WWII & Japanese-American population growth at Idaho State University – Akeema Wignall

America has been often referred to as  a melting pot throughout its own history, but as the Second World War in Europe escalated, American isolationism became unrecognizable. As the nation dove head first into a war that was brought to their door front, its people resembled a tossed salad rather than a melting pot. A place where individual can be picked and targeted for something that they themselves cannot control.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the nation into the Second World War, contributing to an internal assault on the liberty of Japanese-Americans, about 120,000 of whom were sent to internment camps, two-thirds were American citizens, many were children. With numerous locations across the country, such as Manzanar in California, Heart Mountain in Wyoming and Minidoka in Idaho, camps held Japanese-Americans as well as those of Japanese descendants, removing them from the coastline in fear of possibility of espionage or even another attack on American soil. Thirteen-thousand people of Japanese heritage were interned between 1942 and 1945.

Focusing evidence that has been collected  between the years of 1940 to 1950 to access and evaluate how the impact of the war had affect the population growth of Japanese or even people that looks like them at Idaho State University. Throughout the course of the semester, I have collected data that shows the effect of the war, which had subsequently affected the student body population growth and decline of Japanese descendants.

Figure 1. Display the population growth and decline of Japanese student body population.

In the figure that is labeled above, it is clear that we can see midst the time frame between the years 1940-1945 there was a drastic decline in the student body population of Japanese descendants as the war heated up. Given what we know of the events that took place during those years, it was only a matter of time before the government took action. With the rounding up of American citizen that are of Japanese descendants as well as Japanese, by the government, that were eventually placed in internment camps due to the abstract danger they pose to the American government as well as its citizens.

Taking a better look at the chart (below) and separating the years, to show freshmen and upperclassmen population of Japanese descendants. During 1940 there was three freshmen that were found in the entire student body population. Having a total of three freshmen of color, not including African American or Native Americans.

Figure 2. Display the population and year of Japanese descendants attending Idaho State University.

In the figure above it is easily noted the extent of Japanese American attending the university from freshman year up to seniority. When looking at documents collected from the archive it was clear to see that during 1942-1945[1] the population has drastically declined due to President Franklin Roosevelt signing an executive order, 9066, which forced 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry into internment camps that were guarded by the U.S. military. There was certain evidence that was missing from the research given that there was no yearbooks printed between the years 1944-1945 given that the war was as its height along with a large sum of the students that might have been enlisted in the army or working in factories for the army. When conducting  my research in the archive, The Bengal (Idaho State University newspaper)[2] there was no record of February 20,1942 or even the mention of the executive order that was passed. There was also a seven day gap from the 20th-27th of 1942 where there was no newspaper found in the archive.

Looking back at the situation and the circumstance that these people were put in, I can’t help but wonder if the general citizens in Pocatello outside the university had anything to say in the matter or did most turned a blind eye to the situation like what had happened to so many other minorities in this country.

– Akeema Wignall

[1]  “Wickiup.” Library News – Find out What’s Happening at the Eli M. Oboler Library, Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho. Accessed December 03, 2018. http://libpublic2.eol.isu.edu/wickiup/1940/1940wick.htm.

[2] The Bengal.February 19,1942. Eli M Oboler library Archive Special Collection.(Access November 2018)