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C h a p t e r 1 1 Winning the War at Manzanar: Environmental Patriotism and the Japanese American Incarceration Connie Y. Chiang World War II has been remembered as a popular conflict that rallied millions of Americans behind the United States’ effort to defeat the Axis powers and defend President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. To win popular support, the federal government, in cooperation with private industry, developed a savvy propaganda campaign of posters, films, and advertisements that encouraged Americans to do their part to win the war. When they opened their newspapers, went to movie theaters, or walked down streets, they were bombarded with these government appeals. Many Americans responded to the calls to action and contributed to the war effort in myriad ways, from working in the defense plants and donating blood to buying war bonds and saving scarce materials. Indeed conservation messages figured prominently in the propaganda campaigns.1 Illustrated with bright colors and bold graphics, war-time posters implored Americans to “Save Scrap to Beat the Jap” or to participate in car-sharing clubs because “When You Ride alone You Ride with Hitler.”2 The message was clear: save materials—metal, rubber, Figure 11.1. Weimer Pursell, “When You Ride alone You Ride with Hitler!” (1943). Reproduced courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. War at Manzanar 239 paper, kitchen fats—to ensure Allied victory. Failure to comply was the equivalent of providing direct aid to the Axis. Not surprisingly, conservation-themed posters often presented racialized imagery, as did most war-time propaganda. For instance, the Wartime Forest Fire Prevention Program, in conjunction with the Wartime Advertising Council, created a campaign that used familiar anti-Japanese visual tropes. One poster with the slogan “Fire: Forest’s Public Enemy No. 1” featured an “Asian Fire Devil” with slanted eyes and sinister smile. In another poster, with an orange fire ablaze in the background, the slogan “Careless Matches Aid the Axis” was accompanied by a dark caricature of a Japanese soldier holding a lit match that illuminated his large buckteeth. Thus not only did a racialized enemy endanger the nation’s forests but inattentive Americans could inadvertently help this ominous, nonwhite threat as well.3 As the federal government implored Americans to both conserve and safeguard vital natural resources, it was also transforming the landscape of the nation’s interior to confine Japanese Americans. In the wake of Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, many Americans came to view all people of Japanese ancestry with suspicion. Of the roughly 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the United States in 1940, about 112,000 congregated on the Pacific Coast.4 The federal government thus targeted this regional population for removal. Despite the fact that two-thirds were United States citizens by birth, federal officials uprooted them from their homes, forced them to pack their belongings and liquidate their property in short order, and eventually sent them to one of ten “relocation centers” in remote locales in the inland West and Arkansas. Army crews hastily built barracks, mess halls, lavatories, and sewage treatment plants; laid water pipelines; and dug irrigation ditches to isolate people of Japanese ancestry. Meanwhile, Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority (WRA), a civilian agency, to administer these camps. Government initiatives to encourage conservation and to incarcerate Japanese Americans may appear to have nothing in common, the former encouraging frugality and sacrifice and the latter banishing a potentially dangerous group. Indeed most narratives of the World War II home front make no connection between the two. Yet both programs were part of a broader war-time environmental history in which harnessing the nation’s natural resources figured prominently in mobilization efforts.5 In addition to calls for conservation, the federal government encouraged and facilitated the rapid environmental exploitation of resources deemed necessary to fight the war, Figure 11.2. “Careless Matches Aid the Axis” (1941–45). Reproduced courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Figure 11.3. Map of war relocation centers, Relocation Communities for Wartime Evacuees (Washington, D.C.: War Relocation Authority, 1942). 242 Chapter 11 often at the expense of previous environmental regulations and policies.6 For instance in Olympic National Park, National Park Service director Newton Drury permitted logging for Sitka spruce trees, which were needed for airplanes , in corridors intended for scenic parkways just outside...


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