Enemies in Their Own Homes

Enemies in Their Own Homes

Austin Parrish

“I am the grandson of immigrants from Japan who went to America. Boldly going to a strange new world, seeking new opportunities.”  George Takei, a famous Japanese American actor who is proud of his heritage is also proud to be an American citizen.  Just as his grandparents came to the United States, so did many other Japanese people.  They came to seek opportunities and create a new life for themselves. They wanted to live the American dream, and all was well until the day that will live in infamy, flipped the lives of the Japanese Americans.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor the United States felt that the only things that they could do to prevent further attacks on the United States was to round up the Japanese Americans and put them into internment camps all over the country.  This was heavily backed up by powerful figures in government such as the President and the Secretary of War.  There were those who opposed the idea but the overwhelming push for the Japanese Americans to be put into the internment camps drowned out the opposition.  Japanese Americans became an important part of the economy in a few different states and by removing them all so rapidly it would be extremely detrimental to American’s society.  This paper will argue that it did more harm to the United States socially and economically to put the Japanese Americans into the internment camps.  It cost the United States a lot of money to set up the camps, round up all the Japanese Americans and keep them there for a couple of years.  Socially it was detrimental to the Japanese Americans after they returned home from the Internment camps as they lost everything upon returning home.  The United States felt that they were making the right decision and wanted to make the public feel safe.   To keep the citizens at peace of mind they made the decision to put them in the camps even though it would cost the United States.  Even though the Japanese attacked the United States directly it did not mean that all the Japanese people living in the United States were spies for Japan or had mal intent.

Japanese immigration to the United States started around the 1900s and when they first arrived in the United States their economic status was on par with that of African Americans.  There were many restrictions set on Japanese immigrants, making it difficult for them to be economically successful.  They were not allowed to own any farm land or even lease it in a few different states.  However, according to historian Masao Suzuki, due to their culture and solidarity they were able to be more successful and some considered them an “ideal minority”. In the eyes of the American people the ideal minority was what they were looking for in the immigrants that were coming into the United States.   The idea of “ideal minority” meant that they were helpful to society in that they were able to keep jobs and work hard as well.  The Jewish people were also considered ideal minorities because they shared a similar work ethic because of their culture and the society that they lived in.  However, the neighbors to the Japanese, the Chinese were very hard workers but due to their lifestyle in China most of them were looked down upon and would not fit into American culture as easily as the Japanese did.

Immigrants coming into the United States were usually coming for one reason to work.  In the short time between 1900 and 1940 about 90% of the Japanese population that had come to the United States were working in jobs.  Many of those jobs were unskilled, which included things such as farming, railroad work, mining, and domestic servants.  There was also a small 2% of Japanese Americans that were professionals or proprietors and that only continued to increase and eventually by the 1940s it went up to 18%, the highest of all minorities.  The Japanese were a crucial part of the economy in some states.  Even though they were very productive and contributed to society they were still looked down upon in the eyes of white Americans and were still not seen as equals to the other white minorities.  However, on the day that will live in infamy, December 7th 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor everything changed for the Japanese Americans and their lives were turned upside down.  The view of the Japanese people drastically shifted and led the United States to take immediate action.  Franklin D. Roosevelt the 32nd President of the United States created the Executive Order 9006 which resulted in the internment of the Japanese Americans.  This further alienated the Japanese Americans in the eyes of the American people.  Which had a very negative social impact on the Japanese Americans as well as problems for civil rights in the United States.

The attack on Pearl Harbor stunned Americans and President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a speech December 7th 1941 in response to the attack on Hawaii.  Roosevelt stated “YESTERDAY, December 7th, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” There was civil unrest among the people of the United States as they were scared of the uncertainty that lay ahead of them.  The main reason behind the President creating the Executive Order 9066 was to protect from any form of espionage, to do this he gave power to the Secretary of War.   He was given the power to evacuate the Japanese Americans from their homes and bring them into military controlled camps.  The Japanese Americans were uprooted from their homes and were only allowed to bring with them what they could carry.  Even though there was much support from influential members of the government for the internment camps there were those such as Governor of Colorado, Ralph L. Carr, who were very much against the idea.  An American General by the name of DeWitt states that “a Japs a Jap… Whether the Jap is a citizen or not”.  This sentiment was the widely accepted view for the American people at that time because of the immediate impact Pearl Harbor had on the population.  This order outraged Carr, who believed that all American citizens, regardless of race or ethnicity, should be guaranteed their constitutional rights.  Even though there was support against the internment of Japanese Americans there was not enough to free them from the camps.

