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[COMMUNITY] Treatment of Chinese/Japanese Americans in WWII

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  • madchinaman
    The Americans: Reconstruction through the 20th Century Chapter 17: 1941-1945 The United States In WWII http://www.mcdougallittell.com/state/ca/cajapa.cfm
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 11, 2006
      The Americans: Reconstruction through the 20th Century
      Chapter 17: 1941-1945
      The United States In WWII
      http://www.mcdougallittell.com/state/ca/cajapa.cfm
      http://www.sfmuseum.org/war/evactxt.html (Internment of San
      Francisco's Japanese)
      http://www.sfmuseum.org/war/42.html (Chronology of 1942 San
      Francisco War Events)
      http://www.lib.washington.edu/exhibits/harmony/exhibit/index.html
      (Camp Harmony Exhibit)
      http://www.lib.utah.edu/spc/photo/9066/9066.htm (Exhibit of Tule
      Lake and Topaz Camps)

      -

      During a meeting to urge Congress to renew the Chinese Exclusion
      Act, San Francisco mayor James Duval Phelan suggested limiting
      Japanese immigration as well. "The Japanese are starting the same
      tide of immigration which we thought we had checked twenty years
      ago," he declared. "The Chinese and Japanese are not bona fide
      [true] citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens
      can be made."
      The California legislature also pressed Congress to slow
      the influx of Japanese immigrants. "Japanese laborers, by reason of
      race habits, mode of living, disposition and general
      characteristics, are undesirable," read part of the state resolution
      delivered to Capitol Hill. "Japanese . . . do not buy land [or]
      build or buy houses. . . . They contribute nothing to the growth of
      the state. They add nothing to its wealth, and they are a blight on
      the prosperity of it, and a great and impending danger to its
      welfare." Such accusations were not true. Japanese-Americans owned
      many farms and were very important producers of fruits and
      vegetables. In fact, only a few years later, the California
      legislature would accuse Japanese-Americans of owning too much land.

      -


      December 7, 1941, was a date, as President Franklin Roosevelt
      solemnly declared, "which will live in infamy." On that morning,
      Japanese warplanes launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in
      Hawaii, the base for numerous U.S. military ships, planes, and
      personnel. The air raid, which killed more than 2,000 people and
      destroyed ships and planes, shocked an America that believed its
      shores to be safe from attack. The assault outraged the nation. On
      the very next day, the United States declared war on Japan and
      propelled itself into World War II.

      The attack prompted yet another, less noble, action. Several months
      after the raid on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. government rounded up about
      112,000 Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent
      living along the West Coast. Swept up in a wave of anti-Japanese
      hysteria, U.S. officials forced these men, women, and children—most
      of whom lived in California—to leave their homes and settle at
      barren, guarded camps. In what would be remembered as one of the
      nation's darker chapters, America's Japanese residents became
      prisoners in their own country—denied their civil and constitutional
      rights for no reason other than their race.


      A History of Prejudice
      The intense anti-Japanese sentiment that surfaced in the months
      following the attack on Pearl Harbor did not appear out of thin air.
      It was partly an outgrowth of the suspicion and hostility many
      Americans felt toward the Japanese, who had begun immigrating to the
      United States in large numbers around the turn of the 20th century.

      From 1890 to the early 1920s, about 300,000 Japanese immigrants
      arrived in the United States. Many of these immigrants—like the tens
      of thousands who arrived from Europe during this time—had come in
      search of greater economic opportunity. Most Japanese newcomers
      entered the country through and settled in the Golden State. As the
      number of Japanese immigrants in California grew, so did resentment
      and racist stereotyping. Some of the state's newspapers,
      politicians, and organizations frequently stereotyped the Japanese
      immigrants as sly, ruthless, and loyal only to Japan.

      Chinese immigrants had also been the target of stereotyping when
      they had immigrated to the United States in the 19th century. In
      fact, in 1882, Congress had passed the Chinese Exclusion Act to stop
      Chinese immigration to the United States. The act stemmed from both
      racial prejudice and economic concerns. Some native-born Americans
      believed that the Chinese—with their distinct dress and features—
      could never assimilate in America. Moreover, they complained that
      the Chinese immigrants took away jobs from American workers. By the
      early 1900s, California officials were calling on Washington
      legislators to limit Japanese immigration for the same reasons.


      Japanese Suffer the Same Fate as Chinese
      During a meeting to urge Congress to renew the Chinese Exclusion
      Act, San Francisco mayor James Duval Phelan suggested limiting
      Japanese immigration as well. "The Japanese are starting the same
      tide of immigration which we thought we had checked twenty years
      ago," he declared. "The Chinese and Japanese are not bona fide
      [true] citizens. They are not the stuff of which American citizens
      can be made."

      The California legislature also pressed Congress to slow the influx
      of Japanese immigrants. "Japanese laborers, by reason of race
      habits, mode of living, disposition and general characteristics, are
      undesirable," read part of the state resolution delivered to Capitol
      Hill. "Japanese . . . do not buy land [or] build or buy
      houses. . . . They contribute nothing to the growth of the state.
      They add nothing to its wealth, and they are a blight on the
      prosperity of it, and a great and impending danger to its welfare."
      Such accusations were not true. Japanese-Americans owned many farms
      and were very important producers of fruits and vegetables. In fact,
      only a few years later, the California legislature would accuse
      Japanese-Americans of owning too much land.

