Internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseBy 1939, the United States and Japan were already on bad terms largely due to political tensions of Japan's aggression against China. Starting in 1939, United States Department of Justice's domestic intelligence arm, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), began to compile statistics (Custodial Detention Index, "CDI") on those who were in the United States with ethnic connections with Japan, Germany, and Italy. On 28 Jun 1940, the Alien Registration Act was passed, requiring all aliens above the age of 14 to be fingerprinted and requiring the report of new residency within five days of a move.
ww2dbaseOn the domestic front, the 127,000 Japanese-Americans living on the west coast of the United States in 1941, 80,000 of whom were American citizens, had been subjected to prejudice since the early 20th century. People of East Asian ancestry were not allowed to marry Caucasians, while Japanese students were segregated from Caucasian students. In 1924, an act was even passed to block Japanese who were born in Japan from being naturalized as citizens. Those were but few of the many examples of bias Japanese-Americans faced during the years leading up to the United States participation in WW2.
ww2dbaseWhen the United States was drawn into the Pacific War began in Dec 1941 with the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor, the Philippine Islands, Guam, and other American bases and territory in the Pacific, some Americans were quick to suspect ill-intent from Japanese-Americans. US Army Lieutenant General John DeWitt, commanding officer of the Western Command, suggested an operation against suspected Japanese-Americans to seize any communications equipment which might be used to relay information to Japanese naval units. The Department of Justice struck down the notion, noting that seeking a warrant without well-founded cause was illegal. DeWitt's notion, however, was supported by many who lived in the state of California; California Attorney General Earl Warren, for example, actively lobbied the federal government to forcibly migrate Japanese-Americans from the west coast to the central regions of the nation to prevent potential acts of espionage. Nevertheless, by this time, Presidential Proclamations had already declared those of Japanese, German, and Italian descent "enemy aliens", and various restrictions were placed upon them.
ww2dbaseOn 19 Feb 1942, US President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed military commanders to designate "military areas" in the United States at their discretion; DeWitt established Military Area No. 1, covering nearly the entire west coast of the United States, and on 2 Mar 1942 announced that all Japanese-Americans might be subjected to exclusion orders allowed by Executive Order 9066. On 11 Mar, Executive Order 9095 was issued to create the Office of the Alien Property Custodian, which had authority over all property of enemy aliens, including the power to freeze financial assets. On 24 Mar, DeWitt declared that every night between 2000 hours and 0600 hours in the following morning, a curfew would be in effect for "all enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry" in certain areas of Military Area No. 1. Three days later, he prohibited Japanese-Americans from moving outside of Military Area No. 1. On 3 May, DeWitt ordered all persons of Japanese ancestry to report to designated assembly areas, where they would wait until being transferred to permanent relocation centers. DeWitt's definition of Japanese ancestry was fairly wide, thus those with more than one-eighth Japanese ancestry and Korean-Americans (since Korea was Japanese territory at the time) were ordered to assemble as well. This order was popular among Caucasian land owners in California, for it was a quick way to eliminate competition in the agricultural field. Austin Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942 that
ww2dbaseColumnist Henry McLemore wrote around this time in support of the forced relocation of Japanese-Americans, at the same time reflecting his prejudice:
ww2dbaseDeWitt repeatedly told newspapers that "A Jap's a Jap". He later testified to the United States Congress that
ww2dbaseDespite these sentiments, prejudice against the Japanese were not total. Director of the FBI J. Edgar Hoover, for example, argued that DeWitt's suspicion, which fueled the forced relocation, was groundless. Many high ranking personnel in military intelligence also noted that there were no concrete evidence for espionage that warranted mass relocation. Among the politicians who voiced against the prejudice against Japanese-Americans was the governor of Colorado Ralph Lawrence Carr, who went as far as publicly apologizing for the internment during the war.
ww2dbaseThough not officially known as so, the relocation program would later come to be known as the "Japanese-American Internment". Three separate government entities housed persons of Japanese ancestry in the United States. The Department of Justice operated 27 Interment Camps which housed over 10,000 non-citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry. The Internment Camps were guarded by Border Patrol agents. Some of the Japanese in the camp were from South America; they were brought into the US by force from places such as Peru.
ww2dbaseThe Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) operated 10 Assembly Centers beginning in Mar 1942 with the original intention of temporarily housing Japanese-Americans until they were assigned to permanent Relocation Camps, which were run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Many of the WCCA and WRA locations were also, incorrectly, referred to as Internment Camps.
ww2dbaseThe WCCA and WRA facilities were generally spartan, built so that they were just meeting international laws, many without plumbing or cooking facilities. At first, the camps were tightly guarded, but later on rules were relaxed greatly, allowing free movement for internees outside the camp for work. Some of the centers were located on Native American reservations, and the Native Americans were compensated for the land use. Those who were interned were generally cooperative, largely due to traditional Japanese mentality which encouraged them to obey the government and act for the good of the collective. 20,000 Japanese-Americans even joined the US military to fight, many on the front lines, but there were some who resisted the government, including few who renounced their American citizenships in spite of their treatment.
ww2dbaseIn the American territory of Hawaii, 35% of the population was of Japanese descent, thus logistically it was impossible to intern them; only about 1,200 to 1,800 of the 150,000 Japanese-Americans in Hawaii were interned. With the territory operating under martial law, threat of espionage was considered low. The two Hawaiian Island Detention Camps were operated by the military.
ww2dbaseIn total, between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in the United States were forcibly relocated from their homes during WW2. 62% of them were citizens of the United States.
