The 1940's was a turning point for American citizens because World War II was taking place during this time. Not only was America at odds with other countries, but also within its self. America is a huge melting pot full of diverse cultures and people from all nations. People travel from all over the world to the United States of America.
These people had one goal in mind, a life of freedom and equal opportunity; or so they thought. The Japanese first began to immigrate to America in the 1860's in Hawaii. "Until the 1880's only a handful settled in the United States. From then until 1924 when the United States excluded Japanese immigrants, less than 300,000 had settled in American territory".
(Davis, 1982) These people saw America as land of 'freedom'. So when they came to America they did everything they could as to not be associated with the likes of the Chinese culture, which were also migrating to America at this time. "Anti-Asian activists, who had first mobilized against Chinese immigrants when they began arriving in California in the 1840's, employed the same "yellow peril" imagery to attack Japanese immigrants in the late nineteenth century". (Murray, 2000) To the naked eye of Americans, the Japanese and Chinese people seem to be physically the same.
Actually these were two totally different cultures. One of the first groups of Japanese who came to America was known as Gannenmono; who mostly resided on the west coast and Hawaii. They earned a rough living while working on sugar plantations. Because of the horrible working conditions, many of the immigrants often went on strike.
The workers complained to the Japanese government, which in response sent an ambassador to settle the problems. The American born children of these immigrants are known as Issei; in other words, the first generation. This generation of people did everything they could to Americanize themselves. The second generation of children is known as Nisei. Even though these children were American, their families still wanted them to remember their culture.
Therefore, many children of this generation had dual citizenship between Japan and America. Children were often sent back and forth over seas to stay with grandparents. Third generation Japanese-Americans are known as Sansei. There was also a generation called Kibe i. These were American born citizens that moved to Japan.
Many men from this generation worked for the United States military intelligence, gathering and translating activities during World War II. Racism towards the Japanese started before the WWII era. In the 1890's, the first anti-Japanese movement began. On June 10, 1983 the San Francisco Board of Education decided that the Japanese students would be sent to segregated schools with the Chinese. "That fall, the city's school board ordered that all Japanese children to attend a segregated school". (Davis, 1982) The Japanese Consul fought this, and it was soon dropped.
On May 26, 1924, Calvin Coolidge signed the 1924 immigration bill, which became a law ending Japanese immigration to the U.S. Then, on July 25, 1941, the president signed an order, which froze all Japanese assets, which made trouble for Japanese banks. What caused the ultimate decision for Japan to attack the United States? The military believed the time appeared right for Japan to create its own self-sufficient block in Asia. Thus in late 1940, Japan completed its diplomatic revolution against the Open Door powers. The Japanese motive was to create an Asia block that would be organized and defended by Japan. The New Asian Order, which was the co-prosperity of sphere goals, common defense, political independence and the integration of economic systems.
The Japanese decision to attack the United States was not one done in haste with the creation of different government organizations, preparing the Japanese people for war and the brainwashing of children in schools for over fifteen years. It was evident that the Japanese were planning for World War II for years. Japan made its final two movements toward war with the United States in the fall of 1941. In September at a meeting of the Liaison Council of high military and civil officials, Japan's leaders decided to go to war with the U.S. If agreement on oil shipments had not been reached by October, the decision for war was a desperate one. Many of the military leaders believed Japan could not defeat the United States.
The military also believed that the prospect of war with America seemed more acceptable than retreat from China and possible civil rebellion at home. General Yamamoto believed and lobbied that the only way the Japanese could expand its empire was to knock out the Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor and also destroy American forces in the Philippines. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 contained a fatal miscalculation however; the attack would unite America behind an all out determination to crush Japan. President Roosevelt declared war against Japan with a proclamation on December 7, 1941. This would be the beginning of the end for Japan as a Pacific and military power. At first, the Japanese were welcomed into the United States as an answer for cheap labor.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, it set off a powerful wave of racism and prejudice. "During this period, close to 1,000 Japanese American 'suspects' in Hawaii were also rounded up, placed in a detention center in Hawaii, and later removed to special camps run by the Department of Justice". (Ikeda, 2003) They were subjects of Anti-Asian campaigns, Discriminatory laws were passed that prevented them from becoming citizens, owning any land, or marrying outside of their race. White farmers submitted false reports of espionage against the Japanese to prevent them from buying any farming property. In addition, they could not move into certain neighborhoods, banned from jobs in certain industries, even unionized jobs would not accept them.
