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Japanese-American Internment and the United States Government

Matthew Dooley

Contents of Curriculum Unit 08.01.04:

To Guide Entry


I am the seventh and eighth grade social studies teacher at John S. Martinez Magnet school. The demographic of my student population consists of Latino and African-American children, 13-14 years old. The background knowledge of the majority of my students is severely limited. This creates an environment in which every objective that is taught must be accompanied by preliminary lessons that allow for scaffolding and student comprehension of the specific educational objectives to the larger world as a whole. This unit curriculum and the resources accompanying it will be of use to students at every level of junior and senior high school. The teacher must differentiate the material and modify the objectives according to the abilities and needs of his or her students.


In the wartime history of the United State, there is always a battle fought between advocates of the national defense and advocates of the civil rights of citizens. On a simple level, these forces have the same motivations - they want to protect America and the values of freedom that our country represents. While the intentions of each side are true, their means to their objectives put them inherently at loggerheads. Advocates of civil liberties argue that if the rights of the people are restricted, then the very core values upon which our country was founded are lost. They argue that it is precisely in wartime that we must hold to the principles that define America. Advocates of national defense believe that during times of war, civil liberties may need to be curbed to protect the institutions that guarantee those same civil liberties during times of peace.

This argument, old as our country itself, had much to do with the creation of the Bill of Rights and has taken on many forms. There are many examples that can be cited. The Alien and Sedition Act was passed in response to hostilities with France. America was harboring 25,000 French refugees from the slave revolts in the French colony of Haiti and many in the United States government doubted the loyalty of these Frenchmen. Opponents of the Alien and Sedition Act feared that it would be abused and used to silence political opponents of the party in power. During the Civil War, fearing Confederate espionage, President Lincoln suspended Habeas Corpus. The First World War brought with it new legislation restricting the rights of certain groups and people to protest. One of the most glaring examples of the restrictions of individual rights occurred after the Imperial Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The story surrounding the internment of over 120,000 Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast of the United States in the months following the surprise attack and destruction of the bulk of the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor is wrought with emotion and must be examined carefully. Presidents have apologized for the decision to disrupt the lives of these citizens. Congress has granted monetary reparations for the Japanese-Americans and their surviving kin who were relocated to these camps during the war. The entire episode is filled with accusations of prejudice, racism, economic self-interest and fear mongering. It appears that in attempts to make amends to the Japanese-American community for the infringement of their civil rights, the official policy of many in the federal government has ignored some of the circumstances involved in this difficult period in the history of the United States. There are no simple answers and the motivations of many are varied and difficult to understand as these events occurred over sixty years ago.

In fact, the standard accepted view is that the United States government at the urging of American farmers of European descent, combined with the post-Pearl Harbor xenophobic and blatantly racist anti-Japanese views of many military and civilian governmental officials, were the primary motivators of relocating 120,000 people of Japanese descent to internment camps. There can be no doubt that ample evidence exists to support this commonly accepted view of the events that transpired after the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. As many of the peoples of Japanese descent were farmers, it certainly would be in the financial interest of European-Americans to find a way in which to remove a large segment of competition for the best arable lands and the selling of produce. Japanese and other people of Asian descent had a long history of suffering from the race biases of European-Americans through such actions as the prohibition of land ownership and the refusal of the granting of American citizenship. Upon review of the transcripts of conversations of both military and civilian government officials at all levels, it is easy to find comments that would be viewed by all reasonable people today as abhorrently racist.

Due to the nature of the events and the ample evidence found, it would be quite easy to ascribe the decision by President Roosevelt and his advisors to simple racism. As this overwhelming evidence cannot be discounted, it would also become easy to assume this one view on the entire subject without any further analysis of other potential sources of motivation. One must always be vigilant against assuming a polarized perspective born of the overpowering emotions that a particular event can engender. Despite how strongly a person may feel about an event, one must never discount the potential for other causational factors or the need for unbiased analysis. Simply put, the circumstances surrounding the decision to remove people of Japanese descent living in America is not just a matter of land grabbing and racism. In fact, these circumstances were quite complex.

