America's Concentration Camps (book)


Title America's Concentration Camps
Author Allan R. Bosworth
Original Publisher W.W. Norton
Original Publication Date 1967
WorldCat Link https://www.worldcat.org/title/americas-concentration-camps/oclc/935083918

Widely read 1967 book by Allan R. Bosworth on Japanese American removal and incarceration that had the distinction of being the first to use the term "concentration camps" in its title. Published by W. W. Norton, the book served as an introduction to the topic for many Americans, particularly Sansei coming of age in the 1960s.[1]

Book and Author Overview

According to an account by W.W. Norton & Co. managing editor Merrill Pollack, the book's origins stem from his memories of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from his time as an infantryman in World War II and his subsequent discovery of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans. Reminiscence with an old army buddy in the early 1960s led to Pollack's decision to do a book on the subject, necessitating a search for a suitable writer that took a year. Through literary agent Marie Rodell, Pollack was introduced to Bosworth.[2]

Author Allan R. Bosworth (1901–86) was a novelist, journalist, and career naval officer. A native of Texas, he first enlisted in the navy in 1922. After his discharge in 1925, he worked as a journalist for various newspapers in California, most notably with the San Francisco Chronicle where he was a news editor and later managing editor. He was also commissioned in the naval reserves in 1927, serving as an intelligence officer. Called back to active duty just prior to World War II, he investigated wartime espionage cases. He remained in the military through the 1950s and did a nearly six-year stint in Japan and Korea, rising to the rank of captain. In addition to his journalism and military careers, he pursued fiction, published over 500 short stories and several novels, with his first, the western themed Wherever the Grass Grows (New York: Doubleday, Doran) published in 1941 and his best known, The New Country (New York: Harper) published in 1962. One of his books, Ginza Go, Papa-san (Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle, Company, 1955) is a humorous autobiographical account of his time in Japan, with illustrations by Nisei cartoonist Jack Matsuoka.[3]

America's Concentration Camps provides an overview of the Japanese American removal and incarceration, outlining the chain of events that led to the incarceration, the main story lines of incarceration, and a discussion of its meaning and aftermath. The chapters on the causes of incarceration begin with a summation of prewar history of Japanese Americans and the decades of racism they endured, drawing heavily on prior works by Carey McWilliams, Jacobus tenBroek, et al, Morton Grodzins, and Stetson Conn. The discussion of Tule Lake and related topics rely heavily on The Spoilage, and there is little on The Salvage in general. Though relying heavily on secondary sources, Bosworth does also use a handful of interviews with Japanese Americans and some of the key architects of the exclusion, as well as some unpublished (and insufficiently cited) writings by Japanese Americans and the files of the Pacific Citizen.

Though sympathetic to Japanese Americans, the book praises the Japanese American Citizens League and their wartime strategy of cooperation effusively and its claims of Nisei success echo the "Model Minority" characterization prevalent at that time. "It should be remembered that as a minority group they achieved full and sovereign status not by demonstrations or sit-ins, not by parading with placards, not by resistance and riots," writes Bosworth.[4]

At the same time, the book makes a point of the injustice of the mass removal and Supreme Court decision on the Korematsu case that means that "no minority group in this country is really safe, today, from federal search, seizure, and impoundment. Nobody is safe, under certain conditions, from unexpected detention and incarceration."[5] Given the events of that time, he explicitly cites the possibility of a round up of Chinese Americans if the American people are not vigilant.

Norton published America's Concentration Camps in February 1967. A mass market paperback edition published by Bantam Books appeared in 1968. In 1983, a Japanese translation of the book was published by Shinsensha.

Reaction and Impact

The book was widely reviewed in popular newspapers and magazines, most reviewers praising the book and adding some comment about the wrongness of the incarceration and importance of the story. For instance, Emerson Chapin in the New York Times calls it a "readable, sound and well-documented account of this 'dark stain on American history'," Time Magazine calls it "a story that bears retelling," and Herbert Mitgang in The Saturday Review calls it an "important story." Kirkus Reviews and Time Magazine also criticize Bosworth's sometime angry prose, the former commenting that "Occasionally Mr. Bosworth's emotions do overcome his generally equitable prose," and the latter changing that his "angry account lacks not only literary grace but balance. As he fulminates against this lapse of democracy, the author descends to the irrationality that caused it."[6]