Children could only attend schools that were segregated. Also, president Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which was an order that revoked the rights of Japanese Americans and it led to about 120,000 Japanese Americans being collected and transported to prisons located in nine states. "These two factors- the long racist and anti-Oriental tradition plus the widely believed "yellow peril" fantasy- when triggered by the traumatic mechanism provided by the attack on Pearl Harbor, were the necessary preconditions for America's concentration camps". (Daniels, 1981) While in the camps, each Japanese American had to prove their loyalty to the United States despite the fact that they had their citizenship revoked. They had to answer two questions; Were you willing to be drafted to fight in the war / were you willing to be drafted or volunteer as a nurse? The second question was: Would you swear to obey all the laws and do not interfere with the war effort?
Even under these conditions, the majority of them said yes. If one of them were to say no, then you were taken to a special internment camp. However, Chinese Americans, Korean, and Pilipino Americans however were treated much differently. The United States felt so positive toward those specific ethnicities, for example, they revoked the revisions of the Exclusion Act, which was passed in 1881. But after the war ended in 1945, the attitude towards the Japanese and Chinese began to waver again. The reason why was because the primary government of China was Communism and Japan was trying to rebuild under their country under U.S. military supervision.
Seeing that, Japanese Americans were looked at as "hard working", "intelligent", "loyal" and they officially became naturalized citizens in 1952. Before that, Japanese Americans were thought to be spies. In 1943, Earl Warren, the attorney general of California at the time became governor of the state worrying that there was a chance for potential Japanese sabotage. He further stated that America was under duress by Japanese American spying. There were no so-called Japanese spies; the only individuals guilty of treason during the entire war were two Caucasians. When Pearl Harbor was bombed, young Japanese males hurried to the military recruitment offices to volunteer for the war effort, they were rejected and classified as 4 C, which is the same category as an enemy alien.
The ones that were already enlisted were stripped down of the firearms. But President Roosevelt declared that any loyal citizen of the United States, regardless of his / her ancestry should not be denied their right to exercise their responsibilities of his / her citizenship. To the Japanese, it seemed that the genuine citizenship that they were yearning for - freedom and justice were taken away from them. But on the other hand, they had the right to be killed for the very same country that humiliated them, took their property, and dignity away from them and placed them in inhuman camps. During the spring and summer of 1942, the United States Government carried out one of the largest controlled migrations in history. This was the movement of 110,000 people of Japanese descent from their homes in an area bordering the Pacific coast into 10 wartime communities constructed in remote areas between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Mississippi River.
The evacuation of the Japanese people was started in the early spring of 1942. "The major reason for the evacuation was racism". (Davis, 1982) The Western Defense Command of the United States Army decided that the military situation required the removal of all person of Japanese ancestry from a broad coastal strip. In the weeks that followed, both American -born and alien Japanese residents were moved from a prescribed zone comprising the entire State of California, the Western half of Oregon and Washington, and the southern third of Arizona. The United States Government having called upon these people from their homes, also assumed a responsibility for helping them become established.
To carry out this responsibility, the President on March 18, 1942, created a civilian agency known as the War Relocation Authority. The job of this agency is to assist in the relocation of any person's that may be required by the Army to move from their homes in the interest of the military security. The work of the War Relocation Authority has been concerned almost exclusively with people of Japanese descent who formerly lived close to the Pacific rim of the country. Plans were made by the Western Defense Command and the War Relocation Authority to build accommodations only for a portion of the 110,000 evacuated people. It was hoped that a considerable percentage of them would move out of the restricted area and resettle inland on their own initiative. Around March of 1942, some of 8,000 actually did move, but limited resources, and general uncertainty held the great majority back.
