Military Wiki
Japanese American internment
Date 1942 - 1946[1]
Location United States

Japanese American internment was the World War II internment in "War Relocation Camps" of over 110,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the Pacific coast of the United States. The U.S. government ordered the internment in 1942, shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.[2][3] The internment of Japanese Americans was applied unequally as a geographic matter: all who lived on the West Coast were interned, while in Hawaii, where 150,000-plus Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the population, only 1,200[4] to 1,800 were interned. Sixty-two percent of the internees were American citizens.[5][6]

President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, issued February 19, 1942, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones," from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and much of Oregon, Washington and Arizona, except for those in internment camps.[7] In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders.[8] The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, adding, "The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding."[9] The United States Census Bureau assisted the internment efforts by providing confidential neighborhood information on Japanese Americans. The Bureau's role was denied for decades, but was finally proven in 2007.[10][11]

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter conducted an investigation to determine whether putting Japanese Americans into internment camps was justified well enough by the government. He appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to investigate the camps. The commission's report, named “Personal Justice Denied,” found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and recommended the government pay reparations to the survivors. They formed a payment of $20,000 to each individual internment camp survivor.

In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation that apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation said that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership".[12] The U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned and their heirs.[13]

Of 127,000 Japanese Americans living in the continental United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 112,000 resided on the West Coast.[14] About 80,000 were nisei (literal translation: "second generation"; Japanese people born in the United States and holding American citizenship) and sansei (literal translation: "third generation"; the sons or daughters of nisei). The rest were issei (literal translation: "first generation"; immigrants born in Japan who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship).[15]

After Pearl Harbor

San Francisco Examiner, February 1942.

A Japanese American unfurled this banner the day after the Pearl Harbor attack. This Dorothea Lange photograph was taken in March 1942, just prior to the man's internment.

Children at the Weill public school in San Francisco pledge allegiance to the American flag in April 1942, prior to the internment of Japanese Americans.

Taken by Russell Lee, this photograph is labeled "Tagged for evacuation, Salinas, California, May 1942".

The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 led military and political leaders to suspect that Imperial Japan was preparing a full-scale attack on the West Coast of the United States. Japan's rapid military conquest of a large portion of Asia and the Pacific between 1936 and 1942 made its military forces seem unstoppable to some Americans.

American public opinion initially stood by the large population of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast, with the Los Angeles Times characterizing them as "good Americans, born and educated as such." Many Americans believed that their loyalty to the United States was unquestionable.[16]

However, six weeks after the attack, public opinion turned against Japanese Americans living in on the West Coast, as the press and other Americans became nervous about the potential for fifth column activity. Though the administration (including the President Franklin D. Roosevelt and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover) dismissed all rumors of Japanese-American espionage on behalf of the Japanese War effort, pressure mounted upon the Administration as the tide of public opinion turned against Japanese-Americans. Civilian and military officials had serious concerns about the loyalty of the ethnic Japanese after the Niihau Incident which immediately followed the attack on Pearl Harbor, when a civilian Japanese national and two Hawaiian-born ethnic Japanese on the island of Ni'ihau violently freed a downed and captured Japanese naval airman, attacking their fellow Ni'ihau islanders in the process.[17]

Several concerns over the loyalty of ethnic Japanese seemed to stem from racial prejudice rather than evidence of actual malfeasance. Major Karl Bendetsen and Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Command, each questioned Japanese American loyalty. DeWitt, who administered the internment program, repeatedly told newspapers that "A Jap's a Jap" and testified to Congress,

I don't want any of them [persons of Japanese ancestry] here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty... It makes no difference whether he is an American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not necessarily determine loyalty... But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map.[18][19]

DeWitt also sought approval to conduct search and seizure operations aimed at preventing alien Japanese from making radio transmissions to Japanese ships.[20] The Justice Department declined, stating that there was no probable cause to support DeWitt's assertion, as the FBI concluded that there was no security threat.[20] On January 2, the Joint Immigration Committee of the California Legislature sent a manifesto to California newspapers which attacked "the ethnic Japanese," who it alleged were "totally unassimilable."[20] This manifesto further argued that all people of Japanese heritage were loyal subjects of the Emperor of Japan; Japanese language schools, furthermore, according to the manifesto, were bastions of racism which advanced doctrines of Japanese racial superiority.[20]

The manifesto was backed by the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West and the California Department of the American Legion, which in January demanded that all Japanese with dual citizenship be placed in concentration camps.[20] Internment was not limited to those who had been to Japan, but included a small number of German and Italian enemy aliens.[20] By February, Earl Warren, the Attorney General of California, had begun his efforts to persuade the federal government to remove all people of Japanese heritage from the West Coast.[20]

Those that were as little as 1/16 Japanese could be placed in internment camps.[21] There is evidence supporting the argument that the measures were racially motivated, rather than a military necessity. For example, orphaned infants with "one drop of Japanese blood" (as explained in a letter by one official) were included in the program.

Upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor and pursuant to the Alien Enemies Act, Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526 and 2527 were issued designating Japanese, German and Italian nationals as enemy aliens.[22] Information from the CDI was used to locate and incarcerate foreign nationals from Japan, Germany and Italy (although Germany and Italy did not declare war on the U.S. until December 11).

