Primary Source Documents

Japanese American Wartime Incarceration in Oregon

By The OE Staff

Subjects: Politics, Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality, World War II


Japanese American Wartime Incarceration in Oregon, Craig Collisson

Masuo Yasui, together with many members of Hood River’s Japanese community, spent the evening of December 6, 1941, rehearsing the annual Christmas show at a local community center. Yasui, an Issei (first-generation immigrant from Japan) had traveled to America in 1903 at the age of sixteen and eventually settled in Oregon, where he became a successful businessman, farmer, and community leader. When he learned about Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, he raced to the Japanese community hall and warned those attending church to “remain calm” and “return to your homes.” That night, rumors flew throughout Hood River that local Japanese had known about the attacks, that they had been at the community center planning a victory celebration, and that they were planning to blow up Bonneville Dam.

Hysterical headlines about the role the Japanese population had played in the attack appeared in newspapers in Oregon and up and down the West Coast. One paper reported that the bodies of Japanese navy men had been found near Cannon Beach. The Hillsboro Argus reported that "Officials Feel Japanese May Try Anything." American Legion chapters in Oregon spread the story that hidden supplies of arms and ammunition had been found in Japanese homes. Read the full essay here

Content Standards

  • 5.22 Summarize how different kinds of historical sources are used to explain events in the past.
  • 5.23 Use primary and secondary sources to formulate historical questions and to examine a historical account about an issue of the time.
  • 5.26 Gather, assess, and use information from multiple primary and secondary sources (such as print, electronic, interviews, speeches, images) to examine an event, issue, or problem through inquiry and research.
  • 6.21 Identify issues related to historical events to recognize power, authority, and governance as it relates to systems of oppression and its impact on ethnic and religious groups and other traditionally marginalized groups in the modern era (bias and injustice, discrimination, stereotypes).
  • 7.25 Identify issues related to historical events to recognize power, authority, religion, and governance as it relates to systemic oppression and its impact on indigenous peoples and ethnic and religious groups, and other traditionally marginalized groups in the modern era (bias, injustice, anti-Semitism, discrimination, stereotypes) including individuals who are American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian or Americans of African, Asian, Pacific Island, Chicano, Latino, or Middle Eastern descent and traditionally marginalized groups (women, people with disabilities, immigrants, refugees, religious groups, and individuals who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender).
  • 7.27 Critique and analyze information for point of view, historical context, distortion, propaganda and relevance including sources with conflicting information.
  • HS.12 Examine the power of government and evaluate the reasoning and impact of Supreme Court decisions on the rights of individuals and groups (for example, Marbury v. Madison, Roe v. Wade, D.C. v. Heller, Loving v. Virginia, Plessy v. Ferguson, Obergefell v. Hodges, Brown v. Board, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, Reed v. Reed, Oregon Employment Division vs. Smith, Korematsu v. US, Dartmouth v. Woodward, Mendez v. Westminster, etc.).
  • HS.55 Analyze the complexity of the interaction of multiple perspectives to investigate causes and effects of significant events in the development of world, U.S., and Oregon history.
  • HS.65 Identify and analyze the nature of systemic oppression on ethnic and religious groups, as well as other traditionally marginalized groups, in the pursuit of justice and equality in Oregon, the United States and the world.
  • HS.66 Examine and analyze the multiple perspectives and contributions of ethnic and religious groups, as well as traditionally marginalized groups within a dominant society and how different values and views shape Oregon, the United States, and the world.
  • HS.67 Evaluate historical sources for perspective, limitations, accuracy, and historical context.
  • HS.68 Select and analyze historical information, including contradictory evidence, from a variety of primary and secondary sources to support or reject a claim.
  • HS.70 Identify and critique how the perspective of contemporary thinking influences our view of history.
  • HS.73 Identify and analyze multiple and diverse perspectives as critical consumers of information.

