World War II Internment of Japanese-Americans – Lessons Learned Imagine being a child in your native country, then having to be uprooted to live in a concentration camp solely because of your race. In the 1940’s this is exactly what happened in America. Overall 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were relocated to live in concentration camps, including 80,000 Japanese-American citizens.They were forced to leave their homes and had 14 days to sell or give away their possessions before being sent to concentration camps for roughly four years. This paper will discuss some of the historical background of Japanese expansion, laws passed for the internment of people of Japanese ancestry, legal challenges to these laws, and court rulings effecting these challenges.
Finally there will be a discussion of conclusions about this matter. Background of War 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” (President Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Address to the Nation 7 Dec, 1941) This attack propelled the United States into World War II and prompted a series of orders affecting people of Japanese ancestry as well as German and Italian aliens. Before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, it had swiftly taken over all nearby countries. The Japanese had conquered Vietnam, and parts of China, and Korea.Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan then attacked Wake Island, Midway Islands, and the Philippines. With the U. S. Navy crippled at Pearl Harbor, the idea of an invasion of the West Coast was high on the minds of the U.
S. military leaders. Laws made Affecting People of Japanese Ancestry President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19th 1942, that allowed the Secretary of War, along with military commanders, to select specific regions which they deemed military areas. Anyone considered an enemy of the U. S. was restricted from entering those areas.
After President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, he stated the reason for issuing it was to “…protect against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities…” (Executive Order 9066). President Roosevelt appointed military commanders who could force restrictions on any suspected spies or saboteurs. On March 2, 1942, the military commanding officer of the Western Command, General John L. Dewitt, issued Public Proclamation No. 1 designating California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona as military areas.
The proclamation excluded specific people or ethnic groups, mostly people of Japanese ancestry, but also German and Italian aliens, from living in those areas. Later that month, Utah, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho were also proclaimed military areas. On March 24, 1942, Public Proclamation No. 3 imposed a curfew of 8:00 p. m. to 6:00 a. m. on people of Japanese ancestry along with German and Italian aliens.
This also coincided with the date General Dewitt started issuing Civilian Exclusion Orders directing people of Japanese ancestry to report to the War Relocation Authority, which was responsible for the relocation of people of enemy ancestry.Legal Challenges Three Japanese Americans challenged the outcome of the laws because they thought it was unconstitutional. One was Fred Korematsu who was born on January 30th, 1919 in Oakland, California. After graduating from Castlemont High School in 1938, he entered the Master School of Welding. After Exclusion Order No. 34 was issued, on May 9, 1942, Korematsu’s family reported to the War Relocation Authority at Tanforan Race Track. Korematsu decided to ignore the order instead of joining his family. In San Leandro, California, on May 30, 1942, Fred Korematsu was arrested and charged with violating the military exclusion order.
While in court Mr. Korematsu argued that his constitutional rights had been violated. The Federal District Court of San Francisco found Mr.
Korematsu guilty of violating the exclusion orders, and sentenced him to five years probation under military authority. In 1944 Mr. Korematsu’s appeal reached the Supreme Court, which sided with the lower court’s ruling in a 6-3 vote. The Supreme Court Justices who voted in favor of the lower court’s ruling reasoned that the U. S. military leaders who feared an invasion of the West Coast needed to take suitable security measures, including segregating people of Japanese ancestry from the west coast.
On October 19th, 1916 Minoru Yasui was born in Hood River Oregon, the third son of Masuo and Shidzuyo Yasui. He graduated from Hood River High School in 1933, and from the University of Oregon, in 1937. He was awarded a Bachelor of Laws Degree in 1939. On March 28, 1942, after General Dewitt’s proclamation on curfews had been issued, Mr. Yasui reviewed the curfews and believed they were unconstitutional. So he roamed the streets of Portland, Oregon for roughly three hours in hopes of getting arrested so that he could challenge the proclamations in a court of law.
He succeeded in getting arrested and on June 12, 1942, and his case was tried before U. S. District Court Judge James Alger Fee.
