The Internment of Japanese Americans The internment of Japanese Americans is an example of how one historical event can influence the start of another. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor created fear throughout the nation. Newspaper articles depicted Americans of Japanese descent as untrustworthy and a danger to the nation. They warned that Japanese Americans were serving as spies for their mother country. As hysteria grew, eventually all persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast, including those born in the United States, were forced into internment camps from the spring of 1942 till 1946.
Japanese Americans were separated from their families, robbed of their livelihood, and denied their human rights. It took the United States government nearly 50 years to apologize for their wrongdoing and provided the surviving internees with reparations for the hardships they faced. Context & Chronology The Japanese attack on the U. S. Naval fleet at Pearl Harbor, on December 7, 1941 sparked an up rise in the anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the West Coast; however, hostility towards Japanese American was common in this area nearly 40 years before the attack (“Personal Justice Denied” 4).
Citizens and state leaders of California were strongly against accepting the Japanese. In 1905 the anti-Japanese movement began making waves in California. On February 23, 1905, the San Francisco Chronicle issued on article with the headline: “The Japanese Invasion: The Problem of the Hour. ” Soon after a series of editorials against the Japanese were issued. (Chronology of War World II Incarceration). For years, Californians attempted to remove the Japanese from the state. Politicians and media personal in California used the attack on Pearl Harbor to ignite fear amongst the citizens and resulted in the internment of all hose of Japanese descent.
Racial hatred and prejudice towards Japanese Americans and Asian immigrants quickly increased. During World War II, thousands of Japanese Americans were robbed of their freedom, forced out of their homes, and ordered to move to “relocation centers. ” On February 25, 1942 the United States Navy informed all Japanese Americans living in Terminal Island near Los Angeles that they had 48-hours to evacuate their homes. They were the first group that endured mandatory removal (Chronology of War World II Incarceration).
As a result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many families faced separation. The FBI immediately began arresting Japanese American community leaders. The Justice Department detained over 2,000 Issei (first generation of immigrant Japanese Americans) and denied them the right to a fair trial (“Dear Miss Breed: Letter from Camp”). Over two-thirds of the Issei remained separated from their families during the duration of the war, and the others were reunited with their families in the internment camps (“Dear Miss Breed: Letter from Camp”).
West Coast media and politicians were major contributors to the internment of Japanese Americans. In California, anti-Oriental forces worked to create legislation against the Japanese (Schlenker). Six weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the San Diego Union published its first article arguing for the removal of the Japanese from the coastal area (Schlenker). In February of 1942, the National City Defense Council passed a resolution that the “federal government’s removal and incarceration of Japanese aliens proved that they were dangerous” (Schlenker).
The California Cities advised for all of its members to pass similar resolutions (Schlenker). Governor Culbert L. Olson wanted approval to revoke all professional and business licenses from Japanese immigrants and citizens holding dual citizenship (Schlenker). General John L. De Witt viewed the Japanese as an enemy race (Schlenker). On February 13, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a letter from the West Coast congressional delegation, advising for the removal of all Japanese from California, Oregon, Washington, and the Territory of Alaska (Schlenker).
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9006 (see Appendix A). This order granted Secretary of War Henry Stimson the authority to remove civilians from “military zones” (Parks). Anti-Japanese forces were determined to remove all those with Japanese ancestry from California. In March the Board of Supervisors of San Diego passed a resolution urging the internment of the Japanese. They argued that Japanese residents had aided the attackers at Pearl Harbor and it wasn’t possible to differentiate a loyal Japanese Americans from the disloyal.
On March 11, General De Witt established the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA). With the help of the WCCA, General DeWitt was able to organize and oversee the evacuations. Instructions directed towards “all persons of Japanese Ancestry” were posted in newspapers and public places throughout the San Francisco area (Parks). They were to be “evacuated from the above designated area by 12:00 noon Tuesday, April 7, 1942. These notices informed evacuees on what to bring.
On April 7, 1942, eleven hundred and fifty Isei (Japanese immigrants) and Nisei (American-born Japanese person) boarded trains and left San Diego towards the Santa Anita racetrack (Schlenker). The WCCA converted former fairgrounds and racetracks into “Assembly Centers”, which evacuees were sent to live until permanent camps could be built. Throughout 1942, ten “Relocation Centers” were planned, built, and settled in the following locations: Poston (AZ), Tule Lake (CA), Manzanar (CA), Gila River (AZ), Minidoka (ID), Heart Mountain (WY), Granada (CO), Topaz (UTO, Rohwer (AR), and Jerome (AR) (see Appendix B).
Families packed what they could carry, but ultimately lost everything: their homes, businesses, careers, and liberty. Internees were placed in tar-paper barracks. Barbed wired fences surrounded the camps and armed soldiers guarded the gates (Parks). By the end of WWII, around 125,000 Japanese Americans had been placed in internment camps (Schlenker). Two-thirds of the Japanese Americans internees were American born citizens (Schlenker).