The Problem of Visual Assumption during World War II 
( A practice PCES topic)              
By Donna Bolima


Idea Outline

PROBLEM TOPIC: During WW II citizens of African Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans underwent difficulty because of visual assumptions

Cause: Assumptions based on Appearance Unawareness of Cultural Difference, Group Think Mentality

Effects: Fear, Limitations and Loss of Life

What happened during World War II? (Background)

Following WW I Germany & Japan in contention
Germany moves into Europe
Japan moves into Asia

Pearl Harbor  

While the Germans were waging a heavy battle in Europe, the Japanese decided to move against the U.S.

At 8 AM on Sunday, December 7, 1941, Japanese carrier-based airplanes struck Pearl Harbor.

The U.S. was now officially in WW II.

African Americans During World War II and in past wars

Problem: Blacks were historically considered as inferior based on appearance
Cause: Slavery, Civil War, Competition Jobs


--Blacks joined the War effort to prove themselves as equals
--Blacks hoped they could gain new opportunities for employment and training

Colin Powell: Effects   

There has never been a conflict in American history when, notwithstanding the conditions of our servitude or bondage, Black men and women did not respond. With each conflict, things got a little better.

In the Past: Buffalo Soldiers    

Over 180,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Of these, more than 33,000 died.

The mounted regiments were the 9th and 10th Cavalries, soon nicknamed Buffalo Soldiers by the Cheyenne and Comanche.

Until the early 1890s they constituted 20 percent of all cavalry forces on the American frontier.

In the Past: Tuskeegee Airmen  

African Americans sought to improve their status by military service

Training of black officers and training of pilots, medical and engineering units.

A million blacks served in the war

Dorie Miller won the Navy Cross, the highest honor awarded to a black serviceman for his heroism at Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Considerable discrimination/Segregated Units. Serious riots erupted at several camps, where black soldiers protested against poor conditions and racial discrimination.

Encarta® 98 Encyclopedia. © 1993-1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

In Reality, after WWII….

Blacks found they were still not equals
Segregation was still a reality in the service
The fight for equality and civil rights was still forthcoming in the years ahead

Native Alaskans During War II

Problem: Assumption that all Alaskan Natives are alike.
Cause: Not enough awareness of Cultural Differences
--Men, Women and Children were relocated to Southeast Alaska to live in Canneries
--Loss of Life

Bomb Attack on Islands

1942, Japan attacked the United States in Alaska.
The Battle was North in the Aleutian Chain.
Japanese occupied Attu and Kiska.
Dutch Harbor was also Bombed (shown right).

Unanagan (Aluet)   

By far the most well-documented hardship of the Unanagan was the forced evacuation of the people during WWII.

The Unangan survived under adverse conditions when shipped to abandoned fish canneries in Southeast Alaska.

Battles rages on...

With the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the invasion of the western Aleutian, both naval and army units were rushed into Alaska.

By 1942 over 150,000 troops were in Alaska.

The headquarters for the military command was established in Anchorage.

War Time Casualties: Effects

Unfortunately, of the group of Unanagans relocated, two thirds died of disease. --The rest returned home after the war.

Unanagan peoples were once a population of 25,000 and dropped to 8,000 within 60 years.


Japanese Americans During World War II

Problem: Looked like the enemy, so assumed they were.
Causes: Competition for Jobs, Fear
Effects: Internment, Loss of Culture

Anti-Alien Association: Competition

Blatant Racism: Fear leads lobbying groups to push for internment
Competition for Farming Markets a factor
"Guilty By Reason of Race"

Roosevelt’s Decision:

Tags & Numbers

This order gave the military free reign to designate military areas and to remove any persons considered a danger. Though theoretically Executive Order 9066 could be used to remove German and Italian Americans only the Japanese community was forced to undergo mass evacuation and imprisonment.

By June 1942 more than 110,000 Japanese (more than 70% of them American citizens) had been forced from their homes into temporary assembly centers. These assembly centers such as Camp Harmony were ramshackle affairs built at racetracks and fairgrounds. From the assembly centers the Japanese were moved to ten concentration camps scattered in the more inhospitable desert regions of the West.

Executive Order 9066 Facts

Only Two Suitcases were allowed per person
If you were at least 1/4 or more Japanese, you had to go
This internment did not pertain to those living off the West Coast or in Hawaii.

Selling Out

120,000 interned & two thirds American born
Many quickly sold businesses


Puyallup Fairgrounds
Then to Camp Life in Dessert Areas

Riots and Dissention at Tule Lake

Many Japanese Americans ask what does it mean to be an American?

          The 442nd become an all Japanese American Unit

         Drug Abuse/Alcoholism is at 20% in some camps

Katonk! Irony at Home: A Hawaiin Story: The Hawaiins were a different lot than the Japanese Americans.  Culturally they were more expressive and outgoing.  One day an American and a Hawaiin got into a fight.  The American fell on the ground with a thud or a "katonk!"  From that time forward, the Hawaiins called the American Soldiers Katonks.  But some time later when the Hawaiins heard that the Americans were fighting despite the fact that they had loved ones locked up at home, they stopped teasing the Americans and from that time on supported one another.

Education went on as usual in camps; there were many teachers there
More than one family stayed in one room hastily built barracks

Family in Barrack                            Disloyalty never an issue                After School Activities 

Constitutional Rights

Mitsue Endo & J.A.C.L (Jpn. Amer. Citizens eague) challenged the courts and won.

With the realization that the government could no longer hold U.S. Citizens in jail, Japanese were allowed to go home in organized groups.

Other Camp Sites: Silenced History

"Justice Department Internment Camps"

For non-citizens which included Kibei, Buddhist ministers, newspaper people and other community leaders, 2 27 U.S. Department of Justice Camps (most at Crystal City, Texas, but also Seagoville, Texas; Kooskia, Idaho; Santa Fe, NM; and Ft. Missoula, Montana) were used to incarcerate 2260 "dangerous persons" of Japanese ancestry taken from 12 Latin American countries by the US State and Justice Departments.

Approximately 1800 were Japanese Peruvians. The U.S. government wanted them for potential hostage exchanges with Japan. After the war, 1400 were not allowed to return to their former countries (ie. Peru). Over 900 Japanese Peruvians were "voluntarily" deported to Japan. 300 fought it in the courts and were allowed to settle in Seabrook NJ.1

In Conclusion...

African Americans, Japanese Americans and Unanagans wanted to express, survive or prove loyalty to their country to overcome the problem of visual assumption.

All three groups had differences in the types of obstacles they encountered as loyal Americans.

Other ‘different’ groups were also interned.


Do not make assumptions based on appearance
Resist Group Think; think critically about issues
Be aware and knowledgeable of the contributions and sacrifice of different U.S. groups



Group or Peer Pressure

How does ‘Group Pressure’ affects decisions?
Fear of being different or alone
Fear of reprisal
Need for Approval

Things to Consider

Many times Peer Pressure won out and many people although opposed, went along with the group Those that did oppose had to be prepared to lose their lives or be harassed
Take time to consider all the issue angles, so you don’t make decisions based on group think