On February 19th 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 which gave the United States military power to declare certain areas off-limits to any or all persons. Under this executive order General John DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command immediately declared the entire west coast a military zone closed to “ all persons of Japanese ancestry both alien and non alien”.
With Roosevelt’s signature United States military had control of the West Coast and began relocating all Japanese for a total of 110,000 to 10 separate internment camps. The Japanese-Americans were mobilized almost immediately and had very little time to sell their homes, businesses, and personal possessions at a fraction of the value. They were only allowed to keep what they could carry. These camps were held under guard and were essentially sparse army barracks that were poorly equipped. The Japanese made the best use of the internment camps by attempting to produce their own food through orchards and gardens as well as livestock such as hogs and cattle to become as self-sufficient as possible. In addition they also created schools, hospitals, churches, and even their own newspaper while they were interred in these camps.
By 1944 there was a Supreme Court case of Mr. Korematsu versus the United States. In this case the Supreme Court upheld the decision by a 6-3 vote of the American Military to relocate the Japanese-Americans. In part, I feel this decision was reached by the argument of Justice Black versus the dissenting opinion written by Justice Murphy, whose argument essentially rested on a technicality that martial law was not declared.
The reason the Japanese were interred was due to fear of a Japanese attack thought to be imminent on the West Coast. Although racism played a role in the hatred of Japanese-Americans the American propaganda machine depicts the Japanese as sly, bucktooth,spectacled, backstabbing individuals. In comparison the German propaganda was depicted as a war against the Third Reich. Having images of Hitler’s face or a swastika. In addition this executive order was signed less than three months after the unprovoked attack against Pearl Harbor Hawaii by the Japanese, with that fresh in the American population mind, fear of the Japanese was rampant.
Although I feel the Japanese at the time knew that the internment of their families was not right. To their credit they stoically went to the internment camps. In addition, all Japanese-American military units were formed and sent to Europe where they performed admirably and were heavily decorated. Overall I feel that the Japanese sense of citizenship in the United States was tested to the extreme and that the Japanese culture performed admirably and with honor in a difficult and unjust situation,The behavior of the Japanese in the internment camps as well as the heroism displayed on the battlefield leaves no doubt of the Japanese loyalty to the United States.