U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans

U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans

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During World War II, U.S. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes.

On February 19, 1942, 10 weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.” The military in turn defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area.

By June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly removed to remote prison camps built by the U.S. military in scattered locations around the country. For the next two and a half years, many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards.

During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the U.S. government.

READ MORE: These Photos Show the Harsh Reality of Life in WWII Japanese-American Internment Camps

History of Japanese Americans

Japanese American history is the history of Japanese Americans or the history of ethnic Japanese in the United States. People from Japan began immigrating to the U.S. in significant numbers following the political, cultural, and social changes stemming from the 1868 Meiji Restoration. Large-scale Japanese immigration started with immigration to Hawaii during the first year of the Meiji period in 1868. [1] [2]

U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans - HISTORY

Japanese American Internment was based off an executive order that was put in place by President Roosevelt, following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, which took place December 7, 1941 the next day, U.S. declared war on Japan. Executive order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942, called for the removal and the incarceration of all Japanese-Americans, which totaled 110,000 individuals. Even though there was clear proof to show there was no danger posed by these individuals, the president signed the executive order in place. This in turn led to the capture and detention of Japanese Americans, which over 2/3 of these individuals were American citizens, and over 1/2 of the individuals that were detained were children.

Pre-War Discrimination

Although the Japanese American internment was not put into effect until after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, there were pre-war tensions and discriminatory acts, not only against Japanese, but also individuals of Chinese ancestry in the U.S. Although they were initially welcomed in to the U.S. as a source of cheaper labor, they soon became the target of anti-Asian campaigns, and were viewed as “yellow perils.” In the early 1900’s there were several discriminatory laws put in place, denying Japanese several rights, including acquisition of citizenship or owning land, and many were even restricted to purchasing their homes in a specifically designated area. So, although the executive order did not take place after the bombing, and although there was clear proof these Japanese Americans posed no danger or threat to the U.S. in any way. There were already pre-war discriminatory acts, laws, and tensions towards these Japanese-Americans.

Pearl Harbor

The bombing of Pearl Harbor was a major surprise to most Americans, including Japanese Americans who were living in the U.S. Many early rumors of sabotage and of espionage, by Japanese who were in Hawaii, were found to be false by the FBI raids that took place, as well as other government agencies that took part in these findings, but the findings were suppressed by top U.S. officials, and kept from the general public. There was never one act of sabotage or espionage by any Japanese American before the war, but the government refused to admit to these facts and findings and did not deny the rumors that sabotage had taken place, which was one of the causes of the bombing.


FBI raids were performed within hours of the bombing, in homes of Japanese American citizens. Many individuals were immediately arrested, although there was no proof of any wrong doing. Many leaders of this community, were immediately placed in to internment camps, simply because of their nationality. In the following days, the president issued other restrictions, not only to Japanese Americans, but to several other nationals, who were from other countries. Restrictions were placed on travel, gatherings, the times these individuals could leave their home, and on their entire lives. In months to follow the restrictions got worse, and the interment of many individuals continued to take place.

The Executive Order

Order 9066, which was the official document which led to the Japanese American internment of over 100,000 individuals, was not in effect until February of 1942, when the president signed it in to effect, and Japanese Americans, were immediately placed in the camps. The army designated a number of military areas, and there were camps spread around the U.S. Criminal sanctions and penalties were put in to place for those who refused or try to leave the camps. Years later, the mass retention was found to be pointless and unfounded, yet the U.S. did not apologize for this act, for nearly 50 years following the initial detention that took place.

The mass removal of Japanese Americans took place over an 8 month period, from March to November. The individuals had no charges that were placed against them, did not know where they were being taken, and were given no hearing. They were simply taken away, and placed in camps. Many of the individuals were separated from their families and kids, without warning, simply due to the fact that they were of Japanese descent. Many of these individuals were not even given a 48 hour notice that they would be removed and taken to a camp, causing major hardships to them and their families.


