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Saucedo

Minerva Saucedo
Professor Laura Bradford
INTL 2040
7 April, 2016
Internment of the Japanese in Topaz
World War II affected many countries and millions of people worldwide. In the United
States of America, the attack to the naval base Pearl Harbor was truly devastating. Many
Americans in fear of their safety, united against the Japanese-Americans. They were accused for
a crime they didnt commit and had nothing to do with, except for the fact of having Japanese
ancestry. An estimate of 120, 000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated and relocated to camps
in the western side of the United States, including Topaz, Utah (Ushistory.org). This essay will
attempt to explore the internment camp in Topaz and the consequences of segregating JapaneseAmericans because of racism and prejudice.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and issued the Executive
Order 9066 (Children of the Camps: The Social and Historical Context), which authorized the
incarceration of 120, 000 Japanese-American people and their evacuation by train to the
internment camps in Wyoming, Arkansas, California, Arizona, Colorado and Utah
(Ushistory.org).
Around eight thousand Japanese-Americans were housed and relocated to Topaz in
September 11, 1942, a deserted place in Utah (Children of the Camps: The Social and Historical
Context). They were forced to leave their homes, to sell their business and possessions, to leave
their life behind. They could only take the belongings they could carry with their own bare
hands.

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During the internment camp in Topaz, whole families lived in confined single-room
quarters surrounded by barbed wire. They were administration buildings, warehouses, two
elementary schools, one high school and a hospital ("Topaz Relocation Center, Utah").
The internees would spend their time cultivating gardens, attending school, participating
in recreational activities and working. The people who worked had salaries ranging from $12$19 a month depending on how skilled they were. Doctors for instance, would make $19 dollars
a month ("Topaz Relocation Center, Utah").
It is said that the internment camp in Topaz was peaceful, however, there were a couple
of incidents. James Hatsuaki Wakasa an elder Japanese-American, was shot and killed by
military guards who claimed that he was trying to escape the camp. Many Japanese-Americans
were furious because the autopsy showed that Wakasa had been shot in the chest while facing
the guard tower. They demanded a funeral, which at first was denied but eventually granted for
fear of a riot. A couple were also shot by the military guards because they were strolling near
the fence ("Topaz Relocation Center, Utah").
Despite these incidents, time had passed and the Japanese-Americans were settling in the
internment camp, living their lives until President Franklin D. Roosevelt, announced on January
1943 that male internees with the age of 17 and older had to prove their loyalty by willing to
bear arms to defend America (Children of the Camps: The Social and Historical Context 12).
Many families were divided and disintegrated.
Eventually, most Japanese-Americans residing in Topaz swore their loyalty and were
allowed to leave the camp and live in the west, some of them were sent to Japan, and the rest
volunteered for the American military. Masaru Kawaguchi, a Japanese-American and Topaz

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internee, was interviewed by high school students of the Urban School of San Francisco and
stated how he was discriminated in Topaz.
When I first went out and worked picking fruits in the Utah, Provo Valley, that
was when I first started to feel real discrimination because while we were picking
fruits, some young people drove by and shot at us (Masaru Kawaguchi).
He also tells his experience with the questionnaire of loyalty. Kawaguchi stated that it was tough
for him. He was asked to pledge loyalty to the United States, and forsake the Emperor and if
he was willing to serve in the United States Service. He volunteered for the Military
Intelligence Service as a Japanese interpreter and after the war he decided to move on with his
life and travel. He also says that one of the things he liked of living in Topaz was meeting other
Japanese-Americans, who otherwise he would not have met (S, Brett, Marshall H, and Robbie
D).
The Japanese-Americans who didnt swear their loyalty, did not do so because they
feared of the racism and discrimination they would face if they left the internment camp. Fear
and anxiety were spread through the entire internment camp (Children of the Camps: The Social
and Historical Context). Japanese-Americans were always in fear of what would happen there,
the next day, after the war ended.
Racism, discrimination and prejudice played a crucial role during the internment camps.
Being accused, discriminated, and having their freedom and rights taken away from them just
because of their race, left them traumatized, depressed and even led them to suicide. The suicide
rate for the internees after the camps was double that of the national population (Children of
the Camps: The Social and Historical Context). These were some of the many factors and
injustices that caused stress within the Japanese-Americans.

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On October 31, 1945, the internment camp in Topaz closed ("Facts"). President Ronald
Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, in a way to apologize for the relocation,
internment and injustice done to Japanese-Americans. In this Act, they acknowledge the
injustices to Japanese Americans during World War II; apologized on behalf of the citizens of the
United States; provided a public education fund to prevent the recurrence of any similar event;
made restitution to those Japanese-Americans who were interned ("Civil Liberties Act of 1988").
They awarded each internee with $20, 000 dollars (Ushistory.org).
The majority of Japanese-Americans returned to their former lives, some returned to
Japan but one thing that is certain is that they all agreed that this was an injustice but they had to
move on with their lives like Masaru Kawaguchi.
Many Americans for fear of their safety were in denial, letting their hatred, racism and
prejudice dominate and cause injustice to Japanese-Americans. Nowadays, there is more
acceptance of difference and less racism and discrimination in the United States, however, there
is still more to accomplish. Some ethnicities are still being victims of racism and prejudice
because of fear of the unknown, fear of the differences, fear of them. Americans are
acknowledging the vast diversity there is in this country and adapting to a new era. This
important event will remain in the history of the United States and hopefully will serve as an
experience for Americans to not segregate their own people and others and hopefully history will
not repeat itself nevermore.

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Works Cited
Children of the Camps: The Social and Historical Context. Print. Pg. 11-14. 6 Apr. 2016
"Civil Liberties Act of 1988." Pbs.org. Satsuki Ina 1999. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
"Facts." Topaz Museum. CentralPoint. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
S, Brett, Marshall H, and Robbie D. "Masaru Kawaguchi." Telling Their Stories Oral History
Archives Project. The Urban School of San Francisco, 27 Apr. 2005. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
Topaz. Dir. Ken Verdoia. KUED, 1987. DVD.
"Topaz Relocation Center, Utah." Javadc.org. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.
Ushistory.org. "51e. Japanese-American Internment." U.S. History. Independence Hall
Association in Philadelphia. Web. 6 Apr. 2016.