Mitsuye Endo

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Mitsuye Endo
Born(1920-05-10)May 10, 1920
Sacramento, California, U.S.
DiedApril 14, 2006(2006-04-14) (aged 85)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Known forEx parte Endo

Mitsuye Maureen Endo Tsutsumi (May 10, 1920 – April 14, 2006) was an American woman of Japanese descent who was placed in a internment camp during World War II.[1][2] Endo filed a writ of habeas corpus that ultimately led to a United States Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. government could not continue to detain a citizen who was "concededly loyal" to the United States.[3]

Early life[edit]

Mitsuye Endo was born on May 10, 1920, in Sacramento, the second of four children of Jinshiro and Shima (Ota) Endo, first generation Japanese immigrants. Her father worked as a fishmonger in a grocery store, her mother a housewife.[4] She grew up in an English-speaking Methodist home.[5] Her older brother Kunio, was drafted into the U.S. Army.[6] By 1940, they resided in one of the largest Japantowns in the country, a neighborhood in Sacramento, California that was home to 3,300 residents and hundreds of ethnic businesses.[7] After graduating from Sacramento High School in 1938, Endo completed secretarial school and secured a civil service position as a typist with the California State's Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento, as it was one of the very few professions Japanese Americans could enter at the time due to rampant discrimination.[8][9][10]

Following the on December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, compelling the forced evacuation and incarceration of Japanese-Americans from the west coast in U.S. concentration camps. As a result, Endo was fired from her position as a stenographer at the California Department of Motor Vehicles.[11][12][13] She was then incarcerated, along with her entire family, first transported to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center 300 miles north of Sacramento.[13][14]

Endo met her future husband, Kenneth Tsutsumi, after she was moved to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah.[15]

The California State Personnel Board Lawsuit[edit]

In response to the Pearl Harbor attack, the California Legislature adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 15 on January 19, 1942, which effectively barred qualified U.S.-born employees of Japanese descent from obtaining civil service employment with the State.[5] By February 27, 1942 (eight days after Executive Order 9066 was signed and issued), the California Board of Equalization as directed by the State Personnel Board (SPB) had terminated all of California's civil servants of Japanese descent, totaling over 314 employees, including Mitsuye Endo.[5]  The State's cause for termination of each of its Japanese American employees were based on a blanket of false charges ranging from being a Japanese citizen to subscribing to a Japanese newspaper.  On behalf of the 63 terminated employees who were eligible to file an appeal, Sumio Miyamoto, a dismissed employee, along with the Japanese American Citizens League, requested for San Francisco attorney James C. Purcell to represent them on their appeals. Purcell agreed and filed each employee's individual appeal.  Each appellant, including Mitsuye Endo, contributed $10 to Purcell's legal fund.[5] 

As the employment lawsuits against the California State Personnel Board were pending in court, Purcell's clients were evacuated out of Sacramento to internment camps. Mitsuye Endo, herself was incarcerated, along with her entire family, first transported to the Sacramento Assembly Center, i.e. Walerga, 10–15 miles outside of Sacramento on May 15, 1942.[3][5][16] Endo and her family was later transferred to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center 300 miles north of Sacramento in Newell, CA at the Oregon border on June 19, 1942.[13][14][17]

After the closure of the Japanese Internment Camps by the U.S. government, Purcell won an order from the Attorney General's office to reinstate the wrongfully terminated employees and provide backpay for time lost between the termination and evacuation. By the end of the employment lawsuit, nearly all of the original plaintiffs, including Mitsuye Endo, had permanently resettled outside of California.[5]

Ex parte Endo[edit]


After the internment of his Japanese American clients, James Purcell decided to file suit against the detention of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, seeking to challenge the Administration and close the detention camps out west. Purcell sought an ‘ideal plaintiff’ to represent the lawsuit, and from the meager responses to his queries, selected Mitsuye's.[18] A Methodist, Endo had never left the United States, was a Sacramento public school graduate and did not have ties to Japan. Her brother was an active duty Army serviceman.[13] In addition, Endo was the only candidate who was willing to remain interned in the camps through the entire course of the court case.[5]

