JapaneseAmerican During Wwii Essay Research Paper Japanese

Japanese-American During Wwii Essay, Research Paper

Japanese immigrants and the following generations had to endure

discrimination, racism, and prejudice from white Americans. They

were first viewed as economic competition. The Japanese

Americans were then forced into internment camps simply because

of the whites fear and paranoia.

The Japanese first began to immigrate to the United States

in 1868. At first they came in small numbers. US Census records

show only 55 in 1870 and 2,039 in 1890. After that, they came in

much greater numbers, reaching 24,000 in 1900, 72,000 in 1910,

and 111,000 in 1920.(Parrillo,287) Most settled in the western


Many families in Japan followed the practice of

primogeniture, which is when the eldest son inherits the entire

estate. This was a ?push? factor. Because of primogeniture,

?second and third sons came to the United States to seek their

fortunes.?(Parrillo,287) The promise of economic prosperity and

the hope for a better life for their children were two ?pull?

factors. These foreign-born Japanese were known as Issei (first

generation). They filled a variety of unskilled jobs in

railroads, farming, fishing, and domestic services. (Klimova,1)

The Japanese encountered hostility and discrimination from the

start. In California, a conflict with organized labor was due to

their growing numbers in small areas and racial


White workers perceived Japanese as economic competition.

Their willingness to work for lower wages and under poor

conditions brought on hostility from union members. The

immigrants became victims of ethnoviolence. In 1890, Japanese

cobblers were attacked by members of the shoe maker?s union, and

Japanese restaurateurs were attacked by members of the union for

cooks and waiters in 1892. It was very difficult to find steady

employment; therefore, most of them entered agricultural work.

They first worked as laborers, accumulated sufficient capitol,

then as tenant farmers or small landholders. Some became

contract gardeners for whites.(Parrillo,287)

The Japanese farmers were very knowledgeable of cultivation,

which made them strong competitors against white farmers. More

discrimination by the dominant group soon followed.

?In 1913, the California legislator passed

the first alien landholding law, prohibiting

any person who was ineligible for citizenship

from owning land in the state, and permitting

such persons to lease land for no more than

three years in succession.?(Parrillo,287)

This was ofcourse aimed at keeping the Japanese in the

working class.

Their native born children, the Nisei (second-generation),

were automatically US citizens. Thus, the Issei had land put

under their children?s names directly or by collectively owning

stock in landholding companies. Discrimination against the

Japanese continued after World War I. The California legislature

passed a law in 1920 ?prohibiting aliens form being guardians of

a minor?s property or from leasing any land at

all.?(Parrillo,288) Yet another attempt by the dominant group to

preserve power.

Japanese American children also suffered racism and

discrimination. In 1905, the San Francisco School Board of

Education passed a policy sending Japanese children to a

segregated Oriental school in Chinatown.(Parrillo,288)

?Superintendent, Aaron Altmann, advised the city?s principals:

?Any child that may apply for enrollment or

at present attends your school who may be

designated under the head of ?Mongolian? must

be excluded, and in furtherance of this

please direct them to apply at the Chinese

school for enrollment.?(Asia,1)

Japanese immigrants being extremely racially distinct, had

different cultural customs and religious faith, and tended to

chain migrate and stay within their own small communities. This

aroused distrust and the idea that they could not be

assimilated.(Klimova,2) Japan?s victory in the Russo-Japanese

war in 1905 fueled the irrational distrust and prejudice. It led

to the Gentlemen?s Agreement of 1908, secured by President

Roosevelt, which ?Japan agreed to restrict, but not eliminate

altogether, the issuance of passports.?(Parrillo,288) This

attempt at reducing Japanese immigration had a huge loophole, it

allowed wives to enter. Many Japanese practiced endogamy and

sent for ?picture brides.? ?Several thousand Japanese entered

the United States every year until World War I, and almost 6,000

a year came after the war.?(Parrillo,288)

The anti-Japanese attitudes grew stronger. The Immigration

Law of 1924 stated that all aliens ineligible for citizenship

were refused entry. Thus, ?…the Japanese migration to America

[came] to a complete cessation.?(Klimova,2) The law stayed in

effect until 1952.

