During the beginning of World War 2, the United States had little to do with the whole affair. That is, until Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, killing 2,403 people and wounding 1,178 others. This was what started the State’s involvement in the War. Many people who had previously thought themselves safe from the fighting on the other side of the world now panicked.
Tension and anger against the Japanese mounted. President Roosevelt issued an order that all Japanese, or anyone of Japanese descent, even American citizens, would be relocated to camps across America. He signed this order of “Military Necessity,”- order 9066, on February 19, 1942. The purpose of this order was to firstly keep the Japanese away from contact with their country, as in the eyes of the government, they were potential spies and saboteurs. However, since two thirds of the 127,000 people who were being relocated were American Citizens, many of whom had never been to Japan, it is reasonable to argue that the Americans of different descent were almost as likely to be spies; especially if offered suitable payment.
Another reason that the President decided to relocate all the Japanese in the United States was to keep them safe. Though it was a fairly legitimate concern that people angry from the bombing might try to harm the people of that countries’ descent, it seems more of punishment than protection to remove every person of a certain race from their homes, and into a prison.
‘One of the most stunning ironies in this episode of American civil liberties was articulated by an internee who, when told that the Japanese were put in those camps for their own protection, countered “If we were put there for our protection, why were the guns at the guard towers pointed inward, instead of outward?”’ 1
Many people were taken from their homes and moved to small, crowded, flimsy huts. Several families would be squeezed into a tiny space, and only allowed to own a few possessions. Each family, no matter how large, was given a room about 20 by 20 feet to live in. They were not allowed to leave the camps, and were separated from the rest of the world by a chain link fence. Their freedom was extremely limited. “While conditions varied from camp to camp, the plan was consistently based on a grid system of blocks. Each block had ten to fourteen tar paper-covered barracks, a mess hall, a latrine, a laundry, and a recreation hall. Supplied furnishings were a single droplight, army cots, and a coal, gas, or wood heater.” 2
In my home state of Arkansas, there were two camps; Rohwer with 8,475 people and Jerome with 8,497. There were 9 other camps across the US. The Japanese were forced to move whole states away from their homes, the people in Jerome coming from as far away as California and Hawaii.
When the Japanese were taken from their homes, what they could not take with them was lost. Homes were left behind, and what was still inside the houses had a high chance of being plundered. People were forced to leave their jobs, leaving families with nothing to come back to after the war. In fact, many never returned to their homes at all.
This was one of the worst Constitutional breaches in history. The Japanese-Americans were and are as much American citizens as the rest of the people; so why did we imprison them during the war? Because of where their ancestors were from, or because of what they looked like.
The Japanese Relocation is another example of unjust racial discrimination in American history.
1 Taken from https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation
On September 25, 2017
2 Taken from https://www.mtholyoke.edu/~matsu22k/classweb/index2c.html
On September 25, 2017