World War II- DBQ: Was the Internment of Japanese Americans Justified?
During World War II, American Citizens who were of Japanese ancestry were forced to leave their homes and go live in relocation camps. They had not been accused or found guilty of any crimes. Below are several parts of what the Supreme Court said as to why they did this.
Use the three documents below to answer the essential question “Was the Internment of the Japanese Justified? Why or Why not?
Hirabayashi Vs. US, 1943- US Supreme Court
Distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon… the doctrine of equality… We may assume that these considerations would be controlling here were it not for the fact that the danger of espionage and sabotage, , in time of war and pf threatened invasions, calls upon the military authorities to scrutinize every relevant fact bearing on the loyalty of populations in the danger areas. Because racial discriminations are in most circumstances irrelevant discriminations are in most circumstances irrelevant and therefore prohibited it by no means follows that, in dealing with the perils of war. Congress and the Executive are wholly precluded from taking into account those facts and circumstances which are relevant to measures for our national defense and for the successful prosecution of the war, and which may in fact place citizens of one ancestry in a different category from others… The adoption by Government, un the crisis of war and of threatened invasion, of measures for the public safety, based upon the recognition of facts and circumstances which indicate that a group of one national extraction may menace that safety more than others, is not wholly beyond the limits of the Constitution.
Korematsu V. US., 1944 Supreme Court
It is said that we are dealing with the case of imprisonment of a citizen in a concentration camp solely because of his ancestry, without evidence of inquiry concerning his loyalty and good deposition towards the United States. Our task would be simple, our duty clear, were this a case involving the imprisonment of a loyal citizen in a concentration camp because of racial prejudice. Regardless of the true nature of the assembly and relocation centers- and we deem it unjustifiable to call them concentration camps with all the ugly connotations that terms implies- we are dealing specifically with nothing but an exclusion order. To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue.
General JL DeWitt, suggested policy, 1942
This is the statement by General DeWitt that inspired and justified the internment policy. The Federal Government and the Supreme Court accepted DeWitt’s statements.
… In the war in which we are now engaged, racial affinities are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race, and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become “Americanized”. The racial strains are undiluted… It therefore follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are disturbing indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity. The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.
US Bill of Rights
Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment II: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
Amendment III: No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
Amendment IV: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Amendment V: No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Amendment VI: In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Amendment VII: In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Amendment VIII: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Amendment IX: The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
1. For what reasons did US citizens of Japanese ancestry need to be confined and relocated according to the documents?
2. Why was this not an instance of racial prejudice and/or discrimination according to the court?
3. What evidence is given to support the need to relocate and intern Japanese Americans?
4. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and the US president are allowed to take action in times of war. What parts of the Constitution grant them these powers?
5. Was the Internment of the Japanese Justified? Why or Why not? Write a paragraph explaining your reasoning
6. Task: Write a dissenting Court Opinion, letters to the editor, editorial, or TV commentary on this issue. Read the Bill of Rights; and state which violations may be involved here