ww2dbaseIn Dec 1944, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the internment of American citizens unconstitutional, though the exclusion process was found to be legal. On 2 Jan 1945, the exclusion order was rescinded, and the internees began to leave the camps to rebuild their lives, although the camps remained open through 1946 for those who were not ready to move out. The formerly interned were given $25 and a train ticket to their home towns; a small number of them emigrated to Japan after the war. Many of them returned to find evidence of theft and vandalism to their homes and even their personal properties kept in government warehouses.
ww2dbaseOn 2 Jul 1948, the US Congress passed American Japanese Claims Act which allowed Japanese-Americans to apply for compensation for property losses caused by the internment or exclusion, but by that time, the Internal Revenue Service had already destroyed the tax records of 1939 to 1942, thus making the claim process difficult; only about $37 million were approved under this act. In 1976, US President Gerald Ford noted that the Japanese-American internment was "wrong". In 1978, the Japanese American Citizens League began a campaign seeking compensation and formal apology. In 1980, the Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), which on 24 Feb 1983 reported the internment as "unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity". In 1988, US President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which provided redress of $20,000 for each surviving internee or heir. On 27 Sep 1992, the Civil Liberties Act Amendments appropriated an additional $400 million to ensure all surviving internees and their heirs would receive their $20,000 share of the compensation; this was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, who also issued another formal apology. In all, 82,210 Japanese-Americans received the $20,000 compensation. In total, $1.6 billion were given out, with last payment made in 1999.
ww2dbaseSimilar to the United States, there were suspicion of people of Japanese ancestry living in Canada at the time the Pacific War began, particularly in the western province of British Columbia. Accusations of Japanese fisherman charting Canadian coastlines for the Japanese Navy existed, though the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canadian military regarded that notion groundless. Like the United States, prejudice that had existed in society surfaced quickly after the war began; many employers such as the Canadian Pacific Railway fired Japanese-Canadian workers, and properties owned or operated by Japanese-Canadians such as the Steveston Buddhist Temple were vandalized. In Jan 1942, the Canadian government issued the order that all people of Japanese descent between the age of 18 and 45 who lived within 100 miles of the Pacific coast were to be moved to camps in the interior; in early Mar 1942, all of them were ordered to move outside of the protection area, and on top of that order a daytime-only curfew was enacted. 21,500 Japanese-Canadians, most of whom were Canadian citizens, were relocated.
ww2dbaseIan Mackenzie, a Canadian Minister of Parliament, was quoted in saying:
ww2dbaseTreatment for the Japanese-Canadians were at times harsher than their counterparts in the United States, with reports of some being housed in animal stalls at Hastings Park, Vancouver for months while awaiting relocation, as well as reports of families being separated. At a small number of camps conditions were poor enough that the Red Cross delivered food to those camps to ensure the internees had enough to eat. Like Japanese-Americans, Japanese-Canadian internees were also later allowed to leave the camp with permission, though few opted to leave since they were not allowed to work or attend school outside the camps; additionally, many Japanese-Canadians' had their personal properties confiscated, thus they would have nowhere to go. In 1943, the Canadian agency that oversaw confiscated properties began to auction off the properties without permission of the owners. The money raised were paid to the operators of the camps; the justification was that the internees had to pay for food, housing, and other living expenses.
ww2dbaseAfter WW2, 4,000 internees were deported to Japan, though the deportation was stopped in 1947 due to public protest. Most of the other internees were once again relocated east of the Rocky Mountains. The Japanese-Canadian internees were finally freed on 1 Apr 1949. Many of them opted not to return to British Columbia, choosing to settle in the eastern provinces such as Ontario and Québec instead.
ww2dbaseIn 1950, the Bird Commission awarded $1.3 million to 1,434 Japanese-Canadians for property damages, but it refused to compensate for civil rights violations and other non-monetary items. On 22 Sep 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney formally apologized for the internment, promising $21,000 to each of the surviving former internees as well as Canadian citizenship to those who were deported. He also provided $12 million to the National Association of Japanese Canadians to promote human rights and to support the Japanese-Canadian community, as well as $24 million to establish the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
Last Major Update: Sep 2009
Internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians Interactive Map
Internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Canadians Timeline
|19 Feb 1942||US President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, allowing the US military to relocate Japanese-Americans to internment camps.|
|26 Feb 1942||The US Federal Bureau of Investigation began to relocate Japanese-American civilians living in East San Pedro, Los Angeles, California, United States.|
|1 Mar 1942||The US authorities rounded up 112,000 Americans of Japanese descent and moved them to inland camps well away from the Pacific coast.|
|2 Mar 1942||US Army General John L. DeWitt, responsible for the defense of the west coast of the United States, issued Public Proclamation No. 1 to create Military Areas 1 and 2 which covered the entire length of the coast.|
|12 Mar 1942||In the United States, The Portland Branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank Evacuee Property Department was established in response to President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066. The branch was to assist Japanese-Americans in disposing property holdings and to protect against fraud, forced sales, and unscrupulous creditors.|
|18 Mar 1942||US President Roosevelt signed an Executive Order for the establishment of the War Relocation Authority, which led to the internment of Japanese-Americans during WW2.|
|7 Apr 1942||Japanese-Americans began to be relocated from the coastal defense zones in western United States. The American state of Colorado agreed to accept voluntary relocation of enemy aliens; it was the only western state to do so.|
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Winston Churchill, 1935