Japanese American children were severely affected by the war. Those living in Pacific coast states were move into concentration camps. Although not separated from their patents, Japanese Americans in Pacific coast states were interned in concentration or relocation camps as they were called. Italian and German families were also interned, but only aliens or those whose parents have been involved or suspected of involvement in subversive activities. The Japanese were treated differently in part because of Pearl Harbor, but racial factors were a significant factor. President Roosevelt in February 1942 signed the order "evacuating" Japanese, most of whom were Japanese citizens, from the West Coast. Like the Germans, American authorities developed euphemisms for what was done to the Japanese. The order only affected the West Coast, not the Japanese on Hawaii. About 127,000 Japanese Americans were interned. It was one of the most grevious violations of the civil rights of American citizens in United States history. While the internment of Japanese Americans was a terrible injustice, depriving them of their property in many instances and their freedom for several years, the camps were quite different than the the NAZI and Japanese concentration camps. The internees were given adequate food and the children attended local schools. Japanese Americans formed Boy Scout troops such as at the Gila River Relocation Center, Arizona, during 1943.
Japanese immigration until after World War II was confined primarily to Hawaii and California. We
do not yet have details about Japanese immigration. Japan was a heavily populated poor country in the
19th century. The United States in the 1850s forced Japan to open its economy to foreign trade. We
assume that this was when immigration began. As Gold was discovered in California this probably
stimulated immigration. The Japanese came to Hawaii as farm labor. As with Chinese immigrants, laws
restricted Japanese economic activity in California. These were state, not Federal laws. Treatment of
Japanese immigrants became an issue between the United States and Japan. Federal laws passed in the
1920s did control actual immigration. The laws limited overall immigration and heavily favored
northern Europeans. Many Japanese turned to small-scale farming because many other job opportunities
were closed to them. We note Japanese children in rural California schools during the 1920s. We note
family portraits showing the same process. Many Japanese by the 1930s had achieved some success. These
families lost most of their property and possessions when they were interned during World War II.
After the War many job opportunities formerly denned Japanese Americans opened up.
It was the Japanese carrier attack on Pearl Harbor that brought America into the War. While Pearl
Harbor was a stunning tactical victory, it was a strategic blunder by the Japanese of invaluable
proportions. It was a stunningly successful military success, brilliantly executed by the Japanese.
Eight battle ships, the heart of the American Pacific fleet were sunk. But the three carriers were not
at Pearl. Despite the success of the attack, it was perhaps the greatest strategic blunder in the
history of warfare. The Japanese attack on the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor changed everything. A
diverse and quarreling nation, strongly pacifistic was instantly changed into a single united people
with a burning desire to wage war. The isolationism that President Roosevelt had struggled against
for over 7 years instantly disappeared. Even Lindberg asked for a commission to fight for the United
States. The Japanese attack had a terrible repercussions for Japanese Americans. War itself with
Japan would have been bad enough. The nature of the attack and subsequent revelations of Japanese
atrocities made matters even worse.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in the years leading up to the War had been collecting
information on Americans and foreign residents from Axis countries as well as Communists. In the case
of the Japanese race was a factor while it was not with Germans and Italians. This meant essentially
that all Americans of Japanese ancestry were suspect while with Germans and Italians only non-citizens
and those active in groups like the American Bund were targeted. The FBI acted within hours of the
Pearl Harbor attack moved against Japanese Americans. (For 4 days until Hitler declared war, America
was only at war with Japan.) The FBI agents targeted Issei (non-citizen first-generation Japanese
immigrants), both in Hawaii and the United States proper. The FBI acted in many cases without
evidence, at least evidence the FBI cared to present in court, or arrest warrants. There were 1,212
arrested in these initial house to house searches. Those arrested included prominent leaders in
Japanese-American communities that had attracted the FBI's attention. Those arrested included
priests, teachers (especially teachers in language schools), activists in community organizations, and
the staff of Japanese community publications.
I am not sure just how many of those arrested were actually security risks. We do know that the FBI
had sureptiously broken into a Japanese consular offices and had the names of Japanese agents. Among
those clamoring for internment of the Japanese was NOT FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. He forwarded a
memorandum to President Roosevelt informing him that 770 Japanese Americans should be questioned and
or arrested. Not only did Hoover not reccomend the internment of all Japanese Americans, but he
thought it was both unnecessary and a gross violation of civil liberties. [Black, p. 721.]
Many of the Issei arrested were seized in the middle of the night or early morning without warrants.
They were taken to secret destinations and treated as prisoners of war. Their families were not
told where they were taken and what charges were made. In most cases there were no formal charges.
They were eventually interned at various U.S. Justice Department internment camps in Montana, New
Mexico, North Dakota, and Texas. Some were paroled after being cleared by the Enemy Alien Hearing
Subsequently presidential proclamations established a range of restrictions on German, Italian, and
Japanese nationals residents in the United states. The Government classified all nationals and
subjects of Axis countries as "enemy alien."
