United but Unequal: I Am an American

The Arsenal of Democracy

While the cause of victory over the Axis powers united Americans, the racial supremacy championed by the Axis powers also refracted light on issues of national loyalty and race in America, exposing tensions which could not be ignored. As Museum founder Stephen Ambrose once wrote, “Soldiers were fighting the world’s worst racist, Adolf Hitler, in the world’s most segregated army.” This “terrible irony” existed on the Home Front as well: While German Americans and Italian Americans were not identified as potential threats, in the wake of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were most dramatically singled out for intense suspicion and contempt. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order through which Japanese American citizens were forced into internment camps without due process of law.