FDR planned for Japanese internment camps in 1936

U.S. puts together War Plan Orange to deal with Japan

By Claude Morita

In a Honolulu Star-Bulletin newspaper article, on 10 February 1983, Mike Feinsilber reported that the "Military Kept AJA (American of Japanese Ancestry) Internee List Even Before 1936." It is worth repeating: Before 1936, FDR intended to put Japanese Americans into concentration camps-US citizens into US camps.

The U.S. military told President Franklin D. Roosevelt that it had been thinking along the same lines in 1933. It is bad enough to realize that war was being seriously considered in 1936, but, incomprehensibly, U.S. citizens were planned to be placed in concentration camps at this time.

Worse, the U.S. military forces had concluded that the Japanese Americans had been spying at least since 1924. It is a testament to intelligence ineptitude. When any endeavor is strongly laced with eugenics and racism, its chief characteristic is inefficiency, wasted man-hours, and outrageous findings.

Like all spying accusations against Japanese Americans, they were fabrications used to rationalize US racist policies. Cause and purpose in life are important in any culture. Spying did not fit into a society which accepted the Issei -- who felt it an honor, an obligatory debt, to be a good resident in America.

Again, in 1936, FDR focused on war with Japan. With the alarm felt with Japan's military adventurism in Manchuria, War Plan Orange had some justification for implementation. With no direct threat to the United States, however, war could not be declared no matter how much he desired it. To help him, U.S. intelligence agencies saw nothing different between people living in the Japanese archipelago and American citizens of Japanese descent in the Western Hemisphere. It was especially pronounced during the years of war planning with Orange assumptions and Presidential leadership.

One of the early documents reiterating the importance of continuing War Plan Orange is classified Secret (Declassified 8/5/91) and dated November 15, 1922. It is titled and quoted verbatim from the original document, "An outline of the development to date of War Plan-Orange. 1. In order that the further development of War Plan-Orange may take into account the studies that have previously been made, I submit the following outline of studies on this subject that have been made in the War Plans Division during the past two years. These studies are numbered serially.

Number 1, dated December 29, 1920, was prepared with a view to determining priority in the preparation of war plans and to establishing a sound basis for developing War Plan-Orange. Copies of this memorandum were furnished to the other divisions of the General Staff and to the Naval members of the Planning Committee for their comments and suggestions. The comments and suggestions received are attached to Number 2 following.

Number 2, This is a memorandum of January 15, 1921, for General Haan, the Director of the War Plans Division, enclosing the comments referred to above. Attached to this memorandum, and numbered 2-E, is a revised draft, dated January 18, 1921, of the memorandum for the Chief of Staff, (Number 1 above) subject: "A Basis for the Development of War Plans."

Number 3, Dated January 19, 1921, is a memorandum by the Director, War Plans Division, stating that the Chief of Staff had approved giving priority to the Orange War Plan and desired that a basic plan be prepared and submitted to him. This memorandum also outlines the form that the basic plan should take.

Number 4, Dated January 20, 1921, is a memorandum for the Chief of Staff, subject, "A basis for the Development of War Plans." This memorandum recommends that the Orange plan be given priority and recommends certain principles upon which he plan should be based. In acting on this memorandum, February 5, 1921, the Chief of Staff directed that study of the Orange Plan be started.

Detailed official orders for hostilities with Japan are dated in January and February 1921. Actual hostilities were not prompted until 7 December 1941, more than 20 years later.