Discussion Post 4: Was America’s Interment of Japanese Americans Justifiable?

For this week’s Discussion Post 4 assignment you will:

· study the lecture on ‘The Good War and the Re-Birth of Equality, 1941-1945’

· OpenStax textbook chapter 27.2 “Social Tensions on the Homefront” and “Internment.”

· read a secondary source article and two primary source documents pertaining  to the Supreme Court case known as 
Korematsu v. United States (1944).

· read two 
New York Times articles related to America’s wartime imprisonment of Japanese Americans and a recent Supreme Court ruling.

Once you have done the assigned reading and watched as well as our lecture on racial justice during WWII, contribute a historically well informed discussion post and reply post that addresses the general question

Was the Internment of Japanese Americans Justifiable?

You should address the following specific questions in your discussion posts:

1. What basic reason(s) did the Court give for upholding Korematsu’s conviction and the constitutionality of the Civilian Exclusion Order, and do you feel it was justified in doing so?

2. Do you agree with the dissenting opinion of Justice Jackson? Why/why not?

3. Do you feel that Korematsu’s conviction was either more or less justified than Eugene Debs’s conviction in 1917? Why? (note: be sure to review our materials from Week 7 to help inform your response here)

4. What effect did wartime imprisonment have on the lives of those Japanese Americans imprisoned?


After contributing your main post (450 words minimum), you should respond to ONE of your classmates’ posts stating why you agree/disagree with their statements regarding the same questions (50 words minimum). Remember, observe the rules for good manners and polite discussion in all your posts, but feel free to agree/disagree with your classmates based on your understanding of the evidence.

 that you are more likely to get full credit for your posts if you identify key language or statements from the documents themselves that support your views, and take into the consideration the historical context in which these events occurred (i.e. based on the issues raised in lecture and the reading of the brief secondary articles provided by the link under Week 11 Content). 


Note: Your grade for this assignment will NOT be based on your opinions, but rather how historically well INFORMED your post is from the materials I have assigned. You should NOT presume to use other internet sources that I have NOT assigned.


Follow all the guidelines for posting that we have established, including a minimum of 450 words (more is fine), and keep in mind the feedback comments/suggestions I have made on your earlier work.


The deadline for posting to Discussion Post 4 is Sunday @ 11:59PM.



World War Two: The Arsenal of Democracy and Racial Justice

I. The Good War in American Memory

“V-J Day” August, 1945
New York City Times Square

“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy…” FDR, speech to Congress

“Always will our whole nation remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people, in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory.”

“Four Freedoms” by Norman Rockwell, appeared on cover of Saturday Evening Post, February, 1943

“A people’s war for freedom”

“Four Freedoms”

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into universal terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants-everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. ”

  — Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress, January 6, 1941

“Democracy’s fight against world conquest”:

I want to make it clear that it is the purpose of the nation to build now with all possible speed every machine, every arsenal, every factory that we need to manufacture our defense material. We have the men, the skill, the wealth, and above all, the will.

“We must be the great arsenal of democracy.” –FDR

“There’s something true about,
red, white and blue about,

Rosie the Riveter.”

Saturday Evening Post, May 1943

Marines raise American flag on island of Iwo Jima, February, 1945.

Academy Award nominated picture, 1950 starring John Wayne

Academy Award winning movie, 1998 starring Tom Hanks.

II. Life During Wartime and the Struggle for Racial Justice

Religious toleration

Public anger over “sneak attack” on Pearl Harbor fuels anti-Japanese sentiment…..

“the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the empire of Japan.” – FDR, War Message

Anger against Japanese nation……

….translates into anger at ALL things Japanese here in U.S.

Signs posted around area “We don’t want any Japs here – Ever!”

Propaganda fueled by racist perceptions…

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) published hundreds of cartoons during the war, including anti-Japanese cartoons.

Civilian Exclusion orders following Pearl Harbor…

“Japanese blood”: one grandparent enough; Some given 10 days to prepare, some given 24 hours.

Turn in all weapons, including Samurai blades, and radios….