Learning Objectives

1. Students will be able summarize the historical events surrounding the Japanese internment during the Second World War.
2. Students will be able to identify and define various civil rights.
3. Students will be able to explain MAGIC and its significance to the United States war effort against the Imperial Japanese armed forces.
4. Students will be able to empathize with the plight of American citizens of Japanese descent.
5. Students will be able to understand and explain the conflicts between civil rights and safety during times of war.
6. Students will be able to assess the likelihood of a reoccurrence of this type of event in the future.
7. Students will be able to explain the different motivations that various groups may have had in support of Japanese-American internment.
8. Students will be able to analyze various primary source documents
9. Students will formulate their own opinions concerning the decision by the United
10. States government to intern peoples of Japanese descent.

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Rationale and Discussion (Part I)

As most students from this demographic setting suffer from a lack of background knowledge that hampers their desire to put the “pieces together,” it is important to have a “hook” to help engage these students. Arguably one of the most egregious examples of institutional race-profiling in the United States in the Twentieth Century was the decision during the Second World War to set up internment camps for Americans of Japanese descent. As the years of passed, the federal government has even gone so far as to make reparations to the victims of this racial profiling brought on by the hysteria following the turbulent days after the Imperial Japanese attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor. Representatives of the United States government have gone on record admitting that this was blatant racial profiling. As this topic will most likely be new to the majority if not all of the students, it can be presented in a way in which students will be able to empathize with the government’s reaction. This should be achieved through careful selection and utilization of primary source documents.

Students will require at least one and possibly several background lessons focusing on the causes of the war between the United States and Japan. The speech delivered by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Congress on December 8, 1941 should be used as a primary source to explain the events surrounding the attack on Pearl Harbor. This seven minute long audio clip can be found with a simple search on the internet. It is further recommended that clips from the movie “Pearl Harbor” be shown to the students. While not a primary source and certainly colored through the lens of a Hollywood camera, the movie can work as an important tool for the more visually oriented students.

It is at this point that students should be introduced to MAGIC. MAGIC is the codename that the United States government used to identify decoded Japanese messages sent via Japanese cipher machines. These machines allowed for messages to be encrypted and then decrypted, thus keeping the transmitted information secret. The idea is that only the people who possess the special code sheet to which each cipher machine is set will be able to understand each other. These machines were widely used by the Axis powers (Germany and Japan) during the Second World War. Neither side knew that the Allies had broken their codes and were actively intercepting their secret messages. Only the highest ranking people in the respective Allied governments knew this information. Using a web browser, MAGIC intercepts from Japan can be found online. The definitive online source for this subject can be found on the website http://www.internmentarchives.com. It should be noted that the analysis provided by this website has a distinctly reactive interpretation to the events surrounding the Japanese internment during the Second World War. The website also takes umbrage with figures in a display at an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute. The website uses a list of decorations awarded to members of the all Japanese-American regiment. This was the official regimental list and does not include the medals and awards given out by President Clinton in 2000 AD. This invalidates some of the criticism of the website. Regardless, the MAGIC messages are authentic and they stand on their own merit. These intercepts were originally top secret documents which were only declassified during the 1970s.

Depending on the ability of the students, the instructor should print out specific messages which detail attempts by the Japanese at espionage (spying) and sabotage. These messages are wide-ranging and quite specific concerning attempts by Japanese at covert operations on American soil. Students should be tasked to discuss the transmissions and their possible effect on the American war effort. The instructor should also pose the question for the students to answer: What should the United States government have done at the time to protect America and its citizens? As students are making this list, the instructor should remind them that if the existence of these transmissions was publicly revealed then the Japanese government would have changed their mode of secret transmissions and the United States would have lost this vital advantage in their war effort. The entire purpose behind this exercise is to create within the students the problem that plagued President Franklin Roosevelt and to understand the war hysteria that engulfed America and particularly the Western shores during those early days after the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

Once the students have begun to empathize with the government’s reaction then the teacher can begin to break down this perspective by illustrating to the students that this can be seen as an example of massive race profiling and the infringement of basic civil liberties guaranteed to all Americans. By fostering an environment in which students empathize with the government’s actions and then breaking it down, student interest should be sufficiently piqued in a way that will allow the teacher to show that civil liberties are universal to all. This in effect becomes the “hook”.

At this point, the instructor should explain or have the students research the actual events surrounding the rounding up and detention of Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry into camps located throughout the United States. Again, online resources and interviews from detainees are abundant and can be easily found through a search on the internet using any web browser.

