I would like to compliment Jason Swensen on his recent articles on the "Day of Remembrance" and the visits to the site
of the Topaz Relocation Center. In contrast to the exaggerations and outright misinformation usually associated with stories on relocation, his was a straightforward and balanced effort.However, I would like to point out a few historical facts that may be of interest to readers. Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, approximately 6,000 people of Japanese descent, most of them Japanese citizens, were picked up by the FBI and screened as to their potential threat to the country.
Of these 6,000, about 2,600, all Japanese citizens and therefore classified as "enemy aliens" under well-established U.S. law, were interned for the duration of the war in Justice Department Internment Camps (not relocation centers) along with about twice that number of Germans and Italians.
After this roundup, the problem facing the U.S. government was how to handle the potential threat on the West Coast from an unknown number of other individuals of Japanese descent.
Intelligence reports, including information from loyal members of the Japanese community who had infiltrated some of the most militant pro-Japan organizations and, particularly, decoded, secret Japanese cables, (MAGIC, which were declassified only in the 1980s) revealed the existence of a threat.
The purpose of relocation was to remove the threat from the West Coast as quickly as possible and then separate loyal Japanese from subversive elements. Of the approximately 110,000 people relocated, 36,000 were citizens of Japan. Most of the remainder were their children, who by right of birth, were American citizens.
Of the 110,000 relocated, approximately 3,000 refused to renounce their loyalty to the Japanese emperor or otherwise demonstrated their enmity toward the United States. They, along with their innocent children, (total number 18,000) were separated from the others and placed in a "Segregation Center" at Tule Lake, Calif. There, many showed the wisdom of their segregation by holding Japanese-style military demonstrations, petitioning for repatriation and an opportunity to fight against the United States and other outrageous conduct.
Those left in the "relocation centers," strange as it may seem, were largely relocated to jobs and schools in the interior parts of the country, not imprisoned for the duration as most reports indicate. About 4,000, including large numbers of Japanese citizens, attended U.S. colleges and universities. In total about 50,000 were relocated to other parts of the county. As Sen. H.I. Hayakawa observed, virtually every person who could speak English and work was relocated.
Having spent more than three years in a real Japanese concentration camp in the Philippines, I have empathy for the tender feelings many Japanese-Americans have for the experience of relocation and its effect on the lives of tens of thousands of good and loyal countrymen. The event needs no embellishment and certainly no historical fabrication.
Now that those living who were interned in the Justice Department internment camps, those who demonstrated against the United States in the Segregation Center and all the Japanese citizens (enemy aliens), as well as those who were relocated, have been paid $20,000 tax free and given an apology, perhaps it is time to stop trashing the country and get on with life.