These grassroots efforts helped nudge the nation in its bicentennial year toward reconsidering this troubling aspect of its past. In 1976, on the 34th anniversary of FDR’s Executive Order 9066, President Gerald R. Ford signed Proclamation 4417, “An American Promise,” which formally ended the relocation program that had remained on the books years after its directives had been abandoned. 159 “We now know what we should have known then—not only was that evacuation wrong but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans,” Ford said. “On the battlefield and at home the names of Japanese- Americans have been and continue to be written in America’s history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and to the security of this, our common Nation.” 160 The symbolic and often overlooked proclamation served as one of the earliest official statements denouncing the evacuation and internment program.

By the late 1970s, momentum had also started for the commemorative annual recognition of Asian-American heritage. Representative Mineta and New York Representative Frank Horton cosponsored a resolution to set aside one week every year to celebrate the diverse heritage of APAs. Supported by a national coalition of civic groups, including the Organization of Chinese Americans and the JACL, the bill passed the full House in July 1978, 360 to 6, and the Senate passed it two months later. 165 President Carter declared that the first annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Week would take place in May 1979. 166 Congress later expanded the commemoration period and passed H.R. 3802 on May 3, 1990. 167 When he signed the act into law, President George H. W. Bush proclaimed the month of May as the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. 168

Video: "The Challenge to Democracy" (1944)

This film was produced by

critics of Japanese internment

The narrator describes those evacuated as __.

Generally, the movie depicts Japanese workers as

The narrator of this movie describes the housing as

designed in Japanese style

The narrator of the movie admits that life in the relocation centers is "not normal."

The movie depicts Japanese American soldiers in a favorable light.

Interning Japanese-Americans

Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, accompanied by WRA National Director Dillon S. Myer, visits the Gila River Relocation Center.

WRA photograph, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

In 1942, almost 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced from their homes in California, western Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona in the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.

Many would spend the next 3 years in one of ten "relocation centers" across the country run by the newly-formed War Relocation Authority (WRA). In some cases even Americans of German and Italian decent were detained. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt stated towards war end "to undo a mistake is always harder than not to create one originally but we seldom have the foresight. …every citizen in this country has a right to our basic freedoms, to justice and to equality of opportunity ."

Exhibit Review

Increasingly during the past several years, cultural historians have revisited the issues surrounding the U.S. Government's internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. A recent spate of museum exhibits testifies to this renewed interest. As home to a sizable Japanese-American community both during the internment period of 1942-1945 as well as today, California leads the way in exhibits dealing with the subject.

The Los Altos History Museum takes a unique approach in its exhibit, Bittersweet: Japanese American Legacy and Resilience. Curated and developed by collections and exhibits manager Allyn Feldman and consultant Toshiko Furuichi Kawamoto, the exhibit chronicles the story of the internment through the perspective of several local Japanese-American families. This personal approach reduces the large, somewhat complex topic to a more accessible story. Including the periods prior to internment and following the return of the evacuees to society at the end of World War II extends the exhibit storyline and places the Japanese-American internment in context.

The first Japanese immigrants settled in the Los Altos area at the end of the 19th century. Working primarily as farmers, the Japanese families became part of the larger agricultural movement in the Santa Clara Valley. During the valley's rapid agricultural growth between 1879 and 1909, the cultivation of fruits and vegetables jumped from 4 percent to 50 percent of all crops grown in California. The exhibit illustrates the industriousness of the Japanese community at this time and effectively personalizes their experiences through photographs and a discussion of family life.

The signing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, shattered this seemingly idyllic life, setting in motion the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry, American citizens and noncitizens alike. The exhibit interprets the implementation of the order by focusing on personal experiences recorded by families during relocation, internment, and return.

The internment section of the exhibit looks solely at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming where all of the Los Altos evacuees were sent. The photographs bring the conditions at Heart Mountain to life. In particular, an enormous photographic panel serving as the backdrop for the section shows the camp barracks with a snow-covered Heart Mountain looming in the background, evoking the isolation and bleakness of the barren landscape. Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel, two Life Magazine photographers assigned to document life at Heart Mountain, took most of the photographs on exhibit.

