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American Inquisition
The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II
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American Inquisition
The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II

By Eric L. Muller
2007, 197 pages, Hardback.
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Book Description from the Front Cover Flap

WHEN THE U.S. GOVERNMENT forced 70,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry into internment camps in 1942, it created administrative tribunals to pass judgment on which of those citizens were loyal and which were disloyal. In American Inquisition, Eric Muller relates the untold story of how military and civilian bureaucrats judged these tens of thousands of American citizens during wartime.

Some citizens were judged loyal and authorized to leave the camps, but one in four was declared disloyal to America and barred from war-related jobs or condemned to repressive segregation. Using cultural and religious affiliations as surrogates for Americans' loyalties, bureaucratic decisions often reflected the clashing needs, preconceptions, and agendas of the agencies that performed them rather than anything that was true about the allegiances and dangerousness of the Americans being judged, Muller explains.

As World War II approached its end, the government was called upon to defend one of its loyalty screening systems in federal court. Muller describes how, looking ahead to future conflicts, military witnesses lied about both the loyalty system and the security of the West Coast in an attempt to secure a judicial endorsement of unreviewable domestic military control over American citizens during wartime.

Based entirely on new archival research, American Inquisition is the only book in the literature on the Japanese American internment that examines the complex inner workings of the most draconian system of loyalty screening that the American government has ever deployed against its own citizens. At a time when the nation again finds itself beset by worries about an "enemy within" identifiable by race or religion, this volume offers crucial lessons from a recent and disastrous history.

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Comments from Back Cover

"At last, Eric Muller shines new light on the U.S. government's failed attempt to define 'loyalty' among a supposed 'enemy race' during wartime. His detailed examination of the judgment of tens of thousands of those of Japanese ancestry, including my family, incarcerated during World War II, is an important historical lesson we must never forget and an injustice we must never repeat."
- Norman Y. Mineta

"Combining intensive archival research and brilliant analysis, Eric Muller gives us another example of bad news from the good war. He shows how military and civilian government lawyers pioneered large-scale loyalty testing on incarcerated Japanese Americans, establishing precedents used in defining subversives during the Cold War."
- Roger Daniels, Emeritus, University of Cincinnati, and author of Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II

"In this fascinating account, Eric Muller relates the forgotten story of how a U.S. government agency worked with the military and intelligence communities to determine who was in fact a 'true' American. That some of our best and brightest tried to establish an acid test for loyalty-and failed-should give us pause today."
- Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, George & Sakaye Aratani Professor of Japanese American Internment, Redress, and Community, University of California, Los Angeles

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Background on Eric L. Muller

Eric L. Muller is George R. Ward Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is author of Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II.

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