During World War II, the Japanese Navy Air Service enacted a surprise attack on U.S. soil. They bombed Pearl Harbor, a naval base in Hawaii, on December 7, 1941. This surprise attack left Americans feeling threatened, and their hatred for the Japanese race was far more than the hatred they had for any other race or country. The Japanese were viewed as cockroaches in the eyes of the Americans. Rumors began to emerge of Japanese Americans claimed as internal spies who were giving information on the location of U.S. military bases. Americans’ fears grew even more with the thought of there being internal spies.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which allowed military to keep certain areas off-limits to any or all persons. General John L. DeWitt immediately took advantage of this order by declaring the entire West Coast as a military zone off-limits to those of Japanese descent, alien or non-alien. With this declaration, all Japanese Americans and immigrants were ordered to evacuate the West Coast. A total of 110,000 people of Japanese descent were placed in internment camps. Although 72,000 of the group in the West Coast were Japanese American citizens, they were not treated as American citizens. Their rights were taken away from them. They lost their homes and most of their belongings in the evacuation process; yet, nearly all obliged without a fight.
Writing this blog is an eye-opener, as my great-grandpa was fighting in WWII during this time. To this day he still carries a chip on his shoulder towards the Japanese race from the fear and hatred which was instilled in him years ago, but which has never fully subsided. This is an example of the long-lasting effects of racism against the Japanese from this time which is still seen in today’s society. After the Japanese were freed from the internment camps, Americans were still likely to have held on to the hatred and treated them unfairly. The government did however give them some sort of restitution a few years after being released. The Japanese which were interned received money and new houses for what they lost during evacuation.
The fear which the Americans had after the Pearl Harbor attack was justification for the government to place the Japanese in internment camps, as a form of safety for American citizens, although it was truly an act of racism. None of those who were interned deserved to be treated in such a way by fellow citizens, as the majority interned were citizens as well. Their rights were taken from them even though they were not to blame, and some even fought in the war as part of the American military prior to the attack. The Japanese soldiers who were involved in the attack were not directly to blame, since most of them were young and did not choose to fight, rather they were just serving their country.
Although when the Japanese were interned, they chose to follow the ordains with little resistance, their view on being an American citizen would have changed. They would have felt the freedom and rights they were to be given as citizens were merely a concept which could be easily thrown away. (Although as mentioned in earlier discussions in class, quotations should be placed around the word ‘freedom’ in America.) They would have felt they were not truly equal, as they were not treated in the same manner as other citizens during the time. It is saddening how the government, along with American citizens, will treat another human, without proper justification, to those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment, as though they are a danger to society.