WHY WERE JAPANESE AMERICANS PUT INTO CAMPS?
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Americans of Japanese ancestry were alleged to be a threat to the military security on the west coast. However, there were never any acts of espionage or sabotage ever discovered then or now. Two-thirds of those incarcerated were American citizens by birth, their parents, not allowed to become citizens, had lived as permanent U.S. residents for the previous 20-40 years. In 1982, a committee appointed by the U.S. Congress concluded that the incarceration was carried out without adequate reasons of security and was motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a failure of political leadership.
SINCE THE U.S. WAS ALSO AT WAR WITH GERMANY AND ITALY, WHAT ABOUT AMERICANS OF GERMAN AND ITALIAN DESCENT?
There were Germans and Italians who were interned for short periods of time but not en masse. The racial prejudice included rampant anti-Asian and specifically anti-Japanese sentiment since the turn of the century. For example, because of race, Japanese immigrants could not become naturalized citizens until 1952 unlike their European counterparts.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR HOMES AND BELONGINGS?
When Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes they were told that they could only take what they could carry. Some abandoned their property, many hurriedly sold their belongings at great losses, a few found non-Japanese American friends to care for their homes and businesses during the war. The personal and financial loss is incalculable.
DID THE GOVERNMENT ALSO CALL THEM RELOCATION CENTERS?
To make the incarceration more acceptable, the U.S. government quickly employeed euphemistic terminology to describe this event. Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts declared on December 18, 1944, that these so-called "relocation centers," were a "euphemism for concentration camps." American citizens were described as "non-aliens." This extensive use of euphemisms not only worked to delay legal/constitutional challenges but also functioned to gain the cooperation of Japanese Americans as well as deceive the America at large.
DID THE U.S. GOVERNMENT EVER ADMIT THE CAMPS WERE WRONG?
Yes, the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 signed into law by President Ronald Reagan acknowledged that the incarceration was a fundamental and grave injustice. "For these fundamental violations of the basic civil liberties and constitutional rights of these individuals of Japanese ancestry, the Congress apologizes on behalf of the Nation."