Topaz Citizens Committee


There was a great deal of confusion in Topaz immediately following the announcement that the draft would be restored for Nisei on January 20, 1944. Nisei were initially pleased to hear the draft had been restored, but quickly disappointed when they realized that the previous practice of segregating Nisei into combat teams within a single branch of the military would continue. They had hoped that the initial success of volunteers would lead to a restoration of the draft on the same basis as other Americans. Conversations began in earnest about how a message might be sent to the War Department and to the President objecting to the continued segregation of Nisei in the military. Two groups emerged from these early conversations: the Topaz Citizens Committee, and the Mothers of Topaz. The majority, 87% of delegates on the Citizens Committee, argued for sending a message protesting racial segregation, while 13% argued that citizen Nisei should refuse to appear for their pre-induction physicals until they were drafted into non-segregated units of the military. After meeting with A.L. Wirin, attorney for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the group was informed that they would not be given the support of the ACLU in their efforts to resist the draft as a means of protesting segregation in the military. As a result, the Committee dropped its activist model and instead became an informational group.[1] Seven individuals from Topaz eventually refused to appear for their pre-induction physicals, five of whom were sentenced to serve terms at the Tucson Federal Prison Camp with the resisters from Amache (Granada) and Poston (Colorado River), the group eventually calling themselves the "Tucsonians."

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.

Footnotes

  1. Hiro Katayama, "Reaction to the Reinstitution of the Selective Service," Community Analysis, Central Utah Project, Topaz, Utah, April 10, 1944, p. 7. Community Analysis Reports, Topaz, Roll 8, No. 33, NARA I.