Committee of 33 (Topaz)


The "Committee of 33" at Topaz formed in 1943 and represented the Nisei and Kibei responses to the "loyalty questionnaire" and the formation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The Issei Committee of Nine (Topaz) had effectively halted the registration process for several days to put pressure on administrators to change the loyalty questionnaire title and revise question 28. Issei did not want to be forced to choose between their Japanese citizenship (the only citizenship they were allowed by law) and their standing in the United States. Kibei at Topaz, supported by their Issei parents, wanted to use continued non-compliance with registration to force some changes to their situation as well. The majority of Kibei and a visible majority of Issei argued that no citizen should register until his civil rights were restored and citizenship fully recognized. When threatened by camp director Charles Ernst with prosecution under the Espionage Act if any citizen refused to register, the "Committee of 33" formed to draft a resolution in an effort to take the matter over the heads of camp administrators. When they received a response from major national figures such as Secretary of War Henry Stimson, Colonel William P. Scobey, and WRA director Dillon Myer that rebuked citizen Nisei/Kibei for their petition and reaffirmed the message that they must first serve their country before their citizenship rights would be restored, the collective resistance at Topaz broke down and the registration process began. Individuals who chose to register their frustration answered Questions 27 and 28 with a "No-No." Most of the citizens who were sent to Tule Lake from Topaz for answering Questions 27 and 28 with a "No-No" were Kibei.[1]

Authored by Cherstin M. Lyon, California State University, San Bernardino

For More Information

Lyon, Cherstin. Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2012.

From a Silk Cocoon: A Japanese American Renunciation Story. Film produced by Kim Ina and Satsuki Ina, 2005. http://www.fromasilkcocoon.com.

Footnotes

  1. John F. Embree, "Registration at Central Utah, 14-17, February, 1943," War Relocation Authority, Project Analysis Series No. 1, November 1943, Leflar Papers, box 2, folder 4, Special Collections, University of Arkansas; Russell A. Bankson, "Registration at Topaz," RG 210, Field Basic Documentation, Central Utah, Project Reports division, reel 6, NARA, 31; FBI, "Summary of Information: War Relocation Authority and Japanese Relocation Centers," (August 2, 1945), RG 65, box 84, folder 62-69030.