Bob Fuchigami was 12 years old when he and his family were told to leave their 20-acre farm in northern California. The peach trees that his immigrant parents had planted were about to yield their first big crop. It was May 1942, five months after the Japanese Pearl Harbor attack. Fuchigami and his parents and siblings were among more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans ordered to report to internment camps. The Fuchigamis ended up at one in dusty southeastern Colorado. He and his family, like many others held in the camps during World War II, never returned to their previous lives and were left with only memories. And the 10 camps themselves, quickly dismantled at the end of the war, also became memories. Now the National Park Service is asking former internees like Fuchigami how it can preserve what is left of the camps and the stories they hold. The Service stands to get $38 million to help cities and groups develop educational programs. …
Congress has approved spending the money, but it remains to be appropriated. Advocates hope to see the money in the coming year. Among them is Fuchigami, now 77, who wants to ensure that no one forgets.
”I just want to make sure it doesn’t happen to other people,” said Fuchigami, who has amassed a collection of thousands of photographs and documents from that chapter in his life.
A young Fuchigami and his family had about a week to pack what they could. His parents leased their land. Fuchigami set his pet rabbits free, left his dog and said goodbye to his friends.
The Fuchigamis were moved to the country fairgrounds in Merced, California before being sent to a relocation center being hastily built in southeastern Colorado, a landscape of prickly pear cactus and sagebrush prone to dust storms. For three years they lived in a barrack in what came to be called Camp Amache, surrounded by barbed wire and six guard towers just outside Granada. …
|White House PR Campaign – Gila River Internment Camp|
An order by President Franklin Roosevelt cleared the way for the evacuation of all Japanese Americans from parts of Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona. In 1988, Congress apologized for the evacuation. About 2,000 people moved to Colorado voluntarily before the evacuation at the governor’s invitation. They and other Japanese-Americans already in Colorado weren’t interned but were subject to curfews and travel restrictions. Camp Amache quickly became Colorado’s 10th-largest city, its 7,000 internees nearly all from California …
Most adults had jobs, earning from $12 a month to $19 for professionals such as doctors – less than an Army private’s wages. The internees included Disney cartoonists Chris Ishii and Tom Okamoto, Stanford University professor Yamato Ichihashi, and Chiyoko “Pat” Suzuki, who became a singer and Broadway performer. The mother of ice-skating champion Kristi Yamaguchi was born there.
Farmers grew alfalfa, corn and wheat, and they introduced crops including tea and Chinese cabbage. Businessman opened a co-op store with a $2,500 investment from internees, and residents printed their own newspaper, checked by censors. The camp’s high school auditorium held graduations, as well as funerals. Nearly 1,000 men and women from Amache would serve in the military, including Fuchigami’s brothers. Thirty-two people refused to serve and were imprisoned, then pardoned after the war. …
These days, he lives comfortably in the foothills outside Denver with floor-to-ceiling views of pine trees. …
|Feb. 1942 – Enroute to Internment Camp, still waving US Flag|
President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones,” from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific Coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, except for those in internment camps. In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion, removal, and detention, arguing that it is permissible to curtail the civil rights of a racial group when there is a “pressing public necessity.”
Some compensation for property losses was paid in 1948, but most internees were unable to fully recover their losses. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race, prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership}, and beginning in 1990, the government paid reparations to surviving internees.
|San Diego Americans Enroute to Internment|
In 1935, FBI agents had surprised two Japanese nationals preparing to sabotage the radio direction finder in the chart room of the new China Clipper air service then being inaugurated. The air service was understood to be an important means of strengthening U.S. influence in and around the Philippines, then a U.S. colony. During the period of 1939-1941, the FBI compiled the Custodial Detention index (“CDI”) on citizens, “enemy” aliens and foreign nationals who might be dangerous based principally on census records. On June 28, 1940, the Alien Registration Act was passed. Among many other “loyalty” regulations, Section 31 required the registration and fingerprinting of all aliens above the age of 14, and Section 35 required aliens to report any change of address within 5 days. “Within 4 months, 4,741,971 foreign nationals had registered at post offices around the country.”
