Korematsu v. United States (1944) actually began December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack on Pearl Harbor then began the conquering of Wake, Guam, Philippines, Malaya, Singapore, Dutch East Indies, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Burma. With the attack on Pearl Harbor, racism, which was hardly unfamiliar, became an even greater problem. The Japanese Government’s attacks on Americans including; torturing, raping, and murdering was an excuse for Americans aversion towards the Japanese. Public officials began to lock up the Japanese people simply for their own good, for protection against the hate crimes.
Economic interest also encouraged the racism against the Japanese. Tough Japanese work ethics made Japanese businesses competition for Americans. Interest groups and individuals demanded legislators take action against all Japanese. All persons of Japans ancestry, including American citizens of Japanese ancestry, called Nisei, were reported to concentration camps. In reading American Constitutional Interpretation, it states, “General DeWitt explained, it was legitimate to put the Nisei behind barbed wire
while allowing German and Italian aliens to remain free because “a Jap is a Jap” and World War II was “a war of the white race against a yellow race.” (pg., 89).
In 1943 a student Gordon Hirabayashi disobeyed a report for evacuation and curfew. Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), was the first judicial test of the statute that was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt to make it a crime to remain in a military zone, that was put to use towards an American citizen. Hirabayashi was convicted of both counts, evacuation and curfew, in Federal District Court. In the Court of Appeals he lost, and then received certiorari from the United States Supreme Court. Chief Justice Stone affirmed Hirabayashi’s conviction on both counts, meaning Gordon Hirabayashi would have to serve the full sentence.
Fred Korematsu also an American citizen of Japanese descent was convicted of not reporting to his concentration camp. His reason was that he was unwilling to leave his sweetheart, Endo. Fred Korematsu was arrested, convicted and also obtained a certiorari of the Supreme Court just like Gordon Hirabayashi.
The Korematsu v. United States (1943), case was seen as a case of racism from General DeWitt, interest groups and particular members of the Supreme Court. Justice Black delivered the opinion of the court. Concerns pressing public necessity justified the existence of the legal restriction, which curtailed the civil rights of an American Citizen
of Japanese descent, Fred Korematsu. Justice Black stated in American Constitutional Interpretation, “In light of the principles we announced in Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), we are unable to conclude that it was beyond the war power of Congress and the Executive to exclude those of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast war are.” (pgs.1383-1384). Also, as in Hirabayashi, it could not be without reason that there were disloyal members of the Japanese ancestry population. In summary, Justice Black confirms that Korematsu was not absolved from the military area because of hate towards him or against his race. Korematsu was absolved because the United States was at war with the Japanese Empire and there were proper security measures.
Justice Frankfurter, also affirming the decision by stating the provisions of the Constitution, which discuss the President and Congressional power to wage war. The military order given to Korematsu is under the provision of the Constitution to wage war. Therefore, Korematsu is the business of the military and not for the decision of courts.
Justices Robert, Murphy, and Jackson disagreed with this decision agreeing the decision was a violation of Constitutional rights. Justice Roberts believed that the military command given to Fred Koramatsu was a trap taken out on Fred Korematsu because of his Japanese background. There were two conflicting orders one to stay and one to go for the entire purpose to lock him up in a concentration camp.
Justice Murphy dissented with obvious racial discrimination. Justice Murphy stated the military order sending Japanese, even American citizens to concentration camps went against the Fifth Amendment of equal protection. Justice Murphy’s opinion is of pure racism, referring to the Commander General’s final report on the vacating from the Pacific Coast area. The Commander General suggests that everyone of Japanese descent is rebellious and enemies. Justice Murphy suggests that in justifying the decision of Korematsu v. United States (1943), racial discrimination is used by accusing the Japanese as having dual citizenship, and living in strategic points enabling them to have the ability to sabotage on a mass scale.
Justice Jackson dissents by claiming that even if the act against Korematsu was a military procedure, the military procedure was not constitutional. That the military order was unconstitutional and that the Constitution was rationalized to show that there was such an order, or the judicial opinion was rationalized to show that it conformed to the Constitution. Koramatsu’s conviction was upheld because earlier in Hirabayashi V. United States (1943), it was upheld. In reading American Constitutional Interpretation, Justice Jackson stated “The Court is now saying that in Hirabayashi, we did decide the very things we there said we were not deciding. Because we said that these citizens could be made to stay in their homes during the hours of dark, it is said we must require them to leave home entirely; and if that, we are told they may also be taken into custody for deportation; and if that, it is argued they may also be held for some undetermined
time in detention camps. How far the principle of this case would be extended before plausible reasons would play out, I do not know.” (pg. 1389).
In summary, Korematsu v. United States (1944), opinion can be seen as one of great historical importance. The reason it is so important is because of the differences in the Judges racial classifications, and personal values. Another important factor in this case is the requirements of military requirement and the Fifth Amendment of equal protection. This case shows the importance of interpreting the Constitution and the different ways that the Constitution can be interpreted depending upon a persons own political backgrounds and beliefs.