Presidential Proclamation 2537 was issued on January 14, 1942, requiring aliens to report any change of address, employment or name to the FBI. Enemy aliens were not allowed to enter restricted areas. Violators of these regulations were subject to "arrest, detention and internment for the duration of the war."

Executive Order 9066 and related actions

Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, allowed authorized military commanders to designate "military areas" at their discretion, "from which any or all persons may be excluded." These "exclusion zones," unlike the "alien enemy" roundups, were applicable to anyone that an authorized military commander might choose, whether citizen or non-citizen. Eventually such zones would include parts of both the East and West Coasts, totaling about 1/3 of the country by area. Unlike the subsequent detainment and internment programs that would come to be applied to large numbers of Japanese Americans, detentions and restrictions directly under this Individual Exclusion Program were placed primarily on individuals of German or Italian ancestry, including American citizens.[23]

  • March 2, 1942: Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, declaring that "such person or classes of persons as the situation may require" would, at some later point, be subject to exclusion orders from "Military Area No. 1" (essentially, the entire Pacific coast to about 100 miles (160.9 km) inland), and requiring anyone who had "enemy" ancestry to file a Change of Residence Notice if they planned to move.[7] A second exclusion zone was designated several months later, which included the areas chosen by most of the Japanese Americans who had managed to leave the first zone.
  • March 11, 1942: Executive Order 9095 created the Office of the Alien Property Custodian, and gave it discretionary, plenary authority over all alien property interests. Many assets were frozen, creating immediate financial difficulty for the affected aliens, preventing most from moving out of the exclusion zones.[7]
  • March 24, 1942: Public Proclamation No. 3 declares an 8:00 pm to 6:00 am curfew for "all enemy aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry" within the military areas.[24]
  • March 24, 1942: General DeWitt began to issue Civilian Exclusion Orders for specific areas within "Military Area No. 1."[24] Japanese Americans on Bainbridge Island, Washington were the first in the country to be subject to such an order, due to the island's proximity to naval bases; they were given until March 30 to prepare themselves for removal from the island, an event commemorated by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial.[25][26]
  • March 27, 1942: General DeWitt's Proclamation No. 4 prohibited all those of Japanese ancestry from leaving "Military Area No. 1" for "any purpose until and to the extent that a future proclamation or order of this headquarters shall so permit or direct."[7]
  • May 3, 1942: General DeWitt issued Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34, ordering all people of Japanese ancestry, whether citizens or non-citizens, who were still living in "Military Area No. 1" to report to assembly centers, where they would live until being moved to permanent "Relocation Centers."[7]

These edicts included persons of part-Japanese ancestry as well. Anyone with at least one-sixteenth (equivalent to having one great-great grandparent) Japanese ancestry was eligible.[27] Korean-Americans and Taiwanese,[citation needed] considered to have Japanese nationality (since Korea and Taiwan were both Japanese colonies), were also included.

Non-military advocates for exclusion, removal, and detention

Internment was popular among many white farmers who resented the Japanese American farmers. "White American farmers admitted that their self-interest required removal of the Japanese."[20] These individuals saw internment as a convenient means of uprooting their Japanese American competitors. Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942:

"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We do. It's a question of whether the white man lives on the Pacific Coast or the brown men. They came into this valley to work, and they stayed to take over... If all the Japs were removed tomorrow, we'd never miss them in two weeks, because the white farmers can take over and produce everything the Jap grows. And we do not want them back when the war ends, either."[28]

The Roberts Commission Report, prepared at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's request, has been cited as an example of the fear and prejudice informing the thinking behind the internment program.[20] The Report sought to link Japanese Americans with espionage activity, and to associate them with the bombing of Pearl Harbor.[20] Columnist Henry McLemore reflected growing public sentiment fueled by this report:

"I am for the immediate removal of every Japanese on the West Coast to a point deep in the interior. I don't mean a nice part of the interior either. Herd 'em up, pack 'em off and give 'em the inside room in the badlands... Personally, I hate the Japanese. And that goes for all of them."[29]

Other California newspapers also embraced this view. According to a Los Angeles Times editorial,

"A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched.... So, a Japanese American born of Japanese parents, nurtured upon Japanese traditions, living in a transplanted Japanese atmosphere... notwithstanding his nominal brand of accidental citizenship almost inevitably and with the rarest exceptions grows up to be a Japanese, and not an American.... Thus, while it might cause injustice to a few to treat them all as potential enemies, I cannot escape the conclusion... that such treatment... should be accorded to each and all of them while we are at war with their race."[30]

State politicians joined the bandwagon that was embraced by Leland Ford of Los Angeles, who demanded that "all Japanese, whether citizens or not, be placed in [inland] concentration camps."[20] Internment of Japanese Americans, who provided critical agricultural labor on the West Coast, created a labor shortage, which was exacerbated by the induction of many American laborers into the Armed Forces. This vacuum precipitated a mass immigration of Mexican workers into the United States to fill these jobs,[31] minorly under the banner of what became known as the Bracero Program. Many Japanese internees were even temporarily released from their camps – for instance, to harvest Western beet crops – to address this wartime labor shortage.[32]

Statement of military necessity as justification for internment

A Challenge to Democracy was a twenty-minute film produced in 1944 by the War Relocation Authority

Niihau Incident

The Niihau Incident occurred in December 1941, just after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It involved three Japanese Americans on the Hawaiian island of Niihau assisting a Japanese pilot who crashed there. Despite the incident, the Territorial Governor of Hawaii rejected calls for mass internment of the Japanese Americans living there.


