tv Japanese American Internment CSPAN September 30, 2017 11:10am-12:21pm EDT
for politics, congress, and washington public affairs. whether it happened 30 years ago or 30 minutes ago, find it in c-span's video library at c-span.org. c-span. where history unfolds daily. up next on the presidency, greg robinson discusses the conflict between president franklin d. roosevelt and first lady eleanor roosevelt over executive order 9066. fdr signed to 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." the franklin d. roosevelt presidential library and museum hosted this event. it is about an hour. mr. robinson: good afternoon. -- >> good afternoon. welcome to the fdr library.
harris.l i am the executive director here. it is very nice to see everyone out here this afternoon. certainly we want to thank you , on behalf of all of our supporters, and we want to thank you for your support. support of our members, trustees , and the national archives and records administration, of which we are a part. the, an organization like humanities of new york for their vision and action grant that is the longest to be possible today. fdr establish this library as a place not just to hold and display the materials heat generated throughout his career but also a place to study and learn about his administration and learn about the role of chief executive and about the times in which he was working. little could he have appreciated the immense economic impact cities, of the ultimate war, which helped define his administration and his presidency. we take the charge very seriously, and we seek to
encourage the exploration and analysis into all facets of his life, his leadership, his choices and his decisions. especially, 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 it is to foster atmosphere here that the president would have encouraged for debate and dialogue, based on evidence, not only evidence here in the archives, the evidence that is here for interpretation and review. and not merely on opinion. we may not agree with any given
author, but we can trust that the sources here at the library are without question and that this forum is open to everyone. for everyone's views, conversation. we are pleased to have here today -- greg robinson. he will speak about his book "by order of the president: fdr and the internment of japanese americans." greg provided us with valuable insight. we encourage all of you here to go over and, if you have not seen it, 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 and after camp. he is a professor of history at the university of quebec, montreal. i have been given permission to
say it that way and not in the french, because my accent is disastrous. it may cause a break in relations, so i do not want to cause that. he is a good friend of the library, so greg, please? thank you very much. [applause] prof. robinson: good afternoon. it is a very great honor to be here at the fdr library. thank you all for coming, thank you to the library 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 franklin roosevelt and first lady roosevelt clashed
strongly about their view of the internment of japanese americans. 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 ancestry and sanctioned their imprisonment in government camps, or as the president himself referred to them as publicly concentration , camps. mind you, he meant concentration camps in the old sense of where people were concentrated together, not in the sense of nazi death camps. and when we talk about this affair, commonly called japanese-american internment, internment technically refers to the confinement of enemy aliens. this was the case of a government confining its own people. so "internment" is slightly inaccurate. but because there is no other word for this treatment, we use it as kind of a placeholder. in the same time, the president allowed japanese americans to be
stripped of their property and to be confined without charge, in which they remained for most of the war. we will talk about what happened in a minute. his wife was a human rights activist who considered arbitrary confinement unjust and un-american. forced to remain publicly silent by herexecutive order position as first lady, she nonetheless privately attempted to persuade the president not to authorize mass removal. once the camps were established she sought to speed the process , of letting the inmates out. she joined forces with allies in the government. the vivid contrast between the roosevelts and their words and action helps illuminate the larger question of how such events could take place and what lessons we can take from it. follow me? good. because you will be quizzed on this later. [laughter] first, in order to understand fdr's actions, levy place it in
the larger narrative. -- let me place it in the larger narrative. 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, then eventually signed an alliance with nazi germany and fascist italy in 1940. the president and his advisers were forced to plan for the possibility of war and quite logically took steps to assure the offense -- defense. in the process, they became worried about the inversion of the ethnic japanese communities in hawaii and the west coast. there were about 150,000 people of japanese ancestry in each of these regions. they were made up in part of the immigrants themselves, the so-called issei, who had been in america for several generations, since the beginning of the 20th century. they had spent basically their adult lives in the united
states. then, the majority of the community was there a moral corn -- american-born children, the so-called nisei. american-born citizens of japanese ancestry. there had long been prejudiced against japanese-americans on the west coast. hawaii is a somewhat different matter. on the west coast, there were not allowed to own property, mary whites, and they faced job discrimination. the is before world war ii anti-japanese journalists, , publicists, and speakers, including congressman spread , wild rumors about them such as absurd stories about how japanese american fishing boats on the pacific were actually japanese naval vessels in disguise that could be taken out at a moment and transformed into patrol torpedo boats. it is not clear how much the president and his advisors were directly influenced by such talk. but certainly, they were led to suspect the loyalty of west coast japanese.
