Victory in Europe (VE) Day Celebrations–image courtesy of www.gov.uk
As noted earlier, no sooner than the internment process began in the spring of 1942, did it become obvious that the whole operation had been a mistake. Of course, by then, the damage to the West Coast Japanese American community had been done. As early as January of 1943, at the same time that the government decided to allow Japanese Americans to serve in the armed services, various programs arranged for their release back into the civilian community. As reported in the July 30, 1943 Tulean Dispatch (the newspaper for the Tule Lake camp), some 76,000 “loyal Japanese” were to be returned to civilian life, a significant fraction of the 120,000 initially interned. That was the good news, but it was accompanied by significant bad: no one could return to those West Coast areas deemed militarily sensitive. WHICH MEANT that very few internees could go home (at least until the end of the war) to California or Washington. Consequently, many internees (mostly the young) moved to other western states and the midwest.
Most of the internment camps closed by the end of 1945, with Tule Lake being the last, in March of 1946. Sadly, many internees (particularly the elderly) did not leave their camps until they were forced out. Why? They had nowhere to go.
Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia.org
In 1988, after decades of efforts to seek redress for the internment, President Reagan signed into law the “Civil Liberties Act of 1988.” This piece of legislation provided monetary reparations but, more importantly, a statement that said what happened was the result of “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership,” and not the concern over national security as had been trumpeted at the time.
Final thoughts? I think that the World War II internment debacle serves as a reminder to us all to remain ever watchful of our own personal tendencies toward prejudice. Sometimes, outright fear (such as experienced during the horrors of World War II) can make us do and say things that we know are wrong. None of us is immune, and we must be ever vigilant to new challenges and prejudices that face us in this 21st century.
This blog completes a fourteen-part series that I’ve written to accompany my historical novel, How Much Do You Love Me?, a mystery/love story that revolves around the Japanese internment of World War II. Feel free to share this blog and e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) me if you have any questions.
This post was written by paulmarktag