Japanese Americans were treated harshly because Americans turned their anger on Japanese Americans for a crime that was committed by the Japanese. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and this action made Americans fear and despise them. America’s fear of an on attack the West Coast of the U.S. caused the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. The internment of Japanese Americans was disgraceful, and in hindsight, unnecessary. But, given the context of a sneak attack against an unsuspecting public, the removal of this group was a component of an overall strategy to win a war against an aggressive Japan.
Still, taking innocent Japanese Americans away from their homes and livelihoods with no compensation is deplorable, especially when many from this same community fought in Europe against the Axis Powers. Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, that is when Americans focused their fears of a Japanese attack on the American west coast upon those Nisei residing in the US; as a result, they were sent to internment camps for the duration of the Pacific War.
It all started on February 19, 1942, after the beginning of World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an Executive Order 9066. The order was to round-up Japanese Americans to move them to one of the 10 internment camps. General DeWitt was the person who advised Franklin D. Roosevelt to round-up Japanese Americans into one of the 10 internment camps. These internment camps were officially called relocation centers. They are located in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. These internment camps were built because among these farmers who competed against Japanese labor and politicians who sided with anti-Japanese constituencies. This caused a frenzy and also heightened by the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor. More than two thirds of Japanese who were interned around spring 1942 were citizens of the United States. In Canada, similar evacuation orders were established. Around 23,000 Nikkei, in other words, Canadians of Japanese descent were sent to camps in British Columbia. All those of Japanese descent were kept together in the United States, but in Canada male evacuees sent to work in road camps or on sugar beet projects. About 2,500 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants were interned in either camps on Oahu or in the mainland internment camps.
The notice boards in certain communities on the western seaboard of the United States were titled “Civilian Exclusion Order.” These bulletins warned all residents of Japanese descent that they were moving out of their homes. Nobody knew where they were going to end up because the notice did not mention where their headed. Those summoned to the control station had to register the names of all family members. After that, they were told to show up at a certain time and place with all the entire family. They could only bring along baggage that was carried by hand for a trip to a destination unknown to the Japanese Americans. All family names were replaced by a number. They lost their identity once these numbers replaced their names. Families had less than 2 weeks to lease their property or sell everything. This is the moment of despair and humiliation for all Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants to experience. Many Japanese American farmers owned land but now they had to give it all away. An acre on a Nisei farm was worth around $279.96 in 1942 but they had so little time to sell so an acre was worth $37.94 in 1942 in three states.
The conditions of the United States internment camps were overcrowded and provided poor living conditions. In 1943, reports published by the War Relocation Authority, the administering agency, Japanese Americans were housed in tarpaper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities. The buildings were poorly equipped for cramped living because these camps were built quickly by civilian contractors during the summer of 1942 based on the designs for military barracks. Coal was hard to come by and people slept under as many blankets as they found. Food was rationed out at an expense of 48 cents per internee and served by fellow internees in a mess hall of 250-300 people. Leadership positions within the camps were offered only to the Nisei, the American-born Japanese. The older generations were called the Issei, born in Japan. The third generation of Japanese American was called Sansei. They were forced to watch as the government promoted their children and ignored them. They only way for the internees to leave the concentration camps were if they enlisted in the United States Army. This offer did not go very well and only 1,200 internees chose to do so. Those who stayed were not given another choice and forced to live in the internment camps. People worked in the camp offices worked for 44-hours a week, and were paid $8 to $16 dollars per month.
Education was provided by the WRA for all school age residents of the relocation centers. The courses were already planned and hired teachers who assisted the state departments of education. Vocational training was provided at the relocation center for communication with the adults. This training was for the evacuees who were able to play a more effective role in agriculture or industry outside the centers. Consumer enterprises were established at the relocation center for internees to purchase goods and services which were not provided by the WRA. Religion was practiced at the relocation centers. Nearly half of the evacuees were Christian.
Some Japanese Americans questioned their American loyalties after the government removed them from their homes and held them in internment camps. Although, there are some Japanese American people who still remained loyal to the United States. About 5,589 internees wished to renounce their U.S. citizenship and 1,327 were sent back to Japan. Issei refused to renounce their only citizenship because when the people were asked to renounce their Japanese citizenship would make them a stateless person. Japanese immigrants migrated before the Europeans, and like the Chinese, were not allowed to become U.S. citizens. Japanese immigrants were Asians classified as “aliens ineligible to citizenships.”
Most internees were evacuated from their West Coast homes on short notice and were not told of their destination. Many people failed to pack appropriate clothing for Wyoming winters which often the temperature reached below zero Fahrenheit. Many families were forced to take the “clothes on their backs.” Armed guards were posted at the camps desolate areas far from the population centers. Internees were allowed to stay with their families and treated well unless they violated the rules. There were guards who shot internees who reportedly attempted to walk outside the fences. Not many camp administrators allowed free movement outside the marked boundaries of the camps. Almost a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States. Some returned to their hometowns in the exclusion zone but under supervision of an American family or agency that was trustworthy.
There were requirements for evacuees to leave a relocation center for either taking a job or establishing normal residence. The first requirement is to check the evacuee’s behavior at the relocation center and other information from the WRA. If there is any evidence that the evacuee would endanger the nation he or she was denied leave. The second requirement was that officials or citizens must have a reasonable reason where the evacuee planned to settle. Only those who had a place to go or any means of support was granted leave. The last requirement was that evacuees must keep WRA informed of any change of job or address.
Japanese Americans were finally free to return to their homes on December 17, 1944. Their homes were marked by the vigilante violence and agitation of pressure group. Most of the internment camps did not close until October 1946. The U.S. government enacted the Civil Liberties Act. The commission on Wartime Relocation and internment of Civilians issued a report declaring that there are no military necessities and recommended a public apology. In that time, about half of the 120,000 internees had passed away. They never got the chance to live and died for something that is not their fault. After the Japanese Americans were released, those who caused them pain did not apologize on the behalf of their actions. The Japanese Americans feel angry because those who caused them pain treat them like nothing.