In Magic: The Untold Story of U.S. Intelligence and the Evacuation of Japanese Residents From the West Coast During World War II, David Lowman, a former National Security Agency (NSA) operative, argues that Magic intercepts ("Magic" was the code-name for American code-breaking efforts) posed "the frightening specter of massive espionage nets," thus justifying internment.[33] Lowman contended that internment served to ensure the secrecy of U.S. code-breaking efforts, because effective prosecution of Japanese Americans might necessitate disclosure of secret information. If U.S. code-breaking technology was revealed in the context of trials of individual spies, the Japanese Imperial Navy would change its codes, thus undermining US strategic wartime advantage.

Some scholars have criticized or dismissed Lowman's reasoning that "disloyalty" among some individual Japanese Americans could legitimize "incarcerating 120,000 people, including infants, the elderly, and the mentally ill".[34][35][36] Lowman's reading of the contents of the Magic cables has also been challenged, as some scholars contend that the cables demonstrate the opposite of what Lowman claims: that Japanese Americans were not heeding the overtures of Imperial Japan to spy against the United States.[37] According to one critic, Lowman's book has long since been "refuted and discredited".[38]

The controversial conclusions drawn by Lowman were defended by pundit Michelle Malkin in her book In Defense of Internment; The Case for 'Racial Profiling' in World War II and the War on Terror.[39] Malkin's defense of Japanese internment was in part the result of what she describes as the "constant alarmism from Bush-bashers who argue that every counter-terror measure in America is tantamount to the internment".[40] The text was critical of academia's treatment of the subject, and suggested that academics critical of Japanese internment had ulterior motives. She received much criticism for her text, particularly with regard to her reading of the "Magic" cables.[41][42][43] Daniel Pipes, also drawing on Lowman, has defended Malkin's stance, and asserted that Japanese American internment was "a good idea" which offers "lessons for today".[44]

United States District Court opinions

Official notice of exclusion and removal

A letter by General DeWitt and Colonel Bendetsen depicting racist bias against Japanese Americans was circulated and then hastily redacted in 1943–1944. The report stated flatly that, because of their race, it was impossible to determine the loyalty of Japanese Americans, thus necessitating internment.[45] The original version was so offensive – even in the atmosphere of the wartime 1940s – that Bendetsen ordered all copies to be destroyed.[citation needed]

In 1980, a copy of the original Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast – 1942 was found in the National Archives, along with notes showing the numerous differences between the original and redacted versions.[citation needed] This earlier, racist and inflammatory version, as well as the FBI and Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) reports, led to the coram nobis retrials which overturned the convictions of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui on all charges related to their refusal to submit to exclusion and internment.[46] The courts found that the government had intentionally withheld these reports and other critical evidence, at trials all the way up to the Supreme Court, which would have proved that there was no military necessity for the exclusion and internment of Japanese Americans. In the words of Department of Justice officials writing during the war, the justifications were based on "willful historical inaccuracies and intentional falsehoods."

The Ringle Report

In May 2011, U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal, after a year of investigation, found Charles Fahy intentionally withheld The Ringle Report, drafted by the Office of Naval Intelligence, in order to justify the Roosevelt administration in the cases of Hirabayashi v. United States and Korematsu v. United States. The report would have undermined the administration's position of the military necessity for such action, finding most Japanese Americans were not a national security threat, along with allegations of communication espionage being unfounded by the FBI and Federal Communications Commission.[47][48]


"Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags are used to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweet peas."

There were 10 relocation camps. While this event is most commonly called the internment of Japanese Americans, in fact there were several different types of camps involved. The best known facilities were the Assembly Centers run by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA), and the Relocation Centers run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which are generally (but unofficially) referred to as "internment camps." The Department of Justice (DOJ) operated camps officially called Internment Camps, which were used to detain those suspected of actual crimes or "enemy sympathies." German-American and Italian-American camps also existed, sometimes sharing facilities with the Japanese Americans. The WCCA and WRA facilities were the largest and the most public. The WCCA Assembly Centers were temporary facilities that were first set up in horse racing tracks, fairgrounds and other large public meeting places to assemble and organize internees before they were transported to WRA Relocation Centers by truck, bus or train. The WRA Relocation Centers were camps that housed persons removed from the exclusion zone after March 1942, or until they were able to relocate elsewhere in America outside the exclusion zone.

DOJ Internment Camps

During World War II, over 7,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese from Latin America were held in internment camps run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, part of the Department of Justice. In this period, Latin Americans of Japanese ancestry were rounded up and transported to American internment camps run by the U.S. Justice Department.[49][50][51][52] These Latin American internees were eventually, through the efforts of civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins,[53][54] offered "parole" relocation to the labor-starved farming community in Seabrook, New Jersey.[55] Many became naturalized American citizens or Japanese Americans after the war.

