In December of 1941, a bombing occurred at Pearl Harbor, a naval station on Oahu island of Hawaii. A fleet of Japanese pilots secretly approached the station and launched a massive attack on the Morning of December 7th causing American warships to be enveloped in flames. This complete devastation caused an uproar with American citizens and brought about mistrust towards anyone of Japanese descent. The events that occurred on that day have become referred to simply as “Pearl Harbor” and were the cause of great struggle that would soon wash over the Japanese-American community.
Shortly after Pearl Harbor anxiety started to brew within American people, many were afraid that those of Japanese descent on the West Coast were actually enemy agents. Soon the mere presence of these people near military bases or ports was viewed as a danger to national security. With this newfound “threat” head of the Western Defense Command, General John L. Dewitt closed off the entire West Coast to those of Japanese descent and declared it a military zone. Dewitt soon made everyone Japanese evacuate the area. Not even orphanages were safe as they had to evacuate Japanese-American infants and children as well.
All these events led to what was known as Internment Camps. Once March 1942 rolled around the War Relocation Authority was created by Roosevelt. This Authority was created to oversee the forced removal of Japanese-Americans and Immigrants, around 110,000 Japanese people were removed overall. After these people were removed they were forced into internment camps where they were held under armed guard. Japanese people were only given a few days to gather whatever items they could carry and sell the rest before being taken to these camps. One of the Japanese-Americans made the following statement, “It is difficult to describe the feeling of despair and humiliation experienced by all of us, as we watched the Caucasians coming to look over our possessions and offering such nominal amounts knowing we had no recourse but to accept whatever they were offering.” (Section 23.2.2 of the book).
I believe that these events caused Japanese-Americans to feel very ostracized and isolated by their own people I imagine that they did not truly feel like they were seen as citizens if people from their home could treat them this way. If I were in the same position I imagine I would feel angry. If I could be locked up for something that I did not do then I would feel like there is no real justice in the world. Being forced into these camps could probably even cause one to resent their own country.
Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: a History of the United States. Pearson, 2017