Japanese-American Internment During WW2

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, many Americans began to mistrust the communities of Japanese individuals who were living in the country, specifically on the West Coast. Their biggest fear was that families and descendents of Japanese militarists would work as spies for or in partnership with the Japanese government to cause further destruction to the United States. Starting in 1942, the U.S. government forced about 110,000 Japanese-Americans from the West Coast into internment camps, which were labelled “War Relocation Camps.” Many of those who were held captive in the camps stayed there until the end of the war in 1945. 

Japanese-Americans were victims of glaring racism throughout the 1940s. Signs in neighborhoods threatening them to keep out and keep away were degrading and embarrassing, as they served as a constant reminder of how the U.S. felt after Pearl Harbor. As a result, President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese ancestry. He made his decision official on February 19, 1942, with the signing of Executive Order 9066, stating that it was done to prevent any acts of spying for the Japanese government on American soil. 

The conditions within the camps were horrible. Located in remote areas of the western part of the country, the food supply was inadequate and many times unlivable, while overcrowding and poor sanitation rendered the camps unfit for human habitation. 

The children who were forcibly relocated were confused about why they had to move away from the only homes they knew. Growing up in the internment camps, young children felt isolated and singled out simply because of their ethnicity. It most certainly felt like a prison to them, and they came to realize as they got older that they had been let down by their country. 

Depending on the source, artistic depictions of what was going on varied from artist to artist. Some painters depicted the harsh weather conditions that the Japanese prisoners had to endure, such as fierce winds and the blazing heat during the desert summers. Others, like Dr. Seuss, drew cartoons which depicted the Japanese as a threat to the country. In one image, he portrayed them as a group who was ready at a moment’s notice to carry out destruction against the United States. 

All in all, it is now widely agreed that the internment of the Japanese-Americans was not justified. They did not pose any credible threat to the country. What’s more, many of them had actually served in the Nisei regiment - a regiment that was composed almost entirely of second-generation Japanese Americans - and had fought to protect America.  

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