Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation (book)

Title Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation
Author Morton Grodzins
Original Publisher University of Chicago Press
Original Publication Date 1949
Pages 445
WorldCat Link

Influential 1949 monograph by political scientist Morton Grodzins . The first book-length exploration of the causes of the mass forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast and their subsequent confinement, it emphasizes the role of West Coast politicians and pressure groups in the decision. In addition to its content, the Grodzins book is notable because of its tortured road to publication, which has become a case study on the policies and practices of academic publishing and questions of censorship.

Background of the Book

The work that became Americans Betrayed came about as a result of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study (JERS). Morton Grodzins, then a graduate student in political science at the University of California at Berkeley, worked as a research assistant on JERS from March 1942 to July 1945. Grodzins assisted JERS Director Dorothy Thomas with administrative tasks and also gathered material related to the role played by various California political figures and interest groups in catalyzing support for the removal of Japanese Americans. At the same time, he did work on his doctoral dissertation. Titled "Political Aspects of the Japanese Evacuation," the 700-plus page work was successfully defended before a committee chaired by Charles Aiken that also included Thomas.

As the war was ending, Grodzins sought to have his text published. Although Thomas had approved the original dissertation, and had originally planned to publish Grodzins' text, she now claimed that the work was unfit for publication, and cited its excessive length along with various complaints about his scholarship. When Grodzins then sought permission from Thomas to seek publication by another publisher outside her series, she refused, citing JERS ownership of his work and her desire to control the dissemination of data from the project. Instead, without Grodzins' consent, Thomas engaged a number of other scholars to rework Grodzins' research for possible publication by the University of California Press. Thomas' efforts to rework Grodzins' research led to the commissioning of the book Prejudice, War, and the Constitution by Jacobus tenBroek, Edward N. Barnhart, and Floyd Matson, which was ultimately published by the UC Press in 1954.

Anthropologist Peter Suzuki later argued that Thomas and UC Press editors objected not to Grodzins's scholarly standards, but to his portrait of elite California farmers and commercial groups and racist West Coast political leaders as chiefly responsible for mass removal. Suzuki's claim is lent additional plausibility by the fact that in mid-1946, at the time of publication of the first book in the JERS series, The Spoilage (to which Grodzins was a contributor), University of California Press editor David R. Brower sent Thomas a long letter outlining his contention that mass removal was a product of military necessity and urging her to conform her study to that position. [1]

In any event, once blocked from publication by Thomas, an undaunted Grodzins (who had meanwhile become an assistant professor of political science at the University of Chicago) sent the manuscript to the University of Chicago Press. The manuscript received positive reviews from outside reviewers and the University of Chicago's Social Science Research Committee, on the basis of which Chief Editor W. T. Couch agreed to publish the book as a contribution to public knowledge. Thomas and UC Chancellor Robert Sproul objected to publication, on the grounds that since Grodzins had worked for the JERS project, his manuscript belonged to them. Thomas was unable to provide evidence of any written agreement by Grodzins not to seek outside publication, and Couch obtained legal opinions that the work belonged to Grodzins. Still, the UC officials raised such strong protest that University of Chicago Chancellor Robert Hutchins moved to suppress the manuscript. University President Ernest C. Colwell summoned Couch and ordered him to desist from publication, insisting that "inter university comity" was more important than freedom of the press. Couch refused, and the University of Chicago Press proceeded with the publication of Grodzins' book. As a result of such defiance, Couch would lose his job soon after—ironically, Grodzins would be tapped as his successor.

Overview and Reaction

Grodzins's book appeared on July 1, 1949, under the title Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation . The 445-page book is divided into two main sections. Part I, "Regional Pressures," which makes up over half the book, includes seven chapters that explore the efforts of West Coast politicians and "pressure groups"—groups such as the California Joint Immigration Committee , agricultural groups, chambers of commerce, and many others—in agitating for the exclusion of Japanese Americans, along with further chapters analyzing both the arguments presented for mass removal and those offered by opponents of exclusion. Part II, "The Formation of National Policy," includes five chapters that explore the evolution of policy in Washington, DC, the role of Congress and the Japanese American cases that went before the Supreme Court. Two lengthy appendices, "The California Press" and "Arguments in Favor of Evacuation" follow.

Grodzins places a large measure of the responsibility for the mass removal on the West Coast politicians and pressure groups, whom, he argues, convinced Western Defense Command head General John DeWitt and other officials of its necessity, with DeWitt and his superiors in turn convincing the key federal officials, including a reluctant Justice Department. Grodzins' main primary sources for the book included records of pressure groups such as the California Joint Immigration Committee and Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and their publications; interviews with various congressmen and access to their files; interviews with various local officials including Los Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron ; records of county, city and local law enforcement, and access to Justice Department files along with interviews with key Justice Department figures Edward Ennis and James Rowe . He was not able to interview anyone from the War Department or army nor gain access to their records.

