The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII was a clear example of mass hysteria that permeated the United States during the dark days of WWII. After the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor many Americans believed that the Japanese were disloyal and were associated with the enemy. There were rumors that the Japanese Americans were exchanging military information and had hidden connections. The U.S became increasingly paranoid causing a question to arise, is this really because the Japanese were truly spies or is it mass hysteria?
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government started to become very suspicious of different races living in the country especially the Japanese. To make sure nothing happened again these internment camps were set up and they were basically “America’s concentration camps”. The Japanese Americans faced a lot of hardships at these camps. Japanese Internment Camps were extremely unfair to the majority of the Japanese Americans who have not engaged in sabotage or spying for Japan during the war. Nevertheless, it was a necessary effort to limit the activities of those who would have tried to harm the U.S. and the war effort.
In the middle of WW II, many Americans were worrying about their next meal or about the house payments; however, this wasn’t the case for Japanese Americans. Instead, they were worrying about if they were going to eat and if they were going to have a house due to internment camps. These camps were designed to protect and nurture the Japanese from the American people who were persecuting them. However, these camps did little good beyond that. Many Japanese Americans faced starvation, horrible living quality, and a large distance away from what they knew as home. These Japanese immigrants were always treated with discrimination in America; however, after Pearl Harbor they were forced to leave their homes, live in internment camps, and face prejudice for the years following.
Japanese-American internment camps were a dark time in America’s history, often compared to the concentration camps in Germany (Hane, 572). The internment camps were essentially prisons in which all Japanese-Americans living on the west coast were forced to live during World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Naval base in Hawaii. They were located in inland western states due to the mass hysteria that Japanese-Americans were conspiring with Japan to invade and/or attack the United States. At the time the general consensus was that these camps were a good way to protect the country, but after the war many realized that the camps were not the best option. Textbooks did not usually mention the internment camps at all, as it is not a subject most Americans want to talk about, much less remember. Recently more textbooks and historians talk about the camps, even life inside them. Some Japanese-Americans say that their experiences after being released from the internment camps were not as negative as most people may think. Although the Japanese-American internment camps were brutal to go through, in the long run it led to Japanese-Americans’ movement from the west coast and their upward movement in society through opportunities found in a new urban environment such as Chicago and St. Louis.
What were the Japanese internment camps some might ask. The camps were caused by the attack of Pearl Harbor in 1942 by Japan. President Roosevelt signed a form to send all the Japanese into internment camps.(1) All the Japanese living along the coast were moved to other states like California, Idaho, Utah, Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming and Arizona. The camps were located away from Japan and isolated so if a spy tried to communicate, word wouldn't get out. The camps were unfair to the Japanese but the US were trying to be cautious. Many even more than 66% or 2/3 of the Japanese-Americans sent to the internment camps in April of 1942 were born in the United States and many had never been to Japan. Their only crime was that they had Japanese ancestors and they were suspected of being spies to their homeland of Japan. Japanese-American World War I veterans that served for the United States were also sent to the internment camps.(2)
Degrees of Loyalty Loyalty was a major issue in the United States during World War II and the subsequent years following. This was especially true in California, where Japanese Americans were held in internment camps during the war because many felt that their loyalty was to Japan and not the United States. This caused many problems for the Japanese American citizens, as they were subjected to loyalty tests and forced draft programs into the armed forces. Those who opposed the American Government and their tactics were sent to work camps and their families were broken apart. This also raised issues as to how our government operates.
In many times throughout history groups of people have been discriminated against based on race or religion. These people receive inferior rights because of the discrimination. In some cases they do not get citizenship, in others they are segregated from others, and physically harmed. Two groups of people that faced discrimination near World War II (WWII) were the Jewish people and Japanese Americans. Both groups faced very different types of discrimination by different oppressors with different motives yet their treatment was very similar and many events paralleled each other. The treatment of Japanese in WWII internment camps was as harsh as the Holocaust's treatment of the Jewish people.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the United States was filled with panic. Along the Pacific coast of the U.S., where residents feared more Japanese attacks on their cities, homes, and businesses, this feeling was especially great. During the time preceding World War II, there were approximately 112,000 persons of Japanese descent living in California, Arizona, and coastal Oregon and Washington. These immigrants traveled to American hoping to be free, acquire jobs, and for some a chance to start a new life. Some immigrants worked in mines, others helped to develop the United States Railroad, many were fishermen, farmers, and some agricultural laborers.
On December 7,1941 Japan raided the airbases across the islands of Pearl Harbour. The “sneak attack” targeted the United States Navy. It left 2400 army personnel dead and over a thousand Americans wounded. U.S. Navy termed it as “one of the great defining moments in history”1 President Roosevelt called it as “A Day of Infamy”. 2 As this attack shook the nation and the Japanese Americans became the immediate ‘focal point’. At that moment approximately 112,000 Persons of Japanese descent resided in coastal areas of Oregon, Washington and also in California and Arizona.3