part of it, you can understand it. because the japanese-american press had supported japan and its work -- war 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-ness any less than any other groups that oppose american involvement in world affairs. but the president was very suspicious of japanese-americans. when he learned, in mid-1936, that japanese communities in hawaii were being visited by sailors on japanese ships, he ordered his agents to make lists of all people who had contact with the ship so that they could be put into internment camps in case of trouble. the office of naval intelligence began sending spies to the west coast as early as 1936 to spite -- spy on japanese citizens. later, the fbi sent its own agents. in mid-1941, the president mobilized his own team of spies. you can see a letter from john
franklin carter, who was the leader of this group. carter's agent went to the west coast of the president's request in the middle of 1941. he reported that japanese communities, especially the young nisei, were overwhelmingly loyal and very anxious to prove their american citizenship. but still, the president and his advisors were taking no chances and were ready to believe any kind of rumor. the justice department compiled the so-called "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. but simply because the nature of their position. community leaders, buddhist priests, businessmen, led the government to suspect them of disloyalty in case of war. then in november of 1941, several weeks before pearl harbor, the attorney general announced that the government
had finished building what he called concentration camps and was prepared to undertake wholesale roundups of japanese aliens and segregate them for what he called a temporary period. if relationships -- if relations between the united states and japan broke off. 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. but what we can say is that the suspicion against japanese-americans, what we can call today, the fake news, the wild reports, the false accusations, and the government action created a climate of opinion in which the president and his advisers were prepared -- 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 made
later action seem like -- not just unthinkable but follow-through. a few -- if you build it, you spend the money, you are going to want to use it. you create facts on the ground. in any case the japanese raid on , pearl harbor on december 7 of 1941, which brought the united states into the war, devastated japanese-americans. within hours and days after the attack, over 1000 japanese immigrants, the issei on the would --west coast, who had been marked on the lists, were sent to camps in bismarck, north dakota and in montana. which are already built and maintained and ready to hold any aliens in case of war. still in the weeks that , followed, 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 residents, both the issei and the nisei, as a potential is
calling for tokyo because the command to what the commanding general called the enemy race. at the same time the secretary , of the navy, frank knox, who visited hawaii about a week after pearl harbor and was anxious to shift the blame for the disaster from the navy, claimed without evidence that the attack was a product of a japanese is calling over hawaii. there was no one to rebut them publicly. meanwhile 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 campaigning 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 call the fears of their panicked neighbors. instead, general john dewitt commented that, in fact, the
absence of any signs of sabotage only proved that japanese-americans really were guilty. because they were waiting for the signal. of course, how are you going to respond to that one? by late january of 1942, army commanders and west coast political leaders began to press the government to evacuate, as they called it, all people of japanese ancestry, regardless of citizenship, from 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 figure the people on the ground near what they were asking for. but he had no evidence of any danger. the attorney general, supported reports from the fbi and naval intelligence that the japanese community was overwhelmingly loyal opposed the idea. , on february 11, 1942, the president received a message from stinson who supported mass removal but thought he needed presidential authorization for such a policy.
