As of December 31, 2014, I retired from full-time teaching in Humboldt State University's Department of History. While this website will remain online, it is no longer maintained.
History 111 - Dr. Gayle Olson-Raymer
The Causes and Consequences of World War II
Today we begin our last discussion topic in Unit II - how and why the world was embroiled in yet another world war and how and why the U.S. got involved. We can start our discussion with an excerpt from and explanation of one of the Why We Fight propaganda films directed by Frank Capra.
If you are interested, most of these films are available online. And if you really want to learn more about American film makers who went to war to convince Americans that the fight in World War II was righteous and just, read the new book by Mark Harris, Five Came Back: A Story Of Hollywood And The Second World War or listen to an excellent interview with the author aired in March, 2014. It will give you an excellent idea of how and why the United States "sold" World War II to Americans.
Discussion Goal #1: To briefly examine U.S. foreign policies with Europe between WWI-WWII
Remember that the U.S. emerged from WWI as the richest nation on earth. To a large degree, this status drove many of our foreign policy goals in the 1920s.
By the early 1930s, however, it appeared that more aggressive foreign policy should be considered in light of the challenge to the balance of power posed by Japan, Italy and Germany. Things were changing rapidly on the world stage - but the American public was disinterested. In the height of the depression, Americans wanted to stay out of the evolving conflicts in Europe and Asia.
Discussion Goal #2: To examine the rise of the Japanese Empire prior to WWII
What many Americans do not recognize about World War II is that it really began in Asia as early as 1937 when Japan began to invade China and quickly occupied Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. This is really the beginning of the war - a war the United States hoped to avoid.
However, if we look at the growth of the Japanese Empire from the late 19th Century to the 1930s, we can see that Japan threatened too many of our resources and supply bases in the Pacific for us to ignore them. Indeed, because the Japanese lacked the raw materials to sustain their growing industrial economy, as well as a constant food supply for the island, they spent decades expanding into China.
But by then, Europe had been at war for two years. Let's see how the war originated.
Discussion Goal #3: To understand the Chronology of World War II
1933 Hitler and the Nazi Party assumed power in Germany. Within two years Hitler established a fascist dictatorship.
1935 Benito Mussolini - premier of Italy since 1922 - embarked upon an imperialist campaign in Northern Africa. In October, Italian troops invaded Ethiopia and formally annexed it in 1936.
1937 Japan began its invasion of China, occupying Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou. The Pacific phase of WWII began.
1938 Hitler announced his intention to unify all German-speaking people and lands and create a new German empire - the Third Reich. His first move was Anschluss with Austria - occupying and annexing it to Germany.
1939 Germany invaded Czechoslovakia.
1940 Mussolini had a colonial empire in Africa.
1941 Congress passed the Lend Lease Act allowing the president to lend or lease supplies to any country whose defense was vital to American security. In return for American aid, Britain agreed to open all her markets to American trade.
1945 In February, the Big Three leaders met at the Yalta Conference where Stalin won several important concessions: he retained his plan for communist domination of Poland and the Balkans after the war and he was given extensive concessions in Asia, including control over Manchuria. In return, Stalin promised to enter the Pacific war three months after Germany surrendered, to provide free elections in Poland, and to accept the temporary partitioning of Germany.
When we entered the war, it had already been in progress for seven years in Asia and two years in Europe. So why did the U.S. enter WWII?
1. Americans wanted to respond to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Reality: While it is true that the US government and most Americans demanded retaliation for the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, it is also true that the US government wanted to enter the war in order to stop Japanese aggression in the Pacific and Asia.
2. All Americans supported the war - often known in the US at "The Good War."
Reality: While most Americans supported entering the war due to the attack on Pearl Harbor a significant amount of anti-war sentiment existed in the U.S. - but it was generally unorganized and confined to Conscientious Objectors, Jehovah's Witnesses, and thousands of individual pacifists.
