Week 11: Japanese Redress: Caleigh Deane

The Japanese redress film on CSpan opens with Mr. Glickman, the chairman, explaining the proceedings within the court, saying that the entire process will most likely last until six thirty pm that night without a break for lunch. He states that various congressmen and representatives will either support of refute HR 442, an initiative that aims to compensate Japanese Americans who were interned through means of a one-time payment of 20,000 dollars, a formal apology from Congress, and a fund that aids in the education of the public so that such mistakes will not occur again in the future. The first speaker was Norman Y. Mineta, who was only 10 and a half when he was interned.  He opens with the most obvious question, being what threat could he have posed? He was never given an adequate answer. He recounted the story of his father in law who was imprisoned in North Dakota, and a reason was never given for his isolation and poor treatment. His own father lost his will to live to live after being interned, and his mother was interned for 2 years as well. Mineta explains the importance of the current generation of Japanese Americans, including his two teenage sons. Mineta of course supports HR 442 , but does not think it’s contents will make up for the past. HR 442 will close the previously unresolved chapter of American history for thousands of Americans going forward. Mineta then explains statistics regarding the interned Japanese Americans, remarking that 120,000 Japanese Americans were interned, with around 60,000 still alive. One fourth of the remaining internees were above 65 years old. Mineta then makes an analogy between the Japanese internment camps and slavery, stating that both were individual problems, that must be apologized for. 

Secondly, Robert T. Matsui explains his position on the bill; he was only 10 months old when the evacuation order was given. His grandparents were from Japan, but his parents were American citizens. His father started a produce business in Sacramento. Throughout his speech, Mr. Matsui became extremely emotional by recounting his personal memories of hardships he and his family endured. He recalled that his neighbors came to his parent’s door on the same day after the evacuation order was given. People offered to pay them for their furniture because they can’t take it with them when they go, and it is better to have some money than let their home be looted by strangers.  His parents had to give up their house for a meager fifty dollars and were forced to abandon the family produce business. Similar to Mr. Mineta’s musings, Mr. Matsui asks the pressing question: how could a ten month old pose a threat to United States security? Even though the war has been over for around forty years at the point of this trial, Matsui believed that a sense of disloyalty within the Japanese American community remained to that very day. Mr. Matsui tried to rationalize his own internment, asserting that, because the Japanese Americans were interned, they must have done something wrong in the eyes of the American people. He also points out that there were absolutely no cases of disloyalty within those of Japanese ancestry in America. Mr. Matsui finally accepted, after some time, that it was the government’s fault that they were interned, not their own. Mr. Matsui concedes that what is admirable about America is that Americans can look back and recognize their mistakes, and can redress their wrongs. He states that the 20,000 compensation is not only money, but a necessity for justice. He believes America should redress their past errors through monetary support.

The third speaker was Mr. Mike Lowry, a democratic Representative from Washington. He first points out that nobody was interned during World War 2 because of German heritage, therefore, Japanese internment was inherently racist. He then emphasizes the importance of American protection of individual liberties. The fourth speaker within this film was Mervyn Dymally, democratic representative from California. He begins by explaining that Gerald Ford rescinded executive order 9066 in 1976, 10 years before the trial, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and internment of Civilians created by Jimmy Carter declared internment was a “grave injustice”. Dymally then mentions that various Japanese individuals were now being pardoned because of misconduct in internment camps. Dymally states the provisions of HR 442, as I mentioned above; he believes that HR 442 is a “debt of justice” that must be paid. He includes that the bill was associated with the number 442 because 442 was one of the most highly decorated combat units during World War 2, made up of soldiers of Japanese descent. The fifth speaker is Samuel Stratton, who opposes HR 442; he knows why it is being proposed, but thinks it is bad because it focuses on events that happened 40 years ago. He then mentions the traumatic effects of the Pearl Harbor attack on the American people; Stratton accurately states that the attack was completely unprovoked, and that a person must be alive during the aftermath to understand the effect of Pearl Harbor. He emphasizes that Mr. Matsui and Mr. Mineta were not threats because of their age at the time, and that a generation gap between those who lived in World War 2 and those who were born after is evident. He tries to justify his lack of support of the bill through pathos regarding the Pearl Harbor attack, even though the Japanese Americans interned were not involved. He mentions how Roosevelt said we would not send Americans to fight another country’s war; the Navy assured Americans they could easily destroy Japanese fleet if necessary. Stratton asserts that the Pearl Harbor attack left the entire west coast vulnerable, with no military protection. Additionally, Stratton believes that Japanese people living in Hawaii before the attack were spies for the Japanese fleet, telling them detailed information about our military presence; it was possible that Japanese Americans on the West coast were aiding in an attack on America. Stratton thinks that it is rather simple with clear hindsight to criticize internment, but at the time, we had to anticipate every possibility; this was obviously not done in the past in his eyes, because we did not see the Pearl Harbor attack coming.  Stratton points out that most of the court was not even alive during the time. Of course it caused problems for Japanese people, but it was done as an emergency order; we have done the same thing to other types of Americans, such as young American men who were forced to fight abroad. Americans suffered, and the war did not “even touch our continent”. Internment was not unreasonable considering the circumstances; Japanese Americans did not experience the same hardships as those in Nazi concentration camps, therefore, Stratton believed that HR 442 should be modified.

