Japanese Internment Camps. On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.
Japanese Internment Camps
On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States into World War II.
In February, 1942, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the U.S. military to evacuate any and all persons from “military areas” and provide new living arrangements for them elsewhere.
Japanese Americans were given one week in which to register with the authorities, gather whatever possessions they could carry, and report to an assembly center. They were required to sell all their assets in a few days. Homeowners were required to sell their houses, and business owners their farms, stores and restaurant. Because they only had one week to do this, they frequently had to sell at steep discounts. In addition, families were told to bring only what they could carry, such as household items needed for everyday living. Pets were left behind.
Once they reached the assembly centers, they
waited to be transported to their assigned internment camps.
This action was, unfortunately, met with almost universal approval by the non-Japanese-American population, and was accepted largely without question. To make matters worse, this was thought to be necessary on the mainland, but not in Hawaii, where the large Japanese-Hawaiian population went largely unmolested. The army was never required to prove that the Americans interned posed any military threat, or that the relocation in any way made the nation safer from attack. No Japanese American was EVER convicted of any act of sabotage during World War II.
Camps were located in Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, Arkansas and California. Each had been chosen for its remoteness. For most internees they must have seemed as alien as the surface of the moon.
Life in the camps was similar to the military. Internees slept in barracks or small compartments with no running water, took their meals in vast mess halls, and went about most of their daily business. Physical mistreatment was rare, but the armed guards and the ever-present snipers in the watchtowers were a constant reminder of their residents’ status.
Barracks at Minidoka
Photo taken 7/08
Over time, life in the internment camps began to follow its own routine. Students went to school, and adults had jobs, usually farming. Each camp had a governing council, as well as newspapers, businesses, sports teams, concerts, and places of worship.
Unfortunately, the informal social life of the camps eroded many of the Japanese traditions. Teens could eat meals with their friends, rather than their parents.
More importantly, paying jobs were only given to the Nisei – the U.S. born children of the Issei. This forced the Nisei to become the breadwinners, whereas their parents, the Issei, who had built up businesses of their own outside the camps, found themselves “benched”.
Throughout the war, interned Japanese Americans protested against their treatment and insisted that they be recognized as loyal Americans. Many sought to demonstrate their patriotism by trying to enlist in the armed forces. Although early in the war Japanese Americans were barred from military service, by 1943 the army had begun actively recruiting Nisei to join all Japanese American units. Most worked in Europe, but a few were sufficiently fluent in Japanese to work as translators in the Pacific.
After the War:
The families that had been interred had to rebuild their lives. Many people had put their possessions into storage before they went into the camps. When they returned, they found those possessions stolen or vandalized. Others, who had entrusted their business to friends, found the business sold without their knowledge. Others were lucky, however, and found that friends and neighbors had protected their property.
In 1948, President Truman signed the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act, which was intended to provide some compensation for the financial losses of evacuation.
In 1988, Congress implemented the Civil Liberties Act, apologizing on behalf of the nation for the “grave injustice” done to persons of Japanese ancestry. Congress declared that the internments had been “motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”, and authorized $20,000 payment to Japanese Americans who had been interred during World War II.
Finally, in October 1990, President George H.W. Bush, issued a letter of apology to each of the Japanese American families interred during World War II.
Japanese Internment Camps: