Picture Source

Clara Breed Collection
Japanese American National Museum

In the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the American government decided to incarcerate over 120,000 Japanese-Americans, approximately two-thirds of whom were United States citizens.  This action was taken due to national security concerns, post-attack hysteria, and racist perceptions of Japanese-Americans.  Two months after the attack, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which cleared the way for the eventual incarceration of the Japanese-Americans in ten large relocation centers, most of which were located in isolated areas of the American West.

The collection of letters below are from young Japanese-Americans locked up in the camp at Poston, Arizona.  They are all written to a librarian in San Diego named Clara Breed.  Breed was the children’s librarian at the San Diego Public Library from 1929-1945, and during those years she befriended many of her young Japanese-American patrons.  When they were incarcerated, she not only sent some of them letters but, as the correspondence attests, sent them many books and supplies as well.  What we have below is a collection of letters from these young Japanese-Americans to Clara Breed.  –Prof. Robert Griswold

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Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“The Letters and Postcards of Tetsuzo Hirasaki to Clara Breed,” 1942-1944. Clara Breed Collection. Japanese American National Museum. (Via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.)

  1. April 13, 1942
  2. April 16, 1942
  3. April 22, 1942
  4. August 10, 1942
  5. September 16, 1942
  6. October 3, 1942
  7. November 16, 1942
  8. December 1, 1942
  9. December 22, 1942
  10. February 19, 1943
  11. March 2, 1943
  12. March 3, 1943
  13. March 15, 1943
  14. April 9, 1943
  15. April 21, 1943
  16. May 6, 1943
  17. June 17, 1943
  18. August 27, 1943
  19. September 27, 1943
  20. October 30, 1943
  21. November 11, 1943
  22. December 3, 1943
  23. December 29, 1943
  24. June 10, 1944
  25. December 20, 1944

“The Letters of Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed,” 1942-1944. Clara Breed Collection. Japanese American National Museum.

  1. January 6, 1942
  2. April 23, 1942
  3. April 30, 1942
  4. May 16, 1942
  5. June 24, 1942
  6. July 15, 1942
  7. August 3, 1942
  8. August 14, 1942
  9. August 27, 1942
  10. September 16, 1942
  11. September 27, 1942
  12. October 20, 1942
  13. November 11, 1942
  14. November 30, 1942
  15. December 22, 1942
  16. January 27, 1943
  17. March 20, 1943
  18. April 9, 1943
  19. May 14, 1943
  20. June 19, 1943
  21. June 28, 1943
  22. July 25, 1943
  23. August 5, 1943
  24. August 17, 1943
  25. September 3, 1943
  26. September 14, 1943
  27. October 8, 1943
  28. November 14-15, 1943
  29. December 27, 1943
  30. February 27, 1944
  31. July 14, 1944
  32. October 28, 1944
  33. December 3, 1944

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Bearden, Russell. “Life Inside Arkansas’s Japanese-American Relocation Centers.” The Arkansas Historical Quarterly 48, no. 2 (1989): 169–96.

Chiang, Connie Y. “Imprisoned Nature: Toward an Environmental History of the World War II Japanese American Incarceration.” Environmental History 15, no. 2 (2010): 236–67.

Fujita-Rony, Thomas. “Arizona and Japanese American History: The World War II Colorado River Relocation Center.” Journal of the Southwest 47, no. 2 (2005): 209–32.

Lillquist, Karl. “Farming the Desert: Agriculture in the World War II-Era Japanese-American Relocation Centers.” Agricultural History 84, no. 1 (2010): 74–104.

Muller, Eric L. “A Penny for Their Thoughts: Draft Resistance at the Poston Relocation Center.” Law and Contemporary Problems 68, no. 2 (2005): 119–57.

Sims, Robert C. “‘A Fearless, Patriotic, Clean-Cut Stand’ Idaho’s Governor Clark and Japanese-American Relocation in World War II.” The Pacific Northwest Quarterly 70, no. 2 (1979): 75–81.