What were the causes of the Japanese American internment camps?

The United States placed Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II because of fear that those with ethnic and cultural ties to Japan would aide Japan's cause in the war. After the surprising attack on Pearl Harbor, the American government (as well as many Americans) worried about Japanese threats and doubted the loyalty of Japanese Americans.

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal of Americans of full or partial Japanese ancestry from West Coast so-called "military areas" to inland internment camps, on February 19,1942. It was a paranoid reaction to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many...

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President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal of Americans of full or partial Japanese ancestry from West Coast so-called "military areas" to inland internment camps, on February 19,1942. It was a paranoid reaction to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Many of the people who were incarcerated in camps guarded by armed military personnel and surrounded by barbed wire were American citizens, so Executive Order 9066 completely contradicted the US Constitution's Bill of Rights. Roosevelt's own wife Eleanor attempted unsuccessfully to change his mind on the matter.

The overriding causes of the action were paranoia and racism. On the West Coast, people had long been jealous of the commercial success of Japanese American businessmen and farmers. They demanded that these people should be removed from their homes as long as the war lasted. The first actions were taken just after the Pearl Harbor attack, when the FBI rounded up almost 1,300 Japanese American community leaders, seized their assets, and sent them off to inland facilities. Later entire families, including children, old people, and the disabled, were forced to pack what they could carry and move to temporary holding camps that were often converted stables and livestock fairgrounds. From there they were imprisoned in other heavily guarded facilities.

One of the men primarily responsible for the internment camps was the leader of the Western Defense Command, Lt. General John L. DeWitt. He came up with the idea of establishing military zones on the West Coast. To strengthen his arguments, he created a falsified report claiming that Japanese Americans had been guilty of sabotage. DeWitt proposed the internment idea to Attorney General Francis Biddle and Secretary of War Henry Stimson. DeWitt's initial plan also called for the roundup of German and Italian Americans, but the internment of white people of European ancestry proved to be less popular in high places. During Congressional hearings, high-profile politicians such as Earl Warren, who eventually became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, backed the plan of interning Japanese Americans. Japanese Americans lived in difficult conditions and were treated as prisoners. Some were even shot when they inadvertently got too close to fence lines.

The internment of Japanese Americans is now considered a horrendous episode in American history. In 1976, President Gerald Ford signed legislation that prohibited the Executive Branch from ever again issuing similar orders. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan apologized on behalf of the US government and authorized payment of reparations to internees and their descendants.

We see, then, that the main causes of the Japanese internment during World War II were greed, paranoia, racism, and an overreaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

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Many white Americans didn't accept Japanese Americans as real citizens. They believed that Japanese Americans had greater loyalty to Japan than to the United States, and that when push came to shove, they'd sell out America at the first opportunity. It was this widespread prejudice that was behind the Roosevelt Administration's notorious decision to round up Japanese American citizens and put them in internment camps in the wake of Pearl Harbor.

Racism undoubtedly played a part in this decision. The United States was also at war with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, and yet similar treatment was not meted out to Italian or German-Americans. The reason for this was obvious: they were white and so not deemed to be racially inferior.

The government believed, like many Americans, that Japanese Americans would provide assistance to Imperial Japan in the event of an attack upon the West Coast. There was no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this charge; the vast majority of Japanese-Americans were as loyal to the United States as anyone. Yet the government pressed ahead with internment and in doing so wrote another dark chapter in American history.

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During World War II, the United States set up internment camps for Japanese-Americans. There were reasons for doing this, although we later regretted our actions and formally apologized to them. We also made restitution to those Japanese-Americans who were still surviving.

One reason for setting up these camps was a fear that Japanese-Americans would aid the Japanese during World War II. Since we were fighting Japan, people worried that the loyalty of the Japanese-Americans would be with Japan and not with the United States. It turned out that this fear was unfounded because no Japanese-Americans were convicted of aiding Japan during World War II.

Another reason for setting up these camps was that many Americans resented the economic success of the Japanese-Americans. There were fears that the Japanese-Americans were taking jobs and economic opportunities away from the American people. World War II gave people an opportunity to remove the Japanese-Americans from the economic picture. This would create more opportunities for Americans. Americans could take over the jobs the Japanese-Americans were doing and run the businesses the Japanese-Americans were operating. Many times this economic fear was used to cover up the anti-immigrant feelings many Americans had toward the Japanese, especially for those Americans who lived near the west coast.

The United States government formally apologized to the Japanese-Americans in 1988. Each surviving Japanese-American was offered $20,000 as a form of restitution for our government's actions during World War II.

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Internment of Japanese Americans was caused by a number of factors which include as mentioned by Pohnpei397:

  • Racism
  • War Hysteria
  • Fear and suspicion

There was profound racism against the American Japanese both from the society and some government policies. White farmers in the West Coast were highly prejudicial against their Japanese counterparts and the attack on Pearl Harbor offered them an opportunity to condemn and take away the farms owned by people of Japanese origin. Such groups instigated and fully supported the internment camps to enable them reach their objectives.

The government considered sabotage and espionage as activities that led to the success of the attack. People of Japanese decent were collectively viewed as supporters of the attack considering the first generation of Japanese settlers were not American citizens and owed allegiance to their mother country.

War hysteria led to growing fear propagated by provocative journalism among the society in general. This led to increasing pressure on the government to detain people of Japanese decent regardless of their existent or nonexistent role in the attack.

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The internment of people of Japanese descent in America during WWII was caused by two things.

First, it was caused by a very understandable fear for the security of the country.  Japan had managed to pull off the attack on Pearl Harbor, which no one had thought was possible.  The idea that they might attack the West Coast while the US military was still weak was not absurd.

Second, it was caused by racism.  There was still a strong strand of racism in American society at this time.  For example, Asians were not allowed to become naturalized citizens, which is why the Issei were not citizens.  This racism led Americans to be willing to intern all people of Japanese descent without trying to determine individual guilt or innocence.

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