he asked fdr for authorization. roosevelt told him over the phone that he was too busy to meet with him but that he trusted him and his deputy to do whatever they thought necessary, provided they were as reasonable and humane as possible. the army then arranged for the justice department to draft the executive order. executive order 9066, which provided the authority for the army to remove japanese-americans from their homes, which later led to the imprisonment in government camps was then signed on february 19. now why was fdr so amenable to such drastic and hasty action? of course, as bill told you, i wrote a book about this very question and i will not give you , the whole book in two seconds. [laughter] but as i can say, general eisenhower's brother, the first leader of the war relocation authority, a civilian agency
roosevelt set up to direct the camps, he later stated the president's final decision was imposed by a variety of factors. by events over which he had little control, by inaccurate or incomplete information, buyback council, by 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 a necessary, if not sufficient factor. ,roosevelt, we can agree in the question of west coast japanese-americans, was a passive figure who responded to widespread calls for action and would have left japanese-americans alone if there was not that kind of political pressure and fear of japanese invasion after japan's success in the pacific. ironically, hawaii, which had been attacked, roosevelt ordered mass confinement of japanese communities which would be
shipped wholesale to the united states mainland. however, opposition from the military commander in hawaii eventually scuttled the plan. so in hawaii, where is about actually pushed hard for mass confinement, it did not happen. whereas on the west coast, where he was a rather passive versus event -- participant it did , happen. back counsel and incomplete -- bad counsel and incomplete information were also important. years before the war, this fake 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, roosevelt was informed by his own agents that japanese-americans were loyal. there was no evidence of sabotage. he chose not to accept such findings. reports believed the without foundation on the basis of lack of information, it was because he was prepared to
believe the worst about japanese-americans. the political pressures on the president were indeed enormous. must be assigned significant final decision. stinson and mccoy were both prominent republicans who agreed to join the roosevelt administration on the grounds that they would be kept free from partisan politics. the entire west coast congressional delegation, minus one or two people, was solidly in aber of mass removal. and there were journalists and letter writers of all kinds who wrote in to the president. so there was a strong political consensus for removal and hardly any opposition. it did not take a genius, let alone someone with roosevelt's sensitive political antenna, to see which way the political wind was blowing.
it is hard to say what influence his background had, but we can certainly say that fdr had a past history of sharing popular prejudice against japanese-americans. in the mid-1920's, years before he was elected president, franklin roosevelt had written a set of articles about diplomatic relations between the united states and japan, which you wanted to improve. but he publicly insisted that ilatable were un assim into american society. he justified laws on the west coast that prevented japanese from buying property or marrying thiss on the basis that protected citizens. i am quoting him -- i will give you my best fdr. >> so far as americans are 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 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 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. 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
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 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. 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 exclusion maintained. they wanted to promote assimilation. roosevelt delayed his approval of opening up the camps and letting japanese-americans back. after 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's views. she virtually had no contact with japanese-americans before 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 servants, regardless of race or citizenship here it -- all loyal servants, regardless of 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 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 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. -- he said he did not wish to discuss the subject with her. she went to archibald cleese.
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 was a rationalization. when the african-american civil rights activist pauli murray wrote 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. we 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 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's ordered the creation of a group the national , japanese-americans to find colleges outside of the west 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 camps. 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. 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 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
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 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 also tried to get 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 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 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 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 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 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.
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. 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. 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. 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
harbor. i saw a letter that fdr had been 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 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 buy 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 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 financial. 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, 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. 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 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 attitudes that we know about the japanese-americans. i don't think his attitude could
be understood clearly all by themselves. 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 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. the repopulation 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 two thirds of -- japanese-americans made up to pits of the population -- 2/5 of the population. it would have been too much of an injustice. the japanese-americans on the 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 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. 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 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 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. >> as i mentioned, this visited white house and mrs. roosevelt invited him to meet the president. she came in at the end of the meeting with the president. but there is no record other than what i've been able to find in the papers. what more? >> i just want to say thank you, this is very interesting. i want to say i am a chinese american. my parents immigrated here. i am from long island.
in 1978i worked for ibm. my mother said to me, make sure people know your chinese instead of japanese. i honestly do not understand. i was educated in the american system. i am almost 60 years old. things that have happened in my life, and just watching life, i have understood that more. this helped me understood more. i want to say i watched the twin towers get hit just like everybody else did. i apologize. it is a little emotional. but my children were in school up. my mother was watching.
