apple.gif (8395 bytes)


Hawaii School Reports

Quick Facts | People | History | Language | Nature


Internment in Hawaii & the Mainland

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, was just part of a larger war plan. Within weeks, the Empire of Japan had conquered the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaya, and Singapore. The British Dominions of Australia and New Zealand were threatened, as was the entire Indian subcontinent. The Battle of the Coral Sea was a draw, and while the U.S. won the Battle of Midway in June of 1942, Japan invaded the Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

The immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor - rage - began to be replaced by fear as Japan continued to expand. Many Americans feared Japanese-Americans were not loyal to the U.S. and would help Japan. While there might have been similar fears about German-Americans and Italian-Americans, it is not easy to tell one of German or Italian heritage from one of English or French descent. This is not the case with Japanese-Americans, although I wonder how many people of Chinese or Korean heritage mistakenly were seized by European-Americans as a possible enemy.

These unfounded fears, coupled with racism, led to the exclusion of Japanese-Americans from vast areas of the West Coast of the United States. Over 100,000 Japanese-Americans, more than half of them native born U.S. citizens were rounded up and put in internment camps. They had to sell their homes, businesses and property to whoever would buy it at whatever price was offered. Men, women and children spent the entire second world war in prison because they or their parents had been born in Japan. According to the 1940 census there were 126,000 Japanese-Americans in the mainland U.S., 67% of whom were U.S. citizens by birth.  In contrast, 157,000 Japanese-Americans were living in the Hawaiian Islands.

 

Web Links

Children of the Camps, a PBS documentary.

Japanese-American Internment, by the Utah Education Network.

Japanese Internment Camps - with maps of where Japanese-Americans were living.

Hawaii Japanese Americans Tell Their Pearl Harbor Story - from Asian Week, June 15 - 21, 2001.

Internment, great site with extensive quotes and research.

The Life and Times of Wild Bill Noda, from the Campbell Reporter.

ASIAN AMERICAN'S WITNESS AIR RAID ON DEC 7TH, 1941, from alterasian.com. Alternate link, at NBCI.

In Hawaii, there was no mass internment of Japanese-Americans, even though they made up about 1/3 of the population. The Japanese-Americans workers were crucial to the sugar and pineapple plantations. However, about 1800 Japanese-Americans in Hawaii were sent to internment camps in the mainland U.S. These interned Hawaiian Japanese-Americans were prominent in the community or otherwise thought to be some sort of risk. Unfortunately, the entire family was interned, not just those who were considered to be disloyal or a risk to national security. Initially, internees were kept at Sand Island and Honouliuli on Oahu, and the Kilauea Military Camp on the Island of Hawaii. Many were subsequently transferred to mainland camps.

Although 1800 is a small number of people, what do you say to someone who as a second grade student in Hilo was sent to a prison camp in Arizona because her father was a prominent Japanese immigrant?

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the detentions at the time.

Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress, reposing its confidence in this time of war in our military leaders - as inevitably it must - determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot - by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight - now say that at that time these actions were unjustified. Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214, 223 (1944). Alternate link.

Justice Murphy vigorously dissenting saying:

No adequate reason is given for the failure to treat these Japanese Americans on an individual basis by holding investigations and hearings to separate the loyal from the disloyal, as was done in the case of persons of German and Italian ancestry.... It is asserted merely that the loyalties of this group "were unknown and time was of the essence." Yet nearly four months elapsed after Pearl Harbor before the first exclusion order was issued; nearly eight months went by until the last order was issued; and the last of these "subversive" persons was not actually removed until almost eleven months had elapsed. Leisure and deliberation seem to have been more of the essence than speed.... It seems incredible that under these circumstances it would have been impossible to hold loyalty hearings for the mere 112,000 persons involved--or at least for the 70,000 American citizens--especially when a large part of this number represented children and elderly men and women. Any inconvenience that may have accompanied an attempt to conform to procedural due process cannot be said to justify violations of constitutional rights of individuals.

During the 3 years of internment, several Japanese-Americans were shot by guards. There were riots in the camps, and a number of people were convicted of resisting the draft. When the internees were finally released, they had lost almost everything. In 1948, President Truman signed a law that was to compensate the internees for their economic losses. Few received any compensation.

In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act which provided $20,000 in reparations to each internee, and an apology.

For Star Trek fans, actor George Takei, Lieutenant and then Captain Sulu, was interned during World War II.

To lean more: Children of the Camps, a PBS documentary.
Japanese-American Internment, by the Utah Education Network.
Japanese Internment Camps - with maps of where Japanese-Americans were living.
Hawaii Japanese Americans Tell Their Pearl Harbor Story - from Asian Week, June 15 - 21, 2001.
Internment, great site with extensive quotes and research.
The Life and Times of Wild Bill Noda, from the Campbell Reporter.
ASIAN AMERICAN'S WITNESS AIR RAID ON DEC 7TH, 1941, from alterasian.com. Alternate link, at NBCI.

Return to:  Pearl Harbor | History of Hawaii

About the Author:  Brian N. Durham is currently editor of My Hawaii News, a publication of The 'Ohana Network.  A retired Coast Guard officer with 22 years of service, Brian is a member of the Hawaii Bar and has worked for the Hawaii State Legislature and the Linda Lingle Campaign Committee.


Graphics used on this page courtesy of:  ClipsAhoy.com; WorldAtlas.com
1998-2001 OhanaNet Corporation. All rights reserved.