Masaryk university brno faculty of education

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Department of English Language and Literature

The Impact of WWII on the First and Second Generation of Japanese Immigrants in the USA

Final Thesis

Brno 2015


Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D.


Mgr. Helena Puharičová

Bibliographical record

Puharičová, Helena. The Impact of WWII on the First and Second Generation of Japanese Immigrants in the USA. Brno: Masarykova univerzita, Fakutla Pedagogická, Katedra anglického jazyka a literatury, 2015. Vedoucí diplomové práce: Mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A., Ph.D.


Závěrečná práce “The Impact of WWII on the First and Second Generation of Japanese Immigrants in the USA” je zhodnocením změn, kterými si museli projít japonští imigranti v Americe během druhé světové války. Práce zkoumá jejich život a postavení ve společnosti před, během a po druhé světové válce. Život japonských imigrantů je popisován od samého počátku, počáteční zápas s omezeními, ekonomický vzestup a úspěch následně zničený druhou světovou válkou. Jsou zde popisovány vztahy Japonska a Spojených států amerických, celková geopolitická situace v regionu a vliv, který měli na život japonských imigrantů a jejich rodin před válkou. Práce zmiňuje také odlišnosti v životě japonských imigrantů na pevnině a na Hawaii. Zvláštní pozornost je věnována změnám, které následovali po útoku na Pearl Harbor. Poslední část je věnována popisu důsledků těchto změn v období po druhé světové válce se zvláštním přihlédnutím k boji za nápravu křivd.


The final thesis “The Impact of WWII on the First and Second Generation of Japanese Immigrants in the USA” is a summary of changes that Japanese immigrants to America had to go through during the World War II. It evaluates their lives and social status before, during and after the war. The thesis describes the lives of Japanese immigrants from the very beginning when early struggle with restrictions was followed by economic rise and success which was destroyed by World War II. Before the war, the life of Japanese immigrants and their families was influenced by relations between Japan and the U.S. and overall geopolitical situation in the region which is also discussed. The thesis mentions also differences between fate of Japanese immigrants on the mainland and in Hawaii. Particular attention is paid to changes that were caused by Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The last part is devoted to description of consequences that Japanese Americans had to face after the war with special look on the redress movement.

Klíčová slova

Japonští imigranti, Issei, Nisei, diskriminace, rasismus, Japonsko, druhá světová válka, Pearl Harbor, odsunutí, americké koncentrační tábory, náprava křivd.


Japanese immigrants, Issei, Nisei, discrimination, racism, Japan, World War II, Pearl Harbor, evacuation, American concentration camps, redress.


I declare that I worked on my thesis on my own and used only sources listed in the works cited.

Brno, 24th July 2015 Helena Puharičová


I would like to thank my supervisor, mgr. Zdeněk Janík, M.A. Ph.D., for his willingness and helpfulness.


Introduction 7

1Japanese and the Immigration to the United States of America 9

1.1Changes in Japan’s Situation After the Opening of the Country to the World 9

1.2Japanese Emigrants and Their Motivation 10

1.3Early Restrictions of Immigrants Lives 11

1.4Total Numbers of Japanese Immigrants to the United States of America 12

2Status of Japanese Immigrants in the United States of America 13

2.1Japanese Immigrants in the U. S. Job Market 14

2.2Japanese Culture and Society in the USA 17

2.3Japanese Immigrants As a Source of Anxiety and Distrust 19

2.4Issei and Nisei, Their Identity, Motivation, and Relations to Japan and the United States of America 20

3Japan, the United States of America and the Geopolitical Situation in the Region Before the WWII 23

3.1Early Japan-U.S. Relations 23

3.2Japan´s Interests 24

3.3International Policy of the United States of America 25

4Attack on Pearl Harbor and Evacuation of Japanese Immigrants and Their Families from the West Coast 27

