WRA Files of Heart Mountain Draft Resisters Now Available

Government records for the Heart Mountain incarcerees who resisted the draft during World War II are now available for family members, researchers, and the general public in our draft resisters section on the website.

These files include interviews with camp and FBI officials, details about the incarcerees and their families and the loyalty questionnaires in which many of the men detailed their reasons for resisting the draft.

During two trials in 1944, the more than 80 men were tried, convicted and sentenced to terms in federal prison. Older resisters were imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while the majority were sent to the penitentiary at McNeil Island, Washington.

The files were scanned, organized and stored thanks to a grant from the Japanese American Confinement Sites program of the National Park Service. The Foundation is developing educational materials to help teachers and students use the files as primary sources in teaching about the Japanese American incarceration.

Doug Nelson, the Foundation’s vice chair, who wrote the earliest history of Heart Mountain, described the actions and convictions of the resisters as “a movement that illuminated the profound complexity of the Japanese American response to the trauma of incarceration. While most young men at Heart Mountain accepted the call to serve as a way of demonstrating their unflagging loyalty to country, a significant minority saw resistance to the draft as a moral duty to protest the violation of their fundamental rights as American citizens. What is most remarkable in these two vastly different responses is that both were rooted in patriotism, and each required great courage.’”

This project is the first that takes the files of the draft resisters and makes them available to the wider public. Researchers previously had to travel to the National Archives in Washington to access the files or go through the sometimes-lengthy process of applying for them online, paying fees and waiting months for them to appear.