By 1941, ?about 127,000 ethnic Japanese lived in the United

States, 94,000 of them in California.?(Parrillo,289) Only ?37

percent were Issei…?(Klimova,1) On December 7, 1941, Japan

launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. When news of the

attack reached the west coast, Japanese neighborhoods were

surrounded by police. Within the first day, the FBI arrested

1,300 ?dangerous aliens?. They had jailed nearly 2,000 more by

the end of December.(Spickard,93) Most of them were business

executives, leaders of Japanese associations and community

leaders whose only suspicious act was visiting relatives in Japan

or contributing to the Japanese equivalent of the United Service

Organization (USO). Those arrested were thrown into county jails

and then transferred to detention centers run by the Immigration

and Naturalization Service (INS).(Spickard,93)

The fear of bombing or even an invasion caused rumors to

spread about treachery and deceitfulness by the Japanese

Americans. The allegations of sabotage and espionage were

twisted by racial bias and lacked any evidence or rationale.

Some were absolutely ridiculous. Such as poisoned vegetables and

planting tomatoes so that they formed arrows pointing at US

military objects.(klimova,2) The anti-Japanese paranoia held by

the dominant group echoed in the media.

Newspapers printed unfounded racist reports about Japanese

Americans, starting in December 1941 and more throughout February

1942. Common examples of racist articles, some openly using

degrading ethnophalisns, are these headlines from the Los Angeles


?Jap Boat flashes Message ashore?

?Two Japs With Maps and Alien Literature


?Caps on Japanese Tomato Plants Point to Air


The fear and hostility toward the Japanese Americans was

accompanied by a wide spread hysteria. People began to call for

their removal from the western states. White farmers were among

those advocating their evacuation. By now, Farmers of Japanese

origin had turned dessert into some of the most fertile farmland,

which was less than 4 percent of the California farmland, and

produced 10 percent of the total value of the states farm

crop.(Klimova,3) Autin Anson of the Grower-Shipper Association

of Salinas, California, made this statement while lobbying for

the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans:

?We?re charged with wanting to get rid of the

Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well

be honest. We do. It?s a question of

whether the white man lives on the Pacific

Coast or the brown men. They came into this

valley to work, and they stayed to take


This terribly racist statement explains on e conflict over

the limited resources available. The dominant group wants the

competition removed and deep the minority group with as little as


Lieutenant General John L. Dewitt, the head of the Western

Defensive Command, Major General Allen W. Gullion, and other high

ranking officers, all guided by their own racism, also campaigned

for the Japanese American Population to be removed. Dewitt said:

?A Jap?s a Jap. They are a dangerous

element, whether loyal or not. there is no

way to determine their loyalty…it makes no

difference whether he is an American;

theoretically he is still Japanese, and you

can?t change him…you can?t change him by

giving him a piece of paper.?(Spickard,98)

They claimed the evacuation was a military necessity;

however, such a necessity was never demonstrated. The Department

of Justice defended the rights and liberties of U*S. citizens

guaranteed by the constitution of the United States.(Klimova,3)

J. Edgar Hoover also opposed the mass evacuation. He argued that

all the dangerous Japanese Americans were already

jailed.(Spickard,98) Dispite the protest, the Roosevelt

administration supported the evacuation.

On the 19th of February, 1942, ?President Roosevelt signed

Executive Order No.9066, authorizing the War Department to

prescribe military areas and to exclude any or all persons from

these areas.?(McWillans,108) ?More than 110,000Japanese…were

removed from their homes and placed in ?relocation centers? in

Arkansas, Arizona, Eastern California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and

Wyoming.?(Parrillo,289) They lost everything they owned.

