Japanese Internment Camps
By Katelyn McLaughlin
Who, What, When, Where and Why?
In early 1942, only two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that forced all Japanese-American citizens to evacuate the west coast, regardless of where they were born. Approximately 120,000 citizens were relocated to ten different camps across the Midwest, where they would spend years living in a communal lifestyle. In early 1945, some interned citizens were allowed to leave the camps, but only after they had proved their loyalty was undisputed. However, the last camp wouldn't close until March of 1946. And it wasn't until 1988 that the government apologized, and offered surviving internees and their families $20,000.
Media Perspective #1
At the time, fear and panic over the bombing of Pearl Harbor sparked paranoia among U.S citizens. People would worry that their Japanese neighbors were spies sent to sabotage the U.S, even if they had lived in America their whole lives. Some neighborhoods even kicked out Japanese residents. It was this paranoia that drove President Roosevelt to create Executive Order 9066, and the internment camps.
Media Perspective #2
Years later, however, different viewpoints emerged. The internment of Japanese-American citizens began to be reported as a crime that stole away basic human rights and destroyed families' lives. Reports of conditions inside the camps began to pop up. The shelters built for families to live in were often poorly insulated, so winters were harsh, and summers were brutal. Essential medical care was not available, so many otherwise preventable deaths occurred.
A Japanese family and their house after it was vandalized.
Three boys look beyond the fence that bordered their camp.
Barracks style housing. Entire families were supposed to live in these.
Japanese Internment Camps During WWII
The media may be responsible for the hysteria that landed Japanese citizens in the internment camps. Much like we do with modern events, newspapers and radio shows were buzzing about Pearl Harbor for days after the attack. Not that Pearl Harbor didn't deserve to be paid attention to, but the media may have hyped it up and scared people more than it should have.
Culturally, the United States was a very different place 70 years ago. Racist views and opinions were commonplace in households. Many people may try to justify internment camps by pointing out that the world was in the middle of WWII, but if that was the case, why were German-American citizens and Italian-American citizens not interned as well? There was also little to no evidence that Japanese-American citizens were spying on or sabotaging the government.
Oddly enough, there are some similarities between the panic of the 1940's, and today. And eerily similar paranoia is spreading throughout the U.S; though, this time, it is directed at Muslim citizens. Just as the bombing of Pearl Harbor caused Americans to fear their Japanese neighbors, the September 11th attacks have caused Americans to fear their Muslim neighbors. We can only hope that we have learned our lesson, and that history doesn't repeat itself.
"Japanese-American Internment." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, n.d. Web. 03 May 2016.
History.com, History.com Staff. "Japanese-American Relocation." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 03 May 2016.