The next speaker was Dan Lungren, who does not support individual compensation through the HR 442 bill; he had no knowledge growing up that Japanese Americans were removed, even from his area of California. He states that monetary reparations were never planned to be included in HR 442. He did not know that unless reparations are a part of a “proper apology”, their efforts meant nothing. Lungren was also surprised to learn that Japanese Americans were not removed from Hawaii, but rather only the West Coast because Hawaii wouldn’t have the workforce needed without them. Lungren was born after World War 2, and recognizes that his generation doesn’t have an appreciation for the difficulty the previous generation faced during the war. He agrees internment was wrong, but it is obvious that a country at war is going to make mistakes. He then tries to explain and justify Roosevelt’s mindset when he made the decision; received messages that Japan would use Japanese Americans as spies and covert operators among our society. Lungren believes an apology is necessary to make sure people know that Japanese Americans were and are not currently disloyal. He also points out that not a single Japanese American was charged with espionage during or after the war. In retrospect, of course it was a bad decision, but understanding what Roosevelt had access to when making the final call is equally important. Lungren believes Roosevelt had “our nation’s best interests at heart” when choosing to intern Japanese Americans during the war. He asserts that there is race prejudice everywhere, so how do you avoid making similar mistakes as those in the past? There is no answer. Lungren supports the creation of a fund to aid in historical research to avoid the same travesty occurring in the future. He then discusses the 1948 Evacuation Claims Act, and the amended Social security act that allows Japanese Americans to receive benefits. Lungren then questions the legitimacy of redress itself, asking if any Japanese Americans who were ever interned can seek redress, can all military decisions be reviewed a generation later? One generation can judge another one based on their newfound knowledge, but can you put a price tag on suffering?

The last speaker within the first hour and fifty minutes is Spark Matsunaga, who begins by explaining Franklin D Roosevelt’s proclamation of Executive Order 9066 that “gave the secretary of war authority to designate military areas and to exclude any and all persons from such areas”. He instituted a curfew for Japanese Americans.  Matsunaga then discusses statistics among the interned Japanese, mentioning that 80 percent of the Japanese Americans were native born citizens, and many of them were children; the other 20% were elderly legal Aliens who were not legally allowed to become citizens because of the Oriental Exclusion Act. Matsunaga recalls that when the law was repealed, there was a “rush” of aliens to become naturalized. His father was not naturalized until 80 years old after spending 60 years in America. He had always wanted to become an American citizen, and believed that you owe your loyalty not to your country of birth, but rather your country of adoption. On another note, Matsunaga states that1565 Japanese American soldiers defended Hawaii against the Pearl Harbor attack. After this event, the war department issued an evacuation order of American soldiers of Japanese ancestry from Hawaii. When invasion was no matter a threat, Japanese soldiers had to turn in their arms and ammunition; Recounting this occurrence made Mr. Matsunaga very emotional. The Japanese Americans soldiers who were exiled petitioned their president to send them to the warfront to fight the Japanese to prove their loyalty. Their loyalty to their country had been questioned which was extremely hurtful. One World War 1 veteran who was interned could not bear the fact that his loyalty to America had been questioned, so he committed suicide.

2 thoughts on “Week 11: Japanese Redress: Caleigh Deane

  1. In your final paragraph you mentioned the soldier who committed suicide because he could not bear that his loyalty was questioned and denied. I thought that it was very sad to watch this final part because it showed the toll that it took on soldiers in the war, they purposely wanted to put themselves in the most danger to prove that they were in fact loyal to the US. It was unfair to them that they had to take such extreme measures in hopes that they would be trusted and safe only to still be discriminated against and denied their basic rights.

  2. Very thorough post, but you have put “Chinese” in your post title not “Japanese.” There is a huge difference and it is really problematic that you have done this. Partial credit.

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