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Monday, December 7, 2015

This Day in History: The Bombing of Pearl Harbor—Defending the Country, Confronting Fears

Troops in Vehicles Lining Crissy Field, 1941
Courtesy of National Park Service
In the recent controversy over Syrian refugees, some Americans have likened refusal to provide the refugees a haven in the United States to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II.

After Pearl Harbor Day, as the United States built up its military presence and war materiel production in the West, nearly 120,000 citizens and residents of Japanese ancestry along the West Coast were incarcerated at camps or relocated for fear that they posed a threat to national security.

Even before Pearl Harbor, the U.S. Army began to secretly train Japanese American linguists in the Presidio’s Military Intelligence Service Language School (MISLS) classes. During the war, more than 30,000 Japanese American citizens volunteered or were drafted to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

On this Pearl Harbor Day we look back at the defense of the West Coast at the Presidio in San Francisco and roles Americans—including Japanese Americans—played in defense of the country.
Soldier Operating a Searchlight, 1941
Courtesy of National Park Service
Students at the Military Intelligence Service Language School at Crissy Field, 1941–42
Courtesy of National Park Service
Buildings 35, Presidio
Courtesy of National Park Service
Building 35 at the Presidio was headquarters for the Western Defense Command, which directed the evacuation and incarceration of people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast. Built in 1912 as army barracks and restored in 2004–2005 it is home to the Bay School of San Francisco. 
Building 640, Presidio
Courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation 
A short distance away, Building 640 housed the U.S. Army’s secret MISLS, training 60 linguists, 58 of them Japanese Americans born in the United States. In June 1942, the school was moved to Camp Savage in Minnesota. The building has been renovated by the National Japanese American Historical Society and serves as an interpretive center.
Two Soldiers Walk through the Battery Chamberlin Temporary Trenches, Presidio, 1941
Courtesy of National Park Service
Two Japanese American Color Guard and Color Bearers of the 442nd Being Honored, 1944
Courtesy of National Archives
A Seaweed-covered Mine is Hauled from the Bay for Maintenance by the Mine Crew, 1942
Courtesy of National Park Service
MISLS Linguist James Iso (left) of San Jose, California, in Tokyo, 1946
Courtesy of Densho Digital Repository

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