The Internment of Japanese Americans


On December 7, 1942 Japan attacked a naval base in Hawaii called Pearl Harbor. After the attack, Japanese Americans were shunned by the United States simply because they were of Japanese ancestry. Over 120,000 United States citizens were imprisoned because they were looked at as a national security risk (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015). Imprisoned because their loyalty to their country was being questioned merely because of their race. Men, women, children, and even United States veterans were part of this internment. Two thirds were legal United States citizen, the rest were denied citizenship but still living in the United States (‘Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).

Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in February of 1942. This order permitted the military to move Japanese Americans to internment camps. They were forced to sell their homes and assets for amounts not nearly close to there worth. There were 10 relocation camps total. Families were given identification numbers and could take only what they could carry (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).

Living conditions at these camps were not the greatest. They were surrounded by barb wired fences and military police. Cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were provided. Very hot summers and very cold winters were part of the dessert environment (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015). No privacy for going to the bathroom or showering had to be so humiliating. It is a disgrace that these innocent people had to endure up to four years of incarceration because of something completely out of their control. For those who were waiting for citizenship, I wonder if that was something they still wanted? Would they want to be part of a country that could turn on their own people just because of their race?

In 1944 the supreme ruled that these people cannot be held against their own will. In 1952 Japanese immigrants were allowed to become United States citizens. $20,000 was granted to 82,000 internees as an apology in 1988. How could any amount of money erase the fact that these people were discriminated against for the way they look? It is amazing that so much can change and yet so much remains the same (“Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” 2015).

“Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 28 Feb. 2015, https://www.nps.gov/manz/learn/historyculture/japanese-americans-at-manzanar.htm

Keene, Jennifer D., et al. Visions of America: A History of the United States. Pearson, 2015.

8 thoughts on “The Internment of Japanese Americans

  1. I am sure the Chinese Americans were also scared, They were people wearing signs that they were Chinese and not Japanese. This time is a scary time for all Americans. I have heard about Pearl Harbor but I didn’t realize the extent it affected all people. I am glad the court ruled it was unjust to hold people against there will, not sure that the $20,000 was really enough. We only get one life and to have to live the way they were forced is not humane. During the times of great hardships I wonder if some that were imprisoned lived a better life.

  2. This is hard to imagine people going along with. To punish an entire race of people who were Americans because of the actions of their country of origin seems so unfair albeit illegal. Of course it’s all based on fear. It makes me thing of people fearing anyone of middle eastern descent after 9-11.

    1. You’re right now a days we couldn’t get away with what we did in WWII. However, given the very clear and present danger of 9-11 its almost shocking that the same thing didn’t happen then.

  3. What fascinates me is the usage of the word “internment” in relation to these camps. It’s not a word that I’ve usually heard outside of this context. Which makes me believe that it was purposeful choice to distinguish them from the Nazi concentration camps. Even though there are definite parallels and that literally by definition, these could be called concentration camps. You can definitely understand why they would make that distinction, as the Nazi camps were much worse. But, at the same time, it’s downplaying the US involvement with what is essentially a very similar tactic from what they Germans did.

  4. I agree with when you said, “No privacy for going to the bathroom or showering had to be so humiliating. It is a disgrace that these innocent people had to endure up to four years of incarceration because of something completely out of their control.” . What an awful time it would be, living in hell on Earth in this time period and to be treated so poorly.

  5. The picture used tells a lot about life today, because we see children of different cultures and origins mixed together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, which just tells you how innocent children really are that they see past complexions of skin-tones and just see everyone as human beings.

  6. A terrible act done by the US. Then to make it even worse, they put the children in these camps as well. Most of the kids were born here in America. Just to think one day they are going to school and then the next thing you know, the government is there taking you to a camp. It is such a sad and disappointing moment in time for our government.

  7. It’s absolutely devastating reading about the Japanese-Americans and what they had to go through! What broke my heart the most was how majority of them didn’t fight back because they genuinely cared and respected the US. What really made me question if the United States did wrong, was the fact they hired a photographer to prove the Japanese-Americans were not in harms way. That made me really wonder what it was actually like behind closed doors. All in all, I see why the United States did this action but I believe there could have been but ways to handle it.

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