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tv   Japanese American Internment  CSPAN  September 25, 2017 12:00am-1:11am EDT

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announcer: during tuesday's washington journal, we are live in maryland as part of the c-span 50 capitals tour. our guest will be maryland lieutenant rutherford at 8:30 a.m. eastern. join us tuesday for the entire washington journal program beginning at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span. >> up next on the presidency, rick robinson discusses the conflict between president franklin d roosevelt and first lady elinor roosevelt. fdr signed the document which led to the forced relocation of japanese-americans to internment camps. mr. robinson is the author of by order of the president, fdr and the internment of japanese americans. roosevelt museum hosted this event. it's about an hour. afternoon.
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on bill harris and i'm deputy director here. it's very nice to see everyone out on this sunday afternoon. we want to thank you on behalf of all of our supporters and want to thank you and for theport national archives and records administration. the organizations helping to make this possible today. it's a place not just to hold and display the materials that were generated in collected of the course of his career but also as a place to study and learn about his administration and the -- about the times in which he was working. little could have appreciated the economic complexities but the ultimate war which helped define his administration and
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his presidency. seriouslye car's fair and we seem to encourage analysis into all facets of after your post life, leadership, and his decisions, as well as those now in retrospect of mrs. roosevelt. everything that was controversial must be taken with the good and the appreciation and the honor. this isn't to tear down but to understand and foster an atmosphere here that the president would have encouraged for debate and dialogue based on evidence here in the archives, the evidence that is here for interpretation and review. not merely on opinion. we can trust that the sources here at the library are without question and that this form is open to everyone.
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it is for everyone. we are pleased to have here today -- greg robinson. he will be speaking about his book "by order of the president: fdr and the internment of japanese americans". he will provide us with valuable insight. we encourage all of you here today to go over to see it and go through the exhibit and appreciate the hard work that our team did to create this exhibit. greg is a noted scholar on internment, the author of multiple works including a tragedy of democracy -- he is a
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professor of history at the university of quebec, montreal. he is a good friend of the library, greg, please? thank you very much. [applause] mr. robinson: good afternoon, it is a very great honor to be here at the fdr library, thank you all for coming, thank you for inviting me. it is really impressive that we have this kind of turnout on a sunday afternoon, it is very nice of you to take time from your schedules for this. i wanted to talk today about the clash between franklin and eleanor roosevelt on the subject of japanese americans. president reagan roosevelt and first lady roosevelt --
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president franklin roosevelt and first lady roosevelt clashed about this. the president signed executive order 9066 which authorized the removal of over 110,000 japanese americans from the west coast on the basis of their ethnicity. the president referred to the intern camps as concentration camps. he referred to them this way meaning that this is where people were concentrated. not like the nazi concentration camps. this was the case of a government confining it on people. we understand that technically -- internment is slightly inaccurate. because there is no other word for this, we use it as a placeholder. at the same time, the president
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allowed japanese americans to be stripped of their property and to be confined without charge. we will talk about what happened in a minute. his wife was a human rights activist who considered arbitrary confinement un-american. forced to remain publicly silent on this by her position as first lady. she privately attempted to persuade the president to not do this. she sought to speed the process of letting the inmate out. the vivid contrast between the roosevelts and their words and action helps to eliminate the larger question, how such events could take place and what lessons we can take from it. follow me?