The internment section of the exhibit is the same dimensions as an average barrack "unit"&mdashapproximately 16 by 20 feet&mdashcomplete with a cot and a trunk. This design forces visitors to confront the reality of the confinement of a family and invites viewers to linger in the restricted space and "experience" internment.

The return of the evacuees to Los Altos was not a seamless transition because many local residents were hesitant to welcome their Japanese neighbors back. But, through perseverance and resilience, the returnees confirmed their national allegiance to a skeptical public and adjusted their skills to the changing world. During the postwar period, the Santa Clara Valley's agricultural economy became more diversified. Several exhibit panels discuss Los Altos Japanese-American families and individuals whose businesses range from jewelry stores to landscaping services.

Family and Community Dynamics

Communalism did not develop in overseas Japanese communities as it did among the overseas Chinese. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries Japan's land-based lineage community gave way to down-sized extended families. Only the eldest son and his family remained in the parental household. Other sons established separate "branch" households when they married. In Japan, a national consciousness arose while in China, the primary allegiance remained to the clan-based village or community. Thus, Japanese immigrants were prepared to form families and rear children in a manner similar to that of white Americans. The "picture bride" system brought several thousand Japanese women to the United States to establish nuclear branch families.

The "picture bride" system was fraught with misrepresentation. Often old photographs were used to hide the age of a prospective bride and the men sometimes were photographed in borrowed suits. The system led to a degree of disillusionment and incompatibility in marriages. The women were trapped, unable to return to Japan. Nevertheless, these women persevered for themselves and their families and transmitted Japanese culture through child rearing. The Issei women were also workers. They worked for wages or shared labor on family farms. Two-income families found it easier to rent or purchase land.

By 1930, second-generation Japanese Americans constituted 52 percent of the continental U.S. population of their ethnic group. In the years preceding World War II, most Nisei were children and young people, attempting to adapt to their adopted country in spite of the troubled lives of their parents. For many young people the adaptation problem was made even more ambiguous because their parents, concerned that their children would not have a future in the U.S., registered their offspring as citizens of Japan. By 1940, over half of the Nisei held Japanese as well as American citizenship. Most of the Nisei did not want to remain on family farms or in the roadside vegetable business and with the strong encouragement of their parents obtained high school, and in many cases, university educations. Discrimination against Japanese Americans, coupled with the shortage of jobs during the Great Depression, thwarted many Nisei dreams.

The dual-career family seems to be the norm for Sansei households. Recently, spousal abuse has surfaced as an issue. If it was a problem in previous generations, it was not public knowledge. In San Francisco an Asian women's shelter has been established, largely by third-generation Asian women.

In Japanese tradition, a crane represents 1,000 years. On special birthdays 1,000 hand-folded red origami cranes are displayed to convey wishes for a long life. Certain birthdays are of greater importance

At a wedding dinner, a whole red snapper is displayed at the head table. The fish represents happiness and must be served whole because cutting it would mean eliminating some happiness. Silver and golden wedding anniversaries are also occasions for festive celebrations.

U.S. approves end to internment of Japanese Americans - HISTORY

December 7 Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese. Presidential Proclamation No. 2525 gives blanket authority to Attorney General for a sweep of suspects

December 8 Treasury Department seizes all Japanese banks and business

December 9 Many Japanese language schools closed.

December 11 FBI warns against possession of cameras or guns by suspected "enemy" aliens

December 27 Attorney General orders all suspected "enemy "aliens in West to surrender short wave radios and cameras

December 30 California revokes liquor license held by non-citizen Japanese.

January 1 Attorney General freezes travel by all suspected "enemy " aliens, orders surrender of weapons.

January 14 President Roosevelt orders re-registration of suspected "enemy" aliens in West.

