Japanese Americans Interned In American Prison Camps During World War Two
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Anyone who has taken any sort of history course is most likely to have learned about World War Two and how the basic cause of this war was the Japanese Attack on Pearl Harbor, which was a United States Water Naval Base on an island in Hawaii. "This day is a day which will live infamy" (Taylor 50), is the famous quote formally stated by President Roosevelt, while giving a public speech subsequent to the attack. For the United States of America the attack was a horrible and devastating event, many lives were lost that day. From this unpleasant incident the United States felt threatened and betrayed by which was once supposed to be a peaceful ally, Japan. Therefore soon after this act of hostility the United States declared war against Japan, which led to World War Two. Now before this had even begun, a significant number of Japanese immigrants had been migrating to America for years, and started to built there our own society and families. "A census the day before Pearl Harbor showed that about 125,000 persons were of Japanese birth or ancestry in the U.S, while another 150,000 lived in the territory of Hawaii."(Nishimoto 24) During this time Japanese Americans started what would become a successful adaptation to the American life. Japanese towns were not only residential areas, but commercial centers as well. These commercial centers were not only utilized by Japanese Americans, but fellow American citizens who lived around them. They began to live normal lives and their children were nurtured by American institutions. But soon after America engaged in the war, these Japanese Americans became American citizens with enemy faces. The thought of them having a background in which was related to the enemy at the time shattered the Japanese Americans status, economically, politically, and socially. The U.S simply destroyed any sort of success the Japanese Americans had made in the summer of 1942, by sweeping up the entire ethnic population of California, Western Washington, and Oregon. They were then transported to the first assembly centers of War Relocation Authority. Which from here this ethnic population was brought to concentration camps around the west coast. Our government had taken American citizens with Japanese descent and positioned them into concentration camps, so there was no chance of a major threat. Regardless from the fact that the act against Pearl Harbor was made by the government of Japan, a country in which these citizens left to come and gain freedom in the United States of America, freedom in which they are promised by our constitution.
How is this logically and ethically the best answer in a situation such as this one?
Many American citizens formed a hostile attitude towards others of Japanese origin, especially right after Pearl Harbor. This hostility resulted in a relocation program that was even more repressive than those in charge had originally intended it to be. President Roosevelt triggered the basic decision to relocate the West Coast Japanese Americans on February 11, 1942. "In a brief telephone conversation with his Secretary of War, Henry M. Stimson, the commander in chief gave carte blanches to Stimson and his deputy, John J. McCloy, to do whatever they thought necessary. His only junction to Stimson was to be as reasonable as you can." (Taylor 112) A few days after the president said this, he signed an Executive Order giving the war department authority to relocate Japanese Americans, which is truly the day that should live in infamy as far as the Constitution is concerned. Congress, by trying to gain a comprehensive view of this situation, tried to generally reflect the American public's opinion more accurately than the other parts of the federal establishment. The congress in 1942-1943 was composed of highly political people who had strong opinions about a program as significant as the one designed to remove these Japanese Americans from the West Coast to "less sensitive areas."(Taylor 88) It is shown that there was a great deal of pressure on Congress to do something about the Japanese in the West Coast, and this pressure certainly would become a factor in the promulgation of the Executive Order. Through out this time many political figures brought to attention many different points as to why this relocation might turn into a consequential decision. One point made was by the WRA director, Dillon S. Myer, who pointed out that "If they did not handle this predicament in a way to get these people absorbed as best we can while the war is going on, we might have something similar to Indian reservations after the war, which will remain a problem for many years to come."(Taylor 89) He also felt as if a racial issue might occur and that's the last thing our country needed in a time of war. Myer also tried to warn the government by saying that the Japanese government had been trying to prove for some time that this is a racial war, Orientals versus whites. And this relocation program would just contribute to their theory. During this time period it was actually very rare for a person to encompass enough courage to speak up against the injustice, which is more often than not the reason why the relocation of the Japanese Americans continued to occur.
Life in these concentration camps was supposed to be labeled as "homogeneity", which means it should be the same as it would be if these Japanese citizens were living their normal lives in America. Well American citizens certainly did not have to dress uniformly in clothing given to them by the army which reflected army surplus, and/or live in housing that consisted of row after row of tar, paper barracks, so how were these two ways of living even close to being similar? In these concentration camps no person was at a higher level of authority than any other Japanese American, in fact they all seized powerless positions in society. They were forced to live in a closed classless system with few alternatives. However if there was one good thing about the situation at hand, it was that at these camps Japanese Americans received a good education, provided by the government, which inevitably would be a starting point to help their culture to succeed once again in the far future. The flaw of this arrangement was that in America we are given the right of freedom, which is why back then many other non-American citizens were coming to America. They were all looking for a better life, and place to build a life and family. Which is exactly what the ancestors of these Japanese Americans tried to accomplish and instead of granting these American citizen's their rights to freedom, they were held in camps that regulated their lifestyles. Another type of concentration camp was in Germany, when Hitler was in power in which he forced all the citizens of Jewish descend to be held incarceration However it is always perceived that what Hitler did was horrendous and unacceptable. The only difference between Hitler and the American government in this situation, is that Hitler tortured and kill many of the civilians he held, our government did no such thing. But some would view being held against your will, having your own lifestyle regulated, and being held to the conditions in which these American citizens were apprehended to, as some sort of torture instead of independence.
At around 1976, the redress of the Japanese Americans started to occur. President Henry Ford finally rescinded the Executive Order. This gave all Japanese Americans their freedom back, so eventually the government reevaluated the decision and realized the mistake that was bad during the war. "In 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed legislation to create the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians." (Daniels 83) CWRIC was appointed to conduct an official study of the Executive Order, related to wartime orders and their impact on Japanese Americans in the West Coast. In 1983, the CWRIC concluded that the incarceration of these citizens had not been justified by military necessity. "The report determined that the decision of relocation was based on race prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of a political leadership." (Executive Order 9066) The commission after concluding these findings then recommended remedies that consisted of and official government apology, redress payments of 20,000 dollars to each of the survivors, and a public education fund to help ensure that this would not happen again. So in the end the Japanese Americans received what they deserved for being incarcerated for reasons that were not ethical.
There are many different opinions that differ concerning the relocation of Japanese Americans following Pearl Harbor. In a way you can understand why most of the public felt hostility towards the Japanese, yet the ones punished in our country were still American citizens, just with a Japanese ancestry. Today, in society there is nothing we can do about the events that took place in 1942-1973; however we can learn from our mistakes and make sure they don't repeat themselves. An example such as this is September 11th, after this tragic event our government did not reprimand the American citizens with the same descend as the attackers. So in the long run, the mistakes in the history of our country helped out our society in the long run.
Daniel, Rodger. American Concentration Camps. Library of Congress Cataloging in
Publication Data, 1989
Executive Order 9066.Wikipedia.28 Feb 2007.
Nishimoto, Richard S. Inside an American Concentration Camp. Poston, Arizona: The
University of Arizona Press, 1995
Taylor, Sandra C. and Harry H. L. Kitano. Japanese Americans From Relocation to Redress. University of Washington Press, 1991