Japanese Internment

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Japanese Internment

The decision to imprison Japanese Americans was a popular one in 1942. It was supported not only by the government, but it was also called for by the press and the people. In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Japan was the enemy. Many Americans believed that people of Japanese Ancestry were potential spies and saboteurs, intent on helping their mother country to win World War II. “The Japanese race is an enemy race,” General John DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command wrote in February 1942. “And while many second and third generation Japanese born in the United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted” (quoted in Smith, 1995: 83).

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066. The Order declared that “the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense material, national defense premises, and national defense utilities.” In pursuit of this goal, the Secretary of War, or the military commander whom he might designate, was authorized “to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he…may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary…or the Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” The Secretary was also authorized “to provide for residents of any such areas who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary…until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order” (see Appendix 1).

Though the Order seems to be in violation of the Constitution at the time, the Supreme Court upheld it because of “military necessity.” “There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some [Japanese Americans], the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot – by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight – now say that at that time these actions were unjustified,” stated Justice Hugo Black on December 18, 1944 (quoted in Irons, 1989: 83).

The War Department oversaw the removal of people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast based upon wartime military necessity. Shortly ...

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...t and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas hereunder.

THE WHITE HOUSE, Franklin D. Roosevelt, February 19, 1942.

Works Cited

Davis, Daniel S. Behind Barbed Wire. New York, NY: E. P. Dutton, Inc., 1982.

Girdner and Loftis, The Great Betrayal, 148.

Irons, Peter, ed., Justice Delayed: The Record of the Japanese American Internment Cases. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989, 83.

Ng, Wendy. Japanese American Internment during World War II: A History and Refernce Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Smith, Page. Democracy on Trial. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, 124.

Stanley, Jerry. I Am An American: A True Story of Japanese Interment. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1994.

tenBroek, Jacobus, Edward N. Barnhart, and Floyd W. Matson. Prejudice, War, and the Constitution. Berkeley and Lost Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1954.

Thomas, Dorothy Swaine, and Richard S. Nishimoto. The Spoilage. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1946, 27.

Yancey, Diane. The Internment of the Japanese. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2001.
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