The decision to imprison Japanese Americans was a popular one in 1942. It was supported not only by the government, but it was also called for by the press and the people. In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, Japan was the enemy. Many Americans believed that people of Japanese Ancestry were potential spies and saboteurs, intent on helping their mother country to win World War II. "The Japanese race is an enemy race," General John DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command wrote in February 1942. "And while many second and third generation Japanese born in the United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become Americanized,' the racial strains are undiluted" (quoted in Smith, 1995: 83). On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066. The Order declared that "the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense material, national defense premises, and national defense utilities." In pursuit of this goal, the Secretary of War, or the military commander whom he might designate, was authorized "to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he
may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary
or the Military Commander may impose in his discretion." The Secretary was also authorized "to provide for residents of any such areas who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary
until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order" (see Appendix 1). Though the Order seems to be in violation of the Constitution at the time, the Supreme Court upheld it because of "military necessity." "There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some [Japanese Americans], the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight now say that at that time these actions were unjustified," stated Justice Hugo Black on December 18, 1944 (quoted in Irons, 1989: 83). The War Department oversaw the removal of people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast based upon wartime military necessity. Shortly after the passage of Executive Order 9066, General DeWitt issued Public Proclamation 1, which created Military Areas 1 and 2. Military Area 1 covered the western portion of Washington, Oregon, California, and the southern half of Arizona. Military Area 2 consisted of portions of all those states that were not in Area 1. In these areas, all enemy aliens included Japanese, German, and Italian aliens as well as American citizens of Japanese decent. The government moved to take full control of an evacuation and relocation program. The Wartime Civil Control Authority (WCCA) was created as a part of the Western Defense Command to oversee the evacuation and relocation program. From the very beginning, the evacuation and relation program was orchestrated by the military to justify their need for national security. Although all enemy aliens were said to be suspect, it was the Japanese, both alien and citizen, who were singled out for removal (Ng, 2002: 21-22). Among the Japanese American community, DeWitt's announcement was met with disbelief. The orders were seen as a betrayal and a violation of rights, particularly by the Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans. They had been model citizens and had given the government no reason to believe that they would take part in sabotage or undercover activities, the injustice of the situation infuriating. Saburo Kido, the president of the JACL, stated, "Never in the thousands of years of human history has a group of citizens been branded on so wholesale a scale as being treacherous to the land in which they live. We question the motives and...
Cited: Davis, Daniel S. Behind Barbed Wire. New York, NY: E. P. Dutton, Inc., 1982.
Girdner and Loftis, The Great Betrayal, 148.
Irons, Peter, ed., Justice Delayed: The Record of the Japanese American Internment Cases. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1989, 83.
Ng, Wendy. Japanese American Internment during World War II: A History and Refernce Guide. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.
Smith, Page. Democracy on Trial. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995, 124.
Stanley, Jerry. I Am An American: A True Story of Japanese Interment. New York, NY: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1994.
tenBroek, Jacobus, Edward N. Barnhart, and Floyd W. Matson. Prejudice, War, and the Constitution. Berkeley and Lost Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1954.
Thomas, Dorothy Swaine, and Richard S. Nishimoto. The Spoilage. Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 1946, 27.
Yancey, Diane. The Internment of the Japanese. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 2001.
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