Long before the opposing sides were established during World War II, Asian immigrants and Americans of Asian descent were subject to harsh criticism and segregation in the US. Though, when the war began, Life and Time Magazines believed it was crucial for Americans to be able to tell the difference between a “Chinese and a Jap.” The Chinese Embassy helped Americans to distinguish the differences by photos and characteristics. From the stories told by surviving soldiers’ of the Bataan Death March, the treatment from the Japanese was unlike anything they’re ever seen or experienced. “They were subhuman.” These horrors were enough to sustain hatred for the Japanese; however following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the hatred for Japan became indispensable.
After the attack, “rumors circulated that Japanese-American farmers on Hawaii had plowed arrows on their fields to show Japanese pilots the way to military installations.” This speculation was never proven and although there were several suggestions on the removal of Japanese residents from Hawaii, it was decided that with 1/3 of the population at risk for relocation, the local economy would fail. No more than a day after the brutal attack, air raid sirens went off in San Francisco and a Japanese submarine torpedoed an American ship off the coast of California. Following this second attack, an executive order signed by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, permitted the military to declare certain locations off limits to any and all persons in fear of another threat to national security. John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, ordered that “all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien” be evacuated from the entire West Coast. States included California, Oregon, and Washington. The next month, President Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority. 38,000 Japanese immigrants and 72,000 Japanese-American citizens were forced into internment camps where they would be held against their will until further notice. Internees had no choice but to sell their belongings and give up their houses and businesses not knowing when they would be able to return. Most obeyed peacefully while others protested it was against their Civil Rights.
The Office of War Information hired Dorothea Lange, a well-known photographer to document the treatment of these internees to prove that the decision to hold these citizens was not based on punishment for their descent, but primarily to prevent any other attacks and ensure the safety of the United States. In January 1943, American born Japanese children (Nisei men) were recruited by the army to unite with the other Japanese Americans in Hawaii to form the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They fought overseas in Europe, proving their loyalty to the US and ultimately becoming the “most decorated American unit in the nation’s history.” In 1945 when the war began its journey to an end, the government decided there was no longer a need to hold the internees as suspects and allowed them to return to their home states.
The importance of the Japanese-American Internment camps was not to seek revenge on Japan by detaining Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens, but to maintain national security. I can only speak on what I have learned/read, but I think the reason why so many internees complied with these orders and remained loyal to the US was because they trusted the intentions of our government. Although our country was at war with Japan, we remained humane and did not participate in the cruel treatment that other countries were conducting on our own POW’s.