she took walks in new york city's toward downtown every day. i worried like everybody else did about where their family was. i said to myself, please don't be somebody chinese. now, i did mention that to my sister. she is four years older than me. i am the youngest. ok, that is just me but i just think that is -- >> no, it is reasonable. it is perfectly a reasonable reaction. the ironic thing of course about 2001 and 9/11 is that the world trade center was designed by a japanese-american architect and the secretary of transportation who made the order not to do racial profiling was a japanese-american who had been
in the camps as a young man and had learned about racial profiling from that and he was influential in helping me bush administration make sensible policies. the president went to a mosque and explained, this is not a war against islam, this is a war against individuals who have committed crimes. i think we still have a tendency in this country, if you close your eyes and ask, what does an american look like -- i think people who grow up in this country and are not wait have to face the same kind of burdens that you are speaking up for even and sometimes subtle ways. i think i am encouraged by the fact that during world war ii there were a number of cases of chinese americans who helped japanese-americans. there was intermarriage, there was japanese christian groups who set presence to kids in camps.
there were chinese-american actors who refuse to act in anti-japanese films that would talk about saboteurs. the two groups were together after world war ii. what is interesting at this area is deacon, new york, was the home of a man and his japanese-american wife who was a member of the japanese americans for democracies and was a major anti-fascist. i think we have a luxury on the east coast where the racial memory of asian americans is not so strong. i myself am a new york city-ite. my parents were in the zone after 9/11.
my mom had to get a pass to the taxi to go to the doctor. i had a lot of wars about my family after the bombings. the reason i am so passionate about the japanese-american is not what happened to people in the camps but affect that a group of americans, because of their ancestry or race or at the background could've had their citizens rights violated so easily. if it was them one time it could be somebody else another time so even as a non-japanese-american, particularly as a non-japanese-american, we all have to reflect on this story. it is not only eight japanese-american story. i think him again, growing up in new york myself isomerase very much as blacks and whites. not that i did not know there was discrimination against asian-americans but it never seemed to me a racial thing. discovering these letters from franklin roosevelt, discovering his attitude, discovering the conflict between franklin and
eleanor roosevelt it be aware of just how complex the multi-group nature of american society is. the kind of social ethnic, economic, racial hierarchy. anyway, on a lighter note and i think we need when right now -- the library dedication to providing a forum on this i think is a wonderful thing and i think we all should give the library a round of applause. [applause] >> we really appreciate it. there he nice. thank you very much. and there will be book signing up front outside of the gift shop so please stop by. thank you very much. [applause]
>> you're watching american history tv, all weekend every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. we tour the, railroad seven at the henry ford museum in dearborn michigan. this is a preview. >> this is a replica of a locomotive. in 1892.as built whatgives us an idea of steam locomotives and trains would have looked like when railroads were first coming on the scene.
this became part of the new york central. railroads in the 1830's were very small and local area they might run 15 or 20 miles. some of them had grander ambitions. eventually, we got to that point. they look like stagecoaches on a steel wheels. that is exactly what they are. they use technology. stagecoaches worked fairly well. they tended to rock 'n roll a little bit.
railroad designers realized they could come up with a more efficient system. eventually went to the more standard rectangular box configuration like we have today. when the railroad was introduced, it would have been fairly simple. as time went on, it would be about three cents a mile. by the mid-19th century, we have the idea of different classes of travel, everything from first-class with the luxurious appointments all the way down to immigrant cross. depending on your socioeconomic status, you could be traveling
more or less comfort. >> watch the entire tour on american artifacts, sunday at 6:00. this is american history tv only on c-span3. historians talk about the underground railroad conductors. this is part of a conference in cambridge, maryland cohosted by the national parks service. this is about 90 minutes. >> we are going to go ahead and get started here. is title of this panel creators of the underground railroad. we're looking forward to some good papers from mll