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good. there will be a quiz on this later. [applause] the story starts during the late 1930's as the struggle for power in the pacific rose between japan and the united states. as japan begins large-scale naval building in 1935 and 1936, it invades china in 1937 and then eventually signed an alliance with nazi germany and fascist italy. the president was planning for the possibility of war and took steps toward this. in the process, they became worried about japanese on the west coast. there were 100 -- 150,000 people of japanese ancestry in each of these regions. they were made up of immigrants themselves who had been in america for several generations, since the beginning of the 20th century. they spent their adult lives in
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the united states. the majority of the community was their american-born children. there had long been prejudiced against japanese-americans on the west coast. why was a different matter. on the west coast they could not own property. they faced job discrimination. anti-japanese journalists, publicists and speakers spread wild rumors about them such as absurd stories about how japanese american fishing boats on the pacific were japanese naval vessels in the sky that could be taken out at a moments notice and transformed into 20 -- torpedo boats. it is not clear how much the president and his advisors were directly influenced by such
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talk. certainly they were led to suspect the loyalty of west coast japanese. part of it was that the japanese american press had supported japan in his work in china and had spoken up in favor of tokyo's foreign policy. on the other hand, the japanese-americans did not surrender their american is any less than any other groups that opposed american involvement. the president was very suspicious of japanese americans. when he learned in mid-1936 is that japanese communities were being visited by sailors on japanese ships, he ordered his agents to make lists of all people who had contact with the ships so they could be put into internment cap's in case of trouble. -- internment camps in case of trouble. the fbi and his own agents. in mid-1941, the president
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mobilized his own team of spies. you can see a letter from john franklin carter who was the leader of this group. he went to the west coast in the middle of 1941. he reported that japanese communities were overwhelmingly loyal and very anxious to prove their american citizenship. still, the president and his advisors were taking no chances and were very ready to believe any kind of rumor. the justice department compiled the abc list with names of people for roundup in case of war. these people were selected not because of any evidence about their personal activities, there wasn't any. simply because the nature of their position. community leaders, buddhist priests, led the government to suspect them of disloyalty. in november of 1941, several weeks before pearl harbor, the attorney general francis announced that the government
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had finished building concentration camps and was ready to undertake wholesale roundups of japanese aliens and segregate them for a temporary period. let me be clear, i don't think there was any fixed and settled plan by the american government for mass action against all japanese-americans on the west coast that existed before the war. what we can say is that the suspicion against japanese-americans -- the fake news -- the wild reports and false accusations and the government action created a climate of opinion in which the president and its advisors were prepared and even over prepared to think the worst of japanese-americans while the white house was planning for concentration camps made for a bureaucratic momentum which may later action seem like not just
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unthinkable but follow-through. if you build it, he spend the money, -- if you build it, he spend the money, you are going to want to use it. the japanese raid on pearl harbor on december 7 of 1941 brought the united states into the war, devastated japanese-american. within hours and days after the attack, over 1000 japanese immigrants and nise-e were arrested. they were sent to camps in bismarck, north dakota and in montana. they were quite ready to hold any aliens in case of war. in the weeks that followed,
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military officials on the west coast became nervous over the possibility of a japanese invasion of the mainland. they singled out the region's ethnic residence. mainly the nise-e. they belonged to what commanding general john do it called an enemy race. the secretary of the navy, frank knox, visited hawaii about a week after pearl harbor and was anxious to shift the blame for the disaster from the navy. claims without evidence that the attack was a product of japanese control over hawaii. west coast nativists and commercial groups that hated japanese-americans who were competitors, nativists who didn't like nonwhite people on the west coast started to campaign against japanese americans. the fact that there was not a single act of disloyalty or documented case for sabotage by any west coast japanese-american did not, fears of their spanish
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neighbors. instead, general john dewitt commented that the absence of any signs of sabotage only prove that japanese-americans really were guilty. they were waiting for the signal. how are you going to respond to that one? by late january of 1942, army commanders and west coast local leaders began to press the government to evacuate all people of japanese ancestry regardless of citizenship for the west coast. these pressures brought the issue of removal to the white house. the war department leaders led by secretary of war henry simpson seconded their local commanders, they figured people on a brand-new it there asking for. he had no evidence of any danger. the attorney general supported
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reports from the fbi and naval intelligence that the japanese community was overwhelmingly brought -- loyal and opposed the idea. on february 11, the president received a message from stinson said -- supported the removal but thought he needed presidential authorization for such a draft policy. he asked fdr for authorization. roosevelt told him over the phone that he was too busy to meet with him but he trusted them to do whatever they thought necessary provided they were as reasonable and humane as possible. the army then arranged executive order 9066. this provided the authority for the army to remove japanese-americans from their homes which later led to the imprisonment in government caps -- camps. it was signed on february 19. why was fdr's elemental to such drastic and hasty action? as built out of you, i wrote a whole book about this question and i will not give you the whole book in two seconds. i can say that that his brother -- i can say that his brother --
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he later stated that the president's final decision was imposed by a variety of factors. by several event under which he had little control, bad counsel, strong political pressures and by his own training background and personality. i think that is a reasonably accurate summary of what inspired fdr to this decision. certainly, the play of events was not a sufficient factor. roosevelt, we can agree was a rather passive figure. he responded to widespread cause of action and would have left japanese-americans alone if there was not that kind of political pressure and fear of japanese invasion after the success in the pacific. ironically, in hawaii, it had been attacked. roosevelt ordered japanese communities to either be
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concentrated on the old leper island which would be shipped wholesale to the united states mainland. opposition from the military commander -- general deal is emmons -- general emmons eventually scuttled to the plan. on the west coast, where he was a rather passive participant, it did happen. bad counsel and incomplete information were also important. years before the war, this big news, rumors and sensational accounts regarding activities must have helped influence -- at the same time, roosevelt was willingly misled. even before the war with japan began, he was informed by his own agents -- the japanese-americans were loyal. he chose not to accept such findings. as he believed the reports
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without foundation on the basis of lack of information -- it was because he was prepared to believe the worst about japanese. the political pressures on the president were enormous. they must be assigned significant weight. simpson and mccoy were both prominent republicans agreed to join the buzz about administration on the grounds that they would be kept free from partisan politics. the entire west coast congressional delegation was solidly in favor of mass removal and there were journalists and letter writers of all kinds who wrote into the president. there was a strong political consensus for removal and hardly any opposition. it did not take a genius, but
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alone -- let alone president roosevelts; sensitivity to political pressure. it is hard to say what influence they had but we can say that fdr had a past history of sharing popular prejudiced against japanese-american. -- prejudice against japanese-americans. he publicly insisted that japanese were not able to be assimilated into american society. this prevented japanese immigrants from buying property or marrying whites were coming prince -- citizens. i am quoting him -- i will give you my best fdr. this is from his article in asia magazine. >> so far as americans are
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concerned, it must be admitted that as a whole, they honestly believe that the mingling of white with oriental blood on an extensive scale is harmful to our citizens. mr. robinson: while it is not clear how much he continued this through the period of the war, he was friends with the scientists studying japanese skulls. he believed that they were biologically aggressive and evil. he believed their skulls were less developed, evolutionarily. it is certainly true that if you justify mass action on the grounds that they are not really americans, you will be less inclined to care about their
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citizenship rights enough to intervene and protect them. as i say on november 19, 1942, roosevelt signed his order and as a result of the order, over 110,000 west coast japanese-americans were ordered from their homes without trial and sent to camps under military guard. the average age was about 18 and the rest were long resident aliens who were predominately middle-aged. they could take only what they could carry and the had to sell their homes, their cars and other personal property. roosevelt specifically refused to assign a property custodian to watch after their property while they were being moved. he said he might care about the people and what happened to them once they were removed but not
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about their property. the future supreme court justice who was the man on the west coast offered to protect the property of japanese-americans to make sure they would move. they said that he was crazy. when they were first moved into assembly centers that were fairgrounds and racetracks on the west coast, you can see these very striking photos. the inmates were housed in stables and animal pens, after several weeks or months under army guard, they were transported with army guards to a network of relocation centers. camps operated by the war relocation authority and hastily built in the interior of the country.
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in wyoming, arizona, california, utah, idaho and arkansas. these were remote desert and swamp areas and to the inmates were surrounded by barb wire and swamps. -- barbed wire and swamps. the health and sanitary facilities where primitive, the food was limited and of poor quality. all adults were expected to work. their maximum salary was $15 per month. except for the doctors and other professionals that could make $19 per month. their salary was deliberate lisette below that of an army private so as to show that no japanese were being coddled. there were riots and strikes in the camp. most japanese-americans remained in the camp through the war years. once fdr had approved the cam policye; -- camp policy, he was generally detached from the state of the japanese-americans. the first director got sick of the idea of confining japanese-americans in his prison
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camps and fdr appointed another official -- dylan meier to run the camps. he resisted the suggestion that he make a statement publicly defending the loyalty of japanese americans and at least explaining why they had been placed into the camps. anti-japanese-american colonists -- colonists -- columnists worked full time. the navy and other branches of the military refused. the army permitted japanese-american citizens to
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prove their loyalty by volunteering for the army. in the process, the parole system allowed japanese-americans who had been properly approved to get out of the camp. he made a speech or a public statement declaring that americanism is primarily a matter of the mind and the heart. americanism is not and never was a matter of race or ancestry. some months later, he publicly pledged to let oil japanese-americans returned to their old areas on the west coast as soon as the military situation permitted. however, it -- by the beginning of 1944, his advisers agreed that the state of the war in japan -- the vetting of the japanese-americans in the camps, there was no reason to keep the japanese in the west coast. the president ordered the
