Justice at War

Justice at War : Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases

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A study of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II offers an inside look at government suppression of civil liberties in spite of lack of evidence concerning espionage, sabotage, or treasonshow more

Product details

  • Hardback | 420 pages
  • 165.1 x 231.14 x 38.1mm | 748.42g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019503273X
  • 9780195032734

Review Text

Potent, headline material - handled with utmost skill and care. The recent determination, by a federal study commission, that the 120,000 Japanese Americans interned during WW II suffered a "grave injustice" - since "Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity" - figures in the background and foreground of this book. This is not, however, its only import. Irons, a political scientist (at UC, San Diego), legal historian (The New Deal Lawyers), and attorney, began it as a study of the test cases in which the Supreme Court upheld the military orders based on E.O. 9066 - a study, simply, of "justice at war" - and concluded, from his findings, that "a legal scandal" had taken place; he has since filed to reopen the cases under an obscure provision of federal law (coram nobis), which requires evidence of governmental misconduct. The first three chapters primarily recount the debate over mass Japanese evacuation between the Justice and War departments from Pearl Harbor to the signing of E.O. 9066 in February 1942 - material whose hands-on drama could keep viewers riveted to television for a week. The principals, with one exception lawyers: liberal Edward Ennis, of Justice, and Wall Streeter John McCloy, of War; (the two most closely involved); their superiors Frances Biddle, upright but insecure, and Henry Stimson, scrupulous but much-pressured; and FDR, who gave Stimson an unthinking go-ahead instead of the guidance sought. Also, a single zealous "lawyer in uniform," strategically placed, who not only convinced the one non-lawyer, West Coast commanding general De Witt, to urge the military necessity of evacuation (the crucial factor), but drew up the orders by which evacuation became internment. The larger part of the book then concerns the cases brought against the various orders by four young Nisei - Gordon Hirabayashi, Min Yasui, Mitsuye Endo, and Fred Korematsu - which Ennis and his colleague James Roche (both prominent civil rightsers in later years) duly defended for the government. Who the four challengers were, why they acted, what support they received, are also part of Irons' story. His charge of governmental tampering with the evidence hinges on the suspicion of Ennis and an aide (corroborated by the FBI and the FCC) that General DeWitt's claim that Japanese Americans had committed acts of sabotage was untrue and the excision of a footnote to that effect (perhaps at McCloy's instigation) from the government's Supreme Court brief in the Korematsu case. There are, however, innumerable other instances of conflict between duty and conscience, civil rights and other loyalties - as well as among other stellar personalities. The last chapter reunites Ennis and McCloy and the other principals, 40 years later, at the federal commission hearings - where McCloy, squaring off with a Japanese American commissioner, lets slip the word "retribution." Whatever the ultimate end to the story, Irons is to be lauded for his triple role of attorney, advocate, and author. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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23 ratings
3.65 out of 5 stars
5 13% (3)
4 48% (11)
3 35% (8)
2 0% (0)
1 4% (1)
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