The War’s Mixed Legacy

A Grocer with a "Filipino" Sign/tiles/non-collection/A/APA_essay2_23_FilipinoProduceStand_NARA.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration World War II left a mixed legacy for Asian Pacific Americans. As anti-Japanese sentiment rose, this Filipino grocer used his ethnic heritage as an advertisement for his business in San Lorenzo, California, in 1942. The Philippines was a U.S. territory at the time.
Although the war seemed to disproportionately affect Japanese immigrants and their American-born children, it had equally far-reaching effects on other Asian and Pacific Islander Americans. As it did for women and African Americans, the war encouraged Asian immigrants of many nationalities to fill new roles, all the while gaining the moral authority to challenge discrimination on the home front.

But the war’s effects were far from uniformly positive. It was a mixed legacy that shaped personal lives and political aspirations for decades. It affected each Asian community in different and unique ways.

Japan’s surprise attacks on the United States at Pearl Harbor, for instance, swiftly transformed China and India into U.S. allies, and the domestic atmosphere for immigrants from these countries improved. For Pacific Islanders who initially lived under American protection in the Philippines and Guam, however, the war brought years of brutal Japanese occupation with bloody and devastating consequences. Though no voting APA Representatives served in Congress at the time (nor would they for more than a decade after the war), these upheavals shaped the experiences of the group of APAs who came to Congress in the post-war decades.

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