Reviews of the book in academic journals were fairly positive. Many reviews noted the sheer volume of research and data presented in the book, whether in praise ("It is a relentless pursuit of data of every conceivable kind. The book is, in fact, so well documented that one wonders how the investigator managed to gain access to some of his sources.") or in criticism ("the necessity for carefully documenting every statement cuts down the readability of a book which does a masterly job of critical analysis.") [2] Several reviewers also noted the pioneering nature of the work. [3] The lone wholly negative review of the book, by Frederick Bernays Wiener in Harvard Law Review, calls it "a biased and intolerant tract against bias and intolerance" and raises several arguments seeming to justify the exclusion. [4]

Reviews in the mainstream media were more enthusiastic. The New York Times' s reviewer praised Grodzins' work as "a book of the first importance," and lauded its "well-documented facts, painstakingly gathered and carefully sifted." [5] A Chicago Tribune editorial approvingly cited Grodzins's thesis and praised the University of Chicago Press for publishing the work. Sales of the book exceeded those of the typical academic book. In addition to the bookstore trade, the book was selected for mass purchases by the Japanese American Citizens League (1,000 copies) and the editors of Scene magazine (500 copies) for resale. The volume was subsequently reissued by the University of Chicago Press in 1969 and again in 1974.

Americans Betrayed represented a formidable breakthrough in the study of the wartime fate of Japanese Americans. Contemporary scholars generally agree that Grodzins goes too far in assigning West Coast agitators the principal responsibility for mass forced removal. In subsequent decades, using archival documents unavailable to Grodzins, historians such as Stetson Conn, Allan R. Bosworth and Roger Daniels detailed the essential role of the previously obscure Karl R. Bendetsen , his boss Provost Marshal General Allen W. Gullion , and Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy in bringing about the policy. A generation later, historian Greg Robinson cited the central role of President Franklin Roosevelt himself in the making of Executive Order 9066 and its aftermath. Americans Betrayed remains useful for the sheer volume of material it contains on West Coast politicians and pressure groups, and for uncovering their heavy involvement in pressuring for mass removal.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho and Greg Robinson , Université du Québec À Montréal

For More Information

Grodzins, Morton. Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Murray, Stephen O. "The Rights of Research Assistants and the Rhetoric of Political Suppression: Morton Grodzins and the University of California Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement Study." Journal of the History of Behavioral Sciences 27.2 (Apr. 1991): 130-56.

Suzuki, Peter T. "For the Sake of Inter-University Comity: The Attempted Suppression by the University of California of Morton Grodzins' Americans Betrayed." In Views from Within: The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study , edited by Yuji Ichioka. Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1989. 95-123.


Bean, Walton E. Pacific Historical Review 19.3 (Aug. 1950): 306–07.

Carr, Robert K. Political Science Review 43.5 (Oct. 1949): 1042-43.

Culllum Robert M. Common Ground , Sept. 1949, 107–08.

Hayner, Norman S. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , Vol. 267, Military Government (Jan. 1950): 241–42.

Hosokawa, Bill. Pacific Citizen , July 16, 1949, 5.

Jones, F. C. International Affairs 26.4 (Oct. 1950): 553–54.

Kurisaki, Jr., Lyle K. Western Political Quarterly 3.1 (Mar. 1950): 147–48.

LaViolette, Forrest E. Pacific Affairs 22.4 (Dec. 1949): 442.

Moon, Bucklin. "On Racial Grounds." New York Times , July 24, 1949.

Oppenheimer, Franz M. University of Chicago Law Review 17.4 (Summer 1950): 751–54.

Spicer, Edward H. American Journal of Sociology 55.6 (May 1950): 603–04.

Tajiri, Larry. Pacific Citizen , July 2, 1949, 4–5.

Trimble, E. G. The Journal of Politics 12.1 (Feb. 1950): 157–61.

Wiener, Frederick Bernays. Harvard Law Review 63.3 (Jan. 1950): 549–52.


  1. Letter David R. Brower to Dorothy Swaine Thomas, June 17, 1946, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 1.42, accessed on Apr. 17, 2020 at .
  2. Forrest E. LaViolette, Pacific Affairs 22.4 (Dec. 1949), 442; Norman S. Hayner, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science , Vol. 267, Military Government (Jan. 1950), 242.
  3. For instance, see Franz M. Oppenheimer, University of Chicago Law Review 17.4 (Summer 1950), 751 or Robert K. Carr, Political Science Review 43.5 (Oct. 1949), 1043.
  4. Frederick Bernays Wiener, Harvard Law Review 63.3 (Jan. 1950), 550.
  5. Bucklin Moon, "On Racial Grounds," New York Times , July 24, 1949.

Last updated June 20, 2024, 5:06 p.m..