Japanese-American women playing basketball at Manzanar. 1942
Update: Although originally published 4/4/08, this article directly relates to my recent From Mumbai to the United States of America: Are You Ready Now? The issues addressed here are particularly relevant to today's post-Mumbai world. The Japanese-American Internments in WWII are just one of that well-known list of so-called American atrocities. For those of you who have uncritically embraced these examples of historical American guilt, I ask that you take the time to read this article and at least be willing to reevaluate your conclusions. - rg
A note from Radarsite:
In the preceding article "Playing the Muslim Game" Planck's Constant laid out an original and cogent argument for confronting the Muslim immigrant situation in America. This present article is an attempt to further this important conversation.
On December 7, 1941, Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor without warning, killing approximately three thousand people, and thus Japan declared war on America. Confronted with the existence of a large Japanese population on American soil, of demonstrably dubious loyalty, our government decided to take action. Thousands of Japanese and Japanese Americans were uprooted and removed from American society, and the still highly-controversial program of Relocation and Internment was initiated.
On September 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists drove hijacked American airliners into highly-populated buildings in New York City and Washington DC. without warning, killing approximately three thousand people, and thus Islam declared war on America. Confronted with the existence of a large Muslim population on American soil, of demonstrably dubious loyalties, we decided to provide them with more foot baths at our universities and our airports.
Do those bold preemptive, but still-contentious actions in 1942 provide us with an instructional precedent for our current immigrant problems? Or are they to be viewed, as many still proclaim, as merely an eradicable moral stain on our national character? Let's take a closer look at some of the similarities and some of the differences.
In 1942, some 112,000 Japanese were living on the Pacific Coast. About 40 percent were resident aliens and the remainder, by virtue of U.S. birth, were American citizens. The citizens, however, were mostly children, and when the U.S. declared war on Japan, their parents became enemy aliens. Moreover the Japanese emperor claimed all Japanese, wherever born, as subjects. They were referred to as doho, meaning countrymen. Japanese residents in the U.S. sent their children to “Japanese school” on Saturdays. A teacher in one of the schools told his American-born students, “You must remember that only a trick of fate has brought you so far from your homeland, but there must be no question of your loyalty. When Japan calls, you must know that it is Japanese blood that flows in your veins.”
Resident Japanese also sent their children to Japan for schooling. By 1940, more than 20,000 American-born Japanese had been educated in Japan. Known as kibei, they were fluent in Japanese, steeped in Japanese history and culture, and supporters of Japanese expansion in the Far East. They could hardly be distinguished from young militarists in Japan. Lt. Cmdr. K.D. Ringle of the Office of Naval Intelligence had been investigating the kibei for several months when the Japanese perpetrated their sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. In January 1942, he submitted a report saying:
[T]he most potentially dangerous element of all are those American citizens of Japanese ancestry who have spent the formative years of their lives, from 10 to 20, in Japan and have returned to the United States to claim their legal American citizenship within the last few years. Those people are essentially and inherently Japanese and may have been deliberately sent back to the United States by the Japanese government to act as agents.
The notorious Kokuryukai (Black Dragon) Japanese espionage network had been operating since at least the early thirties throughout North America. They had successfully penetrated the Boeing Plant and stolen the blueprints for a new American bomber. Their extremely effective espionage operations in Hawaii had assured the success of the Pearl Harbor attacks.
Question: Given this known threat, how was our government expected to deal with the Japanese population on the West Coast? What possible tests could they have improvised to determine with any degree of certainty whether a Japanese-American's loyalties lay with the US or with their original homeland? According to the best statistics found on this subject, approximately 80-85% of the interned Japanese were actually loyal American citizens. But this still would have left us with the threat of 15-20% (or approximately 15-20,000) of those Japanese of questionable loyalty -- not to mention the unknowable threat from the Kokuryukai network. Faced with an extremely difficult situation, with major moral ramifications, our American government, rather than overreacting, did the best job it could do under the circumstances to protect Americans. We have been morally chastised by the universal Pacifist Left relentlessly for a half century for having had the courage to make these difficult wartime decisions.
In 2003, Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.), introduced House Resolution 56, which would make February 19 a National Day of Remembrance for those Japanese who were “interned” during World War II. It was on February 19, 1942, that President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, requiring the evacuation of Japanese aliens and American-born Japanese along with German and Italian aliens from the Pacific Coast. After a year in the House Committee on the Judiciary, the resolution was then placed on the House calendar.
