WASHINGTON — The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) on May 26 applauded Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal for his admission of misconduct by his predecessor, Charles Fahy, an appointee of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, regarding Japanese Americans during World War II.
Katyal stated that Fahy had deliberately hidden a report from the Office of Naval Intelligence that concluded Japanese Americans did not pose a military threat and there was no evidence that they were disloyal.
Katyal said that Fahy deceived the Supreme Court in two major cases in its history: constitutional challenges by Gordon Hirbayashi and Fred Korematsu. The court upheld the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast.
Fahy defended President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, issued on Feb. 19, 1942, which authorized the forced removal of Japanese Americans from “military areas.” Katyal said that Fahy, as the U.S. government’s top courtroom attorney, was viewed as the most important and trusted lawyer to appear before the Supreme Court and had a “duty of absolute candor in our representations to the court.”
Fahy told the justices that the government and the military agreed that the roundup of Japanese Americans was required as a matter of “military necessity.”
JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori stated, “While the fact that Japanese Americans were not a military threat has been well documented, war hysteria fed the bigoted sentiment that called for the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Most scholars have trumpeted the injustice of this illegal removal.
“This admission of misrepresentation by the government should quiet the naysayers who have used this false information to proclaim the justification of the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. The justification has all been based on a lie, which today is exposed as a senseless act.”
National JACL President David Kawamoto added, “This admission of the misconduct of Charles Fahy is long overdue. The JACL thanks Acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal.”
The World War II rulings have been considered as among the worst in the Supreme Court’s history. However, neither the high court nor the Justice Department has formally admitted any wrongdoing until now.
In the 1980s, federal district court judges reversed the convictions of Korematsu and Hirabayashi, largely due to the work of Peter Irons, a professor at UC San Diego, and a team of Japanese American lawyers who utilized old government documents that showed the “military necessity” claim was not true. Later, Congress passed a bill providing redress and an apology for surviving internees, and President Ronald Reagan signed it into law.