      Nevertheless, Washington responded to this growing anti-Japanese
      clamor. Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, which
      prohibited further Japanese immigration to the United States. The
      act indeed accomplished what it had set out to do. Almost 20 years
      later, on the eve of Pearl Harbor, about 126,948 persons of Japanese
      ancestry resided in the United States—less than one-tenth of one
      percent of the total population.


      A Nation Turns on Its Japanese Residents
      The nation's Japanese population, sensing that it might be targeted
      in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack, quickly went about
      demonstrating its loyalty to the United States. Japanese residents
      bought war bonds, gave blood, and even ran newspaper ads denouncing
      Japan. The day after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese American Citizens
      League sent a telegram to President Roosevelt, part of which
      read: "In this solemn hour we pledge our fullest cooperation to you,
      Mr. President, and to our country. There cannot be any
      question. . . . We in our hearts know we are Americans, loyal to
      America."

      In the end, however, there was little that Japanese residents could
      do, as Americans' long-held prejudice against them turned to open
      hostility. In California, where more than 93,000 Japanese Americans
      lived, rumors buzzed of Japanese treachery and sabotage. A growing
      number of politicians and journalists condemned the Japanese as a
      risk to the nation's security. "Some, perhaps many, are . . . good
      Americans," exclaimed the Los Angeles Times the day after Pearl
      Harbor. "What the rest may be we do not know, nor can we take a
      chance in light of yesterday's demonstration that treachery and
      double-dealing are major Japanese weapons." Los Angeles radio
      commentator John Hughes was more blunt. "Ninety percent or more of
      American-born Japanese are primarily loyal to Japan," he warned
      listeners.

      Call for Confinement
      The U.S. military soon began voicing its own suspicions. General
      John DeWitt, who was in charge of security along the West Coast,
      said of the nation's Japanese-Americans, "I have no confidence in
      their loyalty whatsoever."

      However, in looking back at that period, the historian Ronald Takaki
      has emphasized that such statements vastly exaggerated the threat to
      internal security presented by Japanese-Americans. In his book A
      Different Mirror, he describes how General DeWitt overstated the
      threat.

      DeWitt ignored or dismissed government reports that had confirmed
      Japanese-American loyalty. Lieutenant Commander K. D. Ringle of the
      Office of Naval Intelligence had determined that the large majority
      of Japanese Americans were at least passively loyal to the United
      States. Estimating that only about 3,500 of them could potentially
      be dangerous, [Lieutenant Ringle] concluded that there was no need
      for mass action against the Japanese.

      But General DeWitt and others in the press and the government
      continued to call for the evacuation of Japanese-American residents
      from the West Coast. Finally the hysteria reached the White House.
      In response to urgings from military and political leaders,
      President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19,
      1942. The order authorized the detainment of "any or all persons"
      the military considered to be a security threat. The measure thus
      opened the way for the internment of America's Japanese residents.


      War Prisoners in Their Own Land
      Officials quickly notified Japanese families along the West Coast
      that they would have to leave their homes and travel to relocation
      centers away from the coast. The 112,000 or so Japanese forced to
      leave their lives behind included more than 71,000 Nisei—those
      Japanese who were born in the United States and thus were U.S.
      citizens. Protests against what seemed such a flagrant violation of
      civil rights fell on deaf ears. Even the Supreme Court upheld the
      evacuations, maintaining that the military was acting from "military
      necessity."
      The Japanese were placed in 10 camps located in
      California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, and Arkansas. The camps
      were little more than rows of dreary barracks surrounded by barbed
      wire and located in some of the most desolate and barren regions of
      the country. "In its frantic haste to construct this barrack city,
      the Army had removed every growing thing," remembered one camp
      detainee, Yoshiko Uchida. "What had once been a peaceful lake bed
      was now churned up into one great mass of loose flour-like sand.
      With each step we sank two to three inches deep, sending up swirls
      of dust that crept into our eyes and mouths, noses and lungs."
      Conditions at the camps were horrible. Families lived in a
      single room about 20 by 25 feet and were forced to share the same
      mess hall, laundry room, latrine, and recreation hall with hundreds
      of other detainees. More unsettling, however, were the armed guards
      who patrolled the centers. "They called it a relocation camp," said
      detainee Hiro Mizushima, "but it was a concentration camp. There was
      barbed wire. They told us the machine guns were to protect us, but
      the machine guns were pointing toward us."


      The United States Tries to Right a Wrong After several
      years, officials began releasing the Japanese detainees. The last
      camp was closed in January 1946. As it turned out, the nation's fear
      of Japanese disloyalty proved to be unfounded. The country's
      Japanese residents strongly supported the U.S. effort in the war—
      even while imprisoned in the camps. Furthermore, in 1942, thousands
      of Nisei detainees answered the call to join the U.S. armed forces.
      They formed the 442 Regional Combat Team, which became the most
      decorated American unit of the war.
      It was not until 1988, however, that the United States
      officially acknowledged it had done a great injustice to its
      Japanese residents. That year, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill
      that apologized for the internment and awarded $20,000 to every
      living detainee. "We must recognize that the internment of Japanese-
      Americans was . . . a mistake," Reagan declared at the signing.
      One of those who would receive a payment was Norman
      Mineta, a camp survivor who went on to become a U.S. representative
      from California. What touched him the most was not the money, but
      his country's ability to admit it had done wrong. "Though this is a
      deeply personal issue for myself and a comparatively small number of
      Americans, this legislation touches the heart and soul of what it
      means to be an American and, therefore, the very core of our
      nation," he said.
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