Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

West coast highlighted
West coast highlighted

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Number of internees by ethnicity.
Number of internees by ethnicity.

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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”.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

12.) McCarran-Walter act: In 1952 the McCarran-Walter act was initiated which allowed Japanese immigrants to become US citizens.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

18.) Japanese-American historical plaza: In 1990 in Oregon, a plaza was established dedicated to all endeavors Japanese-Americans went through.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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.

Things most people don’t know about Japanese-American internment during WWII and the aftermath

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


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Most Helpful Girls

  • Also.. people that were placed in captivity were only allowed to bring what they could carry.

    Possessions, businesses property and even money on bank accounts were confiscated. Following the war these people were released with nothing.

    Laws of the time prevented Japanese Americans from fully owning businesses and from buying property of any kind in some areas.

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    • Aren't you of Chinese Descent I thought you guys hated the people of Japanese descent.
      My dad had two ROTC classmates one the child of a u. s soldier and a korean mother the other of a U. S soldier and a japanese mother.
      One of them told him to his face that he despised the other and i quote, "Because he is Japanese" and it was the same with the other

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    • Oh, so its the chinese and Koreans your parents dont like then i imagine

    • Im going to be honest the only Asian people i can really tell apart are the Filipinos

Most Helpful Guys

  • I had the opportunity to visit Manzanar. A very moving experience.

    As to the Americans who opposed internment, you can include the Mormons. And virtually every community located near an actual internment camp. The people of neighboring Independence California didn't like Manzanar, and frequently played baseball with the prisoners and brought them whatever they could to make things more comfortable. The Native Americans of Gila River Reservation opposed the Gila River Camp. The Mormons of Green River and Moab referred to them as "prisons of the innocents"

    By 1943, prisoners were allowed to leave the camps if they could prove they were able to relocate out of the West Coast exclusion zone, which is how Chicago acquired a lot of its Japanese American population.

    Some soldiers guarding Manzanar refused to carry rifles and side arms in protest.

    It would seem that those who supported internment, didn't actually *see* the camps. A great many who *saw* the camps, specifically the prisoners, opposed them. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess.

    My father's coworker, an absolutely fascinating man, spent time imprisoned in Manzanar. He joined the 442nd in '43 to get out of the camp. He later went to college and became an aerospace engineer.

    If you can, I recommend visiting Manzanar. The cemetery is particularly moving. There is a famous monument, which is very photogenic as the Sierra Nevada mountains serve as the background. But perhaps the most moving of all is the grave of "Baby Jerry Ogata." When I found it, it was adorned with little toys, coins, pinwheels, and cards. The neighboring trees by the hospital, which I believe were planted by the prisoners, were decorated with wind chimes. The headstone indicated Jerry was born in 1942 and died in 1944, thus it's likely he was born a prisoner, and sadly he died one. My wife and I didn't have coins or toys on us at the time, so we left tears.

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  • Well written article, good piece of history

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What Girls Said 1

  • It's a goodtake. My only criticism is that you did not mention how the Japanese citizens interned were treated. Like we're they starved, beaten, murdered etc.
    It was a bad call by the US goverment but I understand why they did it.
    To be honest in a country where people were being lynched and assaulted every day for being a different race internment probably protected American Japanese citizens from angry white Americans looking for revenge , we all remember the American Protective League of WW1 who targeted German and Italian Americans as well as socilists, anarchists, pacifists and union members.

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    • You make a good point there that as bad as they were the camps might have saved some people from vigilante "justice" something that does not seem to be considered often

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    • Well yes I wouldn't assume the motivation was actually to help protect them
      You say there are no known reports of any being lynched but what about just assaulted or if they were business owners had their business or homes vandalized and so on?
      I know there were instances of such things in Europe against people of German and Italian origin
      How widespread it was I don't know
      Perhaps the camps saved a few from some vigilantism perhaps they didn't that will always be speculation
      It was regardless a terrible event in a time of many terrible events

    • Wasn't the internment mostly in West coast States and wasn't that were the majority of Japanese lived? Wasn't there a real fear of a Japanese attack on the west coast?

What Guys Said 16

  • There's nothing wrong with it. It'll happen today if it hasn't already. To be honest, If I was a leader of a country and I'm at war with another powerful country. If they have civilians in my country, I'll detain them. If I have a community in their country and they don't detain my civilians. I'll immediately set up spy networks there and relay all information back. With information, I'll win any war. Destroy all their supply lines.
    If It's time to say sorry? then sorry :)
    .