This paper will be delving into the social and economic effects of putting the Japanese Americans into the internment camps.  The United States had done more harm to itself socially and economically by putting the Japanese Americans in the camps.  It will discuss the social changes that occurred when the Japanese citizens were vacated from their homes.  The paper will also take into consideration the economic effects of removing the Japanese Americans from their homes and into the camps.  From the jobs that the Japanese Americans were doing, to feeding them in the camps, setting up the camps, and giving retribution for what they had lost as well.  The paper will also take into consideration the reasoning for the Japanese being put into the internment camps and the possible positive outcomes.

In the years leading up to the United States entering World War II because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese American population started to assimilate into American society.  Japanese American families made the United States into their home just as George Takei’s mother and father did.  Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor Takei’s family had been living comfortably in Los Angeles and were even celebrating the American holiday of Christmas because they felt as though they were truly American citizens.  After the attack on Pearl Harbor the morning after, the Takei family’s car was smashed and painted on saying “Get out Japs”This act of vandalism shows how the call for internment caused problems socially on a whole other level because the act of hatred made it seem as though all Americans were against the Japanese.  Which was a very backwards way to try and rally the people because it made the Japanese Americans feel as though they cannot be trusted even though in some cases families had been living in the United States for multiple generations. This incident was incited by the speech that President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave after it was reported that the Japanese were the ones behind the attack.  His speech and call for congress to go to action further alienated the Japanese Americans in the eyes of the American people.  Socially for the Japanese Americans they now felt as if they were enemies in their own home, that even though they were tax paying Americans they were considered the enemy.  The claim was that they wanted to avoid something of the magnitude of Pearl Harbor to happen again and they felt that it was the best thing to do to make the American people feel most safe.

The internment of the Japanese Americans was truly unjustified as it was discovered that there was no real threat of Japanese Americans attacking the country.  Under the order of the President there was a man by the name of Curtis B. Munson and he was tasked with gathering intelligence on the loyalty of the Japanese Americans.  His research concluded that the Japanese Americans were loyal and would pose little threat to the United States.  He said that “There is no Japanese `problem’ on the Coast … There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type on the Coast than there is from Japanese.” The report goes into the different generations and how each of them are loyal to the United States, the first generation of Japanese Americans who are around 55-65 may romantically be connected to Japan but he goes on to say how their loyalty to Japan has been severely weakened because they have chosen to leave Japan.  Munson had written in his report that “they have chosen to make this their home and have brought up their children here. They expect to die here. They are quite fearful of being put in a concentration camp. Many would take out American citizenship if allowed to do so.” This is where socially for the United States wanting to intern their own citizens continues to cause problems for them.  What the United States described as “model minorities” are being attacked and the minorities are in fear of their own government which was reason enough to want to leave.  Even though what the government planned to do was a large civil rights issue, they felt as though they were doing the right thing as there is always a need to defend one’s country.   From the report there was a generation of Japanese Americans that the government did feel they needed to watch.  The younger generation that had been taught their early years in Japan and then had come to the United States however, even they were considered to be no real threat.  This showed that the main reason for the United States to call for the internment of Japanese Americans, was really not backed by much evidence besides that they were being over cautious.  Which leads to the idea that there was a deeper cause for the internment of the Japanese Americans rooted in a racial bias.  If the United States government had truly taken account of the report they could have avoided the social repercussions for what they had done prior to the Japanese Americans being released.  The United States government waited seventy-four days after the attack on Pearl Harbor to take action against the Japanese Americans calling for Executive order 9066 in which the government gave the call to intern the Japanese Americans in camps across the country.

