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Betrayal & Loyalty Essay

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Updated: Dec 1st, 2019


On December 7, 1941, American military men at United States naval base at Pearl of Harbor in Hawaii woke to a crude shock; the Japanese army had attacked them, something that invited the United States of America into World War II. Following this attack, the United States of America in retaliation, placed all Japanese Americans in internment camps popularly known as ‘War Relocation Camps.’

Nevertheless, the aftermath of this exercise presented one big irony of all the time; loyalty and betrayal co-existed and it was even difficult to differentiate between the two. Whilst the Japanese Americans remained loyal to the U.S. government, this government resorted to betrayal, assigning each family a number, which was used as surnames for the Japanese Americans in these camps among other ‘injustices’, only to incorporate them in military later on.

Loyalty and Betrayal

The Japanese Americans in the internment camps remained loyal to the U.S authorities albeit the harrowing experiences they went through in the camps. For instance, they lived in, “un-partitioned toilets, cots for beds, and a budget of 45 cents daily per capita for food rations” (Myer 1). The first act of loyalty came with the surrender of Japanese Americans to authorities.

After President Roosevelt signed the Executive Order 9066, posters saying “All Japanese persons, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the above designated areas by 12:00 o’clock noon Tuesday, April 7, 1942…report for internment with bedrolls and…” (Weber 16). Being loyal to the authorities, the Japanese Americans responded to this order and reported at the said time.

There is no one recorded time when the Japanese Americans became disloyal to the U.S. authorities save for some peaceful demonstrations; however, these were also allowed in the constitution; therefore, it was not an act of disloyalty. Japanese Americans submitted to denounce their religion, salute the U.S flag, and sing loyal songs; all in loyalty.

Moreover, they swore allegiance to “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” (Weglyn 56). In loyalty, the Japanese Americans in these camps submitted to authorities and respected the constitution. This was ‘high-class’ loyalty; something that they carried on to World War II.

In 1943, the U.S authorities gave some Japanese America prisoners chance to serve in the military on voluntary basis. “The War Department is offering you a chance to volunteer and to distinguish yourselves as Japanese-American citizens in the service of your country” (Sone 218). According to Broek, Barnhart, and Matson, one of the distinguished loyal Japanese American regiment was “the 442nd Regimental Combat Team” (98).

This team went on to become the most adorned combat regiment of the time and it served in the war across Europe. This echoes the loyalty that the Japanese Americans portrayed in the internment camps as prisoners. As part honoring them, the U.S authorities branded the 442nd regiment as, “the most highly decorated unit of its size and length of service in the history of the U.S. Army, including 21 Medal of Honor recipients” (Broek, Barnhart & Matson 102).

If it were not for patriotism, what else could motivate these ex-prisoners to defend a country that had subjected them to untold sufferings? The act of these ex-prisoners defended the U.S during World War II is an extension of loyalty practiced in the internment camps earlier on. Unfortunately, the U.S did not recognize this loyalty and they mistreated the Japanese Americans inside and outside the internment camps.

As aforementioned, the white people mistreated the Japanese Americans before and after the way amounting to betrayal. Immediately after the attack at Pearl of Harbor, President Roosevelt, acting under pressure from the white people, signed Executive Order 9066. This meant that all the Japanese Americans were to be placed in internment camps.

According to Weber, the rounding up exercise involved, “freezing of bank accounts; seizure of contraband; drastic limitation on travel, curfew, and other severely restrictive measures” (20). Moreover, the conditions in the camps were squalid with, “un-partitioned toilets, cots for beds, and a budget of 45 cents daily per capita for food rations” (Myer 1).

As aforementioned, each family was given “Tags to be attached to each piece of baggage, and one to hang from our coat lapels. From then on, we were known as Family # 10710” (Sone 35). This was part of mistreatments and many people went though untold sufferings as betrayal took the centre stage after the war. This betrayal was uncalled. It beats logic why a government for people by people would turn against its citizens. Moreover, the betrayal was at both state and citizen level.

Betrayal was not only a task of the authorities but also the U.S citizens. After the war, the authorities started releasing Japanese Americans back to their homes. Unfortunately, their reception was cold and unwelcoming. For instance, Elsie Robinson, a newspaper columnist vowed to, “cut the throat of any evacuee who dared return” (Myer 23). On another account, Clair Eagle, the U.S representative in California made it clear that, “We don’t want those Japs back in California and the more we can get rid of the better” (Myer 23).

This was utter betrayal. Even after the loyalty that the Japanese Americans showed towards the constitution, authorities and the whites in general, people were not convinced that these ‘ex-prisoners’ were people or rather human beings just like them. Sone posits that, after the war, “the West Coast was still off-limits, but we had access to the rest of the continent where we could start all over again” (111).

This shows that even though these Japanese Americans had proved their loyalty, the minds of many whites still held hatred and betrayal. The authorities had not accepted fully that these were loyal citizens and this explains the presence of no-go zones. Betrayal from the U.S side coupled with loyalty of the Japanese Americas, presented irony of all time as aforementioned.

It is ironical that the U.S branded the Japanese Americans, “enemies’ only to allow them to be part of military and other governmental and societal structures. The U.S. authorities put the Japanese Americans into internment camps as ‘enemies.’ Ironically, they incorporated the same enemies into the military to fight in the World War II.

Moreover, they were allowed to enroll in schools and participate in any other national activity. What can explain such an intriguing incidence? Based on these events, it is apparent that the presence of the internment camps was illegal and unjustifiable in the first place. There is no way an enemy can become a close ally in such a short time. President Roosevelt acted under pressure to sign the Executive Order 9066.

The truth will always stand and the Japanese Americans proved this very well. By remaining loyal to the constitution and submissive to the authorities, they went on to become the most distinguished regiment in the World War II. The fact is America’s betrayal of Japanese Americans coupled with the loyalty the latter showed the former, which resulted into incorporation of Japanese Americans into the U.S military, is one big irony.


After the Pearl of Harbor attack, the U.S retaliated swiftly, rounding most of the Japanese Americans living across the United States of America and sending them to internment camps. Conditions in these camps were squalid; however, the U.S reconsidered her decision and released these prisoners back to their homes after proving their loyalty. Some were incorporated in the army and other national institutions, the irony surrounding this loyal-betrayal saga between the Japanese Americans and the U.S authorities.

Works Cited

Broek, Jacobus, Barnhart, Edward & Matson, Floyd. “Prejudice, War and the Constitution.” California; University of California Press, 1968.

Myer, Dillon. “Work of the War Relocation Authority, An Anniversary Statement.” The Harry S. Truman Library Museum, 1947. Web.

Sone, Monica. “Nisei Daughter.” Washington; The University of Washington Press, 1979.

Weber, Mark. “The Japan Camps in California.” The Journal of Historical Review, 1980. 2(1); 16-30.

Weglyn, Michi. “Years of Infamy; The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps. New York, 1976.

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