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Japanese Internment

Essay by 24  •  August 23, 2010  •  3,805 Words (16 Pages)  •  1,598 Views

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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 Kibei. 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

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