The most widely reported examples of espionage and treason are the Tachibana spy ring and the Niihau Incident. The Tachibana spy ring was a group of Japanese nationals who were arrested shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack and were deported. The Niihau Incident occurred just after the Pearl Harbor attack; two Japanese Americans on Niihau freed a captured Japanese pilot and assisted him in his machine-gun attack on Native Hawaiians there. Despite this incident taking place in Hawaii, the Territorial Governor rejected calls for wholesale internment of Japanese Americans in the Islands.
Some present-day supporters of the internment have argued that some Japanese Americans were indeed disloyal, as seen by approximately 20,000 Japanese Americans at the start of the war who joined the Japanese war effort, hundreds joining the Japanese Army. One particular example is Tomoya Kawakita, an American citizen who worked as in interpreter and a POW guard for the Japanese army, and who actively participated in the torture (and at least one death) of American soldiers, including survivors of the Bataan Death March. Kawakita was convicted for treason and imprisoned.
However, many historians and scholars, as well as former internees, object to the use of this term because the people who were sent to these camps were not merely “relocated.” In fact, Japanese Americans were forcibly uprooted from their homes and communities, and were imprisoned in what could be referred to as “prison camps.”
…was a barbed-wire-surrounded enclave with unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and a budget of 45 cents daily per capita for food rations. Because most internees were evacuated from their West Coast homes on short notice and not told of their destination, many failed to pack appropriate clothing for Wyoming winters which often reached temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. Many families were forced to simple take the “clothes on their backs.” Armed guards were posted at the camps, which were all in remote, desolate areas far from population centers. Internees were typically allowed to stay with their families, and were treated well unless they violated the rules. There are documented instances of guards shooting internees who reportedly attempted to walk outside the fences. One such shooting, that of James Wakasa at Topaz, led to a re-evaluation of the security measures in the camps. Some camp administrations eventually allowed relatively free movement outside the marked boundaries of the camps. Nearly a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States, outside the exclusion zone. Eventually, some were authorized to return to their hometowns in the exclusion zone under supervision of a sponsoring American family or agency whose loyalty had been assured.
The phrase “shkiata ga nai” (loosely translated as “it cannot be helped”) was commonly used to summarize the interned families’ resignation to their helplessness throughout these conditions. …the Japanese people tended to comply with the U.S. government to prove themselves “loyal citizens”.
Some Japanese Americans did question their American loyalties after the government removed them and their families from their homes and held them in internment camps, although such cases were isolated incidents and did not reflect the larger sentiment of the Japanese-American people, who remained loyal to the United States. Several pro-Japan groups formed inside the camps, and demonstrations and riots occurred for various reasons in many camps … Of those who renounced their citizenship, 1,327 were repatriated to Japan, although many of these deportees were not accepted by the Japanese Government. … Faced with possible deportation to Japan, the Issei [iii] largely refused to renounce their only citizenship. …
It is also important to note that there were 20,000 Japanese American men in the U.S. Army during World War II and many Japanese American women. The famed and highly decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Europe, was formed from those Japanese Americans who did agree to serve. Most notably, the 442nd was known for saving the 141st (or the “lost battalion”) from the Germans. The 1951 film Go For Broke! Was a fairly accurate portrayal of the 442nd, and starred several of the RCT’s veterans.
|Canadian Japanese Internment Camp – Lemon Creek|
On September 27, 1992, the Amendment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, appropriating an additional $400 million in order to ensure that all remaining internees received their $20,000 redress payments, was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush, who also issued another formal apology from the U.S. government.
To this day, some believe that the legality of the internment has been firmly established as exactly the type of scenario spelled out, quite clearly, in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. [iv]
…the Supreme Court in the 1944 Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases, specifically, its expansive interpretation of government powers in wartime, were not overturned. They are still the law of the land because a lower court cannot overturn a ruling by the US Supreme Court. However, the coram nobis cases totally undermined the factual underpinnings of the 1944 cases, leaving the original decisions without the proverbial legal leg to stand on. But in light of the fact that these the 1944 decisions are still on the books, a number of legal scholars have expressed the opinion that the original Korematsu and Hirabayashi decisions have taken on an added relevance in the context of the War on terror.
Children of the Camps, PBS
Japanese Internment Camps and Their Effects, ThinkQuest
Japanese Internment Camps in the US, HistoryOnTheNet
Japanese Relocation Centers, InfoPlease
Japanese American Internment, Wikipedia