Additional Sources

Oregon Encyclopedia Entries

"Japanese Americans in Oregon," by George Katagiri

"Minoru Yasui," by Peggy Nagae

"Oregon Plan," by Morgen Young

"Japanese American Historical Plaza," by Henry Sakamoto

"Day of Remembrance," by Mitzi Loftus

"Augustus M. Tanaka," by Linda Tamura

"Benjamin Tanaka," by Morgen Young

Books and Articles

Ford, Jamie. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Random House Publishing Group, 2009. (Fiction)

Kessler, Lauren. Stubborn Twig: Three Generations in the Life of a Japanese American Family. Portland: Oregon Historical Society, 2005.

Tamura, Linda. The Hood River Issei: An Oral History of Japanese Settlers in Oregon's Hood River Valley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1993.

Azuma, Eiichiro. "A History of Oregon's Issei, 1880-1952." Oregon Historical Quarterly 94 (1993): 315-67

Eisenberg, Ellen. "As Truly American as Your Son': Voicing Opposition to Internment in Three West Coast Cities." Oregon Historical Quarterly 104:4 (2003): 542-565.

Kodachi, Zuigaku, with Jan Keikkala, trans., and Janet Cormack, ed. "Portland Assembly Center: Diary of Saku Tomita." Oregon Historical Quarterly 81 (1980): 149-172.

Olmstead, Timothy. "Nikkei Internment: The Perspective of Two Oregon Weekly Newspapers." Oregon Historical Quarterly 85 (1984): 5-32.

Oregon Public Broadcasting Documentaries

Oregon's Japanese Americans: Beyond the wire

Additional Lesson Plans

Japanese American Museum of Oregon Education Curriculum

Japanese Internment in Colorado Resource Kit: Museums for Digital Learning

Additional Primary Source Collections

'Note Smiling Faces:' The Legacy of a Photograph

The Orange Story

Panama Hotel & Japanese American Museum of Seattle

Tule Lake Relocation Center Photographs: Oregon Historical Society Digital Collections

Japanese American Oral History Project: Oregon Historical Society Digital Collections

Broadside of Western Defense Command instructions to all persons of Japanese ancestry: Oregon Historical Society Digital Collections


The OE Staff. Japanese American Wartime Incarceration in Oregon. 2021. Retrieved from The Oregon Encyclopedia, (Accessed June 23, 2024.)

Teacher Guide

  1. Study and read about the following documents: 1. Notice on Yasui Brothers Store, Hood River 2. Japanese Evacuees, Portland Assembly Center 3. We're Going to Wyoming & Idaho. What can you learn from the documents and other sources about the process of forced removal for Japanese Americans in Oregon? What did they give up when they were forced into detention? How did they respond from the removal from their homes to incarceration camps?

  2. Study the details of these photos: 4. Heart Mountain Relocation Camp 5. Tule Lake Relocation Center. How would you describe these different prison camps? What do you think life was like for Japanese Americans living in the detention camps during World War II? What other sources do you need to study to understand conditions in the camps and what the prisoners did to survive?

  3. Carefully examine these photos: Japanese Americans in Detention Camps taken by Oregon Journal photographer Al Monner in 1942 How do these photos depict daily life in the concentration camps? What do they tell us about the resources available and the conditions at the detention centers? From whose perspective are these photos taken? How can you know whether they provide an accurate view of life at the incarceration camps?

  4. Read this government document: 6. Oregon House Joint Memorial Number 9 What does this memorial tell you about what life was like for many Japanese Americans in Oregon after World War II?

  5. Read The OE entry on Minoru Yasui How did Minoru Yasui and other Japanese Americans resist the violation of their civil rights during WWII?

  6. Read The OE essay on Japanese American Wartime Incarceration Was Executive Order 9066 necessary to protect the United States during a time of war? How did the U.S. violate people's rights as American citizens? Provide examples.

  7. Have there been other instances in Oregon or United States history when the government has targeted groups based on race, ethnicity, or religion? What has been the rationale for such policies? What have been the results?