Friends say good-bye as family of Japanese ancestry await evacuation bus. Hayward, California, 8 May 1942

There were twenty-seven U.S. Department of Justice Camps, eight of which (in Texas, Idaho, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Montana) held Japanese Americans. The camps were guarded by Border Patrol agents rather than military police and were intended for non-citizens and their families, such as those Latin Americans of Japanese background rounded up and sent to the US from Latin America aboard US Army transport ships.[49] This included Buddhist ministers, Japanese language instructors, newspaper workers, barbers, cooks, and community leaders. In addition 2,264 persons of Japanese ancestry[51] taken from 12 Latin American countries by the U.S. State and Justice Departments were held at the Department of Justice Camps.[56] About two-thirds of these persons were Japanese Peruvians.[51] There has been speculation that the United States intended to trade these Latin American internees as part of hostage exchanges with Japan.[57] However, a thorough examination of the documents show at least one trade occurred.[49]

However, the details behind the trade, and the answer to whether or not seized Latin American Japanese detainees were shipped to Japan, against their will, in exchange for Americans, falls to your opinion of the facts. Here they are:

On September 2, 1943, the Swedish ship MS Gripsholm departed the US with just over 1300 Japanese nationals (including nearly a hundred from Canada and Mexico) en route for the exchange location, Marmagao, the main port of the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India.[58] [59] After two more stops in South America to take on additional Japanese Nationals, the passenger manifest reached 1,340.[49] Of that number, Latin American Japanese numbered 55 percent of the Gripsholm's travelers, 30 percent of whom were Peruvian Japanese.[49] Arriving in Marmagao on October 16, 1943, the Gripsholm's passengers disembarked then boarded the Japanese ship, Teia Maru. Then, "non-official" Americans (secretaries, butlers, cooks, embassy staff workers, etc.) previously held by the Japanese Army boarded the Gripsholm while the Japanese ship, Teia Maru, headed for Tokyo.[49] This exchange however, was done with those of Japanese background who were described as "volunteering" to return to Japan so no legal challenges were experienced. The US DOS was pleased with the first trade and immediately began to arrange a second exchange of non-officials for Feb 1944. This exchange would involve 1,500 non-volunteer Japanese who were to be exchanged for 1,500 Americans[49] but now the momentum of the war had shifted to the US (particularly in Pacific Naval activity) and future trading plans stalled. Further slowing the program were legal and political "turf" battles between the DOS, and what the administration felt was best for the country, and DOJ's view on the legality of the program.

So, a trade of over 1,300 persons of Japanese background in exchange for a like number of non-official Americans took place on October 16, 1943 at the port of Marmagao, India. Over half of those were Latin American Japanese and of that number a one-third were Peruvian Japanese.

But, since these deportees were regarded as "volunteers" by the US, they were not being traded against their will. A trade of non-volunteers did not happen although one must wonder what the definition of "volunteer" was under these circumstances. In fact, in the opening of the famous/infamous 1943 INS info-newsreel about the Crystal City Enemy Alien Detention Facility, the viewer watches well dressed travelers of Japanese background exiting the train while the narrator describes those family members as "following their voluntary decision to follow husbands and fathers into detention.[60] The narrator further obfuscates the events and participants by adding, "practically all the women and all of the children were American-born."[61] This leaves one to guess, in saying "American-born" was the INS implying "North" American (as in US) even though most were coming from "South" American locations?

Nevertheless, the completed October, 1943 trade took place at the height of the Enemy Alien Deportation Program. Japanese Peruvians were still being "rounded up" for shipment to the US in previously unseen numbers and despite logistical challenges, deportation plans were moving ahead. This is partly explained by an early-in-the-war revelation of the overall goal for Latin Americans of Japanese background under this, the Enemy Alien Deportation Program. That goal: that the hemisphere was to be free of Japanese. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote an agreeing President Roosevelt, "[that the US] continue our efforts to remove all the Japanese from these American Republics for internment in the United States."[49][62]

The extreme animosity of "native" Peruvians toward their citizens and expatriates of Japanese background cannot be overstated and Peru's government refused to accept the return of Japanese Peruvians they had gladly handed over to the US years earlier. Although a small number, asserting special circumstances, such as marriage to a non-Japanese Peruvian[51] did return, the majority were trapped; their home country refused to take them back and Post-war US DOS was anxious to rid itself of them and began expatriating them to Japan. But, it was ACLU lawyer Wayne Collins who filed injunctions on behalf of the remaining internees and started a legal battle journey that would take from 1945 until 1953 to resolve when those remaining in the US were finally offered citizenship.[49]

WCCA Civilian Assembly Centers

Executive Order 9066 authorized the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast; it was signed when there was no place for the Japanese Americans to go. When voluntary evacuation proved impractical, the military took over full responsibility for the evacuation; on April 9, 1942, the Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) was established by the military to coordinate the evacuation to inland relocation centers. The relocation centers were far from ready for large influxes of people. For some, there was still contention over the location, but for most, their placement in "isolated" undeveloped areas of the country exacerbated problems of building infrastructure and housing. Since the Japanese Americans living in the restricted zone were considered too dangerous to freely conduct their daily business, the military decided it was necessary to find temporary "assembly centers" to house the evacuees until the relocation centers were completed.[63]

WRA Relocation Centers[64]
Name State Opened Max. Pop'n
Manzanar California March 1942 10,046
Tule Lake California May 1942 18,789
Poston Arizona May 1942 17,814
Gila River Arizona July 1942 13,348
Granada Colorado August 1942 7,318
Heart Mountain Wyoming August 1942 10,767
Minidoka Idaho August 1942 9,397
Topaz Utah September 1942 8,130
Rohwer Arkansas September 1942 8,475
Jerome Arkansas October 1942 8,497

WRA Relocation Centers

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was the U.S. civilian agency responsible for the relocation and detention. The WRA was created by President Roosevelt on March 18, 1942 with Executive Order 9102 and officially ceased to exist June 30, 1946. Milton S. Eisenhower, then an official of the Department of Agriculture, was chosen to head the WRA. Dillon S. Myer replaced Milton Eisenhower on June 17, 1942, three months after Milton took control. Myer served as Director of the WRA until the centers were closed.[65] Within nine months, the WRA had opened ten facilities in seven states, and transferred over 100,000 people from the WCCA facilities.

The WRA camp at Tule Lake, though initially like the other camps, eventually became a detention center for people believed to pose a security risk. Tule Lake also served as a "segregation center" for individuals and families who were deemed "disloyal" and for those who were to be deported to Japan.

List of camps

There were three types of camps. Civilian Assembly Centers were temporary camps, frequently located at horse tracks, where the Nisei were sent as they were removed from their communities. Eventually, most were sent to Relocation Centers, also known as internment camps. Detention camps housed Nikkei considered to be disruptive or of special interest to the government.

Civilian Assembly Centers

  • Arcadia, California (Santa Anita Racetrack, stables)
  • Fresno, California (Big Fresno Fairgrounds, racetrack, stables)
  • Marysville / Arboga, California (migrant workers' camp)
  • Mayer, Arizona (Civilian Conservation Corps camp)
  • Merced, California (county fairgrounds)

    Eleanor Roosevelt at the Gila River Relocation Center, April 23, 1943

  • Owens Valley, California
  • Parker Dam, Arizona
  • Pinedale, California (Pinedale Assembly Center, warehouses)
  • Pomona, California (Los Angeles County Fairgrounds, racetrack, stables)
  • Portland, Oregon (Pacific International Livestock Exposition, including 3,800 housed in the main pavilion building)
  • Puyallup, Washington (fairgrounds racetrack stables, Informally known as "Camp Harmony")
  • Sacramento, California / (Site of Present-Day Walerga Park) (migrant workers' camp)
  • Salinas, California (fairgrounds, racetrack, stables)
  • San Bruno, California (Tanforan racetrack, stables)
  • Stockton, California (San Joaquin County Fairgrounds, racetrack, stables)
  • Tulare, California (fairgrounds, racetrack, stables)
  • Turlock, California (Stanislaus County Fairgrounds)
  • Woodland, California

Heart Mountain Relocation Center, January 10, 1943

Relocation Centers

Justice Department detention camps

These camps often held German-American and Italian-American detainees in addition to Japanese-Americans:[66]

Citizen Isolation Centers

The Citizen Isolation Centers were for those considered to be problem inmates.[66]

  • Leupp, Arizona
  • Moab, Utah (AKA Dalton Wells)
  • Fort Stanton, New Mexico (AKA Old Raton Ranch)

Federal Bureau of Prisons

Detainees convicted of crimes, usually draft resistance, were sent to these camps:[66]

US Army facilities

These camps often held German and Italian detainees in addition to Japanese Americans:[66]

Exclusion, removal, and detention

Field laborers of Japanese ancestry stand in front of a Wartime Civil Control Administration site, where they are seeking instruction in regards to their "evacuation".

Somewhere between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were subject to this mass exclusion program, of whom about two-thirds were U.S. citizens.[3] The remaining one-third were non-citizens subject to internment under the Alien Enemies Act; many of these "resident aliens" had long been inhabitants of the United States, but had been deprived the opportunity to attain citizenship by laws that blocked Asian-born nationals from ever achieving citizenship.

Internees of Japanese descent were first sent to one of 17 temporary "Civilian Assembly Centers," where most awaited transfer to more permanent relocation centers being constructed by the newly formed War Relocation Authority (WRA). Some of those who did report to the civilian assembly centers were not sent to relocation centers, but were released under the condition that they remain outside the prohibited zone until the military orders were modified or lifted. Almost 120,000[3] Japanese Americans and resident Japanese aliens would eventually be removed from their homes in California, the western halves of Oregon and Washington and southern Arizona as part of the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.

Most of these camps/residences, gardens, and stock areas were placed on Native American reservations, for which the Native Americans were formally compensated. The Native American councils disputed the amounts negotiated in absentia by US government authorities and later sued finding relief and additional compensation for some items of dispute.[68]

Under the National Student Council Relocation Program (supported primarily by the American Friends Service Committee), students of college age were permitted to leave the camps to attend institutions willing to accept students of Japanese ancestry. Although the program initially granted leave permits to only a very small number of students, this eventually grew to 2,263 students by December 31, 1943.[69]

The baggage of Japanese Americans from the west coast, at a makeshift reception center located at a racetrack.

An evacuee with family belongings en route to an "assembly center", Spring 1942

Curfew and exclusion

The exclusion from Military Area No. 1 initially occurred through a voluntary relocation policy. Under the voluntary relocation policy, the Japanese Americans were free to go anywhere outside of the exclusion zone; the arrangements and costs of relocation were borne by the individuals. The night-time curfew, initiated on March 27, 1942, was the first mass-action restricting the Japanese Americans.[citation needed]

Conditions in the camps

The quality of life in the camps was heavily influenced by which government entity was responsible for them. INS Camps were regulated by international treaty. The legal difference between interned and relocated had significant effects on those locked up. INS camps were required to provide food quality and housing at the minimum equal to that experienced by the lowest ranked person in the military. Food in INS camps was of better quality than that of WRA camps.

