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Know the West

Don't blame the greatest generation


Richard Reeves’ book Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II is a tragic story of an immoral episode in American culture, and it’s simply not necessary to compound the tale through sensationalism and historical error. The title of Eric Sandstrom’s review in the Nov. 9 issue, “The Greatest Generation at its worst,” is off base. The “Greatest Generation” grew up in the Depression and served in WWII, where their average age was 26 years old. These young men and women were hardly responsible for the Japanese American internment. As Reeves points out, the leaders who were responsible included FDR (b. 1882) and Earl Warren (b. 1890). Also, the fact that “more than 1,800 died in the (internment) camps” is not particularly notable. This works out to a death rate of about 500 per 100,000 per year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. death rate in 2013 was about 822 per 100,000. There is no evidence that the interned population was denied necessary medical care or that they suffered a higher death rate than the general population. That said, the internment was driven by racism, was totally unnecessary, denied 120,000 Americans their freedom, and resulted in the illegal seizure of many internees’ property.

Pat Munday
Walkerville, Montana