The relocation centers are not and ever were intended to be internment camps or places of confinement. They were established for two primary purposes. To provide communities where evacuees might live and contribute, through their work, to their own support pending their gradual reabsorption into private employment and normal American life. The second was to serve as wartime homes for those evacuees who might be unable or unfit to relocate in ordinary American communities. "Under regulations adopted in September of 1942, the War Relocation Authority is now working toward a steady depopulation of the centers by urging all able-bodied residents with good records of behavior to reenter private employment in agriculture or industry". (Daniels, 1971) When 110,000 people of Japanese descent were evacuated from the Pacific coast military area during the spring and summer of 1942, they left behind in their former locations an estimated total of approximately $2,000,000,000 worth of commercial and personal property.
These properties range from simply household appliances to extensive commercial and agricultural holdings. At the time of the evacuation, many of the evacuees disposed of their properties, especially their household goods, in quick sales that frequently involved heavy financial losses. The majority of the evacuees places their household furnishings in storage and retained their interest in other holdings even after they were personally transferred to relocation centers. During the early years of internment the Japanese went through severe, harsh, and uncouth living conditions, "In them 30,000 families were living under overcrowded conditions, close surveillance, and with no knowledge of what would happen to them next". (Spicer 1969, pg. 61) Eight months to a year after the sixteen detention centers were created, conditions improved because the Japanese united with each other to make conditions better by forming a administration. Conditions in these camps through the early months were hard for the Japanese to adapt to.
Upon moving into the internment camps, families were separated and possibly sent into different detention centers. In addition to not being with family and / or love ones, the Japanese were forced to live in overcrowded blocks, which were barracks for the Japanese that held fourteen to sixteen rooms. Six to seven people were forced to live in a room the size for only two people. "Victims of war time hysteria, these people, two-thirds of whom were United States citizens, lived a bleak humiliating life in tar paper barracks behind barbed wire and under armed guard". (Yu, 1996) Most detention centers were not finished when the evacuees began to arrive.
Some portions of the blocks were not complete leaving the Japanese vulnerable to in climate weather conditions, no running water, no furniture, nothing to prepare food with, and no supplies to clean up, which left the mess halls filthy; Mess halls were the bathroom, laundry room, and trash area within the blocks. "As families and individuals completed the process of being unloaded with their baggage from the buses, registering, and signing the forms of induction they found themselves in bare rooms about twenty feet square or in un partitioned barracks". (Spicer 1969, pg. 72) The weather and the location of the detention centers also made conditions harsh for the Japanese. All detention centers were located on the West Coast - in Oregon, Washington, California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming.
In each of these states weather conditions varied drastically. Most detention centers were either located in the mountains which contained cold, bitter, and snowy conditions or in the desert that contained hot and humid conditions. Camps were placed in remote locations, which made it almost impossible for the Japanese to escape, also considering the weather conditions they had to face while escaping. Internal security within the camps was on important issue to everyone across the nation. The American government designed the detention centers so that escaping would be almost impossible. Also, they posted U.S. Army personnel in each camp to enforce a strict policy of enforcement.
The American government did not want the citizens of the country to feel threatened by the Japanese, so internal security was the main priority within the camps. All detention centers were designed and built in remote and desolate areas of the country. The walls of bard wire to prevent any escape attempts heavily surrounded each internment camp. In addition, guard posts were set up along the perimeter of the camps to patrol the boundaries of the camps with heavily armed guards; All U.S. Army personnel posted in the detention centers were equipped with powerful rifles. A few months after the detention centers were established the administration hired Japanese evacuees to serve as policeman of the detention centers to ensure more internal security. Employment and businesses in the camps were established after the administration was formed, which were a group of Japanese that served as a government within each detention center.
The administration began with people who volunteered that wanted to improve conditions within the camps. The WRA later decided to form one group to handle all situations in the detention centers and called it the administration. The administration was one committee to serve the needs of the interned Japanese. This administration held positions such as clerks, typists, policemen, and people to run and manage hospitals. They improved mess hall conditions, cleaned up and improved the conditions of the blocks, and provided more products and equipment to keep conditions clean within the blocks. The administration allowed for personal businesses, industry, education systems, and community activities to operate.