According to a 1943 War Relocation Authority report, internees were housed in "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." The spartan facilities met international laws, but still left much to be desired. Many camps were built quickly by civilian contractors during the summer of 1942 based on designs for military barracks, making the buildings poorly equipped for cramped family living.

Dust storm at Manzanar War Relocation Center.

A baseball game at Manzanar. Picture by Ansel Adams c. 1943.

To describe the conditions in more detail, the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in northwestern Wyoming was a barbed-wire-surrounded enclave with unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and a budget of 45 cents daily per capita for food rations.[70] Because most internees were evacuated from their West Coast homes on short notice and not told of their assigned destinations, many failed to pack appropriate clothing for Wyoming winters which often reached temperatures below 0 degrees Fahrenheit (−18 degrees Celsius). Many families were forced to simply take the "clothes on their backs."[citation needed]

Armed guards were posted at the camps, which were all in remote, desolate areas far from population centers. Internees were typically allowed to stay with their families, and were treated well unless they violated the rules. There are documented instances of guards shooting internees who reportedly attempted to walk outside the fences. One such shooting, that of James Wakasa at Topaz, led to a re-evaluation of the security measures in the camps. Some camp administrations eventually allowed relatively free movement outside the marked boundaries of the camps. Nearly a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States, outside the exclusion zone. Eventually, some were authorized to return to their hometowns in the exclusion zone under supervision of a sponsoring American family or agency whose loyalty had been assured.[71]

The phrase "shikata ga nai" (loosely translated as "it cannot be helped") was commonly used to summarize the interned families' resignation to their helplessness throughout these conditions. This was even noticed by the children, as mentioned in the well-known memoir Farewell to Manzanar.

Loyalty questions and segregation

Some Japanese Americans did question the American government, after finding themselves in internment camps. Several pro-Japan groups formed inside the camps, particularly at the Tule Lake location.[72] When the government passed the Renunciation Act of 1944, a law that made it possible for an internee to renounce American citizenship, 5,589 internees opted to do so; 5,461 of these were sent to Tule Lake.[72] Of those who renounced their citizenship, 1,327 were repatriated to Japan.[72] Many of these individuals would later face stigmatization in the Japanese American community, after the war, for having made that choice, although even at the time they were not certain what their futures held were they to remain American, and remain interned.[72]

These renunciations of American citizenship have been highly controversial, for a number of reasons. Some apologists for internment have cited the renunciations as evidence that "disloyalty" or anti-Americanism was well represented among the interned peoples, thereby justifying the internment.[73] Many historians have dismissed the latter argument, for its failure to consider that the small number of individuals in question were in the midst of persecution by their own government at the time of the "renunciation":[74][75]

[T]he renunciations had little to do with "loyalty" or "disloyalty" to the United States, but were instead the result of a series of complex conditions and factors that were beyond the control of those involved. Prior to discarding citizenship, most or all of the renunciants had experienced the following misfortunes: forced removal from homes; loss of jobs; government and public assumption of disloyalty to the land of their birth based on race alone; and incarceration in a "segregation center" for "disloyal" ISSEI or NISEI...[75]

Minoru Kiyota, who was among those who renounced his citizenship and swiftly came to regret the decision, has stated that he wanted only "to express my fury toward the government of the United States," for his internment and for the mental and physical duress, as well as the intimidation, he was made to face.[76]

[M]y renunciation had been an expression of momentary emotional defiance in reaction to years of persecution suffered by myself and other Japanese Americans and, in particular, to the degrading interrogation by the FBI agent at Topaz and being terrorized by the guards and gangs at Tule Lake.[77]

Civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins successfully challenged most of these renunciations as invalid, owing to the conditions of duress and intimidation under which the government obtained them.[76][78] Many of the deportees were Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) who often had difficulty with English and often did not understand the questions they were asked.[citation needed] Even among those Issei who had a clear understanding, Question 28 posed an awkward dilemma: Japanese immigrants were denied U.S. citizenship at the time, so when asked to renounce their Japanese citizenship, answering "Yes" would have made them stateless persons.[79]

When the government circulated a questionnaire seeking army volunteers from among the internees, 6% of military-aged male respondents volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.[citation needed] Most of those who refused tempered that refusal with statements of willingness to fight if they were restored their rights as American citizens. 20,000 Japanese American men and many Japanese American women served in the U.S. Army during World War II.[80]

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was composed primarily of Japanese Americans, served with uncommon distinction in the European Theatre of World War II. Many of the U.S. soldiers serving in the unit had their families interned at home while they fought abroad.

The famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Europe, was formed from those Japanese Americans who did agree to serve. This unit was the most highly decorated U.S. military unit of its size and duration.[81] Most notably, the 442nd was known for saving the 141st (or the "lost battalion") from the Germans. The 1951 film Go For Broke! was a fairly accurate portrayal of the 442nd, and starred several of the RCT's veterans.

