The World War II Era 1939-1946
excerpted from the book
The Tree of Liberty
A Documentary History of Rebellion
and Political Crime in America
edited by Nicholas N. Kittrie and Eldon D. Wedlock,
The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998
As war approached, Congress enacted legislation to secure
the loyalties of federal employees and to prevent interference
with the military and war objectives. Ironically, the laws were
enforced more often against those of communist or other leftist
leanings than those of rightist persuasion, who in the minds of
most people appeared to be the potential wartime enemies. At the
onset of war the loyalties of the citizenry similarly were subjected
to scrutiny at the state level. Those who routinely declined either
to swear or to discuss their allegiance to the country and its
Constitution, or who refused their services to the war effort,
were subjected to quasi-criminal pains and penalties.
"the overthrow of our constitutional form of government"
(1939) (The Hatch Act)
President Roosevelt's January 4, 1939, message to Congress
emphasized the threat that the growing strength of the totalitarian
nations posed to world peace. In March 1939, the Spanish Republic
fell to the Fascist forces, and Germany moved into Czechoslovakia,
claiming disorder in that country threatened German nationals.
After concluding a non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union,
Adolf Hitler, on September 1, commenced a blitzkrieg against Poland.
On August 2, 1939, Congress passed the Hatch Act, sponsored
by Senator Carl Hatch of New Mexico, forbidding federal civil
servants from taking an active part in political parties and campaigns.
But the first prohibition of federal employment based on party
membership was written also into this civil service reform. The
Civil Service Commission, responsible for administering the Hatch
act, interpreted Section 9A, which prohibited federal employees
from being members of a party that advocated "the overthrow
of our constitutional form of government," to preclude federal
employment of members of "the Communist Party, the German
Bund, or any other Communist, Nazi or Fascist organization."
By 1942, the Civil Service Commission concluded that being a "follower"
of Communism raised a "strong presumption" against one's
loyalty to the government of the United States.
To "teach the . . . propriety of overthrowing or destroying
any government in the United States by force" (1940) (The
Smith Act / Alien Registration Act)
Congressional concern over foreign influences in the United
States also manifested itself through passage of the Alien Registration
Act of 1940, requiring all aliens to be fingerprinted and register
annually. Nevertheless, Title I of this enactment, the so-called
Smith Act, was not restricted to aliens. This act, named after
Congressman Howard W. Smith of Virginia, was the first peacetime
federal sedition law since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.
Congress modeled the act after the New York Criminal Anarchy Act
of 1902 and prohibited speech or publications that advocated or
taught the "duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety"
of overthrowing any level of government "by force or violence."
Enacted in the year in which Hitler occupied Paris, the Smith
Act, reminiscent also of the 1917 Espionage Act, was one of many
steps which began to make Americans expect that war was virtually
"All alien enemies are enjoined to preserve the peace"
(1941) (Alien Enemies Act)
On December 7,1941, Japanese naval and air forces attacked
Pearl Harbor, bringing to an end the peaceful but strained American-Japanese
relations that had existed since the 1937 Japanese drive into
China. The United States declared war on Japan the following day.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Proclamation Number 2525
restricting the travel and other movements of Japanese aliens
in the United States and authorizing civil and military authorities
to detain all suspicious aliens. Subsequent proclamations affected
German and Italian aliens at the commencement of war with their
countries. The United States authorities initially directed security
measures against all alien enemies. But as the War Department
gradually assumed control over this program, it directed more
resources toward the Japanese.
During the first year of the United States' entry into World
War II, 12,071 alien enemies were arrested. Of this number, government
attorneys released 3,567 after a preliminary investigation. On
the recommendation of the hearing boards, the attorney general
placed 2,933 on parole, released 1,048 outright, and ordered 3,646
interned for the duration of the war. Of those interned pursuant
to this proclamation, 1,974 were of Japanese ancestry. These detentions
differed from the subsequent evacuation programs, which applied
to all Japanese collectively and permitted no individual determinations
of loyalty until after the detainees reached Relocation Centers.
"every possible protection" (1942) (Japanese Internment
On February 19,1942, two months after Pearl Harbor, President
Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the establishment
of defense zones within the United States. The order further gave
military commanders unbridled discretion to exclude persons from
such zones or to restrict their activities therein. Most of the
states of California, Oregon, and Washington officially constituted
the Pacific Defense Zone.
The speed of the Japanese takeover of the Western Pacific
after Pearl Harbor was shocking, and the fear of a Japanese invasion
was very strong. False alarms of approaching Japanese submarines
and bombers affected West Coast cities. Although no acts of sabotage
by Japanese-Americans were ever reported, some believed the racial
and cultural loyalties of this easily-identifiable ethnic group
would supersede their political allegiance and "a nationwide
tornado of destruction" would ensue.
Under the authority of this seemingly simple order, United
States military forces evacuated all persons of Japanese ancestry
from the Pacific Coast. The armed forces removed 112,000 Japanese,
some 70,000 of whom were American citizens (many native-born),
from their homes, placed them in temporary collection points,
and subsequently shipped them to barbed-wire-enclosed Relocation
Centers for internment.
President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066
3.C.F.R. 1092 (Feb. 19,1942).
AUTHORIZING THE SECRETARY OF WAR TO PRESCRIBE MILITARY AREAS
WHEREAS the successful prosecution of the war requires every
possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to
national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense
Now, THEREFORE, by virtue of the authority vested in me as
President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the
Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of
War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time
designate, whenever he or any designated Commander deems such
action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in
such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military
Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be
excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to
enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions
the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may
impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized
to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom,
such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as
may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the
said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made,
to accomplish the purpose of this order.
Tree of Liberty