Aftermath of World War II at Washington University

In 1942, people of Japanese heritage in the United States were forced into internment camps, for the duration of the war (WWII).  For Japanese youth, discussions about their college studies became a pertinent discussion among higher education institutions in the Mid-West.

Hatchet 1944, p24George Throop, who was Chancellor of Washington University at the time, wrote this letter demonstrating his acceptance of Japanese students to Washington University:

April 30, 1942
Registrar Charles T. Fitts
Pomona College
Claremont, California

Dear Sir:
I am in receipt of a letter of April 28, 1942, from Dr. Guy E. Snavely, Executive Director of the Association of American Colleges, requesting information regarding the possibility of transfer of Japanese college students to colleges and universities east of the forbidden military area on the West Coast. There is no objection to the transfer of these students to Washington University, provided there is no objection on the part of the military authorities or the Federal Bureau of Investigation. We cannot, of course, undertake the responsibility regarding registration except where arrangements are made in advance, general public attitude, or support.
The attitude of the University is that these students, if American citizens, have exactly the same rights as other students who desire to register in the University, but it is possible that situations might arise which would be beyond our control, and for which we could not be responsible. We have already had inquiries regarding this situation, and I believe that certain Japanese students have made or are making arrangements to enter the University either in the summer or in the fall.

Yours very truly,

Chancellor

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On one hand, it is wonderful to read how the Chancellor believed that these Japanese students were as worthy as any other student of being a part of Wash. U. However, the Chancellor is certainly careful to not upset the government or damage the university’s public image. It is also important to note that black students were not yet allowed admission to Wash. U at this time. I wonder if offering these young people admission to higher education was a way to not deal with the racist crime of the internment camps. To what extent can integration bring about justice?

For more information on Japanese-American history in St. Louis, check out this research guide

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About the author

Miranda Rectenwald is Curator of Local History, Washington University Special Collections. More info.