Other detention camps

As early as 1939, when war broke out in Europe and while armed conflict began to rage in East Asia, the FBI and branches of the Department of Justice and the armed forces began to collect information and surveillance on influential members of the Japanese community in the United States. These data were included in the Custodial Detention index (CDI). Agents in the Department of Justice's Special Defense Unit classified the subjects into three groups: A, B and C, with A being "most dangerous," and C being "possibly dangerous."

After the Pearl Harbor attacks, Roosevelt authorized his attorney general to put into motion a plan for the arrest of individuals on the potential enemy alien lists. Armed with a blanket arrest warrant, the FBI seized these men on the eve of December 8, 1941. These men were held in municipal jails and prisons until they were moved to Department of Justice detention camps, separate from those of the Wartime Relocation Authority (WRA). These camps operated under far more stringent conditions and were subject to heightened criminal-style guard, despite the absence of criminal proceedings.

Crystal City, Texas, was one such camp where Japanese Americans, German Americans, Italian Americans, and a large number of U.S.-seized, Axis-descended nationals from several Latin-American countries were interned.[53][67]

Canadian citizens with Japanese ancestry were also interned by the Canadian government during World War II (see Japanese Canadian internment). Japanese people from various parts of Latin America, including Peru, were brought to the United States for internment or interned in their countries of residence,[53] and there were varied restrictions placed on Japanese Brazilians.[82]


There was a strong push from mainland Congressmen (Hawaii was only a U.S. territory at the time, and did not have a voting representative or senator in Congress) to remove and intern all Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants in Hawaii. 1,200 to 1,800 Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans from Hawaii were interned, either in five camps on the islands or in one of the mainland internment camps.[83]

The vast majority of Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents in Hawaii were not interned because the government had already declared martial law in Hawaii and this allowed it to significantly reduce the supposed risk of espionage and sabotage by residents of Japanese ancestry. Also Japanese Americans comprised over 35% of the territory's population, with about 150,000 inhabitants; detaining so many people would have been enormously challenging in terms of logistics. Also, the whole of Hawaiian society was dependent on their productivity. Lieutenant General Delos C. Emmons, commander of the Hawaii Department, promised the local Japanese American community that they would be treated fairly so long as they remained loyal to the United States, and he succeeded in blocking efforts to relocate them to the outer islands or mainland by pointing out the logistical difficulties.[84] Among the small number interned were a number of community leaders and prominent politicians, including territorial legislators Thomas Sakakihara and Sanji Abe.[85]

There were five internment camps in Hawaii, referred to as "Hawaiian Island Detention Camps".[86] One camp was located at Sand Island at the mouth of Honolulu Harbor. This camp was prepared in advance of the war's outbreak. All prisoners held here were "detained under military custody... because of the imposition of martial law throughout the Islands". Another Hawaiian camp was the Honouliuli Internment Camp, near Ewa, on the southwestern shore of Oahu; it was opened in 1943 to replace the Sand Island camp. One was also located on the island of Maui in the town of Haiku.[87] In total, five internment camps operated in Hawaii.[86][88]

Internment ends

On December 18, 1944, the Supreme Court of the United States clarified the legality of the exclusion process under Order 9066 by handing down two decisions. Korematsu v. United States, a 6–3 decision, stated that the exclusion process in general was constitutional. Ex parte Endo unanimously declared that loyal citizens of the United States, regardless of cultural descent, could not be detained without cause.

On January 2, 1945, the exclusion order was rescinded entirely. The internees then began to leave the camps to rebuild their lives at home, although the relocation camps remained open for residents who were not ready to make the move back. The freed internees were given $25 and a train ticket to their former homes. While the majority returned to their former lives, some of the Japanese Americans emigrated to Japan.[89] The last internment camp was not closed until 1946;[90] Japanese taken by the U.S. from Peru that were still being held in the camp in Santa Fe took legal action in April 1946 in an attempt to avoid deportation to Japan.[91]

One of the WRA camps, Manzanar, was designated a National Historic Site in 1992 to "provide for the protection and interpretation of historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II" (Public Law 102-248). In 2001, the site of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho was designated the Minidoka National Historic Site.

Hardship and material loss

Graveyard at Granada Relocation Center, in Amache, Colorado.

A monument at Manzanar, "to console the souls of the dead."

Many internees lost irreplaceable personal property due to the restrictions on what could be taken into the camps. These losses were compounded by theft and destruction of items placed in governmental storage. A number of persons died or suffered for lack of medical care, and several were killed by sentries; James Wakasa, for instance, was killed at Topaz War Relocation Center, near the perimeter wire. Nikkei were prohibited from leaving the Military Zones during the last few weeks before internment, and only able to leave the camps by permission of the camp administrators.

Psychological injury was observed by Dillon S. Myer, director of the WRA camps. In June 1945, Myer described how the Japanese Americans had grown increasingly depressed, and overcome with feelings of helplessness and personal insecurity.[92] Author Betty Furuta explains that the Japanese used gaman, loosely meaning "perseverance", to overcome hardships which was mistaken by non-Japanese as being introverted and lacking initiative.[93]

Some Japanese American farmers were able to find families willing to tend their farms for the duration of their internment. In other cases Japanese American farmers had to sell their property in a matter of days, usually at great financial loss. In these cases, the land speculators who bought the land made huge profits. California's Alien Land Laws of the 1910s, which prohibited most non-citizens from owning property in that state, contributed to Japanese American property losses. Because they were barred from owning land, many older Japanese American farmers were tenant farmers and therefore lost their rights to those farm lands.

