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Japanese Internment Camps as an Aftermath of Pearl Harbor

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Many immigrants traveled far for a greater chance in life, the Japanese came to America for jobs, better opportunities, and freedom. During this time many countries faced economic problems, death, loss of land, and trying to peace back their nation after massive destruction. Japan was in a state of being modernized and during this people lost their homes, lands, and had to adapt from farming to industrialization, and moved to pay off their debt made in Japan.

Japan was under the ruler Emperor Meiji Tenno, who brought modernization and Westernization to restore this country’s political,social, and economic issues. This was called the Meiji restoration, many of those who lead the revolution felt that the foreigners were threatening so they went to seek equal power as the Western nation. But in doing this finances for the military and industrialization had to be taken. Japan’s chunk of their economy was farming so they required farmers to pay an annual tax leading to 300,000 farmers losing their land because they couldn’t afford to pay this tax. In loosing their land many of the contractors in Hawaii saw this as an opportunity and they seeked out labor recruitment by advertising. Moving to Hawaii meant they would be able to slowly pay off their debt. Between 1904-1905 The Russo-Japanese War was going on which was a direct support of modernizing Japan because they became the first non-Western power to defeat European power in modern times and were seen as not a major threat.

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As the Japanese settled in Hawaii there was a more diversity, including more women being able to go with their spouses. There was no room for self employment due to Hawaii being on plantations. In California they were the largest Asian immigrant group there, and here they had the opportunity to get shops and own land to farm on. There were three ways to have the ability to farm one was sharing land and everyone gives a portion of profits. The second was lease the land from the owner and the person renting would take full financial responsibility. Lastly was owning your own land.

In the processes many of them faced discrimination and would be mixed with Chinese immirgrants, buinesses refused to serve them or employ them. When the Cinese Exclusion act came in big companies looked for cheap labor elsewhere leading to many Japanese immigrants coming over. But California wasn’t happy about them coming because they feared they would take over farm lands and depress wages. President Roosevelt wanted to keep the relations with Japan and came to a conclusion with Japan called The Gentleman’s Agreement. This was approved on February 18, 1908 and Japan would not issue passports to Japanese emigrants who are going into labor services in the U.S. It also gave the United States to deny any Japanese immigration with visas and passports. Since California still wasn’t happy they passed Alien Land Laws which made Japanese immigrants ineligible for citizenship and could not own land, and hold a lease for long. There were many other acts like the Cable act of 1922, and the Immigratiion Act of 1924 which ended immigration from Japan, and Japan did not like it they were with restricting immigration but not barring them out fully. With these actions they formed communities that many of the Americans sought to see as not adopting American traditions. But it brought the Japanese immigrants help to fine jobs and available opportunities.

On December 7th, 1941 Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II, 2000 men were killed and over 1000 wounded. Congress declared war the next day, but since Japan made allies with Germany and Italy they declared war on the United States. There was a state of shock that took Americans when this happened everyone was panicked and rushly blamed Japanese-Americans thinking one of them was a spy. Concluding to putting anyone of Japanese descent into internment camps.

Hawaiain businessman and General Delos Emmons the military governor was against putting them into camps, due to the Japanese going to camps it would disrupt Hawaii’s economy. The population and labor there was very important so that would mean less money and less workers. Curtis B Manson was doing a report to see how loyal the Japanese-americans were and in the final report he said “ The story was all the same. There is non Japanese ‘problem’ on the Coast. There will be no armed uprising of Japanese…”. There was not a problem and no need to put loyal Americans into internment camps. Kenneth Ringle of the office naval intelligence had said that there can only be a small number of japanese residents that can be a threat to arrest those people individually instead of putting every Japanese-American in internment camps.

Unfortunately this didn’t work and innocent Japanese-Americans were put in those camps. This was due to General John L.DeWitt of the western Defense who wanted them in camps as well as Californians who didn’t feel safe. Though Dewitt was denied many warrants by the FBI and Justice Department. The hysteria got worse and people wanting justice was loud and clear in the U.S. This major cry pushed support for internment camps and Pres. Franklin D.Roosevelt executed Executive Order 9066 which “gave the U.S military authority to exclude any persons of designated areas..”. Though it didn’t give specific order to relocate the Japanese they were the main target. The mission was to take all of the Japanese-Americans into custody and make sure they have troops around them and prevent them from buying land and return the after the war is done.

More than 1,200 Japanese community leaders were arrested, and many more were given one week to pack up for the relocation. A lot of them rushed to sell everything they had from land, houses, furniture, and personal belongings. An Example would be Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga who was a senior at Los Angeles High School was told by her principal “You’re not getting your diplomas because your people bombed Pearl Harbor’. Her family was sent to the Saanta Anita detention center then to Jerome, Ark. While herself and others went to Manzanar, remembering her first days there were hot, dusty, and the barracks where crowded. She also stated ‘The only thing that was in the ‘apartments’ when we got there were army metal beds with the springs on it, and a potbellied stove in the middle of the room’. As well as there being no dressers, no curtains on the windows, and being given a canvas bag to stuff hay to us as a mattress. Another example would be Ben Uchida who wrote in his journal through the internment camps. He was born in America and put in the camps with his sister he never noticed how different he was till the day after pearl harbor when everyone” My hair was black, my skin was darker, and my eyes were almond-shaped. My face was the face of the enemy”. He explained that his home was barracks with tarpaper roofs and no insulation,curtains,furniture,indoor plumbing, and had to share a room with six others. With these terrible homes they had barbed wire fences around them and moldy bread, and limited running hot water. 

Then in 1976 Gerald R.Ford officially repealed executive Order 9066 saying “We now know what we should have know then—not only was that evacuation wrong, but Japanese Americans were and are loyal Americans…” It was an act upon war hysteria and poor political leadership leading to the camps. In 1988 the U.S Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act which rewarded 80,000 Japanese Americans $20,00 each to repay for the time they had suffered and they issued a formal apology. During this time 5,500 Japanese-American got their U.S Citizenship back. After getting out of the internment camps they were able to go back to their homes but it was hard because during their time in the internment camps there where various anti-Japanese groups. These groups used flyers and words to join members and used newspapers to create publicity. Group leaders would preach about anti-Japanese ideology, American national security,race, and the resettlement of Japanese-Americans. During the time of resettlement the government tried to highlight positive examples of families who made it and went into new communities outside of the West Coast. Though the resettlement was hard they still had pro-Japanese organizations that were fighting for the rights of the Japanese/Japanese-Americans. The Seattle Council of Churches played a big role by assisting them by re establishing themselves back to the west coast. The Council also got them hotels to function as housing as well as provide jobs, housing, social services, medical care, legal services and more! 

Through all of this they resettled into their homes with full protection! Concluding this impactful event in history it really opened new opportunities for todays ways with immigration. We still see similarities, but we always justify whats wrong and whats right. This will never go away but it will always be remembered as it explains how Japanese Americans suffered for their future to have the jobs,freedom, and new opportunities in America.

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