The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Due to the attack, society was afraid that all Japanese and Japanese Americans were a threat if they were near any military bases. This caused Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to sign an Executive Order 9066. This order permitted the military to declare certain areas off-limits. General John L. DeWitt, who was the head of the Western Defense Command, declared the entire West Coat a military zone which was closed to all persons of Japanese ancestry.
With the entire West Coast being closed to all Japanese ancestry, would cause 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans to be forced to leave their homes and had only days to decide what to do with their homes and possessions. Majority of their belongings being left behind, or sold. They were only allowed to take what they could carry. The War Relocation Authority, which was created from Roosevelt, oversaw the removal of 38,000 Japanese immigrants and 72,000 Japanese American citizens. Each family was assigned an identification number and were loaded into cars, buses and trains to internment camps where they were incarcerated for up to 4 years.
Internment living conditions were harsh. Japanese Americans died in internment camps due to lack of medical care and emotional distress. The housing sections were surrounded by wires and guard towers that were monitored by the military. 200-400 people would be living in each block that consisted of 14 barracks that were divided into four rooms. Men and women shared toilets, showers, laundry rooms, and a mess hall. “Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.” (National Park Service). Temperatures would get as high as 110 degrees in the summer, and below freezing in the winter.
I can honestly say that the incarceration of law-abiding, American Citizens is unfathomable. Two thirds of Japanese Americans were citizens by birth, even Japanese American veterans from World War I were forced to leave their homes, their belongings, and taken to these horrible camps. You can fight for America, but when American’s feel threatened by you, you become the enemy, regardless of any substantial proof. This is a part of history that influences Japanese Americans to speak out when different races are being targeted. “When threatened, we can easily discard our democratic ideals of justice and equality to chase after imaginary enemies. Furthermore, false rumors—sensationalized and given credence by a profit-maximizing media or vote-seeking politicians—can overwhelm and contradict research and evidence-based analysis.” (Densho).
Keene, Jennifer D., Visions of America: A History of the United States, Vol 2, 3e, Pearson, 2017.
“Why Does This Matter Now?” DENSHO. 2017. http://densho.org/why-does-this-matter-now/. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.
“Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Park Service. 2015. https://www.nps.gov/manz/learn/historyculture/japanese-americans-at-manzanar.htm. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.