Not surprisingly given its valorization of the organization, the JACL strongly promoted the book. Ads touting it as "The Book You've Been Waiting For" graced the Pacific Citizen in late 1966, and the book was sold out of the JACL office. By January 13, 1967, PC editor Harry Honda reported that the first 1,000 autographed copies had sold out; by March 10, he reported that the JACL was on its 4th set of 1,000 books, with many chapters buying the book to give to schools and libraries. In his "Washington Newsletter" column, Mike Masaoka calls it "easy-to-read, yet carefully documented" and "about as complete a story of the saga of the Japanese in this country as has ever been published to date."[7]

Given the distinct lack of other books on the topic at the time, it was also embraced by Asian American activists. The book was sold at rallies supporting the repeal of Title II, a precursor to the redress movement. As the first book on Japanese American wartime incarceration to use the term "concentration camps" in its title, it was also cited as part of the campaign led by Edison Uno and Raymond Okamura starting in 1974 to convince the community to use the term instead of such euphemistic terms as "relocation centers." Historian Roger Daniels credits the book at the first popular account to incorporate the important findings of army historian Stetson Conn on how the decision to remove and incarcerate all West Coast Japanese Americans was made.[8]

Though important for its time, America's Concentration Camps proved to the be the first of many books on this topic that would appear over the next decade and was rendered largely obsolete within a few years by more thoroughly researched accounts such as Roger Daniels' Concentration Camps, U.S.A. (1971) and Michi Weglyn's Years of Infamy (1976).

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Bosworth, Allan R. America's Concentration Camps. Introduction by Roger Baldwin. New York: W. W. Norton, 1967.

Finding aid to the Allan R. Bosworth papers (which include documents related to America's Concentration Camps) and biography at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, http://www.bu.edu/phpbin/archives-cc/app/details.php?id=7459&return=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bu.edu%2Fphpbin%2Farchives-cc%2Fapp%2Fsearch.php%3Fkeywords%3Dbosworth%26do_search%3DSearc.

Izumi, Masumi. "Prohibiting 'American Concentration Camps': Repeal of the Emergency Detention Act and the Public Historical Memory of the Japanese American Internment." Pacific Historical Review 74.2 (May 2005): 165–93.

Pollack, Merrill. "The Story Behind America's Concentration Camps." Pacific Citizen, Dec. 23–30, 1966, B-16.

Footnotes

  1. See for instance Gann Matsuda, "Panel Looks at Past, Present and Future of Manzanar and Tule Lake Pilgrimages during JANM Event," November 21, 2011, Discover Nikkei website, accessed on October 2, 2012, at http://www.discovernikkei.org/es/journal/2011/11/21/manzanar-tulelake-pilgrimages/.
  2. Merrill Pollack, "The Story Behind America's Concentration Camps," Pacific Citizen, Dec. 23–30, 1966, B-16.
  3. Biographical sketch complied from Bosworth's biography at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University website, accessed on October 5, 2012 at http://www.bu.edu/phpbin/archives-cc/app/details.php?id=7459&return=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bu.edu%2Fphpbin%2Farchives-cc%2Fapp%2Fsearch.php%3Fkeywords%3Dbosworth%26do_search%3DSearc; Pollack, "The Story," and the jacket to Ginza Go, Papa-san.
  4. Allan R. Bosworth, America's Concentration Camps (New York: W. W. Norton, 1967), 246.
  5. Bosworth, American's Concentration Camps, 23.
  6. Emerson Chapin, New York Times review, February 22, 1967, p. 27; Time Magazine review, February 17, 1967, p. 110; Herbert Mitgang, "Relocated in the Land of the Free," The Saturday Review, March 18, 1967, p. 29, accessed online on October 5, 2012 at http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1967mar18-00029?View=PDF; Kirkus Reviews, accessed on 10/2/12 at https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/allan-r-bosworth-3/americas-concentration-camps-2/#reviews; see also Harry Honda, "Bosworth Book Showered with Favorable Reviews," Pacific Citizen, March 10, 1967, p. 1 for a summary of many other reviews.
  7. For instance, see ad in Dec. 9, 1966 issue, p. 3. Harry Honda, "Ye Editor's Desk," Pacific Citizen, January 13, 1967; Honda, "Bosworth Book Showered with Favorable Reviews"; Mike Masaoka, "Washington Newsletter," Pacific Citizen, Dec. 16, 1966.
  8. Masumi Izumi, "Prohibiting 'American Concentration Camps': Repeal of the Emergency Detention Act and the Public Historical Memory of the Japanese American Internment," Pacific Historical Review 74.2 (May 2005), 175; Alice Yang Murray, Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), 234; Roger Daniels, "American Historians and East Asian Immigrants," Pacific Historical Review 43.4 (Nov. 1974), p. 467.