It’s The internment of Japanese-Americans is perhaps one part of History that isn’t thoroughly taught to students, in fact there are people who still try in stubborn futile effort to defend the internment because of their lack of knowledge or education on this topic. Here are things that many people don’t know about the Japanese-American during WWII.
1.) Only Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were interned: Many people still assume that it was a nation wide action but the truth is that only the Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast were subject to internment. Those in Hawaii and elsewhere in the US were spared except for around around 1,800 Hawaiian residents.
2.)One drop rule: Even Americans that were only of partial Japanese descent were subject to internment. Hypothetically speaking, a person living on the West coast who was only 10% Japanese would not have been spared the misfortune of being interned. This further proves that the Japanese-American internment had some prejudice motives.
3.)Italian and German-American internment: While the largest group interned were Japanese-Americans, there were some people of German and Italian Descent interned in camps as well. Approximately 11,500 Germans were interned and approximately 3,000 Italians were interned. While approximately 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned.
4.) Individuals, not by group: Notice the significant difference between the number of Japanese-Americans interned and the other two ethnicities interned. You may wonder why there is such a numerical difference considering that the populations of German-Americans and Italian-Americans was higher than the population of Japanese-Americans. The explanation is that while Japanese-Americans were interned by group and location, the German and Italian-Americans were interned by individuals. In other words, only those individuals of German and Italian descent who were under suspicion were interned along with their families.
5.) liberal responsibility: It’s rather unfair to blame the entire US for the internment that happened during WWII. Not every American was vocally supportive of the internment, some like the quakers were appalled by it and even tried to help the Japanese-Americans who were subject to the internment, while others simply stayed quiet and didn’t say anything for or against the internment. The FDR administration which happened to be liberal were the ones who gave the green light to intern Japanese-Americans. Of course, the blame can’t be fully directed at FDR himself considering that it was John L Dewitt who came up with the idea to intern Japanese-Americans, FDR simply went along without challenging it.
6.) Japanese-Canadian internment: The liberal Canadian gov’t during WWII followed FDR’s footsteps and decided to intern Japanese-Canadians. It can be argued that this one was worse because not only did Canada not have any “excuses” to intern Japanese-Canadians(not saying there were any good excuses for Japanese-American internment) but the camps where Japanese-Canadians were put in had worse conditions than the camps in the US. Some Japanese-Canadian WWI veterans were also interned. Unlike how the prejudice towards Japanese-Americans gradually dwindled post WWII until the official apology in the 1980s, the Canadian attitude towards Japanese-Canadians post WWII was “If you didn’t like it, then leave”.
7.) Eleanor Roosevelt opposed the internment: Eleanor Roosevelt knew that the Japanese-American internment was wrong, she tried to get FDR to reverse the decision to intern Japanese-American internment to no avail.
8.)Japanese-American military service: While FDR didn’t want to(or couldn’t) change the decision to intern loyal Japanese-American citizens, he did allow Japanese-Americans to serve in the US military around 1943. Keep in mind that there were already Japanese-American service men prior to Pearl Harbor in the Hawaii national guard but the ones that got shipped off to Europe were the 442nd RCT and 522nd field artillery battalion. Japanese-American service men mostly fought in Europe while the ones that were shipped off to the pacific as the MIS were restricted to military intelligence roles. Japanese American women were allowed to enlist for the women’s army corps. The restrictions mentioned above weren’t placed on German-American or Italian-American service men.
9.) The questionnaire: Many Japanese-Americans who were interned were given a questionnaire , most of the questions were straightforward except for question 28 which asked if they would renounce loyalty to the Imperial Japanese emperor. No matter if they answered yes or no, it made no difference. If they answered yes, it would “imply” they use to be loyal to the emperor even though they were loyal Americans. If they answered no it would “imply” they were loyal to the Imperial Japanese emperor even though they were loyal Americans.
10.) Japanese-American claim act 1948: Truman went on to sign the Japanese-American claim act in 1948 which was compensation for any ill effects that Japanese-Americans suffered during the internment.
11.)Brazilian mistreatment of Japanese-Brazilians: Most people don’t know that Brazil has the largest Community of Japanese diaspora. Japanese immigrants played a role in developing some of Brazil’s cultural practices, such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. What many people don’t know is that the treatment of Japanese-Brazilians during WWII was a lot worse than the treatment of Japanese-Amerincans and Japanese-Canadians. The Brazilian gov’t during WWII deported and arrested many Japanese-Brazilians and are even said to have used torture against some Japanese-Brazilians. The mistreatment started after the attack on Pearl Harbor and stemmed from the racial ideology of the gov’t that didn’t consider them Brazilian due to them being non white. The Brazilian gov’t barely apologized in 2013
12.) McCarran-Walter act: In 1952 the McCarran-Walter act was initiated which allowed Japanese immigrants to become US citizens.
13.)Gerald Ford’s proclamation: In 1976, president Ford made a proclaimation that officially ended executive order 9066 and officially acknowledged that the Japanese-American internment was wrong.
14.) Spies: Yes there were 10 US citizens who were arrested for working as spies for Imperial Japan. Ironically none of them were of Japanese descent.
15.)1980 investigations: The commission of wartime relocation and internment of civilians was established in 1980 which investigated the reasons why the internment happened in the first place. It was discovered that none of the internees did anything suspicious. The conclusion that the commission came up with was that the internment was flat out wrong. Those Japanese-Americans(Korematsu and others) who protested the internment during WWII were also pardoned and compensated.
The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.-CWRIC
16.) 1988 official apology: Since previous presidents acknowledged that the internment camps were wrong and gave compensation, they paved the way for an official apology. Ronald Regan signed HR442 which officially gave a apology and compensation to those who suffered from the result of executive order 9066. This was true a sincere apology that was accepted by the Japanese-American community.
17.)Canadian apology: Canada once again followed America’s footsteps and gave a formal public apology in 1988 to it’s Japanese-Canadian citizens that were interned during WWII. The prime minister who gave the formal apology was Brian Mulroney a “Progressive conservative” which is a center right political party. It shouldn’t be confused with Canada’s “liberal” party.
18.) Japanese-American historical plaza: In 1990 in Oregon, a plaza was established dedicated to all endeavors Japanese-Americans went through.
19.) Go for broke monument established: A monument was established in little Tokyo Los Angeles California in 1999 which is close to the Japanese-American national museum(est 1992). This monument is dedicated to the military service of Japanese-Americans during WWII.
20.) Movies about Japanese-American internment: A movie about the Japanese-American internment called American pastime was released in 2007 which did a good job covering both the Japanese-American internment and the 442nd RCT but mostly the internment camps. A newer movie called “Go for broke: origin story” which came out last year(2017) focuses on the 442nd RCT.
Closing thoughts: The Japanese-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans that were unjustly interned were just as American as all the other Americans. Whatever actions the Nazi German, Imperial Japanese and fascist Italian Governments were taking part in should not have been attributed to loyal American citizens based on their ancestry.
The internment of loyal Americans was an unfortunate event that should never be repeated. However, it’s not fair to blame the US as a whole for this event. Those responsible for the internment were a select few. I’m a American(by birth) millennial that is of part Japanese descent, I proudly embrace my US citizenship and I hold no resentment towards those responsible for the internment that happened several decades before I was born.
The purpose of spreading awareness of the internment is not to get pity. It’s a reminder to the future generations so events like the internment will never be repeated.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.- George Santayana