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exclusion maintained. they wanted to promote assimilation. roosevelt delayed his approval of opening up the camps and letting japanese-americans back. until after the november of 1944, in the election six months later. fdr deserves a certain amount of scrutiny, not because he hated japanese-americans, he had a humanitarian interest. he had an indifference. he did not care enough to ask the difficult questions about what japanese americans had actually done, whether the campaign was based on prejudice. he went along with things and wants japanese-americans were in the camps, he really responded with clinical -- political convenience. to political attacks, not about the treatment of the people on the ground. eleanor roosevelt did not share her husband views. -- husband's views. she virtually had no contact with japanese-americans before
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world war ii. she seldom addressed the problem of anti-asian discrimination during the first years in the white house. in 1941, the editor of a japanese-american newspaper in los angeles came to washington to ask what would happen to a japanese alien. he was an american citizen and thought he should be protected by the american constitution. he was worried about the people who were not be able -- would not be able to become citizens. he met with the first lady and she praised the patriotism of the nise-e who joined the american army in large numbers after the selected service in 1940 and added that in reality they are americans and america has a place for all oil
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regardless ofns, race or citizenship. >> he actually named his daughter for her. many years later, i interviewed togo to knoc -- togo tanaka. he said he used to respond with -- correspond with ms. roosevelt while he was in cap. he did not remember what was in any of these that they had exchanged. this was long before iphones and scanners, i could go to hyde park and make a photocopy. he said he would appreciate that. this was a copy of his letter to her and discovered that not only was it her response to him but it was a copy of his wedding photo. his wife apparently had died not
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too long before that. it is extraordinary because he left everything behind when he had to go to cap. imagine seeing your wedding photo for the first time in 60 years. after pearl harbor was attacked, ms. roosevelt immediately flew to the west coast to assess the situation and coordinate civil defense efforts. when she discovered that the treasury department orders of the count of japanese alleys is caused unnecessary hardship, she quickly got in touch with secretary michael to unfreeze
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the bank account to let them was takeout hundred dollars per month of living expenses. during that time, she was publicly posing for photographs with japanese-americans to show her companies in the loyalty of these people. in a national radio broadcast, she spoke out on behalf of japanese-americans. she may have believed some of the rumors of japanese-american sabotage. ms. roosevelt asked what about the japanese-americans who had been arrested by espionage? it was clear she did not have any understanding of what was going on. she was taken by surprise with executive order 9066 in mid-1942 because she was under fire at her job at the office of civilian defense. she was asked to resign. she protested to her husband who said that she did not wish to discuss the subject.
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-- he said he did not wish to discuss the subject with her. she went to her friend, the poet, archibald mcleish. future california senator cranston felt he could give her good arguments to take back to the president. in any case, she was not able to succeed in persuading fdr do not order mass confinement. the coming of mass removal through into a quandary what was happening. she was the president's wife and part of the administration. she publicly supported his policy and referred to it as a protective measure designed to safeguard the inmates from anti-japanese mobs. she knew in her heart that this
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was a rationalization. when the african-american civil rights activist pauli murray road to fdr in july of 1942 and said that if you can move japanese-americans away from the west coast to protect them from mob violence, why can you move negros from the south to protect them from lynching? eleanor unleashed her deep frustration and said how many of our color people in the south would like to be evacuated and treated as though they are not likely here as people? i am deeply concerned that we had to do this to our japanese who are american citizens. we are at war with japan and the have only been citizens for a short time. they would feel a resentment if we had to do this for people who were not as he -- here as long as white people. she added that she hoped to visit the camps herself. she said this is just one more reason for hating war. innocent people suffer for a few guilty ones. she kept herself informed on japanese americans and their
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problems. she intervened as she could. she asked them to visit in december center and robert paterson declined. she maintained this fund with the american service committee. all of the speeches and lectures and those radio broadcasts, she took the money that she got from that and divided it in half to give to the red cross and have to be other americans. she quietly authorized different service committee to put that to use to help a japanese-american. in her newspaper column -- my day -- she praised a church that provided food for the inmates. she put -- she supported the creation of a -- the national japanese-americans to find colleges outside of the west
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coast's that would give scholarships to japanese-american students so they could get away from camp and go to college. in march of 1943, ms. roosevelt received a letter from harriet gibson -- a woman who asked about japanese citizens. she asked congressman john tolan who led hearings about the rumors only to discover to her great surprise that there had been no japanese-americans. this mobilized her into action. she asked again to visit the caps. this time, fdr was taken with rumors of disloyalty and coddling and said she could go. she went with her husband to the border of mexico and mexico and arizona where he met with the president of mexico.
