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09/04/2019

To what extent was sufficient information available in the early 1940s to enable people generally to..?

QUESTION
To what extent was sufficient information available in the early 1940s to enable people generally to..?
To what extent was sufficient information available in the early 1940s to enable people generally to recognize the evacuation and internment of Japanese-Americans was an unjust consequence of racial prejudice, war hysteria, and failure of political leadership? Essay question for ap US history. All help is appreciated.

ANSWER
I think the very nature of hysteria is that it tends to resist evidence and information. So your question is somewhat self-defeating in purpose. Sufficient information isn’t even the whole issue; you also have to deal with all the confusion and disinformation at the time (such as rumors that Japanese residents on Hawaii had guided in attacking planes by shortwave radio or poisoned the water supply). And remember, internment wasn’t nationwide. It was only on the West Coast, the potential warzone, and had been pushed for by the governors and attorneys-general of California, Oregon, and Washington. The FDR administration was basically responding to their demands. Also remember that not everyone interned was a citizen; of the approximately 120,000 interned, something over 40,000 were non-citizen residents.

If you want what is perhaps the best articulated case for and against internment from the 1940s, read Fred Koramasu’s case before the Supreme Court as well as the Court’s majority opinion explaining why they were allowing internment. To my mind, the strongest argument in Fred Korumasu’s case is that regular law-enforcement techniques were demonstrably sufficient to protect US security in the months after Pearl Harbor — even without internment, there had been no sabotage or espionage within the US from December 1941 through April 1942, when internment began. So if law enforcement had been sufficient in all of those months without restricting the civil liberties of Japanese Americans (like Korumasu himself), why was it so necessary after the spring of 1942?