Political Science Japanese Internment Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

internment camps for the Japanese that were set up and implemented by president Franklin D. Roosevelt. The writer explores the history leading up to the decision and the decision itself. There were six sources used to complete this paper.

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor the American public was outraged and stunned. American citizens had lived with a false sense of security for many years that the soil of the United States was off limits. The Civil War and the American Revolution were long in the past and residents believed that the world at large would be to afraid to attack a nation as strong and powerful as the United States. The attack came without warning, killing thousands who were within its grasp. When the smoke had cleared and the bombs had stopped, the nation turned a fearful eye to the white house for guidance. At the time the president was Franklin D. Roosevelt. His administration made a decision that rocked the nation and has been debated since that time. The internment of Japanese-Americans was drastic and shocking, but supported by the majority of non-Japanese-Americans. It was a decision that left a bruise on the psyche of the nation ever since. At the time the administration did not feel that it had any other choice but to intern residents who lived in certain geographic areas of the country. Today, looking back on what must have been mass exodus and terror for thousands of innocent Japanese-Americans, it is difficult to imagine how such a plan garnered support. To understand how it happened one must look at the events prior to the plan's inception.


The order itself was strong and created an image of foreboding. Signed into law by then President FDR it allowed for the rounding up and encamping many thousand people who had committed no crime other than to have Japanese ancestry (9066 http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pbs.org%2Fchildofcamp%2Fhistory%2Feo9066.html).

The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded there from, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order (9066 http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.pbs.org%2Fchildofcamp%2Fhistory%2Feo9066.html)."

The order allowed 110,000 Japanese-Americans to be forcibly removed form their homes and schools and transported to camps that were set up by the United States government. The American government had already gathered evidence that the residents being interned did not pose an actual threat to the U.S.(Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org).The question since then has been, why was it done? There are heated debates in the issue in many circles. FDR's decision came on the heels of American panic and military pressure. To fully understand why he signed such an order one must first understand what happened immediately prior to the order being drafted (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org).

Despite the government's own evidence that Japanese-Americans posed no military threat, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal and incarceration of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans. Two-thirds were American citizens. Over half were children (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)."

The Japanese had not been well received in America to begin with. Laws were passed in the early 1900's to deny them the right to marry outside of their race, become citizens or buy land in certain areas. In 1924 the country stopped all migration from Japan to the United States (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org).

By September 1939, Europe was embroiled in World War II. The U.S. remained nominally neutral, although sympathetic to the Allies led by England and France (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)."

When the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan occurred Americans were shocked. The president was turned to for answers and as many presidents have done he turned to cabinet and military advisors for answers.

The initial fear came from rumors that Japanese residents of Hawaii and the West coast had been committing sabotage and espionage. The FBI investigated this immediately and found that the rumors were not true.

There was not one instance of sabotage or espionage by Japanese-American citizens or residents of the U.S. before or during the war. Nevertheless, the government did not deny the rumors of sabotage (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)."

Within hours of the news from Hawaii, FBI agents, many without evidence, search or arrest warrants, conducted house to house roundups of 1,212 Issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants) in Hawaii and the mainland (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org).They were prominent leaders in the Japanese-American communities: priests, teachers in language schools, officers of community organizations, and newspaper editors. Often they were arrested in the middle of the night, taken to unknown destinations, and treated as prisoners of war (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)."

Within days of the attack on Pearl Harbor the round ups began. Within months of that there were restrictions placed on travel to those who were not interned and they were not allowed to possess items that the government called contraband.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 (view full text), authorizing the Army to "designate military areas" from which "any persons may be excluded (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)." The words "Japanese,"or "Japanese-Americans" never appeared in the Order. But the intent of the command was used only against persons of Japanese ancestry. Italian-Americans and German-Americans, whose ancestral countries were also at war with the Allies, were to be exempted (Japanese camps (http://history1900s.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.jainternment.org)."

The camps were established in Washington, Oregon, California and Southern Arizona. There were also several in Montana. The decision that drove this action was founded in pressure by the military for the president to do it. http://www.lib.utah.edu/spc/photo/9066/t10.htm


For many decades political debates have centered on the FDR decision to intern Japanese-Americans and what lead up to that decision. In basic form there were two key players who helped the decision come to fruition. In addition it has long since been rumored that FDR harbored a deep seated and long standing prejudice against the Japanese and that racist mindset made it easy to convince him that internment camps were a plausible idea.

The push to intern the Japanese-Americans did not come from local politicians. Instead the push came from several well placed and important military leaders. West coast anger at the Japanese was developed and grown until it became a federally mandated movement (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp).

The military and the political sides were so opposed to each other's view point that it created historic tension between the Department of Justice and the United States Army. The two could not agree on a course of action for what was deemed the "West coast Japanese problem" (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp).

Whereas the DOJ was content to leave people of Japanese descent on the West Coast undisturbed and advocated only a moderate crackdown on alien activity, the Army pressed for mass removal and incarceration (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp)." http://www.lib.utah.edu/spc/photo/9066/t12.htm

The Attorney General who was involved directly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, General Francis Biddle, moved quickly to squash any local fears of the Japanese. He ordered the immediate rounding up of what he believed were "dangerous enemies" (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp).How he got the names of these people is often a mystery but the initial round up included thousands of Japanese-Americans and their family members.

These issei were mostly leaders of various Japanese organizations and Japanese religious groups, which the government perceived as potential threats to national security (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp)."

At this time there were two important military figures who played a key role in the internment camp decision that was eventually made. The first one was "Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Command (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp)." DeWitt believed that a mass removal of Japanese-Americans and the provision of their incarceration throughout the west coast in military camps was going to prevent any more Pearl Harbors from occurring. It was the belief of Dewitt that another attack was in the making but this one would come to the mainland of the United States. He also believed that it would be aimed at the west coast, though he did not know exactly what city, area, or state that it would occur in. He was a supporter of rounding up all Japanese-Americans in that region and placing them and their families in the camps that were being run by the United States military members (Early Implementation of the Mass Removal (http://www.densho.org/learning/spice/default.asp).

The second key figure in the push for FDR to sign an order in support of such internment camps was Provost Marshal General Allen W. Gullio. He was considered one of the top military police officers in the nation at the time. He was largely responsible for making sure there was peace and order in the military areas of the nation, which included the military camps that the Japanese were being brought to.


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