Saturday, August 16, 2008
Japanese Reloacation Center
This is an interesting photograph. It was taken in 1943, and shows a nurse and newborn baby. The baby was born in the United States, and hence was a US citizen. At the same time, the baby was born a prisoner.
US participation in World War II was spurred by the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The US government believed that some individuals of Japanese descent on the Island of Hawaii had provided critical intelligence to the Japanese government that helped coordinate the devastating attack. The US feared that similar agents might be at work on the mainland of the United States. With this concern that the Japanese might be planning an even more devastating attack on the mainland, attention was focused on people (including US citizens) of Japanese descent living in the United States. A decision was made to "relocate" these people to "relocation centers". These centers were in fact incarceration camps. The people (including US citizens) that were relocated were given very little time to put their affairs and businesses in order. Many were forced to sell businesses for pennies on the dollar, and many people were financially ruined due to being relocated. It is generally accepted that the conditions in the incarceration camps were good. The people were in fact denied their liberty, but the camps were safe, relatively comfortable, and well equipped. This act of relocation is probably one of the most controversial actions ever taken by the US government, in that it denied US citizens some of their basic constitutional rights.
I recently asked my Dad about his opinion on the Japanese Relocation Program. Interestingly, he said he would have traded places with any one of the people placed in the relocation camps. You see, at the outbreak of World War II, my dad had just finished business school, and had just purchased a hotel, and was in the process of getting his business off the ground. He was drafted into the infantry, and had no time to get his business and affairs in order. Having to leave his business unattended was financially disastrous for him. After training, he was sent to the pacific, and was in the middle of some of the most intense fighting of the war. He was in the first wave of soldiers to land on Leyte Island, and was again in the first wave to land on Okinawa. He spent months in fox holes on the front lines, witnessing horrors that even today he can not talk about. He was proud to go, and proud to serve, but in his mind, he is not to sympathetic to people who got to live in a comfortable center is California for a few years.
I understand that this is a politically charged issue. Please realize that I am not personally advancing a position, or stating any opinion of my own. I am simply stating that there are two different perspectives on this. One perspective is that this was one of the greatest outrages ever done by the US government, and the other perspective is that there were a lot of people asked (or forced through the draft) to make a MUCH larger sacrifice.