The administration developed a project for agriculture and industry which consisted of mostly women. This program allowed Japanese in the detention centers to work in the fields to make their own produce and vegetables bringing the camps closer to self-sufficiency. Camps no longer had to depend on other agricultural resources around the country because the Japanese worked in the fields to supply the camps in which they were located. On the other hand a group of young men were formed into an organization to do work in the fields, in which they faced the harshest working conditions of anyone in the camps. These young men worked extreme long hours doing anything in the fields to keep the camp operating, such as building, excavating, and cleaning debris.
These young men worked on a fixed wage scale from twelve to eighteen dollars a month, but most of them did not receive their first paycheck until three or four months later which became a problem. Furthermore, personal businesses were allowed to be established to contribute to serving the Japanese in a positive manner. Stores were set up for the Japanese to buy cleaning products, toiletry, magazines, and other necessities that were needed to make conditions in the camps better. School staff was recruited to teach students within the internment camps. By the summer, a few months after the establishment of internment camps, full-fledged school systems were organized along with recreation programs.
These recreational programs included school activities, sports, board games, and social gatherings within each community in the detention centers. The administration worked diligently at making the most changes they could but most camps faced many problems and crises that were never solved. First, many camps were still overcrowded, with six or seven people still living in one room because of the influx of people that were brought into the camps during the evacuation process. The administration could not solve this problem because evacuees had to be taken back out and put in other camps, but the government refused to build more detention centers.
Secondly, Japanese began to treat each other rudely once the administration and businesses formed. "The leaders who emerged, although spokesmen for the dominant ideas within the group, too often carried insufficient influence and authority". (Spicer 1969, pg. 114) Some people that worked in the administration knew that they had the best jobs and they felt superior to those who had to work in the fields. Thus, they began to overlook many issues that these field workers had.
Lastly, the organization of young men that were forced to work the fields without getting paid had worker strikes and protests to make conditions better when they realized they were not getting paid. This was an important issue that was changed immediately because the young men controlled operations in the camp, in which they were greatly needed. After two years of sorrowful and degrading conditions that the Japanese were forced to adapt to by the American government, the Japanese were released on December 17, 1944. Before 1944, there were many rumors of what should be done to the Japanese, but it was not until the Proclamation No. 21 that officially released the Japanese. This legal government decision allowed evacuees to return home and lifted the exclusion orders, which were to be taken in effect on January 2, 1945. At the same time, the U.S. Supreme Court was declaring if the internment of citizens was unconstitutional.
"We feel that threatening persons, because they are members of race, constitutes illegal discrimination, which is forbidden by the fourteenth amendment whether we are at war or at peace". (Daniels, 1972) The WRA made public announcements that no relocation center would be maintained longer than a year following the lifting of exclusion orders. Many went on and continued life as they had before internment and many sought out adventurously to start new lives, however most Japanese Americans were viewed differently after World War II. Those Japanese who had jobs, homes, and a strong family returned to their normal ways of living but repeatedly faced racism from Americans. "Those who returned to their pre-war homes often found them vandalized and even marred with racial epithets". (Hatta, 2002) In addition, the Japanese who had land or farms could return and continue to normal ways of living.
In other words, the government did not take jobs, land, homes, and farms when the Japanese were interned, but they were extremely damaged, trashed, and vandalized. Unfortunately, many Japanese were killed throughout America by the hands of Americans through arson's and shootings. The American racism continued toward the Japanese after they were released up until this present day. It was not until 1988, when the Japanese would receive reparations from the U.S. government. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed by President Ronald Regan, provided an official apology from the U.S. government and an individual payment of $20,000 to each Japanese internee that was still living in 1988. Works Cite do Daniels, Roger (1971).
Concentration Camps USA: Japanese Americans and World War II. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, INC. o Daniels, Roger. (1972). (1981).
Concentration Camps: North America. Malabar, Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, INC. o Davis, Daniel S. (1982). Behind Barbed Wire. New York: E.P. Dutton, INC. o Hatta, Julie.
(2002). Ja internment, web Ikeda, Tom. (2003). Denso, web Murray, Alice Y. (2000). What Did the Internment of Japanese Americans Mean? Boston: Bedford / St. Martin's. o Spicer, Edward H. (1969).
Impounded People. Arizona: The University of Arizona Press. o Yu, John C. (1996). The Japanese American Internment, web.