federal Honor Camp, to serve their sentences. During World War II, the Catalina Federal Honor Camp held draft resisters from various cultural and religious backgrounds , along with inmates serving non-war related sentences. Gordon Hirabayashi arrived in 1943 and was the first Japanese American draft resister.
Gordon Hirabayashi arrived in 1943 and was the first Japanese American draft resister - a seminal figure in the Nisei resistance to the draft. Hirabayashi was college senior at the University of Washington at the beginning of World War II, and when Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes, he refused to report for internment and instead went straight to the FBI to challenge the constitutionality of this Executive Order, resulting in his arrest. However, in June of 1943 the Supreme Court upheld his convictions. Hirabayashi spent time in county jail, but was later moved to Catalina Federal Honor Camp, where he worked as a baker and quickly befriended fellow Hopi prisoners.
The "Tucsonians", is the name the group of Nisei draft resisters designated for themselves while imprisoned in the Catalina Federal Honor Camp. This group consisted of resisters from the Topaz, Amache, and Poston internment camps. The men served sentences of 6-12 months for Selective Service Violations, with most working on building the prison road and other jobs around the prison. The "Tucsonians," and all wartime draft resisters were pardoned in 1947. Beginning in 1947, the Tucsonians held reunions that continued through 2002. In 1999, the National Forest Service renamed the Catalina Federal Honor Camp the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site in honor of Hirabayshi’s act of wartime civil disobedience. An interpretive kiosk was built on the site in 2001 that honors wartime resisters who served time in Tucson.
This digital collection includes the oral histories of several of the Japanese-American resisters of conscience who served sentences at the Catalina Federal Honor Camp during WWII. The collection contains audio and transcripts of interviews conducted by Cherstin Lyon, from 1999 through 2002. These oral histories were used by Cherstin Lyon as the basis of her book Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory, published by Temple University Press in 2012. The collection also includes photographs of the "Tucsonians" annual anniversary gathering. The oral history project was funded by CCLPEP (California Civil Liberties Public Education Program) and the Coronado National Forest.

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