The impact of the Pearl Harbor attack on Japanese Americans was immediate. During the time of Pearl Harbor, the population of the Hawaiian Islands was 38 percent Japanese and the fear towards their ethnicity was just as strong as on the mainland (Davenport, 2010). The
devastating attack on Pearl Harbor was only amplified by the United States government’s pre-existing and exaggerated fear concerning the Japanese Americans (Robinson, 2010).
Davenport (2010) reports the following: Japanese Americans living in
Hawaii and along the West Coast of the United States could feel the popular resentment rising against them on December 7. Neighbors who had shared their lives with them for years suddenly refused to
look at their Japanese-American friends. (p.3)
President Franklin Roosevelt signed proclamations on December 7th and 8th giving authorization to the FBI in arresting aliens within the continental United States that were deemed dangerous (Robinson, 2001). On December 7th there were 736 Japanese on the West Coast
taken into custody before the end of the day (Davenport, 2010). Using the “ABC list” that the Justice department created in 1941, FBI agents started arresting Japanese on the West Coast and in Hawaii only hours after the Pearl Harbor attack (Robinson, 2010). Those that were arrested were not chosen based on their individual records. Most
of them were community leaders or members of organizations that the government was suspicious of.
During the few days following the attack, around 1,300 Japanese
were in custody (Robinson, 2010). A former quarantine station at Sand
Island in Hawaii was converted into an internment camp. Those arrested on the West Coast of the United States were detained in
immigration stations until they could be transferred to a camp. All Japanese who owned fishing boats were ordered by the navy to come to shore so that they could not support any Japanese ships (Robinson, 2001).
The potential for arrest and hostility from Americans was certain for almost anyone that resembled the Japanese (Davenport, 2010). In February of 1942, 2,300 Issei members had been detained and West Coast residents made up 1,291 of them (Robinson, 2010).
According to Robison (2001):
On December 8 President Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress. Referring to the attack on Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy,” he asked Congress for a declaration of war against Japan. The resolution passed both houses with only a single dissenting vote. (p. 74) After the war was declared, all
Issei members were forced to follow a new curfew, prohibited from traveling over 5 miles from their homes without permission, and required to surrender their short wave radios, cameras, and any other contraband (Robinson, 2010). The Mexican and Canadian borders were closed off to all Japanese, whether they were
citizens or not (Daniels, 1972).
All Japanese aliens’ bank accounts were frozen by the Treasury Department until Eleanor Roosevelt stepped in and made them change it to allow each person to take out one hundred dollars
a month (Robinson, 2010). Attorney General Biddle authorized warrants to search any home where an “enemy alien lived” for
contraband, which was defined as possible weapons, explosives, radio
transmitters, and even cameras (Daniels, 1972). The FBI began to conduct raids on Japanese American homes, without warrants, which forced the Japanese American families, “to destroy or bury their
heirloom Japanese swords, archery bows, dolls, and pottery, out of fear of being incriminated. Frightened Issei and Nisei also destroyed countless books, family letters, private papers, and business records” (Robinson, 2010, p. 62).
In Hawaii, General Delos Emmons came on December 17th to take position as military governor (Robinson, 2010). He began enforcing 181 general orders that controlled all areas of the civilians’ lives.
He enforced curfews, regulated wages, prices of consumer goods,
rationed gasoline and other resources, and censorship of mail. While these were enforced to the overall public, they were meant for controlling the Japanese population. Japanese schools were closed, the buildings were seized, and the two main Japanese-language newspapers, Hawaii Hochi and Nippu Jiji, were shut down for four weeks. General Emmons restricted the access of Japanese to Pearl Harbor, Japanese farm owners were forced to leave their homes and belongings and some were only allowed to work on their farms during
From December through March after the attack, all of the Pacific Coast press continued to write racially negative things about the Japanese, referring to them using derogatory names such as, “Nips,” “yellow men,” “Mad dogs,” and “yellow vermin”(Daniels, 1972). President Roosevelt even received many letters from Americans asking him to
remove the Japanese from the country (Davenport, 2010).