January 27 Los Angeles City and County discharges all Japanese on civil service lists.

January 29 US Attorney General Francis Biddle issued the first of a series of orders establishing limited strategic areas along the Pacific Coast and requiring the removal of all suspected "enemy" aliens from these areas.

January 31 Attorney General establishes 59 additional prohibited zones in California to be cleared by February 15.

February 4 Attorney General establishes curfew zones in California to become effective February 4.

February 14 Lt. General J. DeWitt, Commanding General of the Western Defense Command, sends a memorandum to the Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson recommending the removal of "Japanese and other subversive persons" from the West Coast area.

February 19 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066, authorizing Secretary of War, or any military commander designated by Secretary to establish 'military areas' and exclude therefrom 'any or all persons'.

February 20 Secretary Stimson designated General DeWitt as military commander empowered to carry out an evacuation within his command under the terms of the Executive Order 9066.

March 2 General DeWitt issues Proclamation No. I, designating the Western half of the three Pacific Coast states and the southern third of Arizona as military areas and stipulating that all persons of Japanese descent would eventually be removed.

March 7 Army acquire Owens Valley Site for Manzanar temporary detention center.

March 11 General DeWitt establishes the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA), with Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen as Director to carry out the internment plan.
March 16 Wartime Civil Control Administration establishes military area in Idaho, Montana, Utah and Nevada, designate 934 prohibited zone to be cleared.

March 18 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9102 creating the War Relocation Authority to assist person evacuated by the military under Executive Order No. 9066. Milton S. Eisenhower was named Director.

March 20 WCCA acquires Santa Anita as a temporary detention center.

March 21 President Roosevelt signed Public Law 503 (77th Congress) making it a federal offense to violate any order issued by a designated military commander under authority of Executive Order No. 9066.

March 22 First large contingent of Japanese and Japanese Americans moved from Los Angeles to the Manzanar temporary detention center operated by the Army in the Owens Valley of California.

March 23 General DeWitt issues Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 ordering the evacuation of all people of Japanese descent from Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound and their removal by March 30, to the Puyallup Army temporary detention center near Seattle.

March 24 Curfew for all aliens and Japanese proclaimed for military area 1 and other strategic areas in west effective March 27. WCCA acquires sites for temporary detention centers in California at Merced, Tulare, Marysville, and Fresno.

March 27 General DeWitt issued Proclamation No.4 (effective March 29) forbidding further voluntary migration of Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast military areas.

April 3 First compulsory incarceration of Los Angeles Japanese to Santa Anita temporary detention center.

April 28 Seattle internees are sent to temporary detention center at Puyallup fairgrounds, called "Camp Harmony. "

April 28 132 Alaska internees are sent to Puyallup temporary detention center later to Minidoka Internment camp.

May 8 The first contingent of internees arrives at the Colorado River Internment camp (Poston) near Parker, Arizona.

May 19 Western Defense Command issues Civilian Restriction Order No. 1 establishing all temporary detention centers in the eight far western states as military areas and forbidding residents to leave these areas without expressed approval of the Western Defense Command.

May 27 The first contingent of internees arrives at the Tule Lake Internment camp in Northern California, this group included 447 volunteers who came from Puyallup and Portland temporary detention centers.

June 1 The Manzanar Army temporary detention center was transferred from WCCA to WRA and converted to Manzanar Internment camp.

June 1-4 Internees arrive directly from rural Oregon and Washington to the Tule Lake prison.

June 2 General DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No.6 forbidding further voluntary migration of people of Japanese descent from the eastern half of California and simultaneously announce that all such people would eventually be removed from this area directly to Internment camps.

June 17 President Roosevelt appointed Dillon S. Myer to succeed Milton S. Eisenhower as Director of WRA

July 13 Mitsuye Endo petitions for a writ of habeas corpus stating that she was loyal and law abiding U. S. citizen, that no charge had been made against her, that she was being unlawfully detained, and she was confined in a internment camp under armed guard and held there against her will.

