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Japanese Attack on Naval Base in Pearl Harbor

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President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that December 7, 1941 would go down in history as “a date which will live in infamy.” He delivered this statement in a speech the day after the surprise Japanese attack on US naval base in Pearl Harbor of the Hawaiian island of Oahu. Until that day, the United States remained neutral to entering another world war. After the affects and devastations that World War I brought to the country, the government decided to regress to isolationism, excluding itself from further foreign influences. It wasn’t until FDR disregarded the Neutrality Act by offering China a loan, and establishing an embargo preventing Japan’s ability to gather heavily needed supplies such as oil, iron, gas, and steel, in 1940. At this time, Japan felt there was no other choice but declare war on the United States.

With the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Unites States feared having to protect its nation at two coastal fronts against Germany in the east and Japan in the west. Under tremendous pressure from the military and political leaders, FDR acted to prevent further Japanese attacks and eliminate any suspicion of sabotage and espionage. Thus, on February 19th, 1941, just two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japanese bomber planes, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order No. 9066 which affected many immigrants and American citizens of Japanese, German, and Italian ancestry.

This executive order gave authorization to the Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, and the “appropriate Military Commander” he designated, the ability to establish certain areas “from which any and all persons may be excluded.” These “military areas” as they were called stationed war materials and utilities that were protected from Japanese invasion and sabotage. Interior parts of certain states such as California, Washington and Oregon, is where some of these areas were located, while others were established in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Arizona. Much of these evacuations and relocations took place on the western coast where anti-Asian racism dates back to the beginning of Asian immigration and the Chinese Exclusion Bill of 1882.

Federal command for these areas allowed for the uprooting and dissembling any and all Japanese, German, and even Italian American citizens because of their lineage that linked them to their native countries. The order justified the loss of land, homes, employment, businesses and lives of those it underlyingly discriminated against. For almost sixty years of prejudice against alien ancestry seemed to further aid in wartime hysteria across the nation.

Japanese Americans were specifically targeted by the nation’s paranoia and fear of further Japanese air strikes and potential threats of sabotage, not by the words used in President Roosevelt’s executive order. The President’s deliberately uses vague descriptions, if any at all, to describe the type of “person” that shall be “excluded”. His language and tone provide an underlying message of “by any means necessary” approach to cease and subdue any threat of treason and sabotage that may take place. It can be argued that the usage of words like “discretions” and “judgements” could be left open-ended for interpretation. His statement, “any and all persons” offers no limitation on “whom” is being labeled, but given the time of when the executive order was issued and the recent events that took place at Pearl Harbor, it was understood that those targeted were of Japanese descent “shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” Once given authorization, the Justice Department wasted no time detaining more than 3,000 people thought to be dangerous with no reason other than their ancestry. Many that were illegally arrested were Japanese immigrants or Japanese citizens born on American soil and remained incarcerated until December of 1944, when the order was suspended.

The Constitution of the United States was established as a framework for our nation’s government. Signed on the 17th of September in 1787, recognized basic civil liberties and rights of American citizens in the first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights, which were ratified on December 10th, 1791. These basic civil rights guaranteed individuals certain protections under the law. Today, twenty-seven constitutional amendments have been introduced to the Constitution, protecting more right of US citizens.

On one hand, I can see where it could be argued that FDR’s executive order did not violate the Constitution because of the words he used. He was completely vague in labeling a specific group of people, but carefully stating that “any and all persons” could be excluded from military areas under authorization and discretion of particular Military officials’ judgment.

In my moral opinion, FDR did violate the US Constitution with his Executive Order No. 9066. By issuing such order, it allowed for the deprivation of certain individual rights of US citizens and morally so for immigrants. I believe fear can reshape even the most genuine of people. When overwhelmed by fear and paranoia, two very heavy emotions, it can disrupt and reset human morality. It is unfortunate that politics live in a realm that is black and white, while Life itself is very colorful.

Personally, I feel that Executive Order No. 9066 interrupts the ideals of certain constitutional amendments, specifically, the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. Clearly stated in the Fifth and Sixth Amendment, which protects citizens against being “deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law” and “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury.” I don’t believe that the accused where prosecuted for any “criminal” acts or “enjoyed” any trials by juries.

In those terms, the illegal detainment and evacuation of one’s home without reason or explanation of any crime without due process deliberately goes against what the nation’s framers declared a basic civil right. Furthermore, I believe that the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment was potentially violated as well. The Equal Protection Clause protects citizens from the state making or enforcing any law that “shall abridge the privileges and immunities” of Americans.  

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Japanese Attack On Naval Base In Pearl Harbor. (2022, April 29). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 16, 2022, from
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