Reaction to Pearl Harbor: Japanese American Internment Camps Created by: Abby Helton, Katie McAfee, and Lauren Sharpe
December 7, 1941, was much like September 11, 2001. It was a great surprise, and there was not much to be done to stop it. Following the attack at Pearl Harbor, all Japanese were blamed and weren’t given much respect. Just as we began to stereotype Muslims in September and show hatred, much of the same was done to the Japanese. The Americans did something very demeaning to the Japanese people living in America…they placed them in internment camps.
This sign would not let people of Japanese descent past these lines! Area Limits Sign
“From which any or all persons, Japanese or Japanese American descent may be excluded." -Franklin Delanor Roosevelt Japanese people were removed from the west coast and south Arizona and then the United States government created detention camps and established curfews for all Japanese Americans.
In 1944, Americans realized what injustice they had caused the Japanese Americans and camps began to close. Years later, there was a law passed stating that the United States was sorry for the injustice it had caused the people of Japanese ancestry. Camps Closed
The United States government paid $2,500 to each Japanese American individual who was put into an internment camp. This was the United States’ way of saying, “We’re sorry.”
“Congress recognizes that, as described in the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II.”
Purposes of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 with respect to persons of Japanese ancestry included the following: 1) To acknowledge the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation and internment of citizens and permanent resident aliens of Japanese ancestry during World War II;
2) To apologize on behalf of the people of the United States for the evacuation, internment, and relocations of such citizens and permanent residing aliens;
3) To provide for a public education fund to finance efforts to inform the public about the internment so as to prevent the recurrence of any similar event;
4) To make restitution to those individuals of Japanese ancestry who were interned;
5) To make more credible and sincere any declaration of concern by the United States over violations of human rights committed by other nations.
He also stated that by passing the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, “We acknowledge our wrong doing and understand the racial prejudice, and we will strive to do better under the circumstances.”
Top: Rows and rows of cabins at Gila River, AZ. Right: People wander around at Heart Mountain, WY. -> Internment Camps
Above is a map of the internment camps throughout the western part of the United States.
There were nearly 70 internment camps spread out over the United States. The previous page was a map of only western America! Some camp names were: Gila River, AZ (opened July 20, 1942-closed November 10, 1945), Heart Mountain, WY (opened August 12, 1942-closed November 10, 1945), Jerome, AR (opened October 6, 1942-closed June 30, 1944). Camps were also found in Tennessee, Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, and Illinois.
The following camps were the only ones in our state of Tennessee: Millington was a federal prison camp next door to Memphis Naval Air Station. Nashville contained more than two buildings that were on state property.
Emotionally, politically and racially charged, the issue of the Japanese American Relocation during World War II is an event that just won't go away. Claims have been made that American citizens were imprisoned against their will in concentration camps, and that the entire fiasco was motivated by war time hysteria, racial bigotry, and opportunistic businesses that wanted to snap up property left behind by the evacuees. Counter claims have suggested that there was complete documented evidence to justify an evacuation of Japanese Americans and Japanese nationals from the west coast of the United States, and that no American citizen was detained against their will by their own government.
We recently read an autobiography on George Takei (Star Trek’s Mr.Sulu). As a child he was put in an internment camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. He, along with his brothers and sister, was given a tag to wear which identified his family. They were transported on buses and trains. Most of their family possessions were either sold for very low amounts of money, or left behind. They had to evacuate very quickly and were only given a limited amount of space for luggage.
Audio file used by permission of Brad Altman, business manager for George Takei.
Different people have different perspectives on this situation. Some people think that it was right for the United States to put the Japanese people into internment camps, yet others think it was an act of injustice. We did not have access to any Japanese Americans in our town, so we interviewed someone who is a role model in our community.
We interviewed our mayor, Darrell Helton. His perspective was that the United States was right in putting the Japanese people in internment camps because Japan was the first to bomb us. “Not knowing how the people would act, we did the smartest thing we could do, because they could have been spies and could have felt sorry for their homeland.”
In another interview with Mark Finchum, a member of the National Council for the Social Studies Board of Directors, he stated, “The United States government should not have interned the Japanese Americans because the United States Constitution should be upheld first and foremost.”
Others think that because they were already US citizens, they wouldn’t serve as Japanese spies. Some believe we could have distinguished the difference between the Japanese citizens and American citizens. Despite current thoughts, they don’t change the fact that the United States did intern the Japanese Americans!