There are particular words that are used to describe the various generations of Japanese living in America. As students are doing research, the instructor should be aware so they can help with comprehension. The first generations of immigrants from Japan to North and South America are called issei. The second generation of immigrants who are born in North and South America are called nisei. The third generation who are the sons and daughters of American-born Japanese are called sansei. Each of these names is a variation on the first three Japanese numerals, ichi, ni and san. Kibei was the name of the thousands of Japanese-Americans, who although born in America, were sent back to Japan to be educated.

The instructor should spend some time reviewing the various Constitutional Amendments that pertain to the detention of Japanese and American citizens of Japanese ancestry. Below is a list of the particular Amendments that could pertain to the Japanese internment:

4th Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Just over three weeks after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, federal agents began randomly searching the houses of people of Japanese ancestry. They were acting on no specific evidence.

5th Amendment: “No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger … nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate to the internment camps beginning in March, 1942. When the Americans citizens of Japanese ancestry were ordered to the internment camps, they were forced to sell their property, (land, houses and businesses) at prices reflecting their situation. This meant that the Japanese-American community lost billions of dollars. While the United States government may not have confiscated the property, they were the cause of its loss to the Japanese Americans. The 5th Amendment guarantees against American citizens being deprived of liberty and property, both of which the Japanese-Americans were subjected to.

6th Amendment: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.” The Japanese Americans were not afforded a trial before they were forced into the internment camps. The 6th Amendment guarantees American citizens of the right to a speedy trial.

14th Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The Americans of Japanese ancestry or naturalized Japanese-Americans were deprived of their basic rights as Americans. During the weeks and months following the attack at Pearl Harbor, the United States armed forces discharged many servicemen who were of Japanese ancestry. Local Californian governments discharged people of Japanese ethnicity from their employment.

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Content Standards

The curriculum unit is intertwined within the appropriate Connecticut State Content Standards. The performance standard of Content Standard One: Historical Thinking will be achieved through student research. Students will be using MAGIC intercepts and government memorandums. This type of primary source analysis should be modeled to the students to give them the experience to accomplish this higher order function of learning on their own. Primary source evaluation will be encouraged for students of all ability levels. Further, students will have the opportunity to gather information from multiple sources and will have to distinguish between primary and secondary sources. Pictures will allow students to interpret data from photographs. At the end of the Unit, students should be able to describe the various causes that led to the internment of Japanese-Americans.

The performance standard of Content Standard Two: United States History will be met through student discussion of civil rights verses national security and defense. As this theme has occurred throughout the history of the United States, student comprehension of the issues surrounding the Japanese-American internment should always be linked back to this concept.

The performance standard of Content Standard Three: Historical Themes will be achieved by student demonstration “of an understanding of the ways race, gender, ethnicity and class issues have affected individuals and societies in the past.” Specifically, students will be able to discuss the issues of race and ethnicity that played a significant role in the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

The performance standard of Content Standard Three: Applying History will be achieved as students will be able to empathize with both the plight of the Japanese-Americans who were forced into internment camps without due process and also with the difficulty that some government officials who struggled with the decision to remove Japanese-Americans without the proper due process. Students should also be able to discuss the similarities of the internment of Japanese-Americans to what has occurred at the Post-9/11 Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay.

The performance standard of Content Standard Five: United States Constitution and Government will be achieved through the analysis of the historical events surrounding the internment of the Japanese-Americans. Students will be able to demonstrate how the Constitution has provided checks and balances between the three branches of the United States government by discussing the decisions made by the Judicial branch in reaction to the actions of the Executive branch. This will be enhanced by discussion of the Guantanamo Bay internment camp and its creation after the events of 9/11.

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Chronology of Events

On December 7, 1941, Japanese naval and air forces launched a surprise air attack on the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In the months leading up to and following the attack, American merchant ships steaming between the Hawaiian Island and the American west coast were being attacked and sunk by Japanese naval vessels. Japanese forces attacked the marine garrisons on both Wake Island and Guam in the Pacific. Japanese forces invaded the British colonies at Malaya and Hong Kong. Japanese forces then bombed the Marine garrison on Midway Island and Invaded the American-held Philippines. Over the next several months, with the exception of Midway Island, the Americans and British armed forced were soundly routed. Many Americans feared that a Japanese invasion of the American mainland was imminent.

On February 19, 1942, just over two months after hostilities began; Franklin D. Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, which authorized military commanders to split up the United States into various military zones and gave them the power to exclude certain people from these zones at their own discretion.

In April 1942, General John DeWitt, in charge of the Western Defense Command, began to place curfews and restrictions on people of Japanese decent and some German and Italian aliens.