Most Japanese living in America by 1941 were Nisei, second or later generation, U.S.-born children
or grandchildren of the Issei. Having been born in the United States, they were automatically U.S.
citizens. The Government classified the Nisei as "non-aliens", but subjected them to the same
restrictions as enemy aliens. This mean that travel, work hours, and social gatherings were
restricted and they were subjected to intense FBI scrutiny.
A range of contraband articles were confiscated. Anyone seen as "dangerous to the public peace or
safety of the U.S." could be arrested with little or no evidence. Gradually the restrictions on
German and Italian aliens were relaxed, but in contrast restrictions on the Japanese were intensified,
especially Japanese aliens.
Japanese American children were severely affected by the war. Those living in Pacific coast states
were move into concentration (internment/relocation) camps. Although not separated from their
parents, Japanese Americans in Pacific coast states were interned in concentration or relocation camps
as they were called. Italian and German families were also interned, but only aliens or those whose
parents have been involved or suspected of involvement in subversive activities. The Japanese were
treated differently in part because of Pearl Harbor, but racial factors were a significant factor.
President Roosevelt in February 1942 signed the order "evacuating" Japanese, most of whom were
Japanese citizens, from the West Coast. The internees were give only a few days notice and could take
only what they could carry. Like the Germans, American authorities developed euphemisms for what was
done to the Japanese. About 127,000 Japanese Americans were interned. It was one of the most grevious
violations of the civil rights of American citizens in United States history. While the internment of
Japanese Americans was a terrible injustice, depriving them of their property in many instances and
their freedom for several years, the camps were quite different than the the NAZI and Japanese
concentration camps. The internees were given adequate food and the children attended local schools.
Japanese Americans formed Boy Scout troops such as at the Gila River Relocation Center, Arizona,
during 1943. One of the most moving images at the camps were interned Boy Scouts behind barbed wire
raising the American flag, a daily ritual. You wonder what those boys were thinking each day as they
The Executive Order interning Japanese-Americans only affected the West Coast, not the Japanese on
Hawaii. All the arguments used to justify the internment of the Japanese apply much more to the
Japanese in Hawaii than the Japanese along the West coast. Pearl Harbor was at the time the most
important and vulnerable American military base any where in the world. Large number of Japanese
lived close to the base and near the coast. (Signaling Japanese submarines was one of the rumors
flying about.) The fact that the Japanese on Hawaii were never interned leads us to the conclusion
that other factors were involved in the internment order than security concerns. One factor may well
be that the military commanders on Hawaii were not as racist as those along the Pacific coast. Civic
and business leaders never mounted a campaign to intern the Japanese-Americans on Hawaii. Another
factor was there were just too many Japanese Americans on Hawaii and they were too important to the
local economy and the operation of the military facilities to intern them.
Japanese Americans were among the Americans drafted in 1940 and 1941. President Roosevelt issued
Executive order 9066 interning Japanese Americans (February 1942). After this, the Japanese Americans
in the military were reclassified 4c meaning enemy aliens. Those living along the Pacific coast were
then were interned with their families. The military later authorized the 442nd Regimental Combat
Team (RCT), a segregated Japanese unit (January 1941). There was a debate among the internees as
whether they should volunteer. Many did volunteer to get out of the camp and to demonstrate their
loyalty to America. [Asahini] Overall about 17,000 Japanese Americans enlisted for military service.
The Army formed a segregated Japanese unit with Caucasian officers which was deployed in Italy and
became one of the most decorated units in the U.S. Army. The Germans were surprised to be fighting
Japanese-looking soldiers. The Japanese battalion in Italy suffered such high casualties that it was
integrated in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) which fought in France. The unit was involved
in more tough fighting. 442nd entered France after the invasion of southern France. The Germans
after the Normandy breakout were rapidly retreating from France. The drive north from southern France
has been called the champaign campaign. German resistance, however, stiffened as the Allies neared
the borders of the Reich. The 442nd ironically liberated Jews in a Dachau subcamp. [Ichiuji]
A young woman working for a social agency sharing space with the Red Cross remembers an elderly
Japanese women who came in each week with a shopping bag that was filled with mittens, carves and
watch (stocking) caps that she had knitted for the soldiers overseas. After turning in her work, she
picked up some blue, grey, or khaki yarn for her week;s knitting. She only spoke Japanese so the
young woman and elderly Japanese woman could only smile greetings. After a while she recognized the
name--she was the mother of one of the friends of the young woman's brother. Her son was named after
an American president and serving in the Army overseas. Her husband had been arrested as it later
turned out for no reason. [Jones]
Asahina, Robert. Just Americans: How Japanese Americans Won a War at Home and Abroad (Gotham: 2006), 339p.
Black, Conrad. Franklin Delano Roosevelt:Champion of Freedom (Public Affairs: New York, 2003), 1280p.
Ichiuji, Joseph. "Loyalty's trial by combat," The Washington Post May 28, 2004. p. W10.
Jones, Eleanor. "Patriotism in every stitch," The Washington Post May 28, 2004. p. W12.
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