Executive Order 9066 was detrimental to American society because it took away American citizens’ civil liberties. The order was a big step backwards in the case of civil rights which only led to further problems in the future socially for the United States.  The order gave permission to “the Secretary of War and the said Military Commanders to take such other steps as he or the appropriate Military Commander may deem advisable to enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area hereinabove authorized to be designated, including the use of federal troops and other federal agencies, with authority to accept assistance of state and local agencies.”.  The President gave the military power to handle the situation and for them to take the lead in putting the Japanese into the internment camps.  Japanese Americans had no intention of revolting but were still going to be put into the camps and the Americans were now faced with interning over 100,000 Japanese Americans and keeping them in a camp for over two years.  This order proves to show that there would be social repercussions for going about this in the wrong way.  By giving the military the job of interning the Japanese Americans it made them feel far more alienated.  As they would really no longer be true American citizens as all their civil liberties are being stripped away. 

The issue for the United States would be that they have to pay the workers for filling in for the Japanese workers but the problem was that the employers now have to pay the workers more money.  This was not beneficial to the businesses and or the economy of the United States as now the businesses could not make as much money.  This shows another way that the United States caused harm to itself for interning the Japanese Americans.  There was more of a negative impact economically for the white Americans that owned the farm and business but also for those people who were buying from them as well.  Since they had to pay the workers more, that means that had to increase the price for the food or labor that was being supplied.  California was highly populated by the Japanese so they were most heavily affected by the sudden disappearance of the Japanese workers on their farms.  

The Japanese Americans at that time were responsible for the production of almost 40% of the agricultural growth in California.  California was hit hard when a sudden disappearance of workers stunted the amount of agriculture that California was producing.  An interview done with a man who had been in the internment camps states that “At 98, Riichi Fuwa doesn’t remember his Social Security number, but he remembers this: “19949. That was my number the government gave me,” he said. “19949. You were more number than name.”.  The assigning of the numbers to the people rather than using their own names was another thing that caused problems for the Japanese socially.  As this was a practice used to dehumanize people and was used even by the Nazi’s in their internment camps.  However, there is no comparison to what went on in Germany and there is no intent to really compare them in any way.  Fuwa was assigned that number when he arrived at the camp when he was 24 years old and when he arrived he saw “Rows and rows and rows of these buildings, We were inside the barbed-wire fence, the armed guard towers. We couldn’t walk out of the enclosure. I might get shot.” He remembered thinking, “Hey, I’m an American citizen! Now I’m the one being hunted.”.  It was noted that they paid the Japanese Americans and that depended on each of the camps but in the one Fuwa was working they paid them twelve dollars a month which was barely anything compared to what they were paid outside of the camps.   This was a struggle both economically and socially for the Japanese Americans as they were losing money while being in the camps for so long, and also being dehumanized in these camps.  They were treated almost as live stock and they had most if not all of their civil rights taken away.  This maltreatment of the Japanese Americans left a lasting impact on these citizens and would not soon forget.

When the Japanese Americans were brought to the camps they were forced to leave everything behind including their homes and business.  They were given time to gather what they could carry and told that they would be taken to the camps to live until they would be released.  The United States decided that they would buy the Japanese Americans homes and businesses from them, however they were paying almost nothing and they had no choice but to accept it.  The United States was able to take advantage of the Japanese Americans once again they were able to buy land and homes from that at extremely low prices.  This caused problems for the Japanese Americans after they had left the internment camps.  They did not know what their future would be like after they had left the internment camps because they no longer had a home, their business, or their job.  This would lead to more social problems for the United States as it was unfair the way they were treated which would lead to reparations causing issues for the United States economically.

