I was listening to Phil Valentine the other day when he was talking about the internment of Americans of Japanese descent during WW2. He was trying to justify their internment based on supposed threats that these Americans posed to national security at the time. Phil capped off his argument by saying that the Supreme Court upheld Roosevelt's executive action 9066. Well, I guess that makes everything all hunky dory. I would remind him that the court also upheld slavery, segregation, abortion, Obamacare, and same sex marriage. Some on the left are trying to say that the screening of Muslims coming into this country is the equivalent of the WW2 internment camps or that it will lead to that. This is a ridiculous argument. Screening Japanese, Germans and Italians coming into this country during WW2 would have been totally justified. However the imprisonment of a particular group of people without probable cause, especially American citizens, is never justified. Nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent were eventually sent to ten internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming,Colorado, and Arkansas. This was nearly the entire population of the issei and nisei from west coast. The issei were first generation Japanese to come to America. Before the immigration Act of 1924 nearly 150,000 Japanese immigrated to this country to work. Most stayed on the west coast and they were not allowed to become American citizens. The original intent of the issei was to work and eventually return to Japan. They would learn from Americans and take that knowledge home with them. Does this sound familiar? Many got into agriculture, manufacturing, and started their own businesses. They became prosperous and most remained in America. Their children who were born here, automatically became American citizens. This second generation became known as the nisei and they assimilated into American culture. Over 200,000 issei migrated to Hawaii. They eventually would make up one third of the Hawaiian population. The internment of Americans of Japanese descent cannot be justified because they were the only group that was singled out. In Hawaii the issei were virtually left alone. Only 1,800 people were sent to the camps from Hawaii. Pearl Harbor Hawaii was where the war had begun. Americans of German and Italian descent were also not singled out for this type of treatment. I would remind the reader that it was a Democratic administration that interned these people.
Historian's primarily blame racism, xenophobia, irrational fear, and greed for the eagerness of whites to remove these people from the west coast. The greed was the result of whites coveting their land and businesses. This was nothing unusual since blacks, and Indians had also suffered this kind of treatment in our past. Most Americans of Japanese descent lost their property and never got it back. America was a racist country but little is written about the racism of the Japanese. We forget that the Japanese isolated themselves from the world for 220 years. This was partly for the reason that they considered themselves a superior culture and didn't want to be tainted by other cultures. The Japanese were every bit as racist as Americans, if not more. The only difference was that we considered the white race superior to every other race. The Japanese racism was based on the idea that their culture was superior to all others. During the isolation Japan was a feudal society and primarily agricultural. It was primitive by American standards and defenseless to a foreign modern industrialized power such as the United States or Britain. In 1852 the American government commissioned Commodore Matthew Perry, the younger brother of Oliver Hazard Perry, to lead a Naval expedition to Japan. Using gunboat diplomacy, his orders were in essence to open Japan up to world trade whether they wanted to or not. America was motivated to do this for several reasons. They had whalers off of the Japanese coast and needed coaling stations for their ships. Manifest destiny was also a factor along with the China trade. Perry reached Japan on July 8, 1853. The Japanese ordered him to leave but he refused. He trained the guns of his fleet on the Japanese mainland. Because they were virtually unarmed, and had no modern weapons, they were practically defenseless. Perry negotiated a deal to leave and return in one year but he returned after only six months. On March 31, 1854 he negotiated a treaty with Japan called the Convention of Kanagawa. Under the threat of force, it ended Japan’s policy of national seclusion. It opened the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American ships. The safety of American castaways was insured and established an American consul in Japan. The treaty opened the way for other western powers to establish diplomatic relations.
|Commodore Matthew Perry|
Japan was humiliated by this experience and to their credit became a world power before the end of the century. They industrialized and developed a modern army and navy. Japan soundly defeated Russia in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. It's navy virtually annihilated the Russian navy at Port Arthur. The Japanese supported the Allied cause in WW1 but it's dream was to establish a Monroe Doctrine for Asia. They called it the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Japan, like England, was a have-not nation. It had very few natural resources and the country was very densely populated. It had it's eyes on the natural resources of it's Asian neighbors like China, French Indo-China, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, and the Philippines among others. By the 1920's it had the third strongest navy in the world behind Britain and the United States. The United States was the main obstacle to it's expansionist plans in the pacific. In the 1930's Japan invaded Manchuria and China. As a result relations were strained between the U.S. and Japan. In September 1940 Japan invaded French Indochina which led to an American oil embargo of Japan. America provided Japan with the vast majority of it's oil. This compelled Japan to start making war plans against the United States. The Japanese navy would be dead in the water within 18 months without oil. Japanese military planners formulated plans to knock out the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. If they could destroy our fleet they would have free rein in the pacific. They could capture those countries in Asia that could provide them with oil, rubber, precious metals, food or whatever else they needed for survival. This strategy was flawed because the Japanese underestimated American industrial capacity and the will of the American people to fight. They saw us as a morally decadent and inferior society. This is why Yamamoto likened us to a sleeping giant. He knew what we were capable of because he had lived for a time in the United States. Yamamoto accurately predicted that a successful attack on Pearl Harbor would give Japan about six months free rein in the Pacific but after that he couldn't guarantee anything.
|The Japanese fleet at the battle of Port Arthur|
|Admiral Isoruko Yamamoto|
The attack on Pearl Harbor put much of our fleet out of action for a time but it wasn't as successful as it could have been. The Japanese made two vital mistakes. They attacked on a day that our carriers were out at sea. The carriers would ultimately win the war because air power had made the battleships obsolete. Secondly, the Japanese ignored the oil tank farm that sat across from battleship row on the Hickam side of Pearl Harbor. These two mistakes by the Japanese allowed the United States to get back into the war much quicker than it would have otherwise. As it was, only two battleships, the Arizona and Oklahoma, were actually sunk. The remaining battleships were eventually repaired and returned to active service. The destruction of our oil tanks would have grounded our fleet for much longer than the actual attack did. On December 6, 1941 the vast majority of people in the United States were against going to war with anyone. The Japanese knew that America was reluctant to fight. To their great detriment, they took this as a sign of weakness. On December 8, 1941 there were very few people in the United States that did not want to go to war. They couldn't wait to get at the Japanese. The racist attitudes of the American people toward the Japanese and the racist attitudes of the Japanese toward the American people, combined with the code of Bushido, led us into one of the most brutal wars in world history. The Japanese had a golden opportunity during the 1930's and into the early 1940's to realize their plan for an Asian Monroe Doctrine. There was much resentment in the former British, Dutch, French and American colonies in the Pacific against the Colonialist and white supremacist policies of the Americans and Europeans over the years. America had brutally suppressed a Philippine insurrection. This was after our takeover of the islands as a result of the Spanish American War. To our credit we had taken a more positive, although paternalistic, approach to the Philippines in the years since the insurrection. We were laying the groundwork for an eventual Filipino independence which we would grant in 1946. The Japanese, however, were not only hostile toward the white race in Asia but other Asians. They brutally conquered large areas of China in 1937. Over a six week period the Japanese murdered 300,000 Chinese during the Rape of Nanking. They shot, stabbed, and tortured people to death at will. The Japanese buried people alive and raped thousands of women. Many wives were raped and killed in front of their husbands. Sons were forced to rape their mothers. Babies were thrown into the air as a game and impaled on the end of Japanese bayonets. After the fall of the Philippines, the American and Filipino soldiers were killed, beheaded brutalized and starved to death. As were British and Australian troops after the fall of Singapore. Wherever the Japanese went they brutalized both the Asian and white occupants of the individual countries.
|Attack on Pearl Harbor|
|Explosion of the destroyer Shaw|
|Japanese soldier bayoneting a baby|
|Beheading of an Australian POW|
|Bataan Death March|
If the Japanese had treated their Asian neighbors with respect and goodwill there is a great chance that they would have allied themselves with the Japanese in throwing out their white colonialist masters. This would have made our war effort much more difficult if not impossible. However, their brutality made the white man preferable to the Japanese. At least for the time being. For example the Communists under Ho Chi Minh temporarily sided with the allies in French Indo-China because they hated the Japanese worse than they hated the French. During the course of the war American racism led to brutality against Japanese forces but much of this behavior was provoked by an even worse Japanese brutality. Because of the Bushido code the western concept of surrender was foreign to the Japanese. Americans in the Philippines and the British in Singapore surrendered en masse. The Japanese considered this cowardice. They were taught never to surrender alive and they were to take as many of the enemy with them as they could. Surrender would bring shame and dishonor to the emperor, themselves and their family. For this reason the American and Allied POW's were looked on by the Japanese with disdain. Japanese would routinely play dead and when Americans checked them they would pull the pin on a grenade or shoot our soldiers. They would also pretend to be wounded and Americans would be killed trying to render aid. This led to Americans indiscriminately shooting Japanese wounded in order to protect themselves. The Japanese conducted medical experiments on American POW's while they were alive and ate their body parts such as livers and hearts. Most battles in the Pacific produced very few Japanese POW's. They usually fought to the death. For example out of nearly 5,000 Japanese troops on Tarawa, only one officer and sixteen enlisted men were taken alive. Many times it was because they were captured while unconscious. After the war many Japanese war criminals paid with their lives for their crimes. However not nearly enough of them did. After the fall of China to Communism in 1949 the United States softened it's attitude toward Japan because the U.S. felt that it was vital in the containment of Communism in Asia. As a result many Japanese war criminals would end up getting away with murder.
|Japanese prisoners at Tarawa|
|War crimes trial of Hideki Tojo|
Yes, much has been written about American racism and the treatment of the issei and nisei in America. It was a sad chapter in our history and should not have happened. Living conditions for these people were in many cases deplorable. However, when you compare this with the atrocities of the Japanese and how we treated their POW's as opposed to how they treated ours it does not compare. After the war Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, who led the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, talked to returning Japanese POW's after they had been released by the Americans. In his mind he justified the Japanese mistreatment of Allied POW's with the rationale that we probably treated their POW's just as bad. To his surprise Japanese POW's told him that they had been treated humanely by their captors. Fuchida's life was forever changed when he met Jake DeShazer, an American survivor of the Doolittle Raid. He had spent three years in a Japanese POW camp. DeShazer was in Japan preaching the love of Christ and forgiveness. DeShazer handed Fuchida a religious tract and he could not believe that a former enemy was able to forgive the Japanese people for all that he had endured. Fuchida gave his life to Christ and went into the ministry. The message here is that all evil can be overcome by God's love. He spent the rest of his life preaching the gospel. We must teach our children the truth about the ugly aspects of American history. However, we should be prepared to tell the whole story.