POLITICS

These Anti-Japanese Signs From World War II Are A Warning Against Bigotry Today

"We don't want any Japs back here -- EVER!" reads one WWII-era sign.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor not only marked a turning point in America’s role in World War II, but also helped catalyze rampant anti-Japanese sentiment across the country. 

Americans ― Japanese-Americans ― bore the brunt of this xenophobia. As bold signs with bigoted slogans were erected on storefronts and stories like ″“How to Tell Japs from the Chinese” were splashed across the pages of newspapers and magazines, Americans of Japanese descent were quickly painted as “the enemy.” 

These racist attitudes, perpetuated by government officials, had real consequences for Japanese-Americans. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 paved the way for more than 110,000 of them to be forced from their homes and imprisoned behind barbed wire during the war. What’s more, their detention received Congress’ blessing. 

On Thursday, the 76th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans look back on the tragedy that changed the lives of so many citizens. Against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s travel ban targeting travelers from mostly Muslim-majority countries, World War II-era propaganda and signs remind us what happens when an entire group of people is scapegoated during a time of conflict. 

Scroll down below to see anti-Japanese wartime propaganda. 

A U.S. Army poster during WWII. 
A U.S. Army poster during WWII. 
A comic strip from the U.S. Army, distributed to soldiers. 
A comic strip from the U.S. Army, distributed to soldiers. 
A poster used in the Douglas Aircraft Company factories after Pearl Harbor to help reduce waste. 
A poster used in the Douglas Aircraft Company factories after Pearl Harbor to help reduce waste. 
An image from a comic strip that was distributed to U.S. soldiers.
An image from a comic strip that was distributed to U.S. soldiers.
An image from a comic strip that was distributed to U.S. soldiers.
An image from a comic strip that was distributed to U.S. soldiers.
Propaganda artwork depicting "Tokio Kid," a Japanese-inspired character meant to perpetuate stereotypes that Japane
Propaganda artwork depicting "Tokio Kid," a Japanese-inspired character meant to perpetuate stereotypes that Japanese people were dangerous murderers. 
A U.S. Army poster from World War II. 
A U.S. Army poster from World War II. 
A swimming pool advertisement. 
A swimming pool advertisement. 
A postcard of Uncle Sam, slapping a Japanese soldier. 
A postcard of Uncle Sam, slapping a Japanese soldier. 
A barber points to his own anti-Japanese sign after Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during World War II.
A barber points to his own anti-Japanese sign after Japanese-Americans were incarcerated during World War II.
An American anti-Japanese propaganda magazine. 
An American anti-Japanese propaganda magazine. 
American anti-Japanese propaganda poster featuring a depiction of Japanese General Hideki Tojo.
American anti-Japanese propaganda poster featuring a depiction of Japanese General Hideki Tojo.
A newspaper from circa 1942. 
A newspaper from circa 1942. 
American anti-Japanese propaganda poster. 
American anti-Japanese propaganda poster. 
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