1 7th, 1941, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order

1 “Japanese
Relocation During World War II.” National Archives and Records Administration.
Accessed January 04, 2018.
https://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/japanese-relocation.

 

 

 

In response to the uncertainty that was ultimately caused
by December 7th, 1941, President
Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which authorized the internment of
thousands of Japanese Americans. Lt.
General John L. DeWitt, who was the commander of the Western Defense Command
and the U.S. 4th Army, made it a point to show that he believed this was the best
policy in order to protect the United States. Congress took his statements into
consideration and made the decision to pass the order, following the general’s
words, “A Jap’s a Jap. They
are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not.” The Executive Order 9066 stated
that the West Coast was to be split up into several military zones that
contained camps for Japanese-Americans.2 These
camps were located in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and
Arkansas.3
Since eighty percent of
Japanese-Americans lived along the West Coast, they did not have to travel that
far for their relocation. Remote towns
within these states became the homes of many Japanese-Americans during the
period of time between 1942 and 1946. Due to the fact that hundreds of people
were going to be living in such close-quarters with each other, disease spread
rapidly and many acquired infections that ultimately led to death. Lt. DeWitt
also suggested that they should remove German and Italian “aliens” in addition
to the Japanese.4 U.S. leaders understood
his argument and were also concerned about these European countries, but at the
time, with feelings and pride so raw after the attack in December, the Japanese
posed the more imminent threat. The internment camps were put together
haphazardly and quickly, since the U.S. wanted to be rid of these “aliens” as
soon as possible. On February 25th, 1942, the U.S. Navy began the first major
deportations of Japanese-Americans near the Port of Los Angeles. The internees
were only given a short period of time to pack their belongings and start the
move to the camps. They were allowed to take everything that they could carry
and nothing more. Overall, the internment camps consisted of brutal conditions
and prison-like cells that whole families had to live in.

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After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States
was a country riddled with fear and paranoia. The bombing by the Japanese
marked the first ever assault on American soil. Most Americans felt that it was
right to blame all Japanese for the attack.  The government decided that the only way to protect
their people was to intern all Japanese-Americans. This was looked at as the
best policy to prevent further issues from occurring. The overall belief was
that all Japanese people living in the United States were spies for their home
country of Japan. It was also believed that they were in on a conspiracy to
destroy the United States, even though there was no way to prove this assumption.
Ironically enough, two-thirds of the Japanese-Americans headed for internment
were United States citizens.1 Starting
from that day and forward, it was decided that all Japanese-Americans posed a
major threat to the country. This was mainly based on racial prejudice against
Asian immigrants that had been going on since the 1800s. They referred to them
as “enemy aliens”, and the Justice Department began their arrests on the very
day the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. In
addition to this, the U.S. treasury froze the bank accounts of anyone born in
Japan. On December 8th,
1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt demanded that congress declare war on
Japan, which launched America right into the midst of World War II. Directly
following this declaration, Germany and Italy, allies of Japan, declared war on
the United States. Though WWII had begun in 1939 when Germany invaded Poland,
the United States was never directly apart of the aggression until this day.

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