Contents Japanese-American Internment Camps
Summary: A concentration camp during a dust storm.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese-Americans were faced with discrimination and segregation. Because the Americans were afraid of the Japanese race they forced every Japanese citizen living in America to live in internment camps. Some people had to live in the camps for up to four years. When the government realized that the Japanese-Americans were innocent they were released and every person that was kept in a camp and gave them each $20,000. Even though they were given money, Japanese-Americans would suffer through economic and health problems for many years to come. The conditions for Japanese-Americans were difficult due to the food, sleeping quarters, death, and surroundings.
How did they get there?: The prisoners’ luggage was kept in holding areas before they were put on trains to go to the camps.
When the Pearl Harbor attack took place, many people were afraid that all the Japanese-American people were evil and could not be trusted. The Japanese Americans “had suddenly become enemy aliens because they were born Japanese” (Sakurai 10). When President Franklin Roosevelt declared that all people of the Japanese American race were to be kept in concentration camps, trains and busses began transporting thousands of people to and from concentration camps. These train and bus rides lasted for several days. As a matter of organization families were given tags with a different number on them for each family. People were required to wear a tag with the number corresponding to their bags. Japanese Americans were treated extremely unfairly from the very beginning of their concentration camp experience.
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor many Americans were afraid that there would be another attack. President Franklin Roosevelt took charge and required all of the Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast, roughly 120,000 people, to be imprisoned in concentration camps. Ten different Japanese-American concentration camps were established. These camps were; Topaz, Poston, Gila River, Amache, Jerome, Rohuid, Minidoka, Manzanar, Tule, and Heart Mountain. While in the camps, many older Japanese teenagers did not have the ability to go to college. The National Japanese-American Student Relocating Council “gave 3,000 people the ability to attend college”. Once the Japanese-Americans were released from the camps, they were found to have many health problems. These health problems would continue to be passed on between Japanese-Americans for many years. The two most common health problems were heart disease and premature death. By knowing the statistics of concentration camps one can realize how awful and terrible the camps really were.
Death and Violence: Young children hold the flag and say the pledge before school begins
Once the Japanese-Americans entered the internment camps, they were faced with many levels of death and violence. Before they were herded into concentration camps, Japanese people were taught wonderful moral values. After they started living in such cramped quarters with their families, these moral values went down the tubes. One onlooker stated,” The result of their tension would usually result in fighting” (Sinnott 40). When prisoners tried to escape from the camps the armed guards were required to shoot them. Few Japanese-Americans were actually killed by the guards, but it did happen. Other common causes of death were lack of medical care and emotional stress. These internment camps brought no good into the Japanese-American’s lives resulting to deadly and violent actions.
For the most part, a day in the life of a Japanese-American was not the type of day many people would enjoy. One onlooker stated, “The homes that the people lived in were really just animal sheds, and windowless shacks” (Sakurai 21). When mealtime would come around the Japanese-Americans would wait in long lines to receive their food. In an effort to get their own food, “farms” were built and the people living in the camps were able to raise their own livestock. This livestock consisted of pigs, cows, and chickens. The worst part of being in the concentration, for most people, was not being able to speak Japanese. Guards were required to search through the prisoners’ belongings and find any item resembling spy equipment and any letter or package containing any other language than English. These lifestyles were not fair, leaving the Japanese-Americans in a state of panic.
The setting for the concentration camps pretty intimidating. The shining silver barbed wire fences that lined the entire camp intimidated the Japanese-Americans. Everywhere they went, all the Japanese-Americans saw was barbed wire fences. The concentration camps were in private desert wastelands that were infested with sagebrush, dry earth, dust, and sand. One prisoner explained,” Sand filled our mouths and nostrils and stung our hands like a thousand darting needles” (Sinnott 39). When the Japanese people saw their living quarters they were very angry. Most families had four or more people and each family was only given one room each. Perched on high sentry towers, guards stood at post day and night. They were required to kill anyone of the Japanese race that tried to leave the camps. Over all, the setting was not at all pleasing or comforting to the Japanese-Americans forced to live in it.
Camp. 21 April 2008 www.scoe.k12.ca.us
Flag. 1 May 2008 www.askasia.org
Hilberg, Raul. “Concentration Camps”. Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 2008
Internment History. 1999. Children of the Camps the Documentary. April 17, 2008. www.nettrekker.com
Luggage. 21 April 2008 www.lawbuzz.com
Sakuri, Gail. Japanese-American Internment Camps. New York: Children’s Press, 2002
Sinnott, Susan. Our Burden of Shame: Japanese-American Internment during WWII. New York: Franklin Watts, 1995
Created by: Eleni C