Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans
This book, copyright 2000, consists of a number of essays about the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II. A couple of the essays are written by people who were actually in the camps; the majority of the essays are written by their descendants.
Some of the most important points made in the book include the following:
Polls show 64% of Americans believe that, during wartime, the president "should have the authority to change or abridge constitutional rights."
Lawyers for the Bush administration said that critics of administration policies were ignoring "Supreme Court precedents that approved such extreme wartime actions as the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II."
Executive Order 9066 (the original Presidential order allowing for the internment of the Japanese Americans) was not rescinded until 1976.
Even those they were in internment camps, surrounded by barbed wire and guns, Japanese-American males were subject to being drafted to fight for the U.S. 63 were indicted for being draft resisters and sentenced to three years in prison.
On December 6, 1942, at the Manzanar camp, military police opened fire on a crowd of demonstrators, killing two and injuring ten others. The demonstrators were protesting the arrest of a cook who had tried to organize a kitchen-worker's union.
People forced to move were given less than a day to maybe several days to sell/store their possessions, sell their houses and businesses and pack up only as much as they were allowed to carry with them (2 suitcases per person.)
Schools in the internment camps were organized by the prisoners themselves, sometimes with help from the camp administration. Schools, though, tended to lack supplies, including books, and the room conditions were primitive at best.
The barracks had no running water. Latrines and baths were communal, with virtually no provision for privacy. Barrack construction was poor, and dust would come right in through the walls (the camps were placed in dusty, barren places.)
Most of the internment camp survivors speak little if at all of their experiences, many because feel somehow responsible for their being locked up.
In one case a deaf man tried to catch his dog and was gunned down when he got near the barbed wire.
Even though the Japanese Americans were placed into the internment camps since they were supposedly a danger to the U.S., some were still allowed to get furloughs to help the surrounding farms during their harvest time. (If they were such terribly dangerous people, then why were they allowed out at all?)
Belonging to certain groups was considered a sign of a person's being a "subversive danger." Such groups included Japanese language schools and Shinto and Buddhist groups.
Just because World War II ended and the internment camps were closed does not mean the danger of such an activity ended. The Internal Security Act of 1950 provided for "mandated detention of likely spies and saboteurs during an internal-security emergency declared by the President." in Title II of the act. Such persons would be given a right to defend themselves, but the attorney general had a right to withhold evidence "deemed potentially dangerous to national security." In other words, you could defend yourself, but the government can withhold the very information you need to have to defend yourself with.
Appropriations were made by Congress between 1952 and 1957 to build six detention sites, including one at Tule Lake, the site of one of the original internment camps.
Title II of the Internal Security Act was not repealed until 1971. However, the repeal allowed that an act of Congress could allow such imprisonments to take place.
The Supreme Court held that the internment of the Japanese was constitutional and it is still viewed as such.
Those are only a few of the many fascinating and at times frightening facts contained in this book.
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