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World War Ii: The Internment of Japanese Americans

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World War II: The Internment of Japanese Americans

The 1940’s was a scary and emotional time in the United States as the American people had just become involved in World War II. Due to the attack on the Naval Base on Pearl Harbor, HI; the American people felt that the Japanese were at fault that they had entered this war. After this gruesome attack on US soil, suspicion and discrimination fell upon the shoulders of Japanese Americans by the American people. In 1942, the Internment of Japanese Americans was not opposed by the Americans, the US Government or the press; however was requested.

The Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Japanese American Internment, was signed on February 19, 1492 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This order stated that “the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to the national defense”. The designated Secretary of War or military commander had the ability to utilize their own discretion “from which any or all persons be excluded, or leave” (Executive Order 9066, 1942). Though there had been no signs of betrayal, over two-thirds of Japanese Americans sent to the internment camps were citizens of the United States. By April 1942, there were internment camps from Washington down to California and Arizona as well as across the nation. The camps were closed by March 1946 as President Roosevelt had repealed the Executive Order 9066 (The War Relocation Authority and The Incarceration of Japanese-Americans During World War II ).

There has been controversy in regards to the Internment of Japanese Americans as the question of it being justifiable has been raised. Due to the United States not supplying Japan with supplies they needed supplied and being an overpopulated island with little to no resources of their own, the Japanese military decided to strike back by attacking the most unprotected US military base. The act of war had thousands of soldiers to meet their demise and caused millions of dollars of damaged military equipment. Since the United States had not been active in World War II prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Japanese imposing war upon America; the Japanese American people were requested to and required to report to the internment camps while waiting for the war to be over (Shaffer, 1999). Those that disagreed with this felt that it was hypocritical since German Americans and Italian Americans were still free in America even though we were at war with them as well. General DeWitt agreed that the Japanese, Germans and Italians should leave America and stated “enemy aliens of German, Italian and Japanese ancestry as well as all persons of Japanese Ancestry should prepare to remove themselves” (Fox, 1988). Though, the difference between Germans and Italians versus the Japanese was that Japan had declared war upon the US by attacking Pearl Harbor and the Germany and Italy did not, the US impeded on the tactics going on in Europe.

During this time, it seemed that there were several explanations in regards to why the Internment camps were imperative. Japan and the Japanese military were a real danger to the United States and her security, in turn, it was perceived that descendants of Japan were a danger as well as they could be traitors. In 1942, the head of Western Defense, General John DeWitt said “The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born in the United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted” (Fox, 1988). President Franklin Roosevelt has also been in peace talks with Japan so the attack was much of a surprise. Due to these questions, it seemed to be defensible to have the Japanese Americans in Internment camps. However, the Internment was not only due to distrust among the Japanese Americans, also for the safety of these people as the American people had much distain for them. Unlike the concentration camps in Europe, they were in more hospitable environments than the Jewish people being held by Adolf Hitler. There was education for the children and still sports and other activities that was available to the Japanese-Americans in the internment camps. Whether the Japanese American Internment camps were justified or not, the United States needed to make sure the American people were safe and protected.

During the time in the internment camps, many Japanese Americans had enlisted into the United States military and fought against the Axis powers. The U.S. Army had personnel go to the internment camps with a “Relocation Center Address” which announced the development of a volunteer combat team and these teams were all Japanese platoons, one being the 442nd Regiment and were one of the toughest and most decorated, including the Metal of Valor. During World War II, this infantry fought in Italy and France against Third Reich German Army (442nd Regimental Combat Team). This decision for enlistment gained respect from the American population.

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