Yet, these were small amenities that did not mask the horrible conditions of the camps very well.
Most of those within the camps were American citizens, and should not have had their liberties taken away with such blatant disregard for upholding American principles of freedom. Many Japanese-Americans, who were born in the U.S., paid taxes, and even bought war bonds, were treated like criminals during the relocation, "The Japanese-Americans suffered severe economic losses, personal humiliation and, in some cases, death, due to this relocation."
They were fingerprinted and arrested, forced to suffer humiliation, and not told an exact reason why for over forty-five years.
There had been extreme prejudice on the West Coast since as early as 1936.
Therefore, many Japanese-Americans felt as if though they were being placed in a position of second class citizenship. Many had their lives completely stolen from them, "These people were forced to abandon their businesses, their homes and, in many cases, their families as some individuals were taken elsewhere and held, again without trial, for years."
Thus, most individuals within the camps suffered serious economic losses on top of the personal abuses. Many homes were sold for a fraction of their worth based on the immediate need to leave. Small businesses and professional careers of individuals interned fell apart. According to personal accounts, "Not only did many suffer major losses during evacuation, but their economic circumstances deteriorated further while they were in camp."
To make matters worse, many of the economic effects of being relocated followed the interned Japanese-Americans for years after their experiences in the camps. According to both research and personal accounts, "The years of exclusion were frequently punctuated by financial troubles: trying to look after property without being on the scene when difficulties arose; lacking a source of income to meet tax, mortgage and insurance payments."
Unable to prove income for almost six years provided difficulties in terms of taxes, loans, and employment. Returning to their former homes was bitter sweet. Many were forced to give up their property, and so had little to return to. It was a crippling effect on many Japanese-Americans for years after their experiences within the internment camps had ended. In response to the unfair actions which had long-lasting negative ramifications, many within the U.S. began calling for reparations, or at least recognition of the actions as being wrong. And so "the United States, which rarely apologizes for anything, in 1988 apologized and offered payment to surviving internees."
This was an important move, for it showed that the U.S. government acknowledged it had acted wrongly based on the influence of the massive wartime hysteria that was rampant at the time.
Oddly enough, Hawaii which had the largest population of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-American citizens, was relatively unaffected by the massive relocations of Japanese-Americans on the mainland. Although the largest concentration of Japanese-Americans was found in Hawaii, there was not the same massive relocation as seen on the mainland United States; "What is extremely interesting is that the Nisei and Issei living in Hawaii were not subject to a mass evacuation even though they formed a third of the population in Hawaii and were a lot closer to Japan than the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast of the U.S."
There are several key reasons for this fact. First, the American government realized that it would not have been economically feasible on their part to relocate so many people from an isolated island into the interior of the country. This was simply too costly and impractical; "It would have been impossible to transport that many people to the mainland, and the Hawaiian economy would have collapsed without Japanese-American workers."
Such travel would have actually cost more American resources than a possibility of an attack. The second major reason for this was the U.S. government's resistance to completely uprooting such a massive portion of the Hawaiian population. Removing all Japanese-Americans would have meant debilitating the Hawaiian economy. It would have been a serious impact on the daily life and events within the state. Thus, only some of the Japanese-Americans living on the islands were actually removed from their homes and relocated. According to research, "An estimated 1,250 Japanese-Americans were detained in Hawaii during the war."
This is a mere fraction of the actual number of Japanese Americas living in Hawaii. Most of those relocated did not go into the mainland deserts, as those who lived on the mainland West Coast did. Instead, they were held in such camps as Sand Island.
At the end of the many years of forced isolation, Japanese-Americans were allowed to return back to their homes. Yet, many struggled with the after-effects of the relocation and internment for many years to come. Although it was thought to have been justified at the time, it was clear that the relocation and internment of so many America citizens was a dark stain on the history of the United States.
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