- A year before the U.S. entered WWII, Congress passed the first pre-war conscription act in our history. The Selective Training and Services Act required all males between 21 and 35 to register for the draft for one year of service. When the US entered the war, the draft age was lowered to 18-38 years of age and men were called to service by age - with the oldest going first.
- About 10 million Americans were drafted into the armed forces and another 6 million enlisted during the war.
- About 72,000 men applied for CO status - 25,000 of whom entered the army as noncombatants, 12,000 who worked in civilian work camps, 20,000 whose claims were rejected, and 6,000 were imprisoned (most of whom were Jehovah's Witnesses).
- As many as 350,000 evaded the draft and an unknown number deserted. The Justice Department investigated most of these and obtained convictions of 16,000
3. The American people wanted to stamp out fascism and proove that democracy was a superior governmental system.
Reality: While the US was more democratic than much of the world, it still held onto many undemocratic principles that favored the corporate elite at the expense of labor, as well as policies that imprisoned those who disagreed with the nation's war-time policies.3. The Americans wanted to restore freedom and equality - the primary characteristics of American political, social and economic life - to Europe.
Reality: Inequality was ingrained in American society and freedom was routinely denied many Americans. Examples: black and white racism, sexism, Japanese relocation camps, segregation of the armed forces, separation of black and white blood donations by the Red Cross4. The American government want to help shape the peace in the postwar world and to respect "the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live." (Atlantic Charter)
Reality: The U.S. was determined to not only shape the peace in Europe, but it also wanted to provide postwar economic assistance that would protect our European investments and limit Stalin's expansion into China. Additionally, two weeks before signing the Atlantic Charter, the US assured the French government that they could keep their empire intact in French Indochina, despite the Vietnamese stated desire for independence.5. Americans wanted to stop what FDR called "inhuman barbarism that has profoundly shocked the conscience of humanity" - bombing atrocities and Jewish concentration camps.
Reality: The US also engaged in atrocities that "shocked the conscience of humanity." Examples: the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo; the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the Japanese relocation camps.
So, why did we use the bomb to end the war?
- To bring about a quick end to the war with minimum American casualties.
- To avoid Congressional criticism for $2 billion expenditure for a bomb that was not used.
- To contain Soviet expansion in the Pacific by intimidating them with bomb's power (containment). None of Truman's major advisors wanted to rely upon Soviet entry into the war as a means for winning the war - we would have to share the spoils with Soviets.
- Instead, the president's advisers argued, if the bomb were dropped, the U.S. would have won the war and would have a weapon to contain Stalin.
- Ironically, after the bomb was dropped, Stalin refused to negotiate a nuclear arms control agreement, the Americans experienced less security and less moral stature through its possession and use of the bomb, and the U.S. and Soviets plunged into a cold war arms race
The bottom line is - Our entrance into the war was not dictated primarily for moral reasons or reasons of humanity, but rather by military, economic, and political reasons that would shape peace - a peace that would make America the primary power in the post war world.
Discussion Goal #5: The Consequences of World War II
1790 - Congress passed the Naturalization Act which required "that any alien, being a free white person, who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for the term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof ... and making proof to the satisfaction of such court, that he is a person of good character, and taking the oath or affirmation prescribed by law, to support the Constitution of the United States." While the act was amended over the next 150 years to reinterpret what "white" meant, it was consistently enforced with the Japanese until 1952 when the Naturalization Act was nullified.
1869 - The first Japanese arrived in California and began an agricultural settlement near Sacramento.
1900-1910 - Japanese began to buy property in Central California and establish farms, vineyards, and orchards.
1906 - The San Francisco School Board ruled that the city's 95 Japanese students could no longer attend public school and instead would be sent to the Chinese segregated school. The ruling sparked a diplomatic crisis between Japan and the US which prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to send Commerce and Labor Secretary Victor Metcalf to San Francisco to persuade the school board to change its decision. The cartoon above, published in Harper's Weekly, shows Metcalf bowing to a white schoolboy, whose glare and slingshot in his back pocket mark him as a troublemaker. In the background, a Japanese mother tries to lead her child to safety. An editorial in the same issue suggested that an appropriate retaliation for the Japanese would be to open a school of manners for white American students. The writer blamed the influential “hoodlum” element in San Francisco for that city’s maltreatment of the Japanese and other East Asians.
