Should Japanese Internees Come Back?

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, panic ensued and logic faltered in favor of fear and emotion.

Constructing quarters for evacuees of Japanese ancestry at War Relocation Authority

Background: After the attack on Pearl Harbor, rumors of a plot among the Japanese people to sabotage the American war effort spread. President Roosevelt then issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the creation of military zones in the United States from which "any or all persons may be excluded." In March 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry living within this zone on the Pacific coast had to report to civilian assembly centers. Approximately 117,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, were relocated to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. They had to abandon businesses, farms, and homes.

Listen to an oral interview with Tokuji Yoshihashi about how he and his family were moved to the Gila River Internment Camp in Arizona.

How do you think the average American responded to this December 1942 poll about allowing internees to return to the Pacific coast after the war?

Do you think the Japanese who were moved inland from the Pacific coast should be allowed to return to the Pacific coast when the war is over?

___ Yes
___ Yes, qualified
___ No
___ No Opinion

Granada Relocation Center, Amache, Colorado. Name plate in English letters and Japanese characters, 1945. Courtesy of the National Archives.

The Results:

Source: Gallup Poll, Dec, 1942.

What Happened: Squeezed in tar-papered barracks, families did their best to maintain familiar routine as their traditional social and cultural patterns were disrupted, creating tensions. Some 3,600 men joined the armed forces and the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team famously won numerous decorations. A handful of internees fought against the deprivation of their civil rights and, in January 1944, a Supreme Court ruling halted the detention of US citizens without cause. The exclusion order was rescinded and the camps were slowly evacuated.

Listen to an oral interview with Tokuji Yoshihashi about how he joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

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WWII Polls

Public opinion polls give us unique insight into America in the WWII era. Each week, historians from the Institute of War and Democracy work with the archives of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research to explore what Americans believed and how they felt about events and people related to the WWII years.

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Christelle Le Faucheur

Christelle Le Faucher, PhD, is a Research Historian in the Institute for the Study of War and Democracy. She came to the Institute in 201...
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