4.1Japanese Americans Short After Pearl Harbor 27

4.2Evacuation and Internment of Japanese Americans 29

4.3Other Possible Reasons for Evacuation 32

4.4Conditions in Camps 33

5Japanese Americans in Hawaii and Their Role in Military Service During World War II 36

5.1Situation of Japanese Immigrants and Their Families in Hawaii 36

5.2Service in the United States Army 38

6End of the Internment and the Redress Movement 42

6.1The End of the Internment 42

6.2Consequences of Internment for Japanese Immigrants and Their Families 43

6.3Redress Movement 46

Conclusion 49

Works Cited 52


This thesis will examine consequences that the World War II had on the Japanese immigrants and their families in the United States. Specifically, it will analyse how their lives changed in years following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It will describe the situation of Japanese immigrants in America before and after the attack. It will highlight the key factors that led to racism, discrimination, and internment of Japanese immigrants and their children. The situation, after the internees were released will be also discussed. This thesis will answer the questions why were Japanese Immigrants set in relocation centres, what happened to their property, civil rights and relationships in their community. Finally, it will explore when, why and under what conditions the repatriations were paid to the remaining survivors, and what had this harsh time brought to their lives and society.

History of immigration of Japanese to America is about surpassing obstacles. The story of the Issei, the first generation of Japanese immigrants, and the Nisei, their children, reveals the strength of those people, who decided to leave their homeland and sacrifice everything for their children. Japanese minority in America was never strong in numbers but their hard work and their effort made them important parts of American society.

Japanese came to America in harsh times for human rights, when segregation and racism against non-whites were common and widely accepted. Japanese worked hard to earn for living, to save money to support the rest of their families back in Japan and later to ensure their families in America along with securing the best possible future for their children. Issei made everything for the good of their family, trying to find their new home in America and became useful and respected members of society. Despite their effort, they remained aliens ineligible for citizenship for the most of their lives. On the other hand, Nisei were Americans by both, heart and the law and yet there were treated as citizens of lower category. Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and following internment of Japanese immigrants and their families significantly affected their lives.

Pearl Harbor became a disaster for community of Japanese Americans. Their homeland attacked the country where they lived and put in danger everything they managed to achieve. Whole families were torn apart and the relations between them, so important in their culture, were destroyed. The trust they had to each other and to their elders and the sense for staying knit together was gone. The role of speakers for whole community accrued to the new, younger generation, as the elder ones failed in keeping them safe. The forced internment and resettlement which followed after Pearl Harbor destroyed the Japanese Community in America to the ground. Japanese Americans and their families lost almost all their property and spread to every corner of the United States in endeavour to integrate. Most of their property was lost, partially confiscated, partially stolen under the silent supervision of government.

Even after the revelation that none of Japanese Americans represented a threat to the safety of the United States; Japanese Americans remained aliens if not enemies to the public. The stigma of wartime enemies remained on them for years.

For many years the history of American internment of Japanese immigrants and their children was partially hidden beneath the history of the Second World War. Although the American relocation and internment (sometimes even called concentration) camps were different from Nazi’s concentration camps they both were the product of that time, its ideas, and belief that the whites are better than others that the purity of the race is important, and should be defended. Japanese internment, its origin, and purpose remain as one of the darkest moments of the American history. Unwillingness of the victims to speak about that period caused that the redress movement and the following battle for repatriations came many years later after the incident. Repatriations were hardly more than symbolic but the fact that the U.S. government apologized for the internment was priceless. After more than 40 years it has been admitted that imprisoning of Japanese in camps was based more on race than on the real threat.

Humanity and human rights are in danger even now, more than 70 years ago. More than ever it is important to understand how easily could be someone’s life changed by violence in the name of greater good. It should be a lesson for today’s world how easily could justice, freedom or democracy being corrupted and lost. In this particular case the history is giving world a great opportunity to see consequences and learn from it. Civil rights and civil liberties were and still are vulnerable.
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