Japanese Internment 1942

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Japanese Internment 1942
I History of paranoia in the United States

Salem Witch Trials American Revolution Anti-Masonic Party

Know Nothing Party Red Scare Japanese Internment


2. The situation in January, 1942

Pearl Harbor Sneak Attack

Breaking the code, some evidence of 5th column

112,000 Japanese, citizens and non citizens of ambiguous loyalty

a tiny minority with no power and no friends or spokesman

history of racism and discrimination, why should they be loyal

ghettos and living apart

The responsibility of those in charge for protecting the country

overkill, you cannot afford to be wrong

reports of American intelligence

a lack of manpower to keep an eye on West Coast Japanese

no acts of disloyalty or sabotage

3. The wrong of it

Imprisonment without due process of law

No crimes committed, jailed for what they might do

Loss of careers, jobs, property without compensation

Concentration camps?

The Japanese Americans were loyal

442 Fighting forces in Europe

Japanese scouts in Pacific theater

Hearings held for Italians and Germans, some jailed without due process
4. Supreme Court renders a verdict. Korematsu v. United States (1944), upheld the constitutionality of wartime relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans.
“The petitioner, an American citizen of Japanese descent, was convicted in

a federal district court for remaining in San Leandro, California, a "Military Area," contrary to Civilian Exclusion Order No.34 of the Commanding General of the Western Command, U~S. Army, which directed that after May 9, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry should be excluded from that area. No question was raised as to the petitioner's loyalty to the United States.

Like curfew, exclusion of those of Japanese origin was deemed necessary because of the presence of an unascertained number of disloyal members of the group, most of whom we have no doubt were loyal to this country. It was because we could not reject the finding of the military authorities that it was impossible to bring about an immediate segregation of the disloyal from the loyal that we sustained the validity of the curfew order as applying to the whole group. In the instant case, temporary exclusion of the entire group was rested by the military on the ground. The judgment that exclusion of the whole group was for the same reason a military imperative answers the contention that the exclusion was in the nature of group punishment based on antagonism to those of Japanese origin. That there were members of the group who retained loyalties to Japan has been confirmed by investigations made subsequent to the exclusion. Approximately five thousand American citizens of Japanese ancestry refused to swear unqualified allegiance to the United States and to renounce allegiance to the Japanese Emperor, and several thousand evacuees requested repatriation to Japan.

It is said that we are dealing here with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence or inquiry concerning his loyalty and good disposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers, and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps with all the ugly connotations that term implies, we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders, as inevitably it must, determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was some evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot, by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight, now say that at that time these actions were unjustified.”

SOURCE: Justice Hugo Black's majority opinion in Korematsu v. United states, 323 U.S. 214 (1944).
Issue: deprivation of American citizens and legal alien residents without due process of law on the plea of military necessity [112,000/ 72,000 citizens]

1. restrictions based on race [ancestry] and legalized racism

2. no acts of disloyalty or criminal [not even one]

3. many were very old or very young [who would care for if left behind?]

4. principle of innocent until proven guilty, cornerstone of our system was violated

5. martial law had not been declared

6. no danger of attack

7. it took 4-12 months for completion violating “immediate and impending danger”

8. loss of liberty and property without compensation or due process

9. all Americans have ties with foreign lands

10. wrong to do this, but even more wrong to officially condone it


1. steps necessary to prevent espionage and sabotage

2. “apprehension of eminent danger by the proper authorities”

3. no immediate way to determine loyalty in a war zone threatened with attack

4. 5,000 refused to swear “unqualified allegiance” to the USA

5. code broken, intercepts indicated there were spies and saboteurs

6. hardships are part of war for all people and life is not fair

7. cannot use hindsight to decide the issue

8. military must of necessity be given wide scope to defend the country and must be overcautious

9. “the power to wage war is the power to wage it successfully”

10. the armed service must protect the society as well as the Constitution.

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