Was the internment of Japanese Americans in WWII public affair; meaning, was it in any way discussed or reported in the contemporary American media? Did the authorities conduct any explanatory propaganda for the public and the Japanese being interned and relocated? My question is not about the visibility of the relocation. Of course, people could see it and people knew about it. I'm rather interested in finding out if there was any PR and public discussion involved (e.g. aimed at differentiating this from European practices of internment and exile)? If you can point me to some relevant literature on this issue, I'd really appreciate it.

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    What has your preliminary research shown?
    – MCW
    Commented Dec 26, 2018 at 22:23
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    Of course it was discussed. Sons of the internees were signing up to fight for the United States. One family I know, their son was fighting Germans in Europe, with the 442nd Infantry Regiment, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/442nd_Infantry_Regiment_(United_States), while both parents were imprisoned at Manzanar. They were Christian refugees from the 1920s. Commented Dec 27, 2018 at 13:43
  • @Mark I have not done any research on it. This is why I'm asking for help and literature recommendations. The secondary literature I've consulted deals mostly with personal experiences, logistics or morality of the relocation and not its public presentation in comparative context. Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:37

1 Answer 1


Since this was front page news in local newspapers (cf. San Francisco Examiner, February 1942), this was known and observed by the public:

American public opinion initially stood by the large population of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Times characterizing them as "good Americans, born and educated as such." Many Americans believed that their loyalty to the United States was unquestionable.

But, six weeks after the attack, public opinion along the Pacific began to turn against Japanese Americans living on the West Coast, as the press and other Americans became nervous about the potential for fifth column activity. Though the administration (including the President Franklin D. Roosevelt and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover) dismissed all rumors of Japanese-American espionage on behalf of the Japanese War effort, pressure mounted upon the Administration as the tide of public opinion turned against Japanese Americans. Civilian and military officials had serious concerns about the loyalty of the ethnic Japanese after the Niihau Incident which immediately followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, when a civilian Japanese national and two Hawaiian-born ethnic Japanese on the island of Ni'ihau violently freed a downed and captured Japanese naval airman, attacking their fellow Ni'ihau islanders in the process.

See the references in the cited wikipedia page.

  • Thanks! I see that Wikipedia seems to be arguing that the government grudgingly yielded to public pressure. But it leaves it ambiguous on whether the impulse came from the wide "tide of public opinion" or from the more specific "civilian and military officials" Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:47
  • It appears that public opinion was the driving force behind the events.
    – sds
    Commented Dec 28, 2018 at 18:56

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