Mr. Yasui argued that it was unconstitutional for the U. S. government to set curfews on a specific group of citizens based on ancestry. The verdict, which came on November 16, 1942, ruled that the proclamation was unconstitutional because holding a citizen when martial law had not been declared violated the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
Judge Fee viewed Mr. Yasui’s work with the Japanese Consulate in Chicago as a sign of loyalty to Japan, and for that took his citizenship away.Yasui spent the next nine months in the Multnomah County Jail, and in May of 1943, his case reached the Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision the Supreme Court reversed Judge Fee’s ruling. It found that the curfews were constitutional because the constitution gave the government special “war powers” and that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments might not be applicable in a time of war. The Supreme Court returned Yasui’s citizenship because it had nothing to do with the issue. Gordon Hirabayashi was born April 23, 1918 in Auburn, Washington. After graduating from Auburn High School in 1937, he attended to the University of Washington.
When Executive Order 9066 was issued along with the proclamations, Hirabayashi did not believe the curfews and the removal of Japanese Americans were lawful. Mr. Hirabayashi stayed in Seattle on May 5, 1942, the day of evacuation that came for Japanese Americans in that city, violating the Exclusion Orders.
On May 16, 1942 Hirabayashi turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which charged him with violating Exclusion Order No. 57. Hirabayashi was put in jail for about 90 days and later Hirabayashi was tried in the Federal District Court of Seattle before Judge Lloyd Black.Hirabayashi’s attorneys argued that the curfew and evacuation orders were in violation of the due process and equal protection under the law…To have those laws apply only to people of Japanese ancestry, whether citizen or not, was in violation of their being treated equally in comparison with the rest of the population in the country. (Ng 82-3). Judge Lloyd Black found Hirabayshi guilty because the U. S. was at war and “…the due process argument should not be permitted to endanger all of the constitutional rights…” (“Four Hirabayashi Cousins: A Question of Identity – Part 3 of 5”) Hirabayashi’s case reached the Supreme Court in May of 1943.
As with Minoru Yasui’s case in Yasui v. United State, the Supreme Court unanimously found the curfews constitutional citing Articles I and II of the U. S. Constitution, and stating that the President and Congress have full power to impose restrictions based on their judgment of the threat of danger during war time. Discussion of Court Rulings (Majority ; Dissent Opinions) The judges argued amongst each other on whether the laws were constitutional and we’re going to take a look at what was said. In the case of Yasui, and Hirabayashi the rulings were somewhat similar, because both cases concerned the issue of the constitutionality of curfews.The Supreme Court concluded “…that it was with the constitutional power of Congress…” and Executive “…Government to prescribe this curfew order…and that its promulgation by the military commander involved no unlawful delegation of legislative power. ” (Stone Majority Opinion of Hirabyashi v.
United States 21 Jun. 1943)The Supreme Court reasoned that the threat of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast was not imagined but real. With at least 112,000 people of Japanese ancestry living in the west coast states and not knowing if they were loyal to Japan or the U.S, the military didn’t want to be waiting for espionage or sabotage to become reality. Military leaders also agreed that the curfews were a conservative measure to protect the U.
S. from espionage and sabotage. Chief Justice Stone stated “…the Fifth Amendment prohibits the discrimination made between citizens of Japanese descent and those of other ancestry…” (Stone Majority Opinion of Yasui v. United States 21 Jun. 1943) In the Korematsu case, again, the Supreme Court brought up the idea that the U. S. was at war against the country of with a large number of “enemy ancestry” living in the U.
S.The Supreme Court ruled that the exclusion order for people of Japanese ancestry was necessary because many unknown traitors were living in the U. S. The Supreme Court could not reject the military’s claim that it was impossible to segregate the loyal citizens from the disloyal citizens in the short amount of time required. Justice Frankfurter confirmed that, “…I find nothing in the Constitution which denies to Congress the power to enforce such a valid military order by making its violation an offense triable in the civil courts.
