American Inquisition

The Hunt for Japanese American Disloyalty in World War II

By Eric L. Muller

214 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 11 illus., notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-4190-4
    Published: July 2017
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-8527-7
    Published: October 2007

H. Eugene and Lillian Youngs Lehman Series

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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 who was loyal and who was disloyal. In American Inquisition, Eric Muller relates the untold story of exactly how military and civilian bureaucrats judged these tens of thousands of American citizens during wartime.

Some citizens were deemed loyal and were freed, but one in four was declared disloyal to America and condemned to repressive segregation in the camps or barred from war-related jobs. Using cultural and religious affiliations as indicators of Americans' loyalties, the far-reaching bureaucratic decisions often reflected the agendas of the agencies that performed them rather than the actual allegiances or threats posed by the citizens being judged, Muller explains.

American Inquisition is the only study of the Japanese American internment to examine 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 our nation again finds itself beset by worries about an "enemy within" considered identifiable by race or religion, this volume offers crucial lessons from a recent and disastrous history.

About the Author

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.
For more information about Eric L. Muller, visit the Author Page.


"An excellent study of the mid-level agencies' messy job at evaluating the loyalty of Japanese Americans, and concludes by contextualizing this case within past and present governmental evaluations of loyalty."--Western Historical Quarterly

"[A] clearly written history. . . . A close and nuanced reading of the hunt for Japanese American disloyalty during World War II. . . . Points to new areas of profitable research for historians of Japanese America."--Journal of American Ethnic History

"The author places this work within the broader context of history and ties into the development of subsequent loyalty programs to ferret out communists during the Cold War. . . . Recommended."--Choice

"[A] good book on an unexplored dimension of a sorry chapter in American history."--Journal of American History

"Insightful."--Arkansas Historical Quarterly

"The scholar, history buff or anyone with a thirst for thoughtful and well articulated information and analysis will find value in Muller's examination of this lesser known and less patriotism-inspiring aspect of World War II. [American Inquisition] joins a conversation that has been going on for years and supplements that discussion with new information and unique perspectives."--Asian American Press

Multimedia & Links

Muller blogs at the group blog