The Japanese WWII Internment – 75 years ago today

Camp Harmony, under construction in 1942, at the Puyallup Washington State Fairgrounds. 7,390 people of Japanese decent were interned here. Photo courtesy of the Tacoma Public Library.

As I’ve written a number of times on this blog, our family had friends of Japanese ancestry who lived here in the Tacoma/Puyallup/Orting area of Western Washington. They were interned in “camps” during the Second World War. The presidential order for that round-up of American citizens took place exactly 75 years ago today. One of those camps – although a temporary collection point – was Camp Harmony, right here at the (Puyallup) Washington State Fairgrounds. See the photo. We attended many concerts in that grandstand behind the temporary housing – the Beach Boys, John Denver, and Ricky Nelson, just to name a few.

This was a shameful period in American history. Our small town of Orting was hit hard by it – the uncalled-for racism and the unrooting of our citizens is still felt today – all these years later. Our community has healed, but it took a very long time.

The following is from the February 19, 2017 Los Angeles Times. It includes comments made by the Press at that time. Oh, my…:
Seventy-five years ago today, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, declaring parts of the United States to be military zones from which particular groups of people could be “excluded” for security reasons. The order set the stage for the relocation and internment, beginning the following month, of 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom were American citizens living on the West Coast.

To our lasting shame, here’s what The Times editorial page had to say about the matter at the time:
“This is war. And in wartime, the preservation of the nation becomes the first duty. Everything must be subordinated to that. Every necessary precaution must be taken to insure reasonable safety from spies and saboteurs so that our armed forces can function adequately and our industrial machinery may continue to work free from peril.”

And this:
“The time has come to realize that the rigors of war demand proper detention of Japanese and their immediate removal from the most acute danger spots. It is not a pleasant task. But it must be done and done now. There is no safe alternative.”

And this, a year or so later, when some people were calling for the release of those who had been interned:

“As a race, the Japanese have made for themselves a record for conscienceless treachery unsurpassed in history. Whatever small theoretical advantages there might be in releasing those under restraint in this country would be enormously outweighed by the risks involved.”

Read the full article.

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