“A Challenge to Democracy”

A Challenge to Democracy was a 20 minute 1943 film produced by the War Relocation Authority. The film could be considered a companion piece or sequel to 1942’s Japanese Relocation.

This film is more sober in its description of the events. It states that while many Japanese were loyal and in the armed forces, they didn’t know what would happen in case of an attack. The film makes it clear that the Japanese Americans were forced from their circumstances, and that they were made to live in a rather barren relocation camp, which was surrounded by armed guards. The film states bluntly that the medicine available at the camp was the same as that of everybody else in war time—barely adequate.

More positive features of camp life are also shown, whatever their histocial accuracy may be: it shows the internees organizing a self government, schools, and places of worship, as well as contributing to the war effort though industry. It also shows that some families were allowed to leave the campif they have proven loyal enough.

Japanese American internment refers to the forcible relocation and internment of approximately 110,000 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans to housing facilities called “War Relocation Camps”, in the wake of Imperial Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally throughout the United States. Japanese Americans residing on the West Coast of the United States were all interned, whereas in Hawaii, where over 150,000 Japanese Americans composed nearly a third of that territory’s population, an additional 1,200 to 1,800 Japanese Americans were interned. Of those interned, 62 percent were United States citizens.

President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate “military areas” as “exclusion zones”, from which “any or all persons may be excluded.” This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, except for those in internment camps. In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders, while noting that the provisions that singled out people of Japanese ancestry were a separate issue outside the scope of the proceedings.

In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”. About $1.6 billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to surviving internees and their heirs.

Part I:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlIOt54s9tk&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&hd=1]

Part II

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYy9Aqs772Q&hl=en_US&fs=1&rel=0&hd=1]