To compensate former internees for their property losses, the US Congress, on July 2, 1948, passed the "American Japanese Claims Act," allowing Japanese Americans to apply for compensation for property losses which occurred as "a reasonable and natural consequence of the evacuation or exclusion." By the time the Act was passed, the IRS had already destroyed most of the 1939–42 tax records of the internees, and, due to the time pressure and the strict limits on how much they could take to the assembly centers and then the internment camps, few of the internees themselves had been able to preserve detailed tax and financial records during the evacuation process. Thus, it was extremely difficult for claimants to establish that their claims were valid. Under the Act, Japanese American families filed 26,568 claims totaling $148 million in requests; about $37 million was approved and disbursed.[94]

Reparations and redress

During World War II, Colorado governor Ralph Lawrence Carr was the only elected official to publicly denounce the internment of American citizens. The act cost him reelection, but gained him the gratitude of the Japanese American community, such that a statue of him was erected in Sakura Square in Denver's Japantown.[95]

In 1942, after the initial roundup transferring Japanese-Americans to internment camps, colleges and universities on the East Coast were permitted to respond to requests to sponsor some of the Japanese-American students who were no longer welcome in West Coast schools.[96] At Earlham College, President William Dennis helped institute a program that enrolled several dozen Japanese American students, in order to spare them from internment. While this action was controversial in Richmond, Indiana, it helped strengthen the college's ties to Japan and the Japanese American community.[97] At Oberlin College, about 40 evacuated Nisei students were enrolled. One of them, Kenji Okuda, became student council president.[96]

Beginning in the 1960s, a younger generation of Japanese Americans who were inspired by the Civil Rights movement began what is known as the "Redress Movement," an effort to obtain an official apology and reparations from the federal government for interning their parents and grandparents during the war, focusing not on documented property losses but on the broader injustice of the internment. The movement's first success was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford proclaimed that the internment was "wrong," and a "national mistake" which "shall never again be repeated".[98]

The campaign for redress was launched by Japanese Americans in 1978. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) asked for three measures to be taken as redress: $25,000 to be awarded to each person who was detained, an apology from Congress acknowledging publicly that the U.S. government had been wrong, and the release of funds to set up an educational foundation for the children of Japanese American families.

In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to study the matter. On February 24, 1983, the commission issued a report entitled Personal Justice Denied, condemning the internment as unjust and motivated by racism and xenophobic ideas rather than real military necessity.[99] The Commission recommended that $20,000 in reparations be paid to those Japanese Americans who had been victims of internment.

U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans.

In 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which had been sponsored by Representative Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson – the two had met while Mineta was interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming – which provided redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee, totaling $1.2 billion. The question of to whom reparations should be given, how much, and even whether monetary reparations were appropriate were subjects of sometimes contentious debate.[100]

On September 27, 1992, the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992, appropriating an additional $400 million to ensure all remaining internees received their $20,000 redress payments, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, who also issued another formal apology from the U.S. government on December 7, 1991, on the very day of the 50th-Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor Attack:

"In remembering, it is important to come to grips with the past. No nation can fully understand itself or find its place in the world if it does not look with clear eyes at all the glories and disgraces of its past. We in the United States acknowledge such an injustice in our history. The internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry was a great injustice, and it will never be repeated."

Some Japanese and Japanese Americans who were relocated during World War II received compensation for property losses, according to a 1948 law. Congress appropriated $38 million to meet $131 million of claims from among 23,000 claimants.[101] These payments were disbursed very slowly, the final disbursal occurring in 1965.[101] In 1988, following lobbying efforts by Japanese Americans, $20,000 per internee was paid out to individuals who had been interned or relocated, including those who chose to return to Japan. These payments were awarded to 82,210 Japanese Americans or their heirs at a cost of $1.6 billion; the program's final disbursement occurred in 1999.[13]

Under the 2001 budget of the United States, it was also decreed that the ten sites on which the detainee camps were set up are to be preserved as historical landmarks: “places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Amache, Jerome, and Rohwer will forever stand as reminders that this nation failed in its most sacred duty to protect its citizens against prejudice, greed, and political expediency”.[102]

On January 30, 2011, California first observed an annual "Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution", the first such commemoration for an Asian American in the U.S.[103] On June 14, 2011, Peruvian president Alan García apologized for his country's internment of Japanese immigrants during World War II, most of whom were transferred to the United States.[82]

Legal legacy

Grandfather and grandson at Manzanar, July 2, 1942.

Several significant legal decisions arose out of Japanese American internment, relating to the powers of the government to detain citizens in wartime. Among the cases which reached the Supreme Court were Yasui v. United States (1943), Hirabayashi v. United States (1943), ex parte Endo (1944), and Korematsu v. United States (1944). In Yasui and Hirabayashi the court upheld the constitutionality of curfews based on Japanese ancestry; in Korematsu the court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion order. In Endo, the court accepted a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and ruled that the WRA had no authority to subject a citizen whose loyalty was acknowledged to its procedures.

Korematsu's and Hirabayashi's convictions were vacated in a series of coram nobis cases in the early 1980s.[104] In the