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Mistakes and Excesses

Even though the United States acted as probably the most magnanimous conqueror in the history of warfare, during the Second World War, a number of regrettable episodes occurred. Although some German and Italian nationals were interned during the war, the numerous group of Italian-Americans and the even more numerous German-Americans saw little discrimination (although this was the era during which the title “hot dog” attempted to supplant that of the “frankfurter”). The thousands of Japanese-Americans, mostly on the west coast, were not so fortunate. A wave of anti-Japanese hysteria followed the Pearl Harbor attack. The government began to round up Japanese-Americans, more than half of them full American citizens, and move them to “war relocation” camps. Many lost their homes, farms and businesses in the process. These programs affected more than 100,000 people. Despite numerous official apologies by the American government, this shameful episode in American history left an extreme bitterness among the Japanese-American population that is still expressed today.

Racially-oriented policies extended to the war itself. American bombing of Germany was severe, but nothing compared with America’s destruction of civilian centers in Japan. The two atomic bombs dropped on Japan killed hundreds of thousands. Whatever justification existed for dropping the bombs on Japan, it is unlikely that Americans would have considered using them against Germany, or other Europeans. Conventional bombing killed more Japanese than the atomic bombs. On the night of March 9-10, 1945, American firebombs killed more than 100,000 residents of Tokyo, literally sucking the oxygen out of the city’s atmosphere.

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