The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans during World War II (book)

Title The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans during World War II
Author Audrie Girdner; Anne Loftis
Original Publisher Macmillan
Original Publication Date 1969
Pages 562
Awards California Book Award Silver Medal, 1969; Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, 1970
WorldCat Link

Sprawling, 562-page popular history tome on the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The Great Betrayal was one of several historical accounts on this topic that appeared in the late 1960s and early 1970s that contributed to a much greater awareness of it both inside and outside the Japanese American community.

The account was based on both primary and secondary sources (most of the former from the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University) and interviews with many of the principals, both Japanese American and non-Japanese American. After two chapters recounting the prewar history of Japanese Americans, the authors delve into the story of Executive Order 9066 , exclusion, and incarceration, providing much detail on specific " assembly centers " and War Relocation Authority administered concentration camps and touching on topics largely neglected in other accounts of the period including draft resistance and the fate of Nisei caught in Japan. A full one-third of the book is devoted to the post-incarceration period, covering both inland resettlement and the rocky return to the West Coast , the turning back of discriminatory legislation in the decade after the war, and two chapters on the current state of the community and its nascent interest in revisiting the incarceration story twenty-five years later. Appendices include a range of documents including the Japanese American Creed (called "The Creed of the JACL"), Executive Order 9066, Public Proclamations 5 and 6, a sample of one of the exclusion orders , and the "Application for Leave Clearance," aka the loyalty questionnaire .

At the time, both authors were freelance writers based in the San Francisco Bay area. The Great Betrayal was the first book for each. Loftis, the daughter of renowned historical Allan Nevins, went on to author four other books, most dealing with aspects of California labor history. The Great Betrayal won an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (awarded to books that make "important contributions to our understanding of racism and our appreciation of the rich diversity of human cultures") in 1970 and a California Book Award Silver Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California in 1969. [1]

The book was widely reviewed in both mainstream and academic publications, with nearly all of the reviews positive. In many cases, it was reviewed in combination with one of the other books on the topic released at around the same time, including Bill Hosokawa 's Nisei: The Quiet Americans , The Impounded People by Edward H. Spicer , et al., and Dillon Myer 's Uprooted Americans: The Japanese Americans and the War Relocation Authority During World War II . Reviewers praised the book's scope and range of research, it's accessibility, and it's focus on individual stories. Typical of the reviews are those by Joseph M. Kitagawa in Christian Century and by Publishers' Weekly . The former wrote that the the book, while "... less technical than many others, gives a lucid account of this sad drama," adding that "The authors tried, 'above all, to tell the story of people, of their reactions and experiences in this cataclysmic uprooting,' and in this venture they are successful." The latter called it "... the most down-to-earth, compassionate, yet probingly objective and thorough book we have yet seen on the subject." [2] In an otherwise positive review, Roger Daniels wrote in Pacific Historical Review that the authors were "a little too smug… about the 'happy ending' that history seems to have given the Japanese-American story." [3] The sole wholly negative review was by Marvin K. Opler in American Anthropologist . A community analyst in Tule Lake during the war—and the co-author of a competing book that had just been reissued—Opler objected to the authors' treatment of post-segregation Tule Lake and faulted them for not using community analysis reports and other contemporaneous documents. [4]

Though going on fifty years old, The Great Betrayal is still sometimes cited by scholars due to the wide range of topics it covers and its many interviews with subjects who have long since passed away. Tapes of some of the interviews are held by the University of California, Berkeley Libraries. [5]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Find in the Digital Library of Japanese American Incarceration

For More Information

Girdner, Audrie, and Anne Loftis. The Great Betrayal: The Evacuation of the Japanese-Americans during World War II . London: Macmillan, 1969.

Guide to Anne Loftis Papers, 1953–1978 . Stanford University.


Beekman, Allan. "Evacuation History Misses Main Point." Pacific Citizen , May 8, 1970, 6.

Booklist , Jan. 1, 1970, 539.

Conroy, Hilary. The American Historical Review 77.1 (Feb. 1972): 229–30.

Daniels, Roger. Pacific Historical Review 39.3 (Aug. 1970): 395–96.

Freidel, Frank. Political Science Quarterly 87.1 (Mar. 1972): 111–12.

Hill, Gladwin. New York Times Book Review , Dec. 21, 1969, 4, 18.

Kirkus Reviews , Oct. 15, 1969, p. 902.

Kitagawa, Joseph M. "It Happened Here." Christian Century , Feb. 11, 1970, 183.

Lindberg, John. "The American Way of Prejudice." The North American Review 256.2 (Summer 1971): 73–78.

Miyakawa, T. Scott. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 391 (Sept. 1970): 204–06.

Opler, Marvin K. American Anthropologist 75.2 (Apr. 1973): 557–59.

Publishers' Weekly , Aug. 11, 1969, 37.

Time Magazine, Oct. 24, 1969, 109.

Weins, Muriel. Library Journal , Sept. 1, 1969, 2918.


  1. "Anne Loftis," Contemporary Authors Online , Gale, 2002; Ainsfield-Wolf Book Awards website, ; "The California Book Award Winners 1931–2012," The Commonwealth Club of California Website, , all accessed on March 12, 2014.
  2. Joseph M. Kitagawa, "It Happened Here," Christian Century , Feb. 11, 1970, p. 183; Publishers' Weekly, Aug. 11, 1969, p. 37.
  3. Roger Daniels, Pacific Historical Review 39.3 (Aug. 1970), 396.
  4. Marvin K. Opler, American Anthropologist 75.2 (Apr. 1973): 557–59.
  5. See .

Last updated Jan. 25, 2024, 6:39 p.m..