On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066 allowing the military to exclude “any and all persons” from designated areas of the country as needed for national defense. These “any and all persons” were Japanese Americans, 2/3 citizens and 1/3 aliens, and the designated area was the West Coast of the United States. The Executive Order to place the Japanese living in the United States into internment camps was deemed necessary due to the recent attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, by Japan.
The United States government gave several justifications, both military and constituently for the decision of the camps. However, not all of the Japanese Americans took the order in stride. There was resistance by the Japanese to the government policy and lawsuits were filed going all the way to the Supreme Court. In recent history, the Supreme Court has reversed a few judgments from the 1940s. The question of civil liberties over national security of the Japanese Americans in the 1940s is parallel to Arab Americans after September 11, 2001.
There are several military and constitutional justifications the United States government had in placing the Japanese in internments after the attack on Pearl Harbor. These justifications can all be related to National Security, with fear of future attacks, sabotage and espionage, and doubt of Japanese American’s loyalty. The main purpose of the government is protection under the constitution. To ensure national security, the privacy of one maybe evaded to secure millions. Very few advocates of civil liberties stepped forward against the internments regardless of the constitutional rights being invaded of the American citizens and resident aliens.
The military viewed the West Coast of the United States as a political combat zone with 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry that posed potential danger. With so many Japanese Americans living in one area, fears of sabotage and espionage fueled of feeding Japanese war machines. In addition, the military feared sabotage of military and civilian facilities, even the water supply in California was a potential target. In January 1942, the war department reported, “on the Pacific, not a single ship had sailed form our Pacific ports without being subsequently attached.”
Before the Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941, the United States citizens and government was concerned about the alliance of Japan with Nazi Germany. It became patriotic to challenge the loyally of Japanese Americans. There were even “scare headlines” in newspapers describing invasions and acts of espionage that had never taken place that reflected the fear on the West Coast and in Hawaii. There was hysteria of the United States citizens and some of the Japanese Americans resisted the new government policy.
Some Japanese Americans rejected the new American policies through rebellion and renouncing their American citizenships. Under the voluntary relocation...