Resident Council for Japanese American Civil Rights (Topaz)


On March 6, 1943, a few Nisei who had volunteered for military service organized a formal committee in Topaz designed to recruit more Nisei to volunteer for military service. They called it the "Resident Council for Japanese American Civil Rights" and prepared a pamphlet explaining to male citizen Nisei reasons why they should volunteer. On March 7, 1943, with the help of a growing number of enthusiastic women supporters, the committee organized a group called the "Volunteers for Victory" and held a large banquet and dance. The committee of future WAACs hosted the event and invited 130 guests. In just three days following the dance and banquet, 112 additional Nisei volunteered, meeting the final March 10, 1943 deadline for voluntary recruitment for the new combat team.

By February 27, all adults in Topaz had registered after a great deal of unrest and protest over the unclear and unintended consequences of the "Loyalty Questionnaire" and questions 27 and 28 for Issei and unclear implications of the questions and the volunteer drive to fill a segregated combat team for Nisei and Kibei. Yet in the joint drive for volunteers for the military and loyalty registration, only 3 percent of those citizen men eligible for military service volunteered from Topaz. However disappointing the lack of volunteers may have been, military representatives interpreted the eventual compliance of Nisei with registration as a positive sign. Lt. W. L. Tracy, sent by the military to oversee the recruitment and loyalty registration process indicated that Nisei "are showing by their questionnaires that they are determined to prove to the nation that faith in the loyal, patriotic American citizens of Topaz is justified." Tracy gave "special credit" to certain blocks for their "fine registration records." The blocks noted were blocks 4-6, 8, 10 and 12.[1] With peer recruiting, the numbers of volunteers quickly increased by twenty new recruits. The initial volunteers increased their efforts by holding open meetings. Some volunteers shared their enthusiasm for the war effort with women who were considering volunteering for the WAACs.

The Topaz "Resident Council for Japanese American Civil Rights" turned their recruiting effort into a propaganda campaign of Nisei loyalty in hopes of changing public opinion about the Nisei. They met with political, ecclesiastical and business leaders of the state of Utah. They sent their own "Volunteers for Victory" pamphlet to Congressmen, ministers, educators and Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) leaders nationwide. Most recipients of the pamphlet wrote back congratulating the group on their support of the war effort, and some even pointed out how well they used propaganda for their own purposes. The JACL requested that the "Volunteers for Victory" let them use portions of their pamphlet for their national image campaign.

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

For More Information

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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

Okubo, Minè. Citizen 13660. New York: Columbia University Press, 1946.

Topaz Times (newspaper)

Footnotes

  1. Exhibit Z, Topaz Times, February 22-27, 1943. See also Brian Hayashi, ''Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), 144; "Number of Blocks 100 Per Cent in Current Registration," Topaz Times, February 23, 1943.