Some Background
• Western countries have been exploiting Asia and treating
Asia’s peoples with great prejudice for centuries.
• The 19th century Western carving up of China had been a
warning to Japan.
• Japan realized that to retain their independence and
national character they had to adopt some Western
ideas, and quickly.
• In particular, Japan copied Western military ideas.
• Japan’s modern military then set about finding ways to
promote Japanese interests abroad.
• China was defeated in battle in 1894-5 and Japan got
influence on the mainland and Taiwan. This was the First
Sino-Japanese War. (Sino=Chinese)
The Japanese Empire
• Japan has a severe lack of natural resources.
• Prior to 1941, the U.S. had been selling fuel
and metal to Japan, which Japan was using to
build its military.
• Nearby Manchuria had plenty of coal, plus
industries and ports.
• China had already been carved up by the
Western powers; why shouldn’t Japan do the
The Emperor Hirohito 1926-1989
• The Emperor Showa of
• He had complete control
over, and commanded
complete loyalty from his
• It was his responsibility for
starting and ending the wars
against China, USA, Britain
• He was protected from
prosecution in 1945 by the
US who needed him to keep
Japan from collapsing.
The “Rape of Nanjing”
Yangtze River, Nanjing, 2009
Yangtze River, Nanjing, 1937
Trade Embargo Against Japan
• Starting around 1940, the U.S., Australia and
the U.K., began an embargo against Japan
• Japan obtained the majority of its resources
(especially fuel and oil) from other countries
• By blocking trade to Japan, who was already
suffering from sever economic recession, they
economically drained Japan
• This backfired and enticed Japan to use its
military force to get the resources it wanted
Was the U.S. Seen as a Threat?
• July, 1941, U.S. moved the Pacific fleet toward
Japan and stationed long range bombers in
Pearl Harbor and Wake Island
• Also, U.S. moved fleets to San Francisco Bay
and increased military presence in the
San Francisco Bay
Wake Island
Hawaiian Islands
Japan Takes the First Shot
• December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor,
U.S. military base in Hawaii
– Surprise!
• 2,402 Americans killed, 1,282 wounded,
numerous ships and aircraft destroyed
• Intended to prevent the U.S. from interfering with
Japan’s imperial plans in Southeast Asia
– Whoops!
• Direct cause for U.S. entry into WWII
– December 8, U.S. declared war on Japan
American Opinion of Japanese
“Bugs Bunny Nips the Nips”
Japanese Internment
Why Internment?
• Many Americans thought Japanese-Americans
were planted here in case of war
• Many Americans saw all Japanese-Americans
as potential collaborators
• Interning Japanese-Americans was seen as a
“military necessity,” despite there being no
evidence to suggest so
Executive Order 9066
• Signed by Roosevelt in February, 1942
• Authorized the military to designate areas from
which certain people could be excluded
• And to designate certain areas as military zones
– War Relocation Authority, Relocation Centers
• Paved the way for internment of about 110,000
• ≈70% of those interned were American citizens!
Korematsu vs. United States
• Fred Korematsu was a Japanese-American man who
decided to stay in California and knowingly violate
internment laws
• Korematsu argued that the Executive Order 9066 was
• He was arrested and convicted
• In 1944, Supreme Court sided with the government,
ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional and
that the need to protect against espionage outweighed
Korematsu’s rights as an individual and the rights of
Japanese-American citizens
9066 Rescinded
• January 2, 1945, internment was officially
• Last camp closed in 1946
• The freed internees were given $25 and a
train ticket to their former homes
• Most remained in the US, some emigrated to
• In 1988, congressed passed the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988
– The legislation said that government actions were
based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a
failure of political leadership”
– Awarded $20,000 to each surviving internee,
totaling $1.6 billion in reparations of JapaneseAmericans
In 1998,
Fred Korematsu
was awarded the
Presidential Medal
of Freedom