Japanese American Internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of about 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called “War Relocation Camps,” in the wake of Imperial Japan‘s attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. All who lived on the West Coast of the United States were interned, while in Hawaii, where the 150,000-plus Japanese Americans composed over one-third of the population, an estimated 1,200 to 1,800 were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.
Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in internment camps.
Many internees lost irreplaceable personal property due to the restrictions on what could be taken into the camps. Some Japanese-American farmers were able to find families willing to tend their farms for the duration of their internment. In other cases Japanese-American farmers had to sell their property in a matter of days, usually at great financial loss. These losses were compounded by theft and destruction of items placed in governmental storage. A number of persons died or suffered for lack of medical care, and several were killed by sentries.
Loyalty questions and segregation
Some Japanese Americans did question the American government, after finding themselves in internment camps. Several pro-Japan groups formed inside the camps, particularly at the Tule Lake location. When the government passed a law that made it possible for an internee to renounce American citizenship, 5,589 internees opted to do so; 5,461 of these were at Tule Lake. Of those who renounced their citizenship, 1,327 were repatriated to Japan. Many of these individuals would later face stigmatization in the Japanese-American community, after the war, for having made that choice, although even at the time they were not certain what their futures held were they to remain American, and remain interned.
These renunciations of American citizenship have been highly controversial, for a number of reasons. Some apologists for internment have cited the renunciations as evidence that “disloyalty” or anti-Americanism was well represented among the interned peoples, thereby justifying the internment. Many historians have dismissed the latter argument, for its failure to consider that the small number of individuals in question were in the midst of persecution by their own government at the time of the “renunciation”:
[T]he renunciations had little to do with “loyalty” or “disloyalty” to the United States, but were instead the result of a series of complex conditions and factors that were beyond the control of those involved. Prior to discarding citizenship, most or all of the renunciants had experienced the following misfortunes: forced removal from homes; loss of jobs; government and public assumption of disloyalty to the land of their birth based on race alone; and incarceration in a “segregation center” for “disloyal” ISSEI or NISEI…
Minoru Kiyota, who was among those who renounced his citizenship and swiftly came to regret the decision, has stated that he wanted only “to express my fury toward the government of the United States,” for his internment and for the mental and physical duress, as well as the intimidation, he was made to face.
[M]y renunciation had been an expression of momentary emotional defiance in reaction to years of persecution suffered by myself and other Japanese Americans and, in particular, to the degrading interrogation by the FBI agent at Topaz and being terrorized by the guards and gangs at Tule Lake.
Civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins successfully challenged most of these renunciations as invalid, owing to the conditions of duress and intimidation under which the government obtained them. Many of the deportees were Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) who often had difficulty with English and often did not understand the questions they were asked. Even among those Issei who had a clear understanding, Question 28 posed an awkward dilemma: Japanese immigrants were denied US citizenship at the time, so when asked to renounce their Japanese citizenship, answering “Yes” would have made them stateless persons.
When the government circulated a questionnaire seeking army volunteers from among the internees, 6% of military-aged male respondents volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Most of those who refused tempered that refusal with statements of willingness to fight if they were restored their rights as American citizens. 20,000 Japanese American men and many Japanese American women served in the U.S. Army during World War II.
The famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Europe, was formed from those Japanese Americans who did agree to serve. This unit was the most highly decorated US military unit of its size and duration. Most notably, the 442nd was known for saving the 141st (or the “lost battalion”) from the Germans. The 1951 film Go For Broke! was a fairly accurate portrayal of the 442nd, and starred several of the RCT’s veterans.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter conducted an investigation to determine whether putting Japanese Americans into internment camps was justified well enough by the government. He appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to investigate the camps. The commission’s report, named “Personal Justice Denied,” found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and recommended the government pay reparations to the survivors. They formed a payment of $20,000 to each individual internment camp survivor. These were the reparations passed by President Ronald Reagan.
Manzanar – Historical Resource Study/Special History Study (Epilogue)
On the 34th anniversary of the issuance of Executive Order 9066, President Gerald R. Ford formally rescinded the presidential proclamation, stating “We know now what we should have known then: not only was evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans.” On November 25, 1978, the first “Day of Remembrance” program was conducted at Camp Harmony, Washington, site of the former Puyallup Assembly Center.
In late January 1979, the JACL National Redress Committee met with Hawaii Senators Daniel Inouye and Spark Matsunaga and California Congressmen Norman Mineta and Robert Matsui to discuss strategies for obtaining redress. A study commission was proposed. Finally, on July 31, 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed into law the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) Act. Between July 14 and December 9, 1981, the CWRIC held twenty days of hearings in nine cities during which more than 750 witnesses testified. In December 1982, the CWRIC released its report, Personal Justice Denied, concluding that Executive Order 9066 was “not justified by military necessity” and was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
In June 1983, the CWRIC issued five recommendations for redress to Congress. First, it called for a joint congressional resolution acknowledging and apologizing for the wrongs initiated in 1942. Second, it recommended a presidential pardon for persons who had been convicted of violating the several statutes establishing and enforcing the evacuation and relocation program. Third, it urged Congress to direct various parts of the government to deal liberally with applicants for restitution of status and entitlements lost because of wartime prejudice and discrimination, such as the less than honorable discharges that were given to many Japanese American soldiers in the weeks after Pearl Harbor. Fourth, it recommended that Congress appropriate money to establish a special foundation to sponsor research and public educational activities “so that the causes and circumstances of this and similar events may be illuminated”.
For the entire article: http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/manz/hrse.htm
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- Honouliuli National Monument (U.S. National Park Service)
- Jerome Relocation Camp
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- Kilauea Detention Center
- Manzanar National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
- Minidoka National Historic Site (U.S. National Park Service)
- Poston War Relocation Center
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- Tule Lake Unit (U.S. National Park Service) – nps.gov
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1863-1963 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)
US Minorities Civil Rights Timeline 1964-2016 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)