” (Frankfurter Majority Opinion of Korematsu v. United States 18 Dec. 944) Justice Jackson, Murphy, and Roberts were the only three dissenting Justices in the Korematsu v. United States case. Justice Jackson and Murphy believed that one should not defer to military leaders simply because they claim to have more knowledge of the subject. The judges thought that there had to be clear limits on military judgments. Amendment Five states “No person shall…be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process” (The Constitution of the United States).
People were stripped of their constitutional rights based on a military need that had no evidence.Justice Murphy explained that the “…relation between the group characteristics of Japanese Americans and the dangers of invasion, sabotage and espionage…” do not provide adequate proof for evacuation (Murphy Dissent Opinion of Korematsu v. United States 18 Dec. 1944). Justice Murphy stated, “This exclusion of ‘all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien,’ from the Pacific Coast…Such exclusion goes over ‘the very brink of constitutional power’ and falls into the ugly abyss of racism. ” (Murphy Dissent Opinion of Korematsu v. United States 18 Dec.
944) Justice Roberts argued that the government issued two orders that were contradictory. “The earlier of those orders made him (Korematsu) a criminal if he left the zone in which he resided; the later made him a criminal if he did not leave. ” He concluded, “The two conflicting orders…were nothing but a cleverly devised trap…to lock him up in a concentration camp. ” (Roberts Dissent Opinion of Korematsu v. United States 18 Dec. 1944) Conclusions During WWII, the Supreme Court ruled that the country’s interests were more important than individual rights of American citizens’ because of the threat to national security.
Fred Korematsu stated, “…As long as my record stands in federal court, any American citizen can be held in prison or concentration without a trial or a hearing…” (Fred Korematsu Speech Fall 1984). The U. S.
violated the constitutional rights of innocent people and incarcerated them into concentration camps without a trial based on their ancestry. The government did not protect the rights of the minority and shouldn’t use the national security of the country as way to take citizens’ rights away. After my research into this matter I have two views to share.First, I believe that General Dewitt was racist in his proclamations and was wrong to put an entire group of Japanese Americans into concentration camps just because of their ancestry. In General Dewitt’s Proclamation No.
3 he states “…the following regulations covering the conduct to be observed by all alien Japanese, all alien Germans, all alien Italians, and all persons of Japanese ancestry…”(Public Proclamation No. 3. It’s interesting that he doesn’t mention German ancestry or Italian ancestry. The United States was at war against Germany and Italy too, so why not intern all those groups too?He was fortunate in deflecting the issue of racism with the threat to national security. Everyone who was in the United States then and now, come from different ethnic backgrounds. “To say that any group cannot be assimilated is to admit that the great American experiment has failed, when confronted with the normal attachment of certain groups to the lands of their forefathers.
As a nation we embrace many groups…” (Murphy Dissent Opinion 21 Jun. 1944) Secondly, I understand why the Supreme Court agreed with the United States. Japan had just attacked the U. S. nd with military leaders saying an invasion was imminent, the government sent all people of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps. The government didn’t have time to sort which Japanese American was loyal or disloyal to the U.
S. The duty of Congress & the President is to protect the United States, and a way to do that was to send people of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps. In 1970, the Japanese American Citizens League was created in 1929 to help Asian American civil rights in America.
The JACL made an effort to seek re-opening of the cases that were lost during World War II.The JACL was persisted in trying to overturn the convictions. Historians Professor Peter Irons and Aiko Hertzig-Yoshinaga found evidence showing that government officials covered up information revealing that Japanese Americans did not pose a threat to the U. S.
Also, they found that the Solicitor General had lied to the Supreme Court about military necessity. On January 19 1983, a Writ of Coram Nobis was petitioned which corrects an error in the courts after a person has been convicted. In 1984 the case of Korematsu v.
United States came before District Court Judge Marilyn Patel, who ruled it a manifest injustice” and vacated the conviction. In 1986 the convictions of Minoru Yasui and Gordon Hirabayashi were also vacated. On August 10, 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which included reparations to the Japanese Americans who were housed in concentration camps.
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologized for the violation of the constitutional right of due process, and gave each surviving former internee $20,000.