On July 13, 1942, Purcell filed a writ of Habeas corpus, arguing, “If you can abrogate certain sections of the Constitution and incarcerate any person without trial or charges just because you do not like his nationality, what is to prevent from abrogating any or all of the Constitution?”.[15]

The following year Judge Michael J. Roche of the United States District Court in Northern California denied her petition. Anticipating that Endo would file an appeal, the War Relocation Authority sent an officer to offer to release her family, contingent that she and they never return to the West coast or her former home. She turned the offer down; however, some other friends and families in the camp accepted relocation east, having tired of the camps meager provisions, the harsh, cold environments and imprisonment. Endo's refusal to leave the camps extended her internment for an additional two years.[19] Looking back at her decision to reject the opportunity to leave the internment camps, Endo wrote:

The fact that I wanted to prove that we of Japanese ancestry were not guilty of any crime that we were loyal American citizens kept me from abandoning the suit.[20]

Her case continued under appeal, contrary to what the Roosevelt administration intended, and was certified to the U.S. Supreme Court for review on April 22, 1944.[3][13]

Following the filing of the writ, the government moved Endo and her family to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, in order to avoid the jurisdiction of the California court.[21] While she was interned in Topaz, Endo met her future husband, Kenneth Tsutsumi.[15]

Supreme Court decision[edit]

In October 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court decreed that persons of Japanese descent could not be held in confinement without proof of their disloyalty, stating that:

... detention in Relocation Centers of persons of Japanese ancestry regardless of loyalty is not only unauthorized by the Congress or the Executive, but it is another example of the unconstitutional resort to racism in the entire evacuation program.[22]

The Supreme Court also unambiguously stated that “the government had no legal right to confine people who had been screened and found to be loyal, but though it referred to the detention of Japanese-Americans as “racial discrimination,” it stopped short of defining the constitutional limits of wartime detention based on factors like race.”[15]

In Endo’s case — Ex parte Mitsuye Endo — the court unanimously ruled on Dec. 18, 1944, that the government could not detain citizens who were loyal to the United States.

The day before the ruling, hearing that the case would go against his Executive Order 9066 Pres. Roosevelt issued an order allowing Japanese citizens to return to the west coast.

Later life[edit]

After they were released Endo and Tsutsumi moved to Chicago, Illinois and got married on Nov. 22, 1946. Endo's parents and two sisters, Tamiko and Rayko, relocated to Chicago alongside Endo.[23] Absorbed into a community they found there of other Japanese-Americans, they settled in and raised three children.[1] She found employment as a secretary for the Mayor Edward J. Kelly's Committee on Race Relations.[1][24] They rarely revisited their time in the camps, striving to fit in. Her daughter did not learn of her involvement with the lawsuit until she was in her 20s.[25][26]

Later in life, when she was interviewed for “And Justice for All,” she marveled at how her incarceration and the subsequent court case “seemed like a dream” to her so many years later. “They felt I represented a symbolic, ‘loyal’ American,” she said in the documentary.[27] "When I think about it now — that my case went to the Supreme Court — I’m awed by it," she said. "I never believed it, that I would be the one."[15]

Endo died of cancer on April 14, 2006. She was 85.[15]

In May 2015, Senator Brian Schatz (D–Hawaii) sent a letter to President Obama recommending Endo for a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.[28] US Representatives Doris Matsui, Mike Honda, Mark Takai, and Mark Takano also advocated that Endo should receive the honor.[29] In 2015 the California Senate issued a joint resoution to the same effect.[30]


