KOREMATSU v U.S.
323 U.S. 214 (1944)
Perhaps, according to Bernard Schwartz, the greatest failure of American law during World War II may be illustrated by the case of Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu. As graphically described in 1944 by a member of the bench, his case is one that is unique in our system:
Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that apart from the matter involved here he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists me
rely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.
Korematsu had been charged with failure to report for evacuation and detention.
Had Korematsu been of Italian, German or English ancestry, his act would not have been a crime. His presence in California was made a crime solely because his parents were of Japanese birth. The difference between innocence and crime, so far as he was concerned, resulted not from anything he did, said, or even thought, but only from his particular racial stock. For Korematsu was a victim of what a Harper’s article was to term “America’s Greatest Wartime Mistake,” namely, the evacuation of those of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack.20
In a 6-3 majority decision the Supreme Court, on December 18, 1944, rendered its opinion which affirmed the right of the military to move people about on the basis of race in time of war. The Court decided that one group of citizens may be singled out and expelled from their homes, and imprisoned for several years without trial based solely on ancestry. The Supreme Court refused to question military judgment or the validity of military orders applied to civilians without a declaration of martial law.
Hardships are part of war and war is a collection of hardships. All citizens whether they be in or out of uniform feel the impact of war. Citizenship has its responsibilities as well as its privileges, and in time of war, the burden is always heavier.
It is said that Korematsu has been imprisoned in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without any evidence to show his loyalty or disloyalty towards the United States..First of all, we do not think it is justifiable to call them concentration camps, with all the ugly pictures that term brings to mind. Secondly, regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers, we are dealing specifically with nothing but the exclusion order. To bring in the issue of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which existed, 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...