1907 - President Theodore Roosevelt brokered a compromise between the Japanese government and San Francisco's local government: the Japanese would halt further immigration of laborers by denying them passports and San Francisco would not segregate Japanese students.
1910 - The California Japanese population numbered 41,356 and Japanese farmers owned or leased 194,742 acres of farmland.
Japanese farmers produced 70 percent of California’s strawberries and dominated the flower-growing industry.
1913 - The California Alien Land Law prohibited “aliens ineligible to citizenship” (the language from the Naturalization Act of 1798) from owning land or leasing it for more than three years. Nonetheless, the Japanese continued to purchase more farmlands, largely by buying in the names of or transferring title to their American born children who were American citizens.
1920 - The California Japanese population numbered 71,952 and Japanese farmers owned or leased 458,056 acres in California.
The Alien Land Law was amended to close the loopholes in the 1913 and thereafter forbidding any Japanese from owning or leasing land. Japanese landholdings dramatically decreased.
1930 - The California Japanese population numbered 97,456, with Los Angeles County having the largest population of 35,390.
1940 - The California Japanese population numbered 93,717. Japanese farmers grew 95 percent of fresh snap beans, 67 percent of fresh tomatoes, and 95 percent of the state's celery.
Dec. 7 War with Japan. The US declared war on Japan after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in which 2,300 American soldiers and sailors were killed and 1,200 wounded.
A blanket presidential warrant authorized U.S. Attorney General Francis Biddle to have the FBI arrest a predetermined number of "dangerous enemy aliens," including German, Italian, and Japanese nationals. 737 Japanese Americans were arrested by the end of the day.
Dec.11 FBI detained 1370 Japanese Americans classified as "dangerous enemy aliens."
Jan. 5 Japanese American selective service registrants were classified as enemy aliens. Many Japanese American soldiers were discharged or assigned to menial labor.
Jan.28 The California State Personnel Board voted to bar from all civil service positions, all "descendants of natives with whom the United States [is] at war." The ruling was only enforced against Japanese Americans.
Feb. 4 The US Army established 12 "restricted areas" placing enemy aliens on a 9 pm to 6 am curfew and allowing travel only to and from work.
Feb.14 General De Witt, commander of the Western Defense during WWII, submitted a memorandum to War Department recommending the mass evacuation of the Japanese.
Feb. 19 Executive Order No. 9066, authorized by FDR, permitted the War Department to prescribe Military Areas for Japanese relocation, to evacuate any or all persons from these areas, and to relocate them in internment camps. The only significant opposition came from the Quakers and the American Civil Liberties Union.
March Executive Order. Established the War Relocation Authority (WRA), a civilian agency to administer the military evacuation and internment. On March 24, General De Witt issued the first of 108 separate orders moving all persons of Japanese ancestry to the prescribed Military Areas, and prohibiting them from refusing to move or to leave the areas.
Aug. 7 All persons of Japanese ancestry had been removed to internment camps, approximately 120,000 people from California, Oregon, and Washington.
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed, consisting entirely of Asian Americans. By the war's end, it was one of the most decorated units in US military history - about 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts, 21 Medals of Honor, and an unprecedented eight Presidential Unit Citations.
June Hirabayashi v. US. Gordon Hirabayashi, a senior at the University of Washington, challenged military evacuation and curfew orders and was arrested, convicted and jailed. Hirabayashi argued that the orders were an unconstitutional delegation of power and that to them only against citizens of Japanese ancestry amounted to a constitutionally prohibited discrimination solely on account of race. Supreme Court upheld the curfew order as a legitimate exercise of governmentís power to take steps necessary to prevent espionage and sabotage in an area threatened by Japanese attack.
