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Interpreting the Evidence

Japanese Americans in New York during World War II

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Era:

    The Great Depression and WW II (1929 - 1945)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil Rights
    World War II

  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Telegram - Japanese American Tozai Club to President Roosevelt, December 7, 1941 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topic: WWII, Pearl Harbor, Japanese-American Relocation

 ​​​​​​Skills: Point of view, Perspective taking

This document demonstrates the urgency and needs for American citizens of Japanese descent to inform the President of the U.S. of their support for America.

Historical Context: On December 7th, 1941, the nation of Japan launched a devastating surprise attack on America’s Pacific Fleet. Over 3,500 Americans were either killed or wounded on that “day of infamy.” The U.S. subsequently entered the war and helped defeat the totalitarian regimes of both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany. During the course of the war, the American government would forcibly inter over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry.

Essential Question: Why is the author's point of view important when analyzing a document?

Document Analysis:

1.      Project or give students copies of the telegram. Have students work independently or in pairs to answer the following questions:

a.       When was this telegram sent?

b.      What event occurred on this day?

c.       Why would Japanese Americans be concerned about the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

d.      What happened to Japanese Americans during the war?

e.      Who signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing the relocation of Japanese Americans into camps? Do you think this telegram had the effect it intended?

2.      Relate the summarization of the telegram to the essential question. The document is meaningless unless you are able to determine the point of view of the author of the telegram.

Exit Pass/Check for Understanding

Write a plausible response to the telegram. Imagine how President Roosevelt may have responded to this declaration. Would he have felt guilt sending the Japanese Americans to camps? Why would he have decided to send them even if he felt it was wrong?

Optional Extension Activity

The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:

Research the contributions of Japanese Americans to the military during WWII, especially the Nisei Unit.