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Friday, April 27, 2012

Times Change

How many times over the years have we heard the story about the brutal internment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II?  With Franklin Roosevelt's issuance of Executive Order Number 9066, 120,000 people - men, women, children - mostly on the West Coast - were removed from their homes and relocated inland.  Americans of all persuasions have been duly aghast.

At least in recent years.

But in the early years of World War II?

It was a completely different mood.  A different attitude.

From Time magazine, November 30, 1942, "Medals for Moving":
For the biggest moving job in U.S. history a 35-year-old Colonel last week was awarded the Army's Distinguished Service Medal.

Colonel Karl Robin Bendetsen last March began evacuating 110,599 Japanese and Nisei from a 150-mile West Coast strip to 16 temporary assembly centers in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona. This month he finished his seven-day-a-week job. He had placed all his charges in the care of the civilian War Relocation Authority in ten huge permanent projects in California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Arkansas.

Said his superior, Lieut. General John Lesesne DeWitt, Commander of the Western Defense Command and the Fourth Army: "That operation ... was completed within the designated time, without mischance, with minimum hardship and almost without incident."

Bendetsen, with a Stanford Law degree, a reserve lieutenancy, and an interest in radio and aviation, was practicing law in his Aberdeen, Wash. hometown in 1939 when the Judge Advocate General's Department called him. ...

Later, a lieutenant colonel, he prepared Franklin Roosevelt's executive order that last February provided for the establishment of military areas and started the evacuation program.
It would appear that folks - if only at Time magazine and in the War Department - were quite proud of Colonel Bendetsen's accomplishment.  To the point where he was awarded the military's highest non-combat decoration.

Today he'd be tried for war crimes by that same government that was so proud of him not that long ago.

We have a whole different attitude toward such actions these days.

But then, we can afford to.