By David Jackson
The above quotation was purportedly coined by Edmund Burke, an eighteenth century Irish statesman who moved to England and served for many years in the House of Commons as member of the Whig party. He is primarily remembered for his support of the American Revolutionaries, and for his later opposition to the French Revolution. However, it should be noted that there are at least 10-15 similar statements from prominent men and women over a very broad span of time and professions that send the same message. I chose this specific statement because it is very specific, direct and is easy to understand.
It has proven to be valid over earth’s recorded history and continues to be valid today. I have always been an avid student of the history of our world and the sequence of events that have occurred to create that history. I strongly believe that we, the human race, can have an influence on our future by being involved in our community and the people around us. That’s the primary reason I am a member of the Redondo Beach Historical Society. As a frequent contributor to our quarterly newsletter I have always written about subjects that I am interested in and that are very important to the past, present and future.
The subject today is about the history of the relocation and the internment of thousands of Japanese-Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 by the country of Japan. This included a significant number of people from the South Bay including Redondo Beach. Two months after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. This resulted in the relocation of approximately 120,000 people, many of whom were American citizens, to one of 10 internment camps located across the country. Traditional family structure was upended within the camps, as American-born children were solely allowed to hold positions of authority. Some Japanese-American citizens were allowed to return to the West Coast beginning in 1945, and the last camp closed in March of 1946. In 1988, Congress awarded restitution (reparation) payments to each survivor and heirs of the camps.
There had been a very strong presence of Japanese immigrants in the South Bay dating from the late nineteenth century in a variety of professions. Most related to farming and agriculture, fishing, retailers and as laborers for others. By the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, many of the individuals affected were second or third generation and citizens of the United States of America. They knew less about the politics of Japan and were among this country’s most loyal citizens. The executive order that President Roosevelt signed was intended to apply only to those individuals that were found to be security risks or involved in suspicious activities. The evolution of this order into a mass evacuation and internment evolved from the hysteria of the individuals empowered to carry it out. The majority of the people involved lost everything they had. Their bank accounts were frozen and the life that they had worked for all their lives were taken away from them. Many died in captivity and even when the war ended most were unable to resume a normal livelihood. Remember, at one point in time, all of ancestors were immigrants to this wonderful country except for native American Indians. By working hard and being involved in the community we all became fellow Americans. After reading the book, “Japanese Americans of The South Bay”, by Dale Ann Sato, I was inspired to do additional research about the subject to learn how an injustice like this could have happened. My conclusion is that all of us need to remember this very sad chapter in our country’s history and become active members of our communities so that it never happens again to any group or individual.