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on the way back, she stopped at this camp. alone and unguarded. here is a wonderful photo of her and ellen meyer. by her presence and her interest, she made clear to the japanese-americans that they were some pathetic to their plight. she recommended that they scatter and assimilate once the least and claimed their residence -- this was meant as a strategy for helping japanese-americans but some of the japanese-americans who were there thought she was blaming them for their own predicament. as soon as she was out of the camp, she threw herself into assisting confined japanese-americans. in her syndicated daily newspaper column, she lauded the inmates who grew their own food to ameliorate the harsh desert climate. she told him to police and
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educate themselves. a few days after she left the camps, she went to los angeles, the center of anti-japanese organizing. she said the inmates were living in conditions that were not indecent and not luxurious. she said i would not like to live that way. she asked that the council be closed. she said the sooner we can get the young japanese out of the camps, the better. we will create another problem. it was her most open express of public opposition to her
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husband's policy during the war. when she got back to washington, she persuaded fdr to meet with dylan meier. this was the only time the president did so in order to allow him to help organize the camps. she -- got him to agree to bring a japanese family to the white house. he said the secret service would never go for it. she talked about historical background of the cams and called attention to the sacrifices that the japanese-americans had made an cause for -- called for americans to live up to the american ideals of fairness. she met with japanese-american citizens league officials and accepted a painting. she hung it in her room. she invited a japanese-american to come and brief her on the problems that japanese-americans who left the camp were having and she met with the hawaiian chinese-american who had been
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one of the people most responsible for organizing the combat unit of japanese-american soldiers from hawaii and later from the camp. the four 42nd regimental combat team. she invited him to come to washington to brief her on the condition of japanese-american soldiers and on the prospects of resettlement for japanese-americans. after she met with him she asked him to come back three days later and to brief the president. he was able to come back and meet with fdr and talk to him about the resettlement of japanese-americans, hawaii as a laboratory for race relations. she got him to talk to the
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president. she had her wonderful ways -- she would invite people to dinner if she couldn't get them a meeting with fdr. he was in a wheelchair, he couldn't get away. >> tell franklin about your most interesting report. mr. robinson: she corresponded with the assistant secretary to talk about the training caps on mississippi -- training camps in mississippi. when the leader of the japanese was wounded, she invited them to washington and received him 14 at the white house. in june of 1944, when debate those in the administration, i told you before, fdr's advisers told him that there was no military reason to keep japanese-americans in the camps. fdr kept the exclusion up. eleanor got word and she decided to help bring pressure on him. she took to him a proposal by walter white, the executive of the naacp. with the idea that black americans with public or demonstrate -- would publicly
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demonstrate their support. the president told ms. roosevelt that the question of opposing the camps and having the inmates return to california was in the hands of the military. he said the demonstrations by black americans for japanese-americans were probably backfire on both communities. he said that blacks should join others in their communities. he dangled in front of white the possibility of meeting at the white house to discuss the subject if white would not speak about it. walter white tried to arrange a meeting at the white house but fdr's administration stonewalled him. less than two months before her husband died, she was still
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reminding him about his duty to help japanese-americans as they returned to the west coast. in the years after he died, mrs. roosevelt -- she avoided commenting on her involvement with japanese internment. she gave an introduction to a wonderful book called beauty behind barbed wire. she praised the contribution and the artistic talent of the japanese-americans in the camps. she also justified the executive order as a measure of protection for japanese-americans. in view of her harsh response to polly murray's questions about the government moving japanese-americans as protective custody, the statement rang rather false. at the end of her life, she remained interested in japanese-americans and individual japanese-americans
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have told me that when they spoke to her, she always expressed her concern. some years ago at ellis island in new york, they had an exit mission of america's concentration camps on the japanese-american camps and a number of people that came to visit, signed the memory book and give their names and addresses. these people had been confined when ms. roosevelt came to visit. i naturally wrote to them to find out what stories they could tell me. there were a few stories. everyone said she was very tall. all these short japanese-americans looking up at her. one told the story that she was in a mess hall where no caucasian was supposed to go. everybody was standing around and looking at her and she asked for a glass of milk. she said this milk is sour. everyone wondered who was going to be the first to tell her that the milk was always sour.
