By September 1939, Europe was embroiled in World War II. The U.S. remained nominally neutral, although sympathetic to the Allies led by England and France. After the U.S. cut down its sales of scrap iron and oil to Japan, the latter signed an alliance with Germany and Italy, further straining already heightened tensions between Japan and the U.S.
On December 7, 1941, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, destroying much of the naval fleet stationed there. The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day. On December 11, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S. The U.S. declared war and plunged into World War II.
Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor shocked Americans, including Japanese Americans.
Early rumors of sabotage and espionage by Japanese residents in Hawaii and the West Coast had been found to be false by the FBI and other governmental agencies, but these findings were suppressed by high U.S. officials in government.
There was not one instance of sabotage or espionage by Japanese American citizens or residents of the U.S. before or during the war. Nevertheless, the government did not deny the rumors of sabotage.
Text excerpted from "Historical Overview," Teachers Guide - The Bill of Rights and the Japanese American World War II Experience, published by the National Japanese American Historical Society and the San Francisco Unified School District. © All rights reserved.