It is easy to come away from reading and viewing government documents and from documents written by internees themselves during World War II and have a sense of the minimal impact of the experience of internment. There is, after all, little or no "barbed wire" or "guard towers" either figuratively or literally in most cases. Most internees tried to make the best of the situation if not for their own sakes, then for their childrens' . And the government softened the official picture to the greatest extent possible - to the point that many Americans knew little or nothing of the camps during the war years beyond their existence. Anger, shame, humiliation, guilt were repressed emotions for most of the internees until well after the war when they began to find expression in a variety of forms as suggested in the following materials.


Mary Hirata


Chiura Obata

Lily Havey

To Start You Thinking

One former internee writes about the "legacy of silence" regarding the war years. This had been her mother's bequest to her, but was transformed when her own daughter asked, "Mom, how come you never told us?"1

In a sense each of the pieces above is a response to that question and each piece a legacy from the author sharing their emotional response to the years of internment. Study the five items linked above and then create a piece of your own - essay, drawing, painting, poem - in which you present a personal response to the internment.


1Mitsuye Yamada,"Legacy of Silence," in Erica Harth, editor, Last Witness: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans, (New York: PALGRAVE, 2001).

Last modified in March, 2017 by Rick Thomas