Report commissioned by the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) in 1989 to investigate the organization's actions during World War II. When the report largely confirmed charges against the JACL by its detractors, it was largely suppressed by the organization. However, copies circulated widely through the community and it later became available on the Internet.
The roots of the Lim Report stem from changing attitudes in the Japanese American community towards the wartime forced removal and incarceration. The greater willingness by Japanese Americans to talk about their wartime experiences in the context of the Redress Movement of the 1970s and 1980s also led to an embrace of wartime dissidents and a questioning of the JACL's wartime strategy of cooperation with wartime authorities combined with the suppression of dissident activity. At the 1988 JACL National Convention in Seattle—which was interrupted by the signing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988—the Golden Gate Chapter introduced a resolution calling for a recognition of wartime dissidents, while the Seattle Chapter introduced one calling for an apology for "injuries, pain and injustice" caused by "persons acting individually and in the name of the JACL" to "a number of our community citizens," specifically mentioning the "no-no boys." Though these resolutions were not adopted, the organization decided to form a Presidential Select Committee to study the role of the JACL during World War II to be submitted to the 1990 National Council, presumably to provide delegates with the necessary information to make a reasoned vote of these resolutions.
In June of 1989, the JACL hired Deborah Lim, an attorney and instructor in Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, to conduct original research on the question. The select committee provided Lim with an outline of topics to cover. Over the next six months, Lim looked at relevant published literature, primary sources in the National Archives and elsewhere, and material from the JACL's archive, and also interviewed scholars and activists familiar with the issues. She submitted a 95-page report to the select committee at the end of the year. With their input, she completed a 154 page version in the spring of 1990.
The report investigates the JACL's role in the months leading up to the mass removal and in the administration of the concentration camps. It largely validates the general view of JACL critics in painting a picture of an organization whose leaders actively sought to represent the entire Japanese American community to government authorities, demonstrating a willingness to collaborate with the army, intelligence agencies and the War Relocation Authority and to suppress internal dissent in the community. Though much of what is in the report had been previously disclosed by historians such as Roger Daniels, Michi Weglyn, and Richard Drinnon, the report provides more detail and new revelations on a number of topics including the extent of collaboration by JACL leaders such as Ken Matsumoto and Tokutaro Slocum with the Office of Naval Intelligence and FBI and on the ill-fated February 1942 "Kibei Survey," among other topics. In discussing JACL collaboration with the War Relocation Authority (WRA), Lim concludes that Mike Masaoka and other JACL leaders were secretly employed by the WRA while at the same time trying to sell incarcerated Japanese Americans on WRA policies. The report has no introduction or conclusion. "I decided to just set the stage and let the historical material speak for itself," she told Frank Abe. She also told Abe that she was surprised as to the extent that the JACL provided information to intelligence agencies; "The whole notion of informing on people where there really wasn't any basis to ... there was a lot more of that kind of activity than I was expecting to find," she said.
No doubt due to findings that historian Cherstin Lyon called "far more damning than the JACL had expected," the JACL largely suppressed the report. For distribution at the 1990 convention, select committee chair Cressy Nakagawa prepared a 28-page document that largely stripped away the most of key findings of Lim's report. Activist William Hohri wrote that "Nakagawa seemed to have gone out of his way to ignore most of Lim's findings." His report did specifically acknowledge one of Lim's key findings, the JACL's mistreatment of Nisei draft resisters. This led to a 1990 resolution stating that the "JACL regrets any pain or bitterness caused by its failure to recognize" the resisters, and to an eventual apology to the draft resisters in 2002. In the meantime, hard copies of what became known as the Lim Report circulated throughout the Japanese American community. Later, the full version was made available on the websites JAvoice.com and Resisters.com. The JACL did agree to distribute the expanded version of the Lim Report in 1994, but took no further action based on its findings.
Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho
For More Information
"Research Report prepared for Presidential Select Committee on JACL Resolution #7 (aka The Lim Report). http://www.resisters.com/study/LimTOC.htm
Lyon, Cherstin. Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011.
Murray, Alice Yang. Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008.
- Alice Yang Murray, Historical Memories of the Japanese American Internment and the Struggle for Redress (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008), 428; William Hohri, "An Introduction to The Lim Report," accessed on June 24, 2014 at http://www.resisters.com/study/Introduction.htm.
- Hohri, "An Introduction."
- "Research Report prepared for Presidential Select Committee on JACL Resolution #7 (aka The Lim Report), http://www.resisters.com/study/LimTOC.htm; Frank Abe, "Report on JACL's WW2 Actions to Be Released," April 2, 1990, http://www.resisters.com/study/Lim_April_2_1990.htm, both accessed June 24, 2014.
- Cherstin Lyon, Prisons and Patriots: Japanese American Wartime Citizenship, Civil Disobedience, and Historical Memory (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011), 183; Hohri, "An Introduction"; Murray, Historical Memories," 428.