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Free to Die for Their Country: The Story of the Japanese American Draft Resisters in World War II (Chicago Series in Law and Society) Hardcover – October 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0226548227 ISBN-10: 0226548228 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Chicago Series in Law and Society
  • Hardcover: 250 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226548228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226548227
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,692,030 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the many books written about the Japanese American internment during World War II, one aspect that has not been treated in much detail is what happened when the U.S. military decided to draft the same young men the government had locked away in internment camps. Muller (Univ. of North Carolina Sch. of Law) takes a detailed look at the resisters at the Minidoka, Heart Mountain, and Tule Lake camps. Using interviews with 11 of the resisters, as well as government records, court cases, internment camp newspapers, and more, Muller investigates why the government reinstated the draft for Japanese Americans in 1943, considers why some of the Nisei resisted, and examines the trials, prison sentences, and lasting aftereffects on their lives. He also looks at the legal reasoning, or lack thereof, behind the verdicts; the Minidoka and Heart Mountain resisters were convicted, while the Tule Lake resisters were acquitted. Although all were pardoned in 1947, they still face criticism from family and from veterans, and most have remained silent until now. An important, well-balanced telling; for public and academic libraries. Katharine L. Kan, Allen Cty. P.L., Fort Wayne, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

In the spring of 1942, the federal government forced West Coast Japanese Americans into detainment camps on suspicion of disloyalty. Two years later, after stripping them of their livelihoods, liberty, and dignity, the government demanded even more by drafting them into the same military that had been guarding them as subversives. Most of these American citizens grudgingly complied with the draft, but several hundred refused and practiced a different sort of American patriotism-the patriotism of protest.

Free to Die for Their Country is the first book to tell the powerful story of the men who rejected the government's demands. Based on years of research and personal interviews with the resisters, their families, and their supporters and detractors, Eric L. Muller's work recreates the welter of emotions and events that followed the arrival of the draft notices in 1944: the untenable situation of the Japanese American men caught between national loyalty and personal indignation; the hypocrisy of the government in asking men to die for their country when it had denied them their rights as citizens; the shoddy trials of the protesters that produced convictions and imprisonment; and the treatment of the resisters by the Japanese American community, who looked upon them as pariahs who were hindering progress toward assimilation.

Muller looks behind the horrible story of the internment camps to find a tale less well known and even more troubling, illuminating a dark corner of American history during World War II. Affecting and clear eyed, Free to Die for Their Country reveals, in almost cinematic fashion, an untold chapter of our recent past.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "danspaldingdotcom" on February 28, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a group our history books will never cover: Interned Japanese-American citizens who resisted the draft. This book also covers details like their interactions with Black folks and Conscientious Objectors (mostly Quakers) once they were imprisoned.
The chapter on continuing tension within the Japanese community relating to how to treat the resisters is also valuable. It's no exaggeration to say this book contains information the average person will find nowhere else.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
With the civil liberties of persons of Arab ancestry under attack in the wake of Sept. 11, this book could not have been published at a better time. Professor Muller has written a rare book, carefully researched and thoroughly readable, judicious and balanced without shying away from tough criticism. Free to Die for Their Country is an engaging story artfully told, and I highly recommend it.
One of the most interesting themes running throughout the book is the tension between the law and justice. Reading this book, I was reminded of a Thoreau quotation that I read before I went to law school: "It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume, is to do at any time what I think right." As Muller explains, the legal position of the draft resisters was tenuous, while their moral position was compelling. In such a situation, what is a good citizen to do? And what is a good judge to do, faced with citizens accused of breaking the law? These are important questions, and this book offers an interesting new lens through which to consider them.
I have only two criticisms. First, Muller's judgment of Judge Blake Kennedy (one of the trial judges who convicted the resisters for draft evasion) as an 'anti-Semite, a racist, and a xenophobe' struck me as unduly harsh in light of the rather thin evidence Muller presented. Second, Muller's efforts early in the book to paint the resisters as loyal Americans seemed more a reflection of his thesis than a conclusion drawn from his research.
But these are quibbles. Free to Die for Their Country is a wonderful book that I have found myself rolling around in my mind long after I finished it.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By fullbookcase on December 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Japanese American draft resisters responded to Pearl Harbor not with an ultra-nationalism for the America that had treated them and their families so unjustly, but with a principled insistence on America's higher ideals. By vindicating that choice, Professor Muller's work helps to preserve for all of us the same choice of responses in the wake of 9/11. For many Americans, especially Asian Americans and Arab Americans, waving the flag today combines and conflates a message of patriotism with a historically well-founded fear that we will be counted as less than fully American when America, the one and only nation we love and call home, faces a time of crisis. In the face of these conflated meanings, it is only with a free conscience that an American can ever hope to invest a choice to dedicate his life to his country with the meaning he intends. The resisters remind us that in a time of national crisis, the freedom of conscience is the most precious freedom of all.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on March 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
We know about the 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage who were imprisoned and interned in ten concentration camps in the USA during WWII "By Order of President" Roosevelt and the Army, in places like Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, and Minidoka. We know about the young men, the Nisei, who served their country with distinction in the 100th Battalion and 442nd regimental combat team in Italy and Europe, while their families were stripped of their civil rights and property. But what about those young men who resisted their draft order since they had no civil rights? What of those who were imprisoned and never pardoned after the war? In hindsight, weren't they just as courageous? What about the courage of Federal Judge Louis Goodman? The author of this book, himself the son of a refugee, the grandson of a man who was sent briefly to Buchenwald from Frankfurt, and was tagged an enemy alien in the USA, has written this excellent, well researched book that will be an excellent resource to students of U.S. history and the fight for civil liberties.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was utterly amazed when I first learned that the U.S. drafted some of the very same Japanese-American men that the government interned on suspicion of disloyalty during World War II. I was further amazed when I learned that the government criminally prosecuted those among them who resisted the draft. This book tells this incredible story with balance, grace, and insight. The pages pull you along as you quickly get wrapped up in the lives of the resisters and those in the government and in their own ethnic community who opposed them. The highpoint of the book for me was Muller's account of the one resisters' trial that did not result in convictions. A lone federal district court judge bucked the government and dismissed the charges on the grounds that they offended basic notions of due process. This last story is a "profile in courage" particularly appropriate to our current circumstances. Read this book.
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