Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps
Michi Nishiura Weglyn, 1996
The book starts out with photos relating to the interment and reproductions of some newspaper articles relating to the Tule Lake riot. (Why books don't include more reproductions like this is a puzzlement to me.)
The introduction should definitely be read and is very hard-hitting. Chapter 1 deals with "The Secret Munson Report." This relates to the Munson report which was ordered by FDR prior to Pearl Harbor and concluded that there was no threat from the Japanese Americans living on the West Coast or in Hawaii that couldn't be handled by the FBI using normal measures. The report was kept secret until 1946, though.
The author points out that of those evacuated, many were infants, extremely young children or extremely old people, none of whom could possibly have posed any threat to the country. One of his interesting statements in relation to the Nisei is that they "show a pathetic eagerness to be Americans." He later adds "There is no Japanese ‘problem' on the Coast. There will be no armed uprising of Japanese. There will undoubtedly be some sabotage financed by Japan and executed largely by imported agents...In each Naval District there are about 250 to 300 suspects under surveillance. It is easy to get on the suspect list, merely a speech in favor of Japan at some banquet being sufficient to land one there. The Intelligence Services are generous with the title of suspect and are taking no chances. Privately, they believe that only 50 to 60 in each district can be classed as really dangerous. The Japanese are hampered as saboteurs because of their easily recognized physical appearances. ...There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type on the Coast than there is from Japanese. The Japanese here is almost exclusively a farmer, a fisherman or a small businessman. He has no entree to plants or intricate machinery."
Chapter 2 is entitled "Hostages." This chapter discusses the use of people as hostages to try to ensure Japan's good behavior, or as reprisals if Japan did something to its hostages that teed off the U.S. The chapter also discusses the Japanese-Peruvians that ended up in the U.S.
The events leading up to the decision to evacuate the Japanese-Americans is discussed along with FDR's anti-Japanese racism. Chapter 4 then deals with the actual evacuations. The life and problems at the assembly centers is discussed along with the construction of the internment camps. The author also discusses the use of guns and the behavior of the guards.
Next discussed are the work-release programs at the camps, people involved in making the evacuation decision who later regretted their decisions, and trouble in the camps. Also included is some discussion of the role of the JACL in relation to the camp problems.
The complex problem of the loyalty questionnaire is next to be covered, along with the role of Southern politicians in all this. Tule Lake is discussed in chapter 9, starting out with a quote showing just how bad the conditions were and how in some cases they were worse conditions than in federal prisons.
The conversion of Tule Lake into a segregation center is explained along with the international problem that happened when certain "troublemakers" at Tule Lake were given extremely harsh punishment. The end result was the ending of prisoner-exchange negotiations between the two countries.
Then, in an act that utterly confuses me, the author next puts in a variety of appendices.
Except it's not the end of the book, which is where appendices normally go. It's the middle of the book. There are 12 appendices, and then the book moves on to chapter 10.
Chapter 10 starts by noting that the U.S. and Japan both initially agreed to abide by the Geneva Convention. This applied to POW-internees, and only those actually held at the Dept. of Justice camps were considered by the U.S. to fall under that category, so the people in the regular camps did not have to be treated according to the Geneva Conventions. The main argument still centered around the use of the stockade for "troublemakers" at Tule, and Tokyo protested their treatment to the U.S. Family members were not allowed to visit people in the stockade (but in regular prisons they were allowed to) even though the ACLU protested. Discussions between the ACLU and some of those being held are presented. This amidst a rather questionable voting ploy by the camp administration to get those who against the protests into power in the camp.
Directly from the book: "In the improvident mishandling of the Japanese American minority, a singularly powerful weapon had been handed copy writers of Radio Tokyo. The wholesale racial detention of a people based on the mere accident of ancestry substantiated, as nothing else could, japan's claim that the war in the Pacific was a crusade against the white man's arrogance and oppression..."
The next chapter goes over the question of liberating or not liberating some or all of the internees. Discussed also was the movement to block internees from returning to the West Coast, a movement led by the Hearst newspapers.
The repatriation movement is covered next, especially at the Tule center. This is a very fascinating movement and one showing how much pressure one group can put on another to toe the line. It also doesn't make for happy reading of any sort. This is then followed by a discussion of how many of the people who initially renounced their citizenship wanted to change their minds, once the pressure of the more radical faction of the camp was eased.
The epilogue covers what has happened since the time of the closing of the camps.
This is a very, very good book (even if it does put the appendices in the middle) and contains a lot of detailed information on the problems at the Tule Lake Segregation Center, doing this in more detail than perhaps any other source I've yet consulted. Definitely a good book to get.
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