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there was another story that this was a japanese-american couple that resettled in buffalo new york. they did not realize that they went to the wra office was in an office building with lots of other offices, including government offices. one of them miss roosevelt happened to be visiting. the door opens and there is mrs. roosevelt. she puts out her hand and says i am so pleased to see you. this was a wonderful example of resettlement. to conclude, perhaps no issue divided the roosevelt so sharply and unbridgeable eat during their long personal and presidential partnership.
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the difference in their views encapsulate the differences that these provoked in the time. the president saw the issue as one of wartime military necessity and domestic policy. he expressed in private some humanitarian concern for the victims. he was not concerned about the moral or constitutional question. for him, in wartime, the constitution took second place and the necessity of maintaining order on the west coast and maintaining shipments to the west coast for the pacific theater were more important and more important as we have seen. he had questions about how the japanese-americans were in the first place. about the needs of these people, he figured they would go back after the war.
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john franklin carter, his cheap spy wrote a novel -- chief spy, wrote a novel after the war. he says their loyalty was suspect but they will go back after the war. the army asked for authority and i had to give it to them or disband. in contrast, mrs. roosevelt supported japanese-americans before and after pearl harbor. she disagreed sharply with the policy and was forced to balance her belief in equal rights to her loyalty to her husband. she carefully concealed giving the impression of interference, the evidence indicates that her public support of japanese-americans and considerable efforts were under her -- on their behalf.
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this was included her support for allowing students to leave to go to college after championing of japanese soldiers and allowing people to leave on work releases. even as japanese-americans became more and more complex and hurtful in the years after the war, this roosevelt -- eleanor roosevelt remained the hero to japanese-americans and all americans to this day. thank you very much. [applause] there is now some time for questions, answers, imitations and jokes. if we could set up a mic so people can line up -- we don't have to run to the mic. is for the love of mic. -- it is for the love of mic. >> i have two questions.
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i saw an exhibit with pearl harbor. i saw a letter that fdr had been to someone. basically -- written to someone. basically saying that he had but the country down as a result of pearl harbor. i never knew he had felt that way. i am just wondering -- at that point of letting the country down, it might have had influence on him as long as he had to feel that he had to protect the country from any further invasions -- etc.. mr. robinson: i never really studied pearl harbor because japanese-americans had better
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than to do with it except to the extent that japanese-americans in hawaii were victimized by the bombing. there were japanese-americans that were killed and wounded. in hawaii, it is 45% popular to -- populated by japanese-americans. i am sure that fdr felt a sense of perspective only for pearl harbor and he felt that the country had been caught unaware. there are different theories about what was that could have known about pearl harbor. on the other hand, if that was the direct ancestor that his average would have centered on why which was attacked and it would have come right after pearl harbor and not months later. i am sure there might be some sense in the larger mix of that
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playing a role. i would be skeptical about how much of a direct that could have played. >> in the exhibit, they show before the war, hoover was involved, identify pockets of not only japanese but italian and germans -- italian and german communities that they were targeting in case there was a war. you never heard anything beyond that. were there times when italians and germans were arrested and brought together -- mr. robinson: this is accomplished question. the best simple answer i can give is that it is a simple -- a simplified answer. no german-americans and italian americans were rounded up because of their race or ancestry. there were individual german and italian aliens, people who had a chance to become citizens and did not were people who would been in the country for a time to short to become citizens,
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they were arrested after pearl harbor and given hearings and they were determined after this hearing -- they could not bring lawyers. if they were determined to be a threat than they were interned. there were military zones created where german and italian aliens were forced to abandon -- not go near certain military bases. that said, it is not like the entire population was rounded up. japanese canadians were rounded up en masse in 1940 two, italian canadians in toronto were rounded up in large numbers and sent to internment camps in 1840. >> i want to commend you for bringing with you the blithe spirit of franklin and eleanor.
