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The Federal Government’s Actions During World War II

The World War II coincides with reigning of cooperative federalism in the American policy. According to the principles of the cooperative federalism, national, state, and local governments are expected to solve common problems (for the World War II they were employment, civil defense, wartime rationing and the like) together.

Though the United States Constitution does not have a clear definition of federalism, it states numerous rights and responsibilities that official government has. The federal government is a rather influential institution whose main task is to secure civil rights. As historical experience shows, the actions of the United States federal government often fail to succeed in preserving the human rights. Such events as Japanese American internment and bombing of Dresden between February 13 and February 15, 1945 showed that the ideas of federalism and Constitution were not followed by the American government.

In this work we will analyze the events stated and will conclude whether the federal government actions during the World War II were justified or not.

After the attack on Perl Harbor in December 7, 1941 by the Empire of Japan’s Imperial Japanese Navy, the actions of the United States federal government are characterized by the aggression towards Japanese and Japanese Americans that presented a considerable part of the American population (110,000-120,000 persons and 62% respectively).

The actions of the American government acquired the form of the forced removal and internment. Only a small percentage of the Japanese and Japanese Americans was presented an opportunity to move to other parts of the country according to their own choice. Other people were sent to the “War Relocation Centers”, that is, rapidly constructed camps where the conditions left much to be desired.

The reasons for the Japanese American internment go back to the turn of the 20th century. To prevent the development of tension between Caucasian and Asian immigrants the United States has passed a series of laws. According to them, Japanese immigration was discouraged; land ownership and naturalization by Japanese were prohibited. Starting from 1924 any immigration from Japan was banned by the American government. In a number of states marriages between Caucasians and Asians were forbidden.

These actions contradicted the foundation principle of American civil liberties which states the equality of all people. The United States Constitution claims that the first and the foremost right of any American citizen is the right that establishes the equality among all people. The equality consists in the intellectual rights (freedom of speech, of religion and the like), the citizens’ ability to regulate the actions of the government and, moreover, the power to become a member of the government in accordance with the voting principles adopted in the USA. Thus, the actions of the American federal government against Japanese showed absolute ignorance of the rights proclaimed by the Constitution. The rapidly constructed camps where the Japanese were located also did not follow the ideas of the Constitution which granted the right to shelter, food and fire on the basis of equality and fairness.

Though the attack on Perl Harbor served as a springboard for the active actions of the American government against Japanese, there were several government actions prior to Pearl Harbor attack. The FBI actions during the period of 1939-1941 were directed against alien and foreign nations who were considered dangerous; Japanese were among the alien nations.

The actual attack on Perl Harbor led to establishment the general image of Japanese as an aggressive nation. The Japanese were expected to prepare a full-scale attack on the west coast of the United States. As Japanese military forces rapidly proceeded in Asia and the Pacific, the federal government treated them as unstoppable. But it should be pointed out that the fears of the American government were more connected with racial bias than actual risk. “I do not want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here”, testified Lieutenant General John L. De Witt to Congress. “They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty… It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty… But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.” (Mullen, 2006) The racial discrimination against the Japanese is obvious here, and this contradicts the rights of equality proclaimed in the Constitution.

Racial motivation was a more effective driving force than the actual military necessity. One more evidence of this fact is that the children with Japanese blood were considered orphans throughout the United States.

The Japanese nation was expected to commit sabotage for the Japanese military because of the traditions that were promoted by the Japanese education. The fear of the American government increased as many of the Japanese were educated in the United States preserving their own traditions. Consequently, the policy of the American government has changed even in terms of education, which meant that the rights of the Japanese were also violated. Therefore, the rights of equal education for all American citizens were absolutely neglected by the American government.

An immediate response to the Perl Harbor attack also took a form of request to Japanese to report any change of name, address and employment, Japanese were considered to be aliens and were not allowed to enter certain areas.

On February 19, 1942 Franklin Roosevelt using his authority as Commander-in-Chief signed the United States Executive Order 9066 that stated the right of the American government to send ethnic groups and Japanese, in particular, to internment camps. The areas of the United States were declared military; the United States military forces were authorized to use power against the ethnic groups which were considered aliens.

The first mass-action that was used in the camps for Japanese Americans was the establishment of the night-time curfew. Moreover, the federal government failed to carry out its promises about the storage places and Japanese American could not bring enough things with them.

If we consider the conditions that Japanese Americans were provided in their camps we will see that the quick manner in which the camps were made determined the quality of the buildings. Therefore, a simple right for proper accommodation was also neglected by the American government. The conditions of the camps were called by the Japanese as those that cannot be helped (“shikata ga nai”).

The position of the Japanese changed in early 1945 when they were returned to the West Coast. On January 2, 1945 the Executive Order was rescinded. The Japanese American interment was first considered unjustified in 1976, it was Gerald Ford who realized the mistakes made by the federal government.

