'Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Japs': Japanese American Internment During World War II and Its Challenge to Americanism
This thesis explores the impact the mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II had on notions of Americanism. Though the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor rightly triggered a national sense of fear and vulnerability, more significantly, it precipitated a touchstone event that contradicted America's core principles: the evacuation and relocation of 120,000 ethnic Japanese living in southern Arizona and the western portions of California, Oregon, and Washington solely on the basis of their ethnicity. Citing military necessity, the evacuation order effectively exiled over ninety percent of the Japanese-American population--two-thirds of whom were American citizens--from their West Coast homes, compelled them to leave virtually all of their possessions and mechanisms of social support, and confined them to desert camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Most of these individuals remained incarcerated without trial for the duration of World War II.