On December 8, 1941, America was a nation of shocked, frightened people, with an instant and intense hatred towards Japan and no way to express it. A long time would pass before the Allies could respond in force to the treachery of Pearl Harbor.
But if the enemy was unassailable over there, many of his relatives were over here. Yet immediately after Pearl Harbor there were no reprisals. The LA Times editorialized on December 8th that West Coast Japanese were "Good Americans..." General John DeWitt of the Western Defense Command rejected internment: "An American citizen, after all, is an American citizen."
Others were more vindictive. Columnist Westbrook Pegler thought "The Japanese should be under armed guard right now, and to hell with habeas corpus!" A farm leader said, "It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown man." Amidst fear of Japanese invasion, the 1941 Rose Bowl game was moved to North Carolina. 15,000 coastal Japanese migrated east, often over the objections of local authorities. (Idaho's Attorney General: "We want to keep this a white man's country.")
These frightened voices prevailed. Shortly after supporting Japanese Americans, General DeWitt said, "A Jap's a Jap whether he's an American citizen or not. I don’t want any of them." DeWitt argued that the complete absence of provable sabotage by Japanese Americans was clear evidence that the saboteurs existed and were just waiting for the right moment. In February of 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, creating "military areas…from which any and all persons may be excluded"—specifically, the Pacific Coastal Zone—but not Hawaii, where 200,000 Japanese comprised nearly half the population. Their sudden internment would have paralyzed the islands.
Very quickly 100,000 West Coast Japanese Americans were sent to location centers, usually bleak and barren places like Manzanar and Minidoka. There they formed new communities, and waited. (Approximately 5,000 German and Italian Americans were interned, mostly in North Dakota and Montana.) After passing "loyalty interrogations", 3,000 men became the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and fought with honor and heavy casualties in Italy.
On December 17, 1944, the "military necessity" that Roosevelt had used to justify internment was declared over. Japanese Americans lost up to $400,000,000 in property during the war. And ever since, the government has sporadically tried to make amends, beginning with a 1948 reparations payment of $37,000,000.