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    • So you are okay with interning a group of people based on their ethnicity even though many enlisted to fight for your army? Just hope that your people don’t have to go through a internment in the future. “Those that don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

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    • Remember this happened straight after someone destroyed a navy base in an undeclared war. Germany has the Europe mainlands. Japanese aggression and terror spreading throughout the Pacific. Now there are 110k Japanese people who been migrating here since the 1900-40s. Even if you trust them, are your people going to trust them? Are Americans hateful of these Japanese people after they bomb pearl harbour? Yes. Will the American people attack them? well, there were a lot of Japanese haters in large numbers. Maybe. Will the Japanese civilians attack them back? reasonable yes. Will the Japanese switch sides and contact home? Don't know.

      1942, you're not that powerful yet. It was an easy decision then. The Japanese empire surrendered, got rid of their army, the USA stationed troops in Japan, and set up bases in 2 islands nearby. Spy or not it didn't matter. The USA took scientists from the Nazi party and settled them in America. Japanese spies could've died at the camps.

    • The only Japanese-Americans that were interned were the ones on the west coast. Japanese-Americans in other parts of the US were safe from the internment.

      Japan wasn’t just fighting the US, they were also fighting other countries (China, Philippines, Australia, Canada, the UK and a few others) as well. This wasn’t a war that Imperial Japan could have won because they were heavily outnumbered, had low resources, had a famine, where using outdated tactics and outdated military technology. Imperial Japan was doomed as soon as they attacked Pearl Harbor.

      The Nazi scientists were brought to the US under “operation paper clip” which happened in 1945, the year the axis powers were defeated.

      A thing people need to know is that just because the internees were of Japanese, German and Italian descent, it didn’t make them any any less American. They were as American as a person can get. Here in the US we don’t determine whether a person is American or not by their ethnic or racial heritage.

  • 3.5 as someone who is of both Italian and German descent we dont continue to bitch about it.
    The Aleuts who were displaced into camps due the the JAPANESE INVADING ALASKA and sometimes starved or froze to death dont even birch.
    Get over it.

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    • Clearly you didn’t read the whole take, it’s that kind of attitude that it’s still a welll documented event. Quit telling people to “get over it” when you clearly have a vendetta against people of Japanese descent. This is no joke, the goal is to educate the ignorant masses to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.

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    • Read points 2, 3,4,5,8 and 15 if you are just going to skim through rather than read thoroughly.

  • Excellent! both World Wars had thier issues with ethnicity and Nationalism.. Sedition laws of WW1 put people in prison for the worst reasons. Drinking German beer was considered Pro German, from a stein, you could find your self interrogated. And Unfortunately, our ability to go racist is played on a lot..

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  • Awesome history lesson ADFS. I knew most of this. I have run into Japanese Brazilians before. I didn't know that Canada has an interment program also.

    Thanks for posting this.

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  • Good my take, but you forgot the most important thing this teaches Americans.

    You don't have rights, you have privileges and they are only temporary for as long as the government want to let you have them. And when the government changes its mind, you end up in internment camps.

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  • Always good to spread some history knowledge around
    Most of this I was aware of to some degree though I had not heard about Brazil having internment camps before

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  • Well-written overall and a good lesson. Thanks for that today. More people need to educated themselves about this.

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  • Nice take, well researched. From what I have read John L Dewitt was not doing it because of racism, it seemed he was some what paranoid about the Japanese (in one letter he stated he was against internment of all Japanese americans stating that they where regardless of being Japanese where American citizens), why I don't know (he also supposedly joined a Japanese-American society after retiring probably to make amends for his actions). Though their was definitely racism towards Asian americans. I am actually surprised at brazil having such a large population of Japanese, that's actually news to me (though it does explain why Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese soldier who fought WWII for thirty years after japan surrendered, went their after being informed of japans loss).

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  • "the gov’t that didn’t consider them Brazilian due to them being non white"
    i0.kym-cdn.com/.../b7d.jpg

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  • I disagree with the method, but I understand the kind of thought they had.

    In my country, we have many immigrants, or their descendants, from Maghreb, who often express openly that "their country" isn't mine, but the one they come from or their ancestors came from. Often followed by a clear show of despise and hate toward my country.
    Now, if a war was declared between my country and "their", I wouldn't feel very secure knowing those people live here. To who would their allegiance go? Would we take the risk to keep a possible enemy inside our own borders?
    I think that's that kind of thing that went through their mind at that time. Like "ok, they're japanese-american, but what if they feel more japanese than american? What if they suddenly have to choose a side, and choose the other side?"
    It's based on nothing more than a "what if..." but in time of war, you get much much more paranoid and suspicious.

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    • That’s why many Japanese-Americans enlisted in the US army during WWII, to silence the doubters.

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    • @Waffles731 Oh it is. But again, you seem to be a bit limited to really understand the difference.

    • We Americans exploited Europeans to kill the Europeans who were oppressing us all and ended up more powerful than any european country.
      We fucking rock

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