University of Arizona

Students, faculty, staff, and the public are now welcome to visit Special Collections without an appointment from 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday.

The Tucsonians Oral History Project Collection

Black and white group photo of the Tucsonians: Japanese American WWII resisters of conscience, Sacramento, California, 1947

On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and soon afterward, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the mass removal of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast to incarceration camps located further within the United States interior. During this time, 1941 to 1943, Americans of Japanese ancestry were prohibited from serving in the US military. However, in 1944 the government re-instituted the draft for all Nisei, first generation Japanese born in America, including those in camps.

Soon following, resisters of conscience were put on trial, most given 3 year sentences. A number of the resisters were sent to Tucson, AZ to serve their sentences, thus becoming the Tucsonians. Tucsonian is the self-given name the group of American men of Japanese ancestry adopted while imprisoned in the Catalina Federal Prison on Mount Lemmon during the 1940s for resisting the draft. The Tucsonians and all wartime draft resisters, including the Nisei resisters, were pardoned in 1947.

Collection includes the oral histories of several of the Japanese-American resisters of conscience who served sentences at the Catalina Federal Prison (renamed Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site in 1999) during WWII. The collection contains audiotapes and transcripts of interviews conducted by representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service from 1999 through 2002.

The collection also includes photographs of the Tucsonians annual anniversary gathering. The oral history project was funded by CCLPEP (California Civil Liberties Public Education Program) and the Coronado National Forest.