Honda’s resolution contains a series of misrepresentations that have passed for fact for so many years that they are now generally accepted without question. Moreover, the resolution posits (surprise, surprise) President Jimmy Carter’s Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment and its report, “Personal Justice Denied,” as the final authority on the subject. After “20 days of hearings” and “over 750 witnesses,” the commission concluded that the Relocation and Internment was not justified by military necessity but was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.”
That conclusion, however, is contrary to the facts as revealed by MAGIC, the decryptions of coded Japanese transmissions. The commission ignored MAGIC entirely in its original report, as it did witnesses who were available to proffer information supporting Roosevelt’s order. The few witnesses who attempted to testify in support of E.O. 9066 were drowned out by an unruly mob of spectators.
Throughout 1941, the U.S. frequently intercepted reports of resident aliens and Japanese Americans providing information to Japanese agents. In a decrypted message on May 9, for example, a Japanese agent in Los Angeles reports, “We have already established contact with absolutely reliable Japanese in the San Pedro and San Diego area, who will keep a close watch on all shipments of airplanes and other war materials .... We shall maintain connection with our second generations who are at present in the [U.S.] Army, to keep us informed of various developments in the Army. We also have connections with our second generations working in airplane plants for intelligence purposes.”
After Japanese warplanes attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, thousands of Japanese Americans ended up being interned in camps for the duration of World War II. Despite the abridgement of their constitutional rights, the vast majority of Japanese Americans remained strongly loyal to the United States. As one wartime Japanese American said, “Yes, the United States did make a mistake [about the internment] but we felt it was our country–right and wrong.”
Such pro-U.S. sentiment among Japanese Americans was due, in large part, to the strong assimilation process that existed before the war. Rather than today’s multiculturalism, which believes that all cultures are equally good and which Balkanizes immigrants and separates them from historic American culture, immigrant Japanese and their children were expected to become mainstream Americans. Japanese-American community leaders and organizations emphasized this goal.
A 1942 Japanese-American creed stated: “I believe in [America’s] institutions, ideals and traditions; I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future. Because I believe in America, and I trust she believes in me, and because I have received innumerable benefits from her, I pledge myself to do honor to her at all times and in all places.” The result of this assimilation process was a sincere and deep patriotism on the part of most Japanese Americans.
Perhaps the most visible sign of this patriotism was the willingness of legions of young Japanese-American men to join specially formed combat units of the U.S. Army. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, composed of Japanese Americans, became the most highly decorated unit of the war for its bravery in the European theater. It’s worth noting that many Japanese Americans had wanted to fight against Japan. One Japanese-American recruit said, “I was excited and felt we were going to the Pacific Theater at that time. I talked to a number of officers and enlisted men of Japanese American ancestry about the possibility of going to the Far East. No one had any objections. We were ready to go.”
Contrast those sentiments with the pronouncements and actions of Muslim American spokesmen and groups in the wake of the September 11th attack by Muslim terrorists, many of whom had illegally immigrated to the U.S.. There have been no stirring pleas for young Muslim Americans to enlist in the American military or organizing of patriotic rallies in Muslim communities. Indeed, on a recent segment of 60 Minutes, a supposedly moderate Muslim American cleric, citing U.S. foreign policies, accused the U.S. of being an “accessory” to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Although condemning terrorism in general, officials for key Muslim American groups like the Council on American Islamic Relations CAIR)have been hesitant to condemn Osama bin Laden, the all but certain mastermind behind the September 11 terror attacks. This is unsurprising given that CAIR and other Muslim groups such as the American Muslim Council (AMC) have in the past refused to condemn known Islamic terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah and have criticized the conviction of the Islamic extremists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Adopting the strategy of other ethnic-based groups, CAIR and AMC prefer to fight perceived biases against Muslims in American society rather than making immigrant Muslims better Americans.
In a survey of Muslims in Los Angeles County, Kambiz Ghanea Basiri, a fellow of Harvard’s Center for the Study of World Religions, found that “a significant number of Muslims, particularly immigrant Muslims, do not have close ties or loyalty to the United States.” Indeed, he found that 12 out of 15 immigrants feel more allegiance to a foreign country than to the United States.
One can only wonder how that patriotic 1942 Japanese American creed would be received in the Muslim American community of today.
The same game, different players? You decide.
Radarsite gratefully acknowledges its debt to the two following articles:
Internment Scandal Roger D. McGrath