Joseph Kurihara was a Japanese American soldier in the US

Army and was for Americanization prior to the evacuation, he

recalls the Terminal Island evacuation:

?It was cruel and harsh. To pack and

evacuate in forty-eight hours…mothers

bewildered with children crying…Did the

government of the United States intend to

ignore their rights regardless of their


Life in the internment camps was hard. They had to endure

unsanitary conditions.(Asin,1) Most of the imprisoned Japanese

Americans conformed and followed orders. There were some that

protested what was being done to them, but their resistance came

very late.(Spickard,108) Kurihara was one of the few that

practiced defiance. He eventually renounced his US

citizenship.(Myer,4) These people that openly expressed their

new hatred for America as a result of the injustices they

suffered were known as the ?no-no?s?. On the other side, there

were those that desperately wanted to prove their loyalty to the

United States. In January 1943, The US War Department announced

the formation of a segregated regiment. Theses Nisei volunteered

for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT) to fight for their


They joined forces with the 100th Infantry Battalion, formed

in May 1942 and were also Nisei volunteers, in Europe. The 442nd

RCT eventually consisted of the 2nd, 3rd, and 100th Battalions;

the 522nd field Artillery Battalion; the 232nd engineering

Company; the 206th Army Band; Anti-Tank Company; Cannon Company;

and Service company.(Research,1)

The famous 442nd RCT were the most decorated unit in US

military history for it?s size and length of service. In total,

there were 18,000 individual decorations for bravery, 9,500

purple hearts, and seven Presidential Distinguished Unit


After W.W.II, Japanese Americans were demoralized and in

economic disarray. Because all of their possessions and property

had been taken away, they simply had to start all over again.

There were emotional and psychological consequences for the

Nisei. It took decades for them to overcome a lingering

shame.(Spickard,134) There is also a generation and cultural gap

between the Nisei and Sansei. The Sansei are in a Quandary over

their identification with their ?dual cultural heritage?. Their

parents push then to become ?white and to ?subscribe to the

legacies of American society?. Yet they are told by their major

social environment that they are not white.(Miyoshi,20)

The Japanese Americans have indeed prospered since the

1940?s. The Nisei and Sansei strongly emphasized conformity,

aspiration, competitiveness, discipline, and encouraged the

Yonsei (fourth-generation) and Gosei (fifth-generation) to higher

education. Their numbers are increasing in the professional

fields. The higher education achievements equate into their

having higher incomes than any other ethnic group, including all

whit Americans.(Parrillo,294)

The Japanese Americans have come a long way. Bus ofcourse

some prejudice and discrimination still exists today. The

?contemporary depiction?s of the Japanese tourists and samurai

businessman…offer little of value to clarifying the identities

and realities of [Japanese Americans]…these stereotypes

continue to shape how they are perceived.?(Kiag,2)

Early Japanese immigrants came to the United States in

search of economic prosperity. They were met with hostility,

prejudice, and discrimination. Everything they worked so hard

for was taken and their rights violated. The dominant group

demonstrated total economic exploitation. After enduring such

injustices and hardships, many are now enjoying the life the

Issei dreamed of for their families.


Work Cited

Parillo, Vincent N. Strangers to These Shors: Race and Ethnitc

Relations in the United States. Needham Heights, :

Massachuchetts: 2000, 287-289.

Klimova, Tatiana A. ?Internment of Japanese Americans: Military

Necessity or Racial Prejudice.? Old Dominion University.

1-9 (5/2/00)

Asia, Ask. ?Linking The Past to Present: Asian Americans Then and

Now.? The Asia Society 1996. 1-3


Spickard, Paul R. Japanese Americans: The transformation and

Formation of an Ethnic Group. New Yourk:1996,93-159

McWilliams, Carey. Prejudice Japanese Americans: Symbol of racial

Intolerance. boston: 1945,106-190.

Myer, Dillon S. ?Joseph Yoshisuke Kurihara.? Upprinted Americans

1971. 1-5


Asin, Stefanie.?Poignand Memories.? Houston Chronicle 7/31/95.1-3


Reaseach Center.?research on 100th/442nd reginent conbat

team.:NJAHS.1-2 5/2/00

Miyoshi, Nubu.:Idenity Crisis of the Sansei.?Sansei legacy

project 3/13/98.1-21


Kiang, Peter.? Understanding the Perception of Asian Americans.?


Society1997.1-2 5/2/00


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