August 7 Western Defense Commander announced the completion of removal of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes.

August 10 Minidoka Internment camp near Twin Falls, Idaho receives the first contingent of internees from the Puyallup Army temporary detention center.

August 12 Heart Mountain Internment camp near Cody, Wyoming received its first group of internees from the Pomona Army temporary detention center.

August 15 Farm labor strike at Tule Lake Internment Camp.

August 27 The Granada Internment camp near La Mar, Colorado was opened with the arrival of a group from Merced temporary detention center.

September 11 The Central Utah internment camp, near Delta, Utah received its first group from Tanforan temporary detention center.

September 18 The Rohwer internment camp near McGhee, Arkansas received its first group of internees from the Stockton temporary detention center

October 6 The Jerome internment camp near Dermont, Arkansas--the last of the 10 centers--received a group of internees from the Fresno Temporary detention center.

November 3 The transfer of internees from temporary detention centers was completed with the arrival of the last group at Jerome internment camp from Fresno temporary detention center.

January 4 WRA field offices established in Chicago, Salt lake City, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Des Moines, New York City, Denver, Kansas City. and Boston.

January 23 Secretary of War Henry Stimson announced plans to form an all-Japanese American Combat team to be made up of volunteers from both the mainland and Hawaii.

February 8 Registration (loyalty questionnaire) of all persons over 17 years of age for Army recruitment, segregation and relocation begins at most of the internment camps.

May 6 Ms Eleanor Roosevelt spent a day at the Gila River Internment camp.

June 21 Hirabayashi v U.S. and Yasui v U.S : The Supreme Court rules that a curfew may be imposed against one group of Americans citizens based solely on ancestry and that Congress in enacting Public law 77-503 authorized the implementation of Executive Order 9066 and provided criminal penalties for violation of orders of the Military Commander.

February 16 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9423 transferring WRA to the Department of the Interior.

May The all-Japanese American 442 Regimental Combat Team (RCT) sent to the Italian front.

June 30 Jerome Internment camp closed. the remaining personnel transferred to Amache, Granada, Colorado and Rohwer, Arkansas.

December 17 The War Department announced the revocation (effective on January 2, 1945) of the West Coast mass exclusion orders which had been in effect against people of Japanese descent since the spring of 1942

December 18 The WRA announced that all internment camps would be closed before the end of 1945 and the entire WRA program would be liquidated on June 30, 1946.

December 18 Korematsu v U.S.: the U.S. Supreme Court rules that one group of citizens may be singled out and expelled from their homes and imprisoned for several years without trial, based solely on their ancestry.

December 18 In ex parte Endo, the U.S. Supreme Court rules that WRA has no authority to detain a "concededly loyal" American citizen.

April 29 442--All Japanese American Regiment frees prisoners at Dachau Concentration Camps.

September Western Defense Command issues Public Proclamation No. 24 revoking all individual exclusion orders and all further military restrictions against persons of Japanese descent.

Oct 15- Dec 15 All WRA Internment camps are closed except for Tule Lake Center

March 20 Tule Lake Segregation Center closed

June 30 War Relocation Authority program officially terminates.

October 30 Crystal City Detention Center, Texas operated by the Justice Department releases last Japanese (North. Central and South ) Americans. The closing of the Japanese American Internment Program.

July 2 Evacuation Claims Act passed, giving internees until January 3.1950 to file claims against the government for damages to or loss of real or personal property consequence of the evacuation. Total of $31 million paid by the government for property lost by internees-- equaling less than 10 cents per dollar lost.

February 19 President Gerald Ford formally rescinds Executive Order No. 9066.

June 23 Report of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), entitled Personal Justice Denied, concludes that exclusion, expulsion and incarceration were not justified by military necessity, and the decisions to do so were based on race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.

October 4 In response to a petition for a writ of error coram nobis by Fred Korematsu, the Federal District Court of San Francisco reverses his 1942 conviction and rules that the internment was not justified.


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