Yasui v. U.S. In late 1942, Minoru Yasui, an Oregon lawyer, was arrested for violating curfew orders. His lawyers argued the government's restrictions were unconstitutional because they were based upon racial prejudice, not military necessity. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled the government could restrict the lives of civilian citizens during wartime. After spending 9 months in solitary confinement, Yasui was released to an internment camp at Minidoka.
Jan.20 Secretary of War Stimson announced that Japanese Americans were eligible for the draft.
July 18 In Cheyenne, Wyoming, a federal district court convicted 63 men from Heart Mountain internment camp of draft resistance and sentenced them to 3 years in federal penitentiary. Seven other leaders and newspaper editor James Omura were arrested for conspiracy to encourage draft resistance.
July 29 Federal judge dismissed indictments against 26 Tule Lake draft resisters, declaring "It is shocking... that an American citizen be confined on the ground of disloyalty, and then... be compelled to serve in the armed forces, or be prosecuted for not."
Nov. James Omura was acquitted, but the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leaders were sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy. In January 1945, the Court of Appeals reversed the conspiracy convictions of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee leaders on technical grounds, but they remained in prison until March, 1946.
Dec.14 Korematsu v. US. The Supreme Court considered only the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which ordered Japanese Americans into internment camps during World War II. In a 6-3 decision, the Court ruled that the exclusion order was constitutional and that the need to protect against espionage outweighed Fred Korematsu's individual rights, and the rights of Americans of Japanese descent. The opinion concluded in part, "Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast ..., because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily, and finally, because Congress ... determined that they should have the power to do just this. There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great and time was short. We cannot, by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight, now say that these actions were unjustified."
Dec.19 In Ex Parte Mitsuye Endo the US Supreme Court found that regardless of whether the US government had the right to exclude people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast during the war (as had been decided days earlier in Korematsu v. U.S.), they could not continue to detain a citizen that the government admitted was loyal to the United States. Thus, Endo could no longer be retained in a relocation center and should immediately "be given her liberty." Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Murphy declared: "I am of the view that detention in Relocation Centers of persons of Japanese ancestry regardless of loyalty is not only unauthorized by Congress or the Executive, but is another example of the unconstitutional resort to racism inherent in the entire evacuation program...racial discrimination of this nature bears no reasonable relation to military necessity and is utterly foreign to the ideals and traditions of the American people." Within 48 hours, the government announced that all mass exclusion orders would be revoked and effective January 2, 1945, at which time the Japanese Americans could go home.
1946 In March, the last Japanese Relocation Camp was closed down.
1948 In Oyama v. California, the Supreme Court struck down the Alien Land Laws as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
1952 The McCarran-Walter Immigration and Naturalization Act ended racially-based naturalization ban and nullified the 1790 Naturalization Act which required that anyone who was to become a naturalized citizen of the US had to be a "free white person." The Act was amended, "The right of a person to become a naturalized citizen...shall not be denied or abridged because of race or sex or because such person is married."
1969 First Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage began when a group of about 150 people, mostly young, mostly Japanese Americans, drove by car and bus to Manzanar.
1972 After a year-long campaign led by the Manzanar Committee and the Japanese American Citizens League, Manzanar was designated California State Historic Landmark #850.
1976 President Gerald Ford rescinded Executive Order No. 9066.
1978 The Japanese American Citizen's League formed
a Redress Committee which proposed that the U.S. government acknowledge
their mistake and asked for $25,000 redress for each internee.
1980 Congress approved and President Jimmy Carter signed Public Law 96-317 that established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.
1983 Report of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians - Personal Justice Denied - concluded that exclusion, expulsion and incarceration were not justified by military necessity; such decisions were based on racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership. The Commission recommended monetary compensation to each surviving internee of $20,000.
The Hirabayashi, Yasui, and Korematsu (seen below) cases were reopened in 1983 by a group of mostly Japanese American attorneys on the basis of newly uncovered documents showing that the government knew Japanese Americans did not pose a security threat but hid that information from the court. The convictions were overturned by the Federal District Court of San Francisco with the court finding that the government was guilty of misconduct during the trial by intentionally withholding documents from multiple federal intelligence agencies clearly acknowledging that Japanese Americans posed no military threat to the U.S.