This court case is evidence to support the United States facing social repercussions and many more issues.  The first court case was between Kiyoshi Hirabayashi v. United States, which started May 10th 1943 and finished June 21st 1943.  Kiyoshi was convicted of violating a curfew and relocation order.  This happened during the time the Japanese Americans were being put into the internment camps and laws were being enforced against them.  They were not given the option to leave their home and many Japanese Americans did not feel they should have to leave and that is what ultimately caused this court case to begin.  The reason this court case was so important was because they were looking at whether or not the President’s executive order and the power delegated to the military authorities discriminate against Americans and resident aliens of Japanese descent.  These actions that had taken place were violating their Fifth Amendment rights.  This court case goes to argue that the United States was taking advantage of their power and caused problems with its own citizens by taking away many of the Japanese American’s rights.  By having put them in the internment camps and even charging the Japanese for breaking their new laws showed just how poorly this was handled and the error that they made in making the internment camps in the first place. However, the United States government found the President’s actions to be constitutional, claiming that the relocation and curfew laws put in were okay.  The reasoning behind the court decision had to do with the fact that much of the military supplies were being built on the west coast and it would be in the best interest for the United States to make sure the Japanese Americans could not go near them.  During the case they ducked the idea of relocation as they really had no answer for that and really only focused on the curfew aspect.  This shows how the internment continued to cause issues socially for the Japanese Americans and that their problems with the internment were getting pushed aside rather than listened which would lead to another court case that happened a year after.  This court case ended quite quickly as the United States government knew what they were doing was wrong and truly unjustified as seen by the Munson Report.  This issue of relocation would turn into something much more, as civil rights issues were starting to sprout up at this time.  Due to the war however much of this was swept under the carpet only to reappear after the war’s end.  

This case like the prior one discusses the social issues that were caused by the internment of the Japanese Americans.  It was about a Japanese-American man living in San Leandro, Fred Korematsu, chose to stay at his residence rather than obey the order to relocate.  Korematsu was arrested and convicted of violating the order.  He responded by arguing that Executive Order 9066 violated the Fifth Amendment.  The court case was important because of the fact that this was similar to the prior court case in that it was affecting the Japanese Americans in a negative aspect once again.  It showed that more Japanese Americans believed that they were citizens just like everyone else and that they had certain rights that should not have been taken away from them.  This affected the United States in the social end because this angered many Japanese Americans who were very much in support of America to feel alienated and eventually move into support for the civil rights push after they were released from the internment camps.  In an opinion written by Justice Black, the Court ruled that the evacuation order violated by Korematsu was valid. The majority found that the Executive Order did not show racial prejudice but rather responded to the strategic imperative of keeping the U.S. and particularly the West Coast, which is the closest region to Japan, secure from invasion. The Court relied heavily on a 1943 decision, Hirabayashi v. U.S., which addressed similar issues. Black argued that the validation of the military’s decision by Congress merited even more deference.  Justice Frankfurter concurred, writing that the “martial necessity arising from the danger of espionage and sabotage” warranted the military’s evacuation order.  Justice Jackson who disagreed, argued that the exclusion order legitimized racism that violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. There were swaying opinions on the case but ultimately met the same fate as the last one so not much was accomplished for the Japanese Americans but this only seemed to cause more problems for the United States.  

These two court cases truly are some of the stronger documents as they give extremely valid arguments against the relocation and internment of the Japanese Americans.  It is clear to the common people that their civil liberties are being violated and the executive order and curfew are in direct violation of the Fifth Amendment, as the Japanese Americans were not given fair trial before really in a sense being sentenced to jail.  There was no evidence given to be able to do such a massive thing, such as relocation of an entire ethnic group.  They had done research “The Munson Report” that the Japanese Americans in fact were not a threat to the United States in any way.  They had no need to fear the Japanese Americans would do any harm to the United States and even though California had the largest population of Japanese Americans the report showed that even they really had nothing to fear.  They made the claim that they were protecting the production aspect of California and that it is in fact the closest to Japan; this was still not a good enough reason for them to have to relocate.  Even by putting them in internment camps that did not affect the fact that they could still be attacked by the Japanese directly.  It is not as if the Japanese did not know where California is.

