World War Two emerged as a momentous conflict pitting the Axis Powers against the Allies. Among the Axis Powers, Japan, a significant participant, carried out a devastating bombing of Pearl Harbor, leading the United States to ally with the forces opposing aggression. Fearful of further Japanese attacks, Americans demanded decisive action against Japanese Americans to safeguard their own security. The events that followed, including the establishment of Japanese Internment Camps during World War Two, were marred by injustice and adversity.
The forced relocation of individuals of Japanese descent was an undeniably unfair practice. In 1942, Japanese Americans were granted a mere twenty-four hours to divest themselves of their homes and businesses ("Japanese Internment in America" 269). Taking advantage of their predicament, opportunistic neighbors acquired their possessions at unreasonably low prices.
Under these circumstances, the internees were only allowed to bring essential belongings as listed, leaving behind their cherished possessions and memories. More than 120,000 Japanese Americans living in the western regions of the United States, excluding Hawaii, found themselves incarcerated in various camps scattered across the west and Arkansas (Adachi 164). Hawaii's Japanese American population, however, was spared from such internment due to their substantial contributions to the local economy.
It is crucial to note that while some of the relocated individuals were not American citizens, a considerable two-thirds of them held American citizenship. Surprisingly, people of German and Italian nationality were granted hearings to determine their loyalty before any decision on internment was made (Showalter 188). However, such a fair process was denied to the Japanese Americans, leaving them in a state of uncertainty and confusion regarding their allegiance to America. The evident double standard was unjustifiable and baseless.
The repercussions of Japanese Internment Camps persisted for years before justice was finally sought. During the civil rights movement in the 1960s, the internees bravely voiced their grievances (Stock 3-4). The climate of the Cold War initially deterred Japanese Americans from protesting their mistreatment, as they feared facing further challenges to their loyalty. Nevertheless, with the growing movement against racism, the internees eventually took up the cause for justice.
A significant discovery, the Ringle Report of 1983, which had been suppressed by the U.S. government, shed light on the unjustifiability of Executive Order 9066 on grounds of military necessity ("Japanese Internment Camps" 274). The report revealed that a mere three percent of suspected Japanese Americans were enemy spies, and they were already in detention. The Ringle Report vehemently advocated for individualized handling of each case, free from racial prejudice.
In due course, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, also known as House Resolution 442, to apologize for the internment and provide twenty-thousand dollars in restitution to surviving internees, ensuring that such a grievous error would never repeat itself ("Japanese Internment in America" 277). The symbolic naming of the act in honor of the Nisei battalion acknowledged the soldiers' dedication to their country, despite the mistreatment their community endured, as a testament to their loyalty.
In the present context of the threat posed by ISIS, the United States now only exercises deportation of non-citizen individuals, with American citizens receiving due process of law, thanks to the Civil Liberties Act. Although it took considerable time, recognition of these injustices finally came to the forefront.
As World War Two and the victory of the Allies continue to be subjects of study for students, the history of Japanese Internment Camps should equally be incorporated into lessons and history books. We must strive to ensure that the forced removal of people and its aftermath, driven by fear and racism, never repeats in the course of history.
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