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In one of the more unfortunate chapters in U.S. history, Jeanne Wakatsuki's father was arrested simply for being of Japanese ancestry. On February 19, 1942, in response to mass hysteria among the American public, especially those residing along the country's Pacific coastline, following the surprise Japanese attack on U.S. military bases in Hawaii, then-President Franklyn Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized agencies of the federal government to arrest and detain Japanese-American citizens for no reason other than fear that some of them would conspire to assist in a Japanese invasion of the American homeland. As the Executive Order was prefaced, fears of sabotage on the part of Americans of Japanese ancestry created the requirement to intern those Americans: "Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities . . ."
Specific to her "papa," Wakatsuki described the atmosphere existing at the time as it pertained to Japanese-Americans early in her nonfiction account of that formative period in her life. A commercial fisherman, Papa was deemed a potential threat to national security:
". . .in the early days of the war, the FBI was picking up all such men, for fear they were somehow making contact with enemy ships off the coast. . .They got him two weeks later . . ."
As Wakatsuki continues to describe the situation, the FBI was suspicious of every home, especially those occupied by people of Japanese heritage, that had a short-wave radio antenna on its roof, as such radios could, it was believed, be used to communicate with Japanese ships and submarines off the California coast. As the author notes, such radios were routine for the families of fishermen, as they enabled wives to communicate with their husbands out at sea. As Wakatsuki wrote, "To the FBI, every radio owner was a potential saboteur."
Young Jeanne Wakatsuki's "papa" was arrested solely on the basis of his ethnicity. No other pretext was necessary or forthcoming.
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