Japanese Relocation from Pacific Coast
This is a short version to clarify some of the myths that many people believe from repetition of incomplete information.
On Jan 29, 1942, all enemy aliens were excluded from all military and industrial areas, nation-wide. On Feb 10 the coastal areas of the entire West Coast was declared a war zone and enemy aliens were given a 48-hour deadline to settle affairs and leave. Those of Japanese ancestry that had not voluntarily removed themselves by May 1, 1942, were bused to Assembly and Relocation Centers in part for their safety. (Bataan Death March was April 9.) Movement was completed by 30Oct'42.
When everybody was settled in, all were given a questionnaire of loyalties on 10Feb'43 – a Japanese salesman trapped here by the war obviously had no loyalty to U.S. Those not antagonistic to USA were allowed to relocate anywhere outside the Pacific Coast war zone, about 70 miles from the Pacific Coast, from March'43. Displaced time until released was about 10 months. Those that had relocated themselves as requested (Feb-Apr'42) before the busing never saw a relocation center. Those wanting to move out of the camps to the Midwest or East were given a bus ticket and a week's wage. Those that had no family or friends inland or were afraid of moving into the unknown interior (justifiably) stayed in the safety of the relocation centers which remained open throughout the war for their convenience and a while after. Over 40% had relocated by war end.
Living conditions were better than of many war-industry workers. Those that stayed were paid for maintenance tasks with many doing farm work in neighboring areas (they retained their earnings) with children attending school and young people going to college; nursing students were on full scholarship. The entire West Coast was reopened with the new year of 1945 after destruction of the Imperial Navy (Leyte Gulf, Oct'44) eliminated danger of attack on the West Coast, yet before Iwo Jima and Okinawa.
The problem to the relocated Japanese was from selling their homes and belongings at great loss. Trying to rebuild a life after the war must have been hard. But the reader should note that the "U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry" were mostly children, equivalent of current anchor babies and the targets for relocation were their parents who were enemy aliens ; should the children have been left behind? All nations in wartime round up residents of the enemy within their territory. Only the U.S. allowed them freedom to relocate outside of the war zone. Yet this episode is seen as the greatest sin in United States history.
Much is made of the loyalty of Japanese-Americans as shown by joining our army and fighting in Europe. Six percent of those males of draft age signed up, whereas 20% of American males served. Granted, it was not made known that they would not be sent to fight in the Pacific and some may have declined to join the Army for that reason. Those that did join were in a separate regiment and given the most dangerous tasks causing a great number of casualties. A General once arrived to award medals and chastised the Colonel for not having all of his men present at parade for the ceremony. The Colonel had to tell him that all that survived and could walk were present. Those men deserve the respect of the nation.
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