The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor: Japanese-American Internment


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

10 thoughts on “The Aftermath of Pearl Harbor: Japanese-American Internment

  1. Something that I consider very important when it comes to the bombing of Pearl Harbor is the fact that we dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima and one on Nagasaki. We dropped the world’s first deployed atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and immediately killed 80,000 people. I am not trying to say that the 2403 people that died at Pearl Harbor didn’t matter, but rather that we responded to Japan’s attack in a much bigger way. Three days after the Hiroshima attack, we bombed Nagasaki, killing 40,000 people. Many people died in the following days due to radiation exposure. Those who survived were left with increased cancer rates. I know that the blog topic for this week didn’t instruct anyone to talk about this, but I believe it is very important when it comes to talking about the internment of Japanese Americans. After World War II ended and the internment camps closed, 4,724 Japanese Americans were permanently relocated to Japan, where two cities were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of people were killed either by the initial bombing, or the radiation exposure.

  2. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, anyone in America who was of Japanese descendants was safe, like you said not even children. I think that it is heartbreaking that thousands of innocent people were forced from their homes and everyday lives for something they had been wrongfully accused. I feel that FDR ordered the officials to forces Japanese-Americans into internment camps was what he thought was best for the country at the time. Alike what Prof. French had said that FDR and Hitler had many similarities, after thinking on the way America had segregated the Japanese-Americans into specific camps against their will, with very little and under armed supervision. It wasn’t all that different I think from the way Hitler forced all of the Jewish people into concentration camps because he thought that he was protecting “his people”, granted that Hitler went to the extent of working the Jewish people to death and killing them for no reason, he did take it is completely out of context. But for the sort time of the internment camps were in America, I feel like it was for the basic same purpose because the leaders wanted to protect their country. One big difference in what I just said is that FDR and the government realized that they were in the wrong in putting the Japanese-Americans into those camps a few years later and they had tried to make up to the people for what they had done.

  3. I believe the government did what they thought was best for the American people. The major flaw in this is that they punished Americans to do it! Japanese Americans were citizens just as everyone else was. Punishing one group of Americans to please another should not be the way to govern!

    1. They had good intentions to protect the American populace but had terrible execution by punishing an entire ethnicity to do so. They were still American citizens but were pushed aside and punished for what their homeland was. I agree with you that punishing one group of Americans to please another is not the right thing for a government to do.

      1. I agree with this thread of thought processes, it is not right to put a group of people in internment camps due to the actions of the people of their decent. Our society has taken this kind of action into many situations, reacting to the acts of few and punishing the whole. This thought process is something that immediately and over time creates a bias towards a people group. Luckily we recognized that not all Japanese were trying to fight our government, we realized that the Japanese Americans who were placed in these camps were not a threat to America, because they were indeed Americans themselves.

        1. I also agree with this. It is very sad that America was so scared of another attack that they had to separate a race from the rest of society even if they were an American citizen. I understand their reasoning but this left the Japanese Americans with nothing once they were released from the camps.

  4. We as a country should’ve found other ways to handle this situation. We took an entire race and saw them as our enemy and treated them as so. Innocent people who did nothing wrong forced to go to internment camps as basically prisoners isn’t how we should have prepared after Pearl Harbor.

  5. I like that you put exactly what Island it happen on. It is so wrong that they had to experience this. No one should have to go through what they did to them. They moved her to hope to have better life and it turned out the completed opposite.

  6. I agree we, as a nation, should’ve found alternatives to this situation. I don’t believe anyone deserves to go through that much torture and pain, especially if they are innocent. I agree some weren’t innocent, if not most of them but many were; we shouldn’t isolate an entire race and punish them for the actions of a few. Overall, well-organized blog, I enjoyed reading it.

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