My name is Dr. Abbie Salyers Grubb and I began my research on the Japanese American experience eight years ago. Since then I have traveled across the country and even to Europe visiting all of the sites that are significant to Japanese American history including the ten relocation camps and the site of the rescue of the Lost Battalion in Bruyeres, France during World War II. Last year I completed my dissertation on Japanese American history entitled “The Internment of Memory” in which I discuss the fact that the United State largely forgot or ignored Japanese American history for roughly 30 years after the end of the war. During my studies, I have frequently been asked why I have such a passionate interest in the Japanese American experience given that I have no personal or biological connection to the story. The reason that I have spent the last eight years studying Japanese American history is the same reason that the suggested amendments to the Social Studies TEKS need to be changed. This history is unique and significant within US history – it is not only relevant to the Japanese American community.
As the United States entered the war against the Axis forces of Japan, Italy, and Germany, the nation took steps to protect itself from within by enacting the 1789 Alien Enemies Act, which states that "all natives, citizens, denizens, or subjects of the hostile nation or government... shall be liable to be apprehended, restrained, secured, and removed as alien enemies." This ultimately resulted in the internment of thousands of German, Italian, and Japanese American enemy aliens in Department of Justice camps across the country, including three here in Texas. Though this was unpleasant, harsh, and unfair for all who were innocent, it was also legal and constitutional. All who were imprisoned received their day in court and were eventually released.
In contrast, the treatment of the entire West Coast Japanese American population was unconstitutional. The attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in the racist and unnecessary Executive Order 9066. Signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, this law allowed for the removal of any and all persons from strategically significant zones to be determined by the West Coast Defense Command under General John DeWitt. Despite the fact that no particular race was mentioned in the document, the government used their authority to target one single population – the Japanese Americans. All residents of the West Coast who were of even 1/16 Japanese ancestry were rounded up en-masse and herded like cattle into hastily constructed and insufficiently provisioned assembly centers located in fairgrounds and race tracks across the West. From there they were put into one of ten camps overseen by the War Relocation Authority.
To make the distinction clear, this confinement was unconstitutional and illegal. The Japanese Americans had no right to a trial, which is guaranteed by our nation's Constitution, and they were confined solely on the basis of race. It was the US Government itself that declared in 1983 that the mass relocation of Japanese Americans was based on "race prejudice... and a failure of political leadership."
The aspect of this story that really caught my attention was that despite this blatant racism and unconstitutional treatment, thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered to serve in the US Army in both the European and Pacific Theaters. Volunteers came from both Hawaii and the mainland, often straight out of the camps to enlist. The original 100th Infantry, formed from disbanded Hawaiian Territorial Guard units, fought with such determination and bravery that their casualty rates earned them the nickname of the “Purple Heart Battalion.” After the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was formed in January of 1943, they joined their comrades and fought through Italy and France earning more combat decorations than any other unit for their size and length of service. When the 141st Regiment of the 36th "Texas" Division was surrounded in the Vosges Mountains of France and no one else could get through to them, it was the 100th/442nd that was called in to rescue the lost men, at a huge cost to their own companies. While these men fought in Europe, 6,000 other Japanese Americans distinguished themselves in the Pacific Theater as Military Intelligence Service Linguists, translating documents, interrogating prisoners, and interpreting for military leaders. Major General Charles Willoughby of the Allied Translation and Interpreter Service (ATIS) credited the Nisei with shortening the war by two years and saving over 1 million lives through their efforts.
I would never attempt to make the claim that the Navajo Code Talkers or Tuskegee Airmen do not deserve recognition, but I do strongly believe that the men of the MIS and 100th/442nd deserve a place in the history books next to them.
Similarly, the treatment of the Italian and German Americans during the war certainly merits attention, but it is crucial that the distinction be made between the internment of the Japanese, German, and Italian American Enemy Aliens and the forced removal and mass confinement of Japanese American citizens and immigrants under EO 9066.
Thank you for your time and consideration of our remarks.
– Abbie Salyers Grubb, PhD