1988 The Civil Liberties Act called for the U.S. government to issue individual apologies for all violations of civil liberties and constitutional rights and too issue $20,000 tax-free payments to each internment survivor. Congress allocated $1.2 billion. Signed into law in 1989 by President Bush.
1990 Reparation payments began for each surviving internee. Eventually 60,000 survivors received payments.
1992 Manzanar was designated as a National Historic Site. The 23rd Annual Pilgrimage to Manzanar, held on April 25, 1992, brought more than 2,200 participants to celebrate the designation.
1998 During a White House Ceremony, President Bill Clinton honored Fred Korematsu for pursuing his plea of innocence for 56 years by presenting him with the Medal of Freedom.
2000 In June, the seven surviving members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team received the nation's top honor for bravery - the Medal of Honor - at Arlington National Cemetary.
2001 In June, a national monument was unveiled in Washington, D.C. and dedicated to Japanese American veterans of WWII and to people of Japanese descent who were forced into internment camps.
2003 In February, Representative Howard Coble (Republican, NC and Chairperson of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and homeland Security) made a comment on a radio talk show that he agreed with FDRs decision to intern Japanese Americans during WWII in order to preserve the nation's security. "We were at war. They [Japanese Americans] were an endangered species. For many of these Japanese Americans, it wasn't safe for them to be on the street."
2004 On September 16th, Fred Korematsu wrote an article for the San Francisco Chronicle in response to the statement made by Fox News media personality Michelle Malkin who claimed that because some Japanese Americans were spies during WWII, their internment was not such a bad idea. She then continued that racial profiling of Arab Americans was similarly justified by the need to fight terrorism. His article ends, "I know what it is like to be at the other end of such scapegoating and how difficult it is to clear one's name after unjustified suspicions are endorsed as fact by the government. If someone is a spy or terrorist they should be prosecuted for their actions. But no one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy."
Manzanar opens it Interpretive Center. In addition to telling the story of the concentration camp experience, the exhibit covers the history of pre-camp communities which lived on the land, such as the Owens Valley Paiute, farmers, rancher and miners.
2005 As a result of legislation sponsored by California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber and passed in 2004 allowing high school districts to give diplomas to internees, 400 total people had received their diplomas, some of them posthumously.
2010 Honorary Degrees were awarded at UCLA to Former Japanese American students.
In September California passed the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties bill, creating the first day in U.S. history to be named after an Asian American. Starting on Jan. 30, 2011 of each year, schools are encouraged to teach Korematsu's story and why it remains so relevant today.
2011 Acting U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal issued an official Confession of Error, admitting that the office was wrong in defending the country's war-time internment policy in the two U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu
2012 Soji Kashiwagi wrote a letter, publicized by the Manzanar Committee, protesting President Obama's signing of the National Defense Authorization Act on Dec. 31, 2011. The letter reads, in part: "The words, 'authorization to order the U.S. Military to pick up and imprison without charge or trial, civilians, including American citizens' and 'suspected' sends a chill down my spine. These words became a tragic reality for 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, when President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 authorized the U.S. military to forcibly remove American citizens, without cause or due process, and imprison them in ten desolate concentration camps located in the badlands of America - for over three years. It wasn’t until many years later that these 'suspected' citizens were found to be innocent and this completely unnecessary - and unconstitutional - action against them has been proven to be a massive civil rights disaster unprecedented in American history."
These losses and the war had profound and deep psychological effects that forever changed their lives. As one scholar has written:
"It must not be forgotten... that thousands of Japanese Americans had their lives destroyed and were never able, for one reason or another, to recover. There can be no more poignant evidence of that human waste and of manís inhumanity to man than the fact that thousands of exiles, persons who had been part of a free and self-supporting community, were so shattered by their wartime treatment at the hands of their own government that they literally had to be evicted from concentration camps." (Daniel, 1993:87.)