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it was wonderful to hear it. first comment, when i was inducted in 1944 and dropped off at fort dix in new jersey, in my barracks, there were six nise-e. they were very nice guys. they spoke perfect english and japanese among themselves. they would fight with me like mad because at night, some of them would have nightmares and scream out in japanese and i was terrified. one of them was walking up and down the barracks with a gun. the only germans that i knew of that were immediately arrested here are the ones that landed from the summering. mr. robinson: a german summering that off people at long island and they were prosecuted under
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the enemy combatant statute. this is the debate over how to treat who is a enemy combatant. >> a couple were executed. mr. robinson: there were some italian americans -- a singer was interned for a time. >> at the time in the powers at fort dix, i was thinking -- how come these nise-e are being subjected to restrictions on the west coast? my thought -- and still -- they were not white. the germans were considered white, italians were white, the japanese, no. finally, i would like to comment about roosevelt and his
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attitudes that we know about the japanese-americans. i don't think his attitude could be understood clearly all by themselves. of until the middle of 1944 -- up until 1944 when secretary rosenthal finally spoke out about the jews and other people who were being persecuted in europe. prior to that point, we resisted all kinds of information -- as did the british. i think the japanese and the
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europeans need to be seen together. thank you. mr. robinson: thank you. >> i am curious -- one of the interesting things as you pointed out was the fact that japanese-americans were actually incarcerated or relocated but only a subset as you pointed out about pearl harbor. the whole line japanese-americans. could you mention if there were any other japanese-americans across the country -- were there any other overt measures or covert measures that were taken against them? mr. robinson: i don't be one of the awful people that says look at my book. it is a tragedy of democracy. the brief answer to your question is that 90% of japanese-americans on the what -- the mainland were on the west coast. those people were confined.
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there were populations in places like new york that were less free and japanese-americans in new york -- i can talk about that for months and months. it is a fascinating community. they formed a anti-practice -- anti-fascist community. there were japanese-americans in places like chicago and denver that were not confined. there were japanese aliens throughout the country as enemy aliens -- none of them were able to become citizens. none of the others were confined and again, in hawaii, where a japanese-american made up about 2/5 of the population. it would have been too much of an injustice. the japanese-americans on the
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west coast were about 1% of the total population. they were an easy target. that said, in hawaii, the army used the presence of japanese americans to maintain martial law and military government until the end of 1944 which is a whole story in itself. japanese-americans -- ironically, the only place they were allowed free was the pacific rim. >> can you comment about mrs. roosevelt after the war and her dealing with japanese question mark do know if she had any contact at all -- japanese? do you know if she had any contact at all? mr. robinson: i know she did go to japan and visited hiroshima. she stated that she hoped people would be wiser in the future. she did not apologize for the bombing but she did recognize the tragedy of it. mrs. roosevelt had rather limited connection with japanese
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americans after the war except for her writing of this introduction to beauty behind barbed wire. what is true that in the end of 1945, she was to stop by friends on the west coast about violence against returning japanese-americans to the west coast. she wrote to president truman to ask him if he could take action and he wrote back to her -- these disgraceful if the senate's -- incidents make me think that americans have a streak of nazism in them. he promised mrs. roosevelt he would take whatever action he could. >> you mentioned that if a part of the prejudice was the rumors that one around. what were some of the other rumors that went around? mr. robinson: there were rumors that farmers were poisoning vegetables. mcpherson was one of the originators of these rumors.
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they said that japanese-americans should not be able to farm in california because they will poison the soil. there is a story that one of the studio heads painted an arrow on the roof of his studio so that he would not get bombed. there were rumors that japanese-american servants in homes were actually naval officers at this time. there was a whole bevy of this kind of fake news. also, conspiracies that make people nervous. even after these were debunked, the journalists investigated all of these west coast fishing boat and discovered that there were only two japanese owned fishing boats that were as large as 75 feet. there was no squadron for the japanese navy. i think that it reinforced
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people's existing positions -- prejudices. the idea that japanese-americans opposed the french and make people feel powerless. >> good afternoon, thank you very much. you have shown us that by their public statements and their public actions, eleanor and franklin were on opposite sides of this issue. i am wondering if you found evidence of any private communication between them that might have touched on their intimate conversations and private conversations. mr. robinson: the only real information, there is too little bit of information i can give you. they did not keep transcripts and there was no white house
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tapes. on the one hand, dylan meier, the head of the war relocation authority -- when he escorted mrs. roosevelt, he said he asked her what was it about the president with the japanese-americans? she said i don't know, i don't know how he feels about the japanese-americans, he certainly doesn't feel about them the way he does about the chinese.
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