  1. ^ a b c "Mitsuye Tsutsumi".
  2. ^ "U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, Mitsuye Maureen Endo". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  3. ^ a b c Ex parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944). Public domain This article incorporates public domain material from this U.S government document.
  4. ^ "1930 United States Federal Census,Sacramento, Sacramento, California; Page 22A; Enumeration District 0074, Jinshiro Endo Family". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ouchida, Elissa Kikuya (2011). "Nisei Employees vs. California State Personnel Board: A Journal of Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 1942-1947". Pan-Japan: The International Journal of the Japanese Diaspora. 7.
  6. ^ "Girl Charges U.S. Holds Her Illegally" (PDF). San Francisco Chronicle. July 14, 1942.
  7. ^ "Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Who Took Down Executive Order 9066". HowStuffWorks. 2019-05-14. Archived from the original on 2019-05-14. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  8. ^ Tateishi, John (1984). And Justice for All: An Oral History of the Japanese American Detention Camps. pp. 60.
  9. ^ "High Court Rules Loyal Japanese Must Be Free" (PDF). The Sacramento Bee. December 18, 1944.
  10. ^ "Court Declares In Favor of Jap Woman" (PDF). The Sacramento Union. December 19, 1944.
  11. ^ Lee, Jonathan H. X. (2018-10-12). Asian American History Day by Day: A Reference Guide to Events. ISBN 9780313399282.
  12. ^ "Incarceration by executive order". Archived from the original on 2019-11-30. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  13. ^ a b c d e Aratani, Lori (December 18, 2019), "She fought the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and won", The Washington Post
  14. ^ a b "Central Utah Relocation Center (Topaz) Site (U.S. National Park Service)". Archived from the original on 2019-07-09. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  15. ^ a b c d e f Buck, Stephanie (October 9, 2019), "Mitsuye Endo, a Name Linked to Justice for Japanese-Americans", The New York Times, archived from the original on October 24, 2019, retrieved October 25, 2019
  16. ^ Opening Brief for Appellant at 5, Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944) (No. 70), 1944 WL 42557.
  17. ^ Memorandum from War Relocation Authority, Office of the Solicitor, “Petition for writ of habeas corpus by Mitsuye Endo; important dates,” dated Aug. 9, 1944; CWRIC Reel 7, Box 8. Litigation file: Correspondent Memoranda, CWRIC 8146.
  18. ^ Wood, Lewis (December 19, 1944). "Supreme Court upholds return of loyal Japanese to West Coast" (PDF). New York Times. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 21, 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2019.
  19. ^ Irons, Peter (1983). Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases. Oxford University Press. pp. 102–103.
  20. ^ Tyler, Amanda (2019). "Courts and the Executive in Wartime: A Comparative Study of the American and British Approaches to the Internment of Citizens During World War II and Their Lessons for Today". California Law Review. 107: 842.
  21. ^ Robinson, Greg (September 2016). The Great Unknown: Japanese American Sketches. ISBN 9781607324294.
  22. ^ "Suspending the Right of Due Process: Japanese-American Relocation during World War II". 2016-06-24. Archived from the original on 2019-05-08. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  23. ^ "U.S., Final Accountability Rosters of Evacuees at Relocation Centers, 1942-1946, Central Utah, October 1945, Jinshiro Endo Family". Retrieved 2020-08-28.
  24. ^ Barnaba, Tom (2018-04-11). In Spite of . . . Everything: A Young Lady's Guide to Those Who Came Before. ISBN 9781546232377.
  25. ^ "Mitsuye Endo: The Woman Behind the Landmark Supreme Court Case". Archived from the original on 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  26. ^ Lee, Jonathan H. X. (2017-11-10). Japanese Americans: The History and Culture of a People. ISBN 9781440841903.
  27. ^ "James C. Purcell collection". Archived from the original on 2015-09-17. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  28. ^ "Schatz Recommends Mitsuye Endo for Presidential Medal of Freedom". Archived from the original on 2019-10-21. Retrieved 2019-10-25.
  29. ^ "Supporters Push for Mitsuye Endo's Presidential Medal of Freedom". Archived from the original on 2016-03-15. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  30. ^ "SJR 12 Senate Joint Resolution – ENROLLED". Archived from the original on 2016-12-23. Retrieved 2019-12-19.
  • "Habeas Corpus in Wartime: From the Tower of London to Guantanamo Bay," University of California Berkeley School of Law professor, Amanda L. Tyler.

External links[edit]