Though the actions of the American government were considered wrong and the campaign for redress helped the Japanese to cushion the blow, the losses of the Japanese were never fully compensated.

As it is seen from the mentioned above Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution that writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended and the Fifth Amendment that states that nobody will be deprived of life, liberty or property if there is no due process of law were denied by military actions of the federal government during the World War II.

One more example of the violation of the laws of the American Constitution and the principles of federalism is bombing of Dresden between February 13 and February 15, 1945. The firebombing was forced by Royal Air Force and was followed by the United States Army Air Force. These actions of the Allied forces resulted in the death of thousands of people and destruction of one of the best cities in Germany.

The decision to start bombing was taken by the Allies at the Yalta conference on February 4, 1945. The purpose of the Allied forces was to prevent the redeployment of the German troops of the west and other fronts to the east, against the USSR. Dresden as an important transport center was bombed by the Allies to make the flow of traffic round Berlin and Leipzig impossible. The firebombing had four phases during which 6, 600 tons of bombs were dropped on Dresden. Though this tonnage was lower than in other areas, the ideal weather conditions at the target site had the devastating results.

The exact number of dead is difficult to estimate as Dresden was crowded with refugees and wounded soldiers. Historians claim that the figure varies from 25,000 to 35,000 of the dead.

The Dresden police reported the impacts of the attacks: “12, 000 dwellings including residential barracks; 24 banks; 26 insurance buildings; 31 stores and retail houses; 640 shops; 64 warehouses; 2 market halls; 31 large hotels; 26 public houses; 63 administrative buildings; 3 theatres; 18 cinemas; 11 churches; 6 chapels; 5 cultural-historical buildings; 19 hospitals including auxiliary, overflow hospitals, and private clinics; 39 schools; 5 consulates; 1 zoological garden; 1 waterworks, 1 railway facility; 19 postal facilities; 4 tram facilities; 19 ships and barges.” (Taylor, 2004).

The bombing of Dresden remains a hot-debatable problem as the Allies actions tend to be unjustified. Though many historians claim that the Dresden bombings were an integral part of the established bombing policies, we consider this event to be a war crime. We suppose that military necessity was not the primary factor that led to the bombings: Dresden did not have a military garrison and the city’s industry was not concentrated in the centre. The mass assault that the Dresden bombings resulted in empowers us to call the Allies actions’ a crime against humanity. The city was destroyed because the Allied forces needed live target practice for new bomber crews. Christopher Hitchens in his article Was Dresden a War Crime? claims that “many smaller German cities were of no military importance and were destroyed for no reason except to serve as bomb-fodder, and as practice for bombers. The British government had publicly forsworn any deliberate attack on civilian targets” (Hitchens, 2006).

Jorg Frederick’s work in his book Der Brand: Deutschland im Bombenkrieg: 1940–1945 suggests evidence that the German forces were retreated up to February, 1945. Frederick states that the Allied forces were aware of the would-be destructions and civilian deaths caused by the bombs (Harding, 2003).

It should be noted here that the position that we take while considering the actions of the Allies unjustified is often called a “legend” of Dresden. This position has long been promoted by Nazi propagandists whose main target was to accuse the government of the United States of the unjustified policy. This position was highly popular in postwar years and was characterized by the bright anti-American and anti-British propaganda.

Our position is absolutely unbiased and is based on the concrete facts we gather from the research. The bombing of Dresden is an invalid military operation; it is a crime against defenseless civilians. It is one more example of the unjustified policy of the federal government during World War II.

In the present work we have analyzed only two points of the American policy which demonstrate its invalidity. Unfortunately, the field of the examples may be sufficiently broadened as not once the federal government has violated the law and the ideas of federalism.

Works Cited

  1. Mullen, Fred. “DeWitt Attitude on Japs Upsets Plans”. Watsonville Register-Pajaronian (1943): 1-2.
  2. Christopher, Hitchens. “Was Dresden a War Crime?” 2006. National Post. Web.
  3. Harding, Luke. “German Historian Provokes Row Over War Photos”. The Guardian, (2003): 43-47.
  4. Hirabayashi, Lane Ryo. The Politics of Fieldwork: Research in an American Concentration Camp. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1999.
  5. Malkin, Michelle. In Defense of Internmnent: The Case For “Racial Profiling” In World War II and The War On Terror. Washington D.C., Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2004.
  6. Irons, Peter. Justice At War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases. University of Washington Press, 1996.
  7. Longmate, Norman.The Bombers. Hutchins & Co, 1983.
  8. Weglyn, Michi. Years Of Infamy: The Untold Story Of America’s Concentration Camps. University of Washington Press, 1996.
  9. Beevor, Antony. Berlin: The Downfall, 1945. NY: Harper Collins, 2001.
  10. Taylor, Frederick. Dresden: 1945. London: Bloomsbury, 2004.