127,000 persons interned

“I was born and raised here,” Jim Tanaka, Sacramento area resident.

“We lost everything,” Jim Tanaka, whose family had a farm and grew strawberries in Florin area of South Sacramento.

Patted down by FBI, men and women, by FBI men. Everyone given a number, “looked like a price tag.”

Topaz Internment Camp, near Delta Utah…

8,000 civilians interned.

“Told by Army we were being protected against angry civilians, yet machine guns pointed in.”

Army-built barracks: one light bulb, mattresses were bags stuffed with hay, no indoor plumbing, heating, cooling, etc.

Maintained gardens, arts & crafts, even baseball teams.

Kids asked to recite Pledge of Allegiance in school.

“It wasn’t until I was growing up that I realized that we went to prison. We went without a trial and without due process. I was angry for a long time.” Alice Hirai (3 years old, interned at Topaz camp).

A chance to serve…

When war started, 5,000 Japanese-Americans already in military. Army took away their guns, gave them jobs as custodians. Not allowed to work in kitchens, fear of poisoning.

442nd Regimental Combat Team

“Go for Broke” Battalion; 14,000 served.

Had to sign loyalty oath and foreswear allegiance to Japan.

To say “No,” was to renounce citizenship.

18,000 commendations for bravery…

Lost 800 to save 214 in “Lost Battalion.”

“We were expendable,” Jim Tanaka

Half century later…. 22 veterans received nation’s top honor for bravery on the battlefield.

Shizuya Hayashi, U.S. Army, private, Co. A, 100th Infantry Battalion

Charged a German machine gun position and killed 9 enemy soldiers, and took four prisoners.

Awarded Congressional Medal of Honor, June, 2000.

Jim Crow also alive and well during WWII…

Army soldier, 2nd Lieutenant John Roosevelt Robinson, court-martialed for refusing to sit in the back of a segregated army bus, Fort Hood, Texas.

“The Army recently issued orders that there is to be no more racial segregation on any Army post. This is an Army bus operating on an Army post.”

As World War Two began, 30 states outlawed interracial marriage….

….and the military segregated its blood supply.

Yet, before the war, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802:

Establishes a Fair Employment Practices Commission…

“there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of
creed, color, or national origin.”

Answer the call for factory workers….

…but, still faced with widespread discrimination even in wartime.

Inspires protest against Jim Crow

“There must be no dual standards of justice, no dual rights, privileges, duties or responsibilities of citizenship. No dual forms of freedom.

If Negroes are not the equal of white citizens, then they are unequal, either above or below them….We want the full works of citizenship with no reservations. We will accept nothing less.”

–A. Philip Randolph, the March on Washington Movement, 1942

1943, Executive Order 9346, denying government contracts to Companies with discriminatory policies.

15,000 black workers among those at Ford’s River Rouge Plant.

Country still faces conflicts over segregation…

Detroit, 1943. 34 killed in rioting over hiring of three black assembly line workers.

Despite barriers, patriotic wartime service…

Dorie Miller was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Wartime service…

When the war began in Europe in 1937, there were only about 5,000 black enlisted men and fewer than a dozen black officers in the regular army. Before the war ended in 1945, more than a million black men and about 4,000 black women had served in the armed forces. Nearly half served abroad, most in Europe and North Africa, but thousands also served in the Pacific. African Americans served in all branches of the military during the war.

Tuskegee Airmen, 99th Fighter Group.

“We knew we had to participate. We loved the country as much as any Americans.”
— Pilot Herbert Carter

In 1941 the 99th Pursuit Squadron, the first black combat unit in the Army Air Corps, was established in Tuskegee, Alabama. More than 600 black pilots trained for this highly decorated unit. They completed more than 500 missions in the first year of America’s involvement in the war. Over 80 were decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross for combat over France, Germany, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.

After the war….

1948 President Truman issues executive order 9981: “equality of treatment and opportunity in the armed forces without regard to race, color, religion, or national origin.”

Former U.S. Army lieutenant Jackie Robinson…

… signs a contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and becomes the first black player in the Major Leagues in more than half a century. He is named Rookie of the Year.