On May 3, 1942, General DeWitt ordered all people of Japanese ancestry, whether citizens or non-citizens, to report to assembly centers for relocation. German and Italian aliens are also rounded up.

On June 21, 1943, the United States Supreme Court became involved in the issues concerning the treatment and internment of Japanese-Americans in the form of Hirabayashi v. the United States. Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi, a student at the University of Washington, had refused to heed the evacuation order and was convicted of violating a curfew imposed by the Western Defense Command on Japanese-Americans. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued on Hirbayashi’s behalf that the Western Defense Command decrees ordering people of Japanese ancestry to obey specific curfews were unconstitutional. The Supreme Court sided with the government on grounds that during wartime, emergency measures were necessary and the rights of the few must bow to the safety of the many. In this ruling, the Supreme Court did not directly deal with the issue of the legality of the internment camps.

In December 1944, the Supreme Court again was faced with the issue of the legality of the detainment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. Fred Korematsu had been a ship welder in San Francisco until he was fired because of his Japanese ancestry. He attempted to evade the order for evacuation so that he could remain with his fiancé of European ancestry. Korematsu even went so far as to have his eyes surgically altered so that he might “look less Japanese.” The Supreme Court declared that during times of war, it was legal to remove people from a specific area on the basis of race. In this ruling, the Supreme Court again avoided directly dealing with the legality of the internment camps themselves. The Court also explained that any law passed by the government must be met with strict scrutiny against racism.

Also in December 1944, the Supreme Court delivered a verdict concerning a young woman named Mitsuye Endo. Ms. Endo and her lawyers had argued for a writ of habeas corpus. Ms. Endo had been fired from her job working for the State of California on trumped up charges that had no basis in fact. She had been fired for being of Japanese ancestry. Due to her detention, she had been unable to answer the charges laid against her when she was fired. The Supreme Court sided with Ms. Endo, explaining her detention should only have lasted as long as it would reasonably take to ascertain her loyalty to America. The Court ordered her to be set free.

The day before the Supreme Court published its decision, the War Department announced the revocation of the West Coast mass exclusion orders that had forced people of Japanese descent out of General DeWitt’s Western Coast Command Region. It is likely they knew what the ruling would be from the Supreme Court. The very next day the War Relocation Authority announced that all internment camps would be closed before the end of 1945 and the entire War Relocation Authority would be discontinued by June of 1946.

On February 1976, on the anniversary of the original order signed by President Roosevelt authorizing Executive Order 9066, President Gerald Ford officially rescinded this order with Executive Order 2714. President Ford admitted that the relocation of the Japanese and their placement in the internment camps was wrong and fundamentally against “American Principles.”

In June 1983, the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians delivered a scathing report that the exclusion, expulsion and incarceration was entirely based up prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leaders. John J. McCloy, an influential advisor to President Roosevelt during the Second World War wrote a letter shortly after the Commission presented its findings arguing that racism did not play a major role in the decision to place Japanese in the internment camps. He further claimed that the MAGIC intercepts were the major factor in President Roosevelt’s decision to issue executive order 9066.

That same year, the case of Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi was revisited as lawyers uncovered documents that showed the United States government withheld information that would have influenced the decision of the Supreme Court. Hirbayashi’s case was retried and in 1987 his conviction was overturned. Fred Korematsu’s conviction against evading internment was voided by the Federal District Court of Northern California because of evidence that the government submitted false information which influenced the decision of the Supreme Court.

In May 1944, despite being forced to move to the internment camps, 1500 Americans of Japanese ancestry formed part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were sent to the European theater of war. This regiment fought in both North Africa and Europe with great distinction. In 2000, after the reexamination of the files of some of the Japanese-American soldiers, an additional twenty Medals of Honor were award to men of the 442nd. Fourteen of these medals were posthumously awarded. Senator Daniel Inouye whose right arm had been lost during action was one of the recipients.

In 1948, the Evacuation Claims Act was passed. This gave Japanese-Americans the chance to file claims against loss of property due to the relocation to the internment camps. As the Internal Revenue Service had destroyed the tax records for the years in question and because much of the ownership information was lost in the hurried process of Japanese-American removal, only thirty-one million dollars was paid out by the government, estimated at less than ten percent of the total amount lost.

