The Japanese American Cases
The Rule of Law in Time of War
After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt, claiming a never documented “military necessity,” ordered the removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II solely because of their ancestry. As Roger Daniels movingly describes, almost all reluctantly obeyed their government and went peacefully to the desolate camps provided for them.
Daniels, however, focuses on four Nisei, second-generation Japanese Americans, who, aided by a handful of lawyers, defied the government and their own community leaders by challenging the constitutionality of the governments orders. The 1942 convictions of three men—Min Yasui, Gordon Hirabayashi, and Fred Korematsu—who refused to go willingly were upheld by the Supreme Court in 1943 and 1944. But a woman, Mitsuye Endo, who obediently went to camp and then filed for a writ of habeas corpus, won her case. The Supreme Court subsequently ordered her release in 1944, following her two and a half years behind barbed wire.
“Nobody knows the field like [Daniels] does and nobody has written more about internment and the wartime experiences of Japanese Americans. What distinguishes this volume from his previous work is its focus on court cases related to internment, not just the famous four Supreme Court cases, but also those having to do with military service, citizenship, and redress.”
—Pacific Historical Review
“A timely work exploring both incarceration and its consequences for the post-war Japanese American community.”
—Journal of Asian American StudiesSee all reviews...
“This is an admirable compilation of the many strands and layers of this complex history. What sets this book apart is his tone of understanding and looking at things from the point of view of us, the victims of government policy, admirably illustrated by passages like this: ‘For the West Coast Japanese Americans the eleven months following Pearl Harbor were an extended waking nightmare as their illusions about their place in wartime American society were inexorably destroyed.’”
“Nonspecialist readers will benefit from its tightly written summaries not only of the litigation initiated to challenge the internment program but also of the broader social history of ethnic Japanese experience in mid twentieth-century America.”
“Daniels’s clear and straightforward work is accessible to a general audience and useful to an academic audience. It offers important insight into the history of rectifying the injustices committed against Japanese Americans. It is important to know this story not only to prevent future wrongdoings but also to understand why equality and justice are important.”
“No issue better reflects the tension between constitutional principle and the demand for security than the World War II internment of Japanese and Japanese American citizens. In crisp prose and with moving detail, Daniels brings the stories behind these landmark cases to life and demonstrates the complex interplay of rights, fear, racial animus, individual courage, and justice that shaped these decisions and their historic aftermath. If we are to learn from our mistakes, we must examine them closely. Daniels provides a national service in helping us do just that.”
—David Cole, author of Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism
“Daniels has a well-deserved reputation as a leading historian on this subject. Here, he ably recounts the legal challenges to their internment by four young Japanese Americans, which resulted in Supreme Court decisions that still provoke debate and denunciation. He also brings this story up to date with accounts of the successful effort in the 1980s to vacate their criminal convictions and promote ‘redress and reparations’ on behalf of all victims. This book is a timely reminder of a shameful episode in American history.”
—Peter Irons, author of Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases
“A clear and candid account of one of the great failures of American civil rights.”
—Allan Ryan, author of Yamashita’s Ghost: War Crimes, MacArthur’s Justice, and Command Accountability
“In this revealing study, Daniels demonstrates how seemingly ordinary people asserted their constitutional rights against all odds. He analyzes judicial opinions and unearths internal divisions among government officials and conflicts among lawyers representing both sides. A must-read for all concerned with justice in America.”
—Eileen H. Tamura, author of In Defense of Justice: Joseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for EqualitySee fewer reviews...
Neither the cases nor the fate of law-abiding Japanese attracted much attention during the turmoil of global warfare; in the postwar decades they were all but forgotten. Daniels traces how, four decades after the war, in an America whose attitudes about race and justice were changing, the surviving Japanese Americans achieved a measure of political and legal justice. Congress created a commission to investigate the legitimacy of the wartime incarceration. It found no military necessity, but rather that the causes were “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” In 1982 it asked Congress to apologize and award $20,000 to each survivor. A bill providing that compensation was finally passed and signed into law in 1988.
There is no way to undo a Supreme Court decision, but teams of volunteer lawyers, overwhelmingly Sansei—third-generation Japanese Americans—used revelations in 1983 about the suppression of evidence by federal attorneys to persuade lower courts to overturn the convictions of Hirabayashi and Korematsu.
Daniels traces the continuing changes in attitudes since the 1980s about the wartime cases and offers a sobering account that resonates with present-day issues of national security and individual freedom.