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...
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.