In August 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that granted reparations to Japanese-Americans and their heirs in the form of twenty thousand dollars per person who had been interned during the war. The bill stated that the motives of the United States forty-six years before, were based upon racism, war hysteria and lack of competent political leadership. Several years later, President George H. W. Bush offered another formal apology and signed another amendment passed by Congress appropriating an additional amount of money to ensure that all Japanese-Americans affected by the forced relocation would receive their payments.

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Rationale and Discussion (Part II)

The decision to send 120,000 Japanese to internment camps was not a simple one. Interestingly, this phenomenon only happened on the western coast of the United States, in not in the territory of Hawaii where one-third of the population was of Japanese ancestry. Certainly there were proponents of isolating people of Japanese origin. The plan of moving them all to a specific Hawaiian Island was proposed but then rejected. Many of the Japanese-Americans who served in the 442nd Regiment came from Hawaii, including Senator Inouye.

Clearly, the majority of people sent to the internment camps were loyal Americans who had done nothing to deserve incarceration. Due to earlier federal legislation which restricted Japanese from obtaining American citizenship, many Japanese immigrants were automatically classified as enemy aliens. Many of these Japanese, most not proficient in English, refused to give up their Japanese citizenship as they had no chance of becoming American citizens. Official Federal Bureau of Investigation reports indicated that seventy-five percent of the first generation Japanese immigrants and between ninety and ninety-eight percent of the second generation were loyal to America.

General DeWitt’s words and statements by many others creating government policy at the time were blatantly anti-Japanese. General DeWitt had even recalled and destroyed a report written as its terminology was so racist that it would have caused a backlash against the policies he was implementing. A copy of this original report was found and compared to the one reissued. These documents can be found online using a simple search with a web browser.

Using various documents from Presidents Ford, Reagan, and H. W. Bush and from the Commission of Wartime Relocation, the instructor should have students locate and identify the admission of the government’s culpability for its actions pertaining to the forced internment of Japanese-Americans. Students should also be given access to John J. McCloy’s letter to the United State’s Senate in 1984 explaining the motivations of the President and his policy makers. Depending on student ability, the instructor should have students discuss whether the points made by Mr. McCloy are valid when put into context of the Commission and the various Presidents. McCloy’s arguments vary from his discussion of the MAGIC intercepts to the fact that during wartime many suffered and were never offered compensation for their particular hardships.

Another controversy arisen from the forced Japanese relocation to internment camps is the use of the word “concentration camp.” President Roosevelt and many others at the time used the term concentration camp as another name for the internment camps. While an accurate description that many still use today to describe the Japan internment camps, after the Second World War this term has taken on a completely different meaning, due to its application to the death camps run by the Germans. As the term concentration camp has become synonymous with the Nazi death camps, many people believe it cannot be accurately used to describe the internment camps in which Japanese-Americans were forced to live. Students should be allowed to discuss the merits of this debate.

Once the issue has been adequately investigated, students should be asked if they believe this could ever happen again in America. This will provide the instructor with an excellent opportunity to discuss current events and at the time of the writing of this curriculum unit, the Guantanamo Bay detention center. Recent Supreme Court decisions can be compared to ones that pertained to the Japanese-American internment during the Second World War.

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Lesson Plan Outlines and Narrative

The actual introduction to the unit curriculum should be a review of the seven continents. As many of the students have not learned the continents by seventh grade, it is necessary to ensure they have this background knowledge. This development should not take longer than one or two days and should also be accompanied with the introduction of the theory of plate tectonics. It may also be of benefit to ensure that the students have learned the major oceans and seas. Again in this environment, student comprehension of basic geography is severely limited and this elementary knowledge must be memorized before one can delve into deeper material of higher level thinking skills.

Lesson Plan: Japan’s Surprise Attack


Students will be able to explain the immediate cause of the American entry into the Second World War.


1. Computer
2. Internet connection
3. Speakers
4. Recording of President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war against Imperial Japan.
5. Map of Asia and the Pacific
6. Student Atlases


Students should have already been given a list of vocabulary terms that will aid in comprehension of President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress. It is suggested that the opening for the day’s lesson begin with a review or quiz on the definition of terms. Students should then be allowed to listen to President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress asking for a Declaration of War against Imperial Japan.

Recommended terms

Infamy, ambassador, Senate, House of Representative, empire, solicitation, deceive, onslaught, treachery, hostilities and premeditated.


