19 Facts About the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II
19 Facts About the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II

19 Facts About the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II

Larry Holzwarth - October 26, 2018

19 Facts About the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II
A child plays on a swing at Heart Mountain, oblivious to the problems facing many Japanese Americans, rendered homeless when the camps were closed. National Archives

18. Closing the camps created a new bunch of problems

After the creation of the exclusion zones and the removal of the Japanese Americans several states and local governments enacted laws which confiscated the property and businesses of the Japanese. Homes, farms, and businesses were seized under eminent domain and disposed to other entities. Many of the Japanese, who were under law allowed to leave the camps in early 1945, thus had nowhere to go, their homes having been sold, their farms confiscated, and their businesses closed. By the summer of 1945 some of the returning Japanese were veterans of the European war who had been drafted or who had enlisted out of the camps, only to find that the home which they had lived in in 1941 was now the property of someone else. They also found an American society in which anti-Japanese sentiment raged unabated, fed by government propaganda and the American press.

As early as December, 1942, the Los Angeles Times opined in its editorial page, “The Japs in these centers in the United States have been afforded the very best of treatment, together with food and living quarters far better than many of them ever knew before, and a minimum amount of restraint”. Seven Japanese Americans were shot and killed by sentries while under what the Times called “a minimum amount of restraint.” In 1948 Congress passed legislation to allow Japanese Americans to establish claims for recompense for losses, but the difficulty of proving financial loss kept most of the Nisei from being compensated. Out of more than $148 million in claims, only about $37 million was distributed. Not until the 1980s would serious attempts by the Congress to redress the grievous treatment of Japanese American citizens during the Second World War be undertaken.

19 Facts About the Internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II
Work in the poster shop at Heart Mountain – as with all work in the camps – was paid at a rate of less than what a US Army private received, mandated by the WRA. National Archives

19. The aftermath of the Japanese American internment during the Second World War

Thomas C. Clark, a Texan who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court from 1949 to 1967, wrote in 1992, in the book Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans, “The truth is – as this deplorable experience proves – that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves”. Clark had been responsible for representing the United States Department of Justice during the relocation. He continued, “Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment’s command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066”.

Since the 1990s it has become commonplace to drop references to the camps as being internment centers, relocation centers, or detention camps and refer to them as what they were, which was concentration camps. Some Americans can’t reconcile themselves to the fact that America operated concentration camps, though they had done so previously during the Philippine-American War. The camps were created for the purpose of incarcerating Americans of Japanese descent during a time of fear of the Japanese and loathing of them as a race, against the backdrop of barbaric atrocities committed by troops of the Japanese Empire in the Pacific. It remains a little studied episode of the American experience, and deserves greater scrutiny as an example of what can happen when the rule of law is swept aside by passion, however that passion is created.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“Immigration Bill Passes Senate by Vote of 62 to 6”. The New York Times. April 19, 1924

“How the Japanese Did It”. Robert J. Hanyok, Naval History Magazine. December 2009

“How Pearl Harbor created a climate of fear”. Daniel Greene, CNN News Online. December 7, 2016

“Executive Order 9066, dated 19 February 1942, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt Authorizes the Secretary of WJar to Prescribe Military Areas”. National Archives of the United States. February 19, 1942. Online

“Confirmed: The U.S. Census Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WWII”. J. R. Minkel, Scientific American. March 30, 2007

“December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor”. Gordon W. Prange. 1989

“Guarding the United States and its Outposts”. Stetson Conn, Rose C. Engelman, Byron Fairchild, Center of Military History. 1964. Online

“Bainbridge Island Breaks Ground for Japanese-American Internment Memorial”. Vanessa Ho, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. March 29, 2009

“Final Report, Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast 1942”. Lieutenant General J. L. DeWitt, US Army. June 5, 1943. Online

“Milton S. Eisenhower, Educational Statesman”. Stephen E. Ambrose, Richard H. Immerman. 2009

“Bad Landmark: Righting a Racial Wrong”. TIME Magazine, November 21, 1983

“The Truth about World War II Internment”. The Los Angeles Times. May 27, 2011

“Childhood Lost: The Orphans of Manzanar”. Renee Tawa, The Los Angeles Times. March 11, 1997

“For Incarcerated Japanese-Americans, Baseball was Wearing the American Flag”. Michael Beschloss, The New York Times. June 20, 2014

“Personal Justice Denied”. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, United States Department of Justice. 1982

“Prisoners Without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II”. Roger Daniels. 1993

“Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps”. Michi Weglyn. 1996

“A More Perfect Union”. Online Exhibition of the National Museum of American History. The Smithsonian Institution.

Advertisement