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Kody Meyers

History 1700

On February 19th, 1942 Franklin Roosevelt issued executive order 9066. It was then

passed by congress March 21st, 1942. This order was written in response to urgings and fears of a

homeland attack or espionage among immigrants from the nations at war with the United States

and her allies, having declared war on Japan back in December of 1941 and Nazi Germany

subsequently declaring war upon the United States after that. With the entrance of the United

States into the Second World War this created a sense of fear because then United States is an

immigrant nation with many residents coming from Japan or Germany itself. Since the majority

of U.S. citizens at the time having at least some German ancestry there was little to no

discrimination brought upon recent German immigrants even though the nation was at war with

Nazi Germany. This was different for those with Japanese heritage because as they arrived in the

States they were discriminated against and forced to create their own communities inside major

cities due to racism. Contrary to this discrimination the Japanese worked extremely hard. This is

evident in agriculture illustrated by this quote from Our Documents.org “Japanese Americans

controlled less than 4 percent of California’s farmland in 1940, but they produced more than 10

percent of the total value of the state’s farm resources.” Even with this great evidence that the

Japanese-Americans were a positive force for the nation the supreme court case in 1922 Ozawa

v. United States, denied Japanese immigrants U.S. citizenship. Suffice to say there was racism

directed towards the Japanese even 20 years prior to the United States entrance into the war. I

believe that this has led to extreme fear and hatred that only intensified once Japan attacked at

Pearl Harbor.

The order itself only constitutes a single page of legal text. Ironically the order doesn’t

single out an individual race of people, it only says, “from which any or all persons may be

excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be
subject to whatever restrictions.” It then gives the power of deciding said persons to the secretary

of war or another military commander. This basically declares martial law upon anyone the

military deems necessary. On the bright side the order does give said military leaders the

responsibility to provide for the residents that are being imprisoned. “The Secretary of War is

hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such

transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations.” The order then goes on to order all

federal departments to provide the military with any assistance or resources they need.

I hereby further authorize and direct all Executive Departments, independent

establishments, and other Federal Agencies, to assist the Secretary of War or the said

Military Commanders in carrying out this Executive Order, including the furnishing of

medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter, and other

supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.

Even with these directions the camps were not a paradise. They were under supplied located far

from proper medical attention, and the prisoners were under armed guard with the only way of

leaving being joining up with the military. The form of shelter they were given was military

barracks, with communal living spaces and facilities giving those interned no privacy. Bridging

the gap between a civilian community and a military prison. This order is short and concise like

most military manners, but that is what this order is, it’s coming from the commander-in-chief of

the United States military. The audience for this document is not the citizens, but the military by

saying that all possible sympathizers of the enemies’ cause must be interned for the duration of

the war, so they cannot harm the war effort. Racism has been a part of American history since its

beginning, this document is an example of how racism has turned a national security concern

into a humanitarian crisis.

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Racism has been a large part of the United States military from restriction of colored

peoples from fighting on front lines, holding positions of command, and many cases holding

positions other than manual labor or service. This means the military is ill experienced in both

holding civilians as prisoners and colored civilians at that. When Franklin Roosevelt drafted this

order, he did not anticipate what would happen to the Japanese-Americans. As much as he

emphasized that the individuals interned be given proper care and facilities, this was not what

happened due to the military’s inexperience with civilian prisoners and those of color. It’s

strange to think that if this order was written in modern times the authority would not have been

given to the military, but to the department of homeland security. This is interesting because it

shows how small the government was compared to it’s current size where a responsibility was

added to an existing department and not the creation of a new one.

Franklin Roosevelt wrote order 9066 because of Americas entrance into World War Two.

This created a fear of another homeland attack especially because Pearl Harbor had just occurred

two months earlier. Ironically German-Americans were not prosecuted like the Japanese were,

but that is because most of the American population at the time had at least some German

ancestry and could not be singled out by skin color. Since Japanese-Americans are colored and a

minority they were vulnerable to discrimination especially in the military due to the culture of

separating the races into different regiments. So, when the military was given control over the

Japanese they regimented them away into small controllable portions. This order was meant to

remove a problem from the president and give the military more executive power during

wartime. The problem with giving the military power over these residents was the fact that in its

history the United States military had no experience to draw upon when holding civilians. I

believe that Roosevelt looked at the German concentration camps for inspiration which was

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under their military and believed that was how to manage perceived threats to the state all be it

not to the same degree or even realm as the Nazi’s extermination camps. To conclude I believe

that military commanders pushed Roosevelt to give them control over perceived enemies of the

state, and to relocate them into secure areas where they won’t have a chance to harm the nations

war effort.

I learned that the United States is a nation controlled by fear, but also that when push

comes to shove the minorities under the bus. I was appalled by how the nation acted and partially

ashamed that my family was part of this. Problem is my feelings come from almost 80 years of

hindsight, and honestly, I don’t think I would be as unset back then.

In History 1700 I learned that everything must be taken with a grain of salt. I trying to

say that American’s have always been on their own side and that only truly great people will try

to improve others lives like the white abolitionist did selflessly from the African-Americans, and

my namesake Buffalo Bill Cody with the Native Americans.

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