1. Students should be asked to write down any of the words that they hear in the speech that they do not understand.
2. Students should be asked to write down the number of places that Japan attacked as they listen to the speech.
3. Students should be given a blank map of Asia and the Pacific Ocean.
4. After listening to the speech, words that the students do not know should be collected and reviewed.
5. Students should be given the atlases, blank maps and lists of the locations referred to by Roosevelt in the speech. These locations are listed below.
6. Students should label all of the locations that Japan attacked, using the atlases and the blank map.
7. Instructor should review the attack on Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt’s speech.

Locations in which Japan attacked in Asia and the Pacific

Hawaiian Islands, Pacific Ocean between West Coast of the continental United States and Hawaii (American vessels), Malaya, Hong Kong, Guam, Philippines, Wake Island and Midway Island.


Students will be asked to write a December 8, 1941 newspaper editorial about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the reaction to it around the world. This editorial should be a description of and a response to the commencement of Japan’s war against the world.


This activity will introduce the immediate cause behind America’s entry into the Second World War -- the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor. The entire scope of Japanese hostilities will be illustrated initially by having students count the locations cited during the speech. This task should encourage continued student focus on the speech. By labeling the map, students will have a visual connection that will allow them to comprehend the entirety of the Japanese aggression.

The evaluation in the form of the December 8, 1941 editorial will allow students to recount the actual events surrounding the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the feeling that it created in America. President Roosevelt’s speech should be sufficient to foster a feeling of empathy for what and how Americans felt after the attack. The instructor should test for student understanding by asking pointed questions during the review of events. The actual editorial will ensure the students understand the events and allow the students to voice their reactions to the attacks.

It is important to carefully build student empathy and understanding of how citizens of the United States felt after the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and other locations throughout the Pacific Ocean and Asia.

Lesson Plan: MAGIC


Students will be able to explain MAGIC and its significance to the United States war effort against the Imperial Japanese armed forces.

Students will analyze various primary source documents.


1. Computers with internet access
2. Redacted and reworded MAGIC intercepts from either the book, MAGIC by David Lowman or/and the website http://www.internmentarchives.com.
3. Question sheet created by instructor to allow students to gather pertinent information


Instructor will ask students to figure out how they could get a secret message to their friend without someone who overhears them, knowing what they are saying.


1. Students should be given the opportunity to answer the Introduction question.
2. Instructor will explain to the students what MAGIC was and its importance to the United States war effort.
3. Instructor should explain Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s decision not to warn people about the impending enemy bombing of the English city of Coventry.
4. Students should be asked whether or not it is important to keep information secret even if some people will get hurt or killed in order to help save many other lives.
5. The class should discuss this question (Step 4) as a group.
6. Students should be assigned to write their personal responses as to whether or not it is important for governments to keep secrets in order to save lives.


Students will be assigned to write an opinion response in which they discuss whether or not they believe that it is right for governments to keep secrets in order to save lives.


Students will learn about specifically chosen MAGIC intercepts in order to continue to build their empathy with American governmental officials in days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Students will get the opportunity to weigh the successful prosecution of the war effort against the loss of the lives or liberties of some of its citizens.

Lesson Plan: Can it Happen Today?


Students will compare the similarities at the Guantanamo Bay detention centers to the Japanese-American internment camps.


Students will be given specific articles about the issues surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention centers to read.


1. Students will read the articles on the issues surrounding the Guantanamo Bay detention center.
2. Students will then be broken up into groups of two where each person explains to the other the points in their article and one similarity or difference between Guantanamo Bay detention centers and the Japanese-American internment camps.
3. Each student will then explain to the entire class the points their partner made about his or her article while the instructor lists the similarities and differences on the board.
4. Students will then discuss the similarities and differences between the Guantanamo Bay detention center and the Japanese-American internment camps.


Students will be assigned to write an essay answering the question, “Do you think it is fair to compare the Japanese-American Internment camps and the Guantanamo Bay Detention centers?”


Students will have the opportunity to grapple with issues that the United States government is currently struggling with and at the same time put them into historical perspective.

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Donlan, Leni, “How Did This Happen Here? (American History Through Primary Sources),” (Bloomington, Indiana: Raintree Press, 2007)

Lowman, David D., “MAGIC” (USA: Athena Press, Inc, 2001)

Murray, Alice Yang, “What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean? (Historians at Work),” (Boston, MA: St. Martin’s Press, 2000)

Alice Yang Murray

Stanley, Jerry, “I am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment: (ALA Notable Children’s Book, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book) (American History Classics)” New York, New York: Scholastic Press, 1998)










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