Even with those trying to fight for the Japanese Americans no real change was seen until much later on after the war finished with Proclamation 4417.   President Gerald R. Ford’s Proclamation 4417 confirmed the termination of the Executive order that authorized the Japanese American’s internment during World War II.  This took place February 19th, 1976.  This was the first step taken by the United States to begin to attempt to make up for what they did to the Japanese American population.  The President said “that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”.  The government now acknowledges what they had done goes against the ideals of a democracy.  This Proclamation goes into prove the argument that the United States by putting the Japanese Americans in internment camps only caused the society more harm and hurt the belief that many Japanese Americans had about the United States.  Not much longer after that, there were a string of new bills that go onto try and pay back the Japanese Americans for what they went through including the Civil Liberties Act of 1987 and the amendments made to it not much long after.  There was also the Japanese claims act which had to do with both the economic effects as well as the social, as the Japanese Americans had lost everything upon returning to their homes after they had been released by the American government.  

The Japanese claim act was a very important act that was created in order to give compensation to the Japanese Americans after they had left the internment camps.  The Japanese Americans had everything they had taken from them and when they got out they pretty much had no money, a place to live, or a job.  This act was extremely detrimental to the United States government as they had to give up a lot of money to pay back what they had taken from them.  However, not every Japanese American filed for the compensation.  There were 26,550 claims made and each claim was supposed to be given about $20,000.   Which ended up being around 36 million in reparations paid which in today’s money is a little over 4 billion dollars.  While this was not a huge sum of money, it was still a lump sum that could have been used in other ways besides having to pay reparations.  These payments not only affected them economically but impacted them socially as well.  This was really not enough money to give back to the Japanese Americans as they had lost everything and $20,000 would not buy back their homes, business and cars.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1987 was introduced January 1st, 1987 and was done by the House and the Judiciary branches of the government.  These two were the committee responsible for the law.  The Act declares a few different things including that  a grave injustice was done to citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II; (2) these actions were without security reasons and without any acts of espionage or sabotage documented by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, and were motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership; (3) the excluded individuals suffered enormous damages for which appropriate compensation has not been made; and (4) the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation.

The United States was faced with a difficult decision after the infamous day of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  However, the choice they made to intern the Japanese Americans had far more negative effects than they originally thought.  It affected the United States both socially and economically, while it did not affect it as economically as originally believed it still had a negative impact on the United States.   The United States was able to take advantage of the field work that the Japanese Americans were doing by selling excess crops and food to the free market while this did help the government.  It really only harmed the common American farmer who had lost workers to go work on other farms.  They also took advantage of the fact, that after they would be released, they now knew of more government owned farm land that they could use or sell. The real effect was felt socially by the Japanese Americans until reparations and acts had been put into place to make up for what had been done.  The United States government going on to openly say what they had done back then was wrong and to try and amend for what they had done strengthens the argument that they had done more harm both economically and socially to the United States.

References:

Daniels, R. (2004). Prisoners without trial: Japanese Americans in World War II. Hill and Wang.

Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Toyosaburo Korematsu v. United States vol. 22, 11 Oct. 1944. Retrieved from www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/323/214.

Morehouse, L., and Fuwa, R. (2017). Farming behind barbed wire: Japanese-Americans remember WWII incarceration. NPR. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/19/515822019/farming-behind-barbed-wire-japanese-americans-remember-wwii-incarceration

Munson, C.B. (1941). Munson Report. Retrieved from https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/active_learning/explorations/japanese_internment/munson_report.cfm

Nagata, D. (2015). Processing cultural trauma: Intergenerational effects of the Japanese American incarceration. Journal of Social Issues, 71 (2), 356-370.

Parrish, A.E., and Cole, H.L. (1999). The Great Depression in the United States from a neoclassical perspective. Quarterly Review, 23 (1).

Ray, M. (2018). Executive Order 9066. Britannica.  Retrieved from www.britannica.com/topic/Executive-Order-9066.

Robinson, G. (2003). By order of the president: FDR and the internment of Japanese Americans. Harvard University Press.

Robinson, G. (2011). A tragedy of democracy: Japanese confinement in North America. Columbia University Press.

Suzuki, M. (2002). Selective immigration and ethnic economic achievement: Japanese Americans before World War II. Explorations in Economic History, 39 (3), 254–277.

Takei, G. (2020). They called us enemy. Top Shelf Productions.

Taylor, S.C. (2013). Japanese Americans, From Relocation to Redress. University of Washington Press: Seattle, WA.

U.S. Bureau of the Census. (1904), Occupations at the twelfth census. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

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