I'd like to respond to Lee Allen's defense of the U.S. government's internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II (Deseret News, March 4). His facts about internment are typical of Army rhetoric - only telling part of the story to put the proper "spin" on events. For instance, Allen mentions the perceived threat that Japanese immigrants might be in league with the Japanese war machine. When the smoke cleared, there were no confirmed cases of espionage by Japanese- Americans.
Allen also did not mention that first-generation Japanese immigrants, the Issei, were not allowed to hold U.S. citizenship. By 1941, they were the only group that as a whole were denied this opportunity for no legitimate reason.Allen also didn't tell readers that the Japanese-Americans lost nearly everything they owned due to relocation. They only had days to set their affairs in order and either liquidated belongings for pennies on the dollar or stored them. Belongings stored by the government, for the most part, were not there when they returned; these possessions had been stolen. Also, bank accounts were frozen during the relocation years. After the war, most of these people returned to poverty conditions.
Another piece of information missing from Allen's letter concerns the so-called dissidents transferred from the regular relocation camps to Tule Lake Segregation Center. They were sent to Tule Lake because they answered "no" to at least one item on a loyalty questionnaire. The most troublesome question asked each individual if he or she would "forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power or organization." The Issei, who were denied U.S. citizenship, would become people without a country if they answered "yes." And younger generations, who were U.S. citizens, were wary that this might be a trick question. Some were simply angry that their loyalty was questioned in this manner. In any case, an answer of "no" was a ticket to Tule Lake Center.
Allen uses a dismissive tone in his defense of Japanese-American relocation, as if to say that America never makes a mistake. The Japanese-Americans got their apology, he says, and their $20,000 reparation payments in the 1980s, so "stop trashing the country and get on with life."
But this is not a matter of whining or attacking the worth of our nation. No, this is a matter of remembering. George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Admitting our mistakes and striving to avoid them next time around is one of the major reasons we should study history.
Michael O. Tunnell