Thursday, November 10, 2011

Forced Relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II

The following is an excerpt from a work-in-progress called The Town I Live In.

In 1942, during the second World War, thousands of Japanese American citizens were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in "internment" camps, which is what Americans called their “concentration” camps.

With the approval of the U.S. government, General De Witt “issued his Exclusion Orders Nos. 59, 60, and 61 directing all Japanese, both American citizen and alien, to be moved out of Orange County (Germans and Italian aliens were never evacuated). Local Japanese strove desperately to arrange their financial affairs. Many sold their property at a sacrifice. Some entrusted their business to others who in some instances proved dishonest or deficient in managerial ability.”

In other words, many Japanese Americans were not only relocated, but they lost their homes and businesses. Orange County Japanese Americans were sent to the Poston Relocation Center in Arizona under military escort.

What were conditions like for the Japanese Americans? According to Orange County historian Leo Friis: “The buildings that were to serve as their homes were roughly constructed. Water was bad tasting and within a few days after their arrival most of the evacuees were suffering from diarrhea. Separate comfort stations for men and women were supplied with rows of unpartitioned toilet seats. No privacy was afforded those taking showers. Many of the evacuees were employed at the center at wages ranting from twelve to nineteen dollars a month. Residents of the center dug into their savings to purchase clothing. Those of meager means were forced to rely upon shipments from churches and other charitable organizations.”

It is an important bit of historical irony that, while United States servicemen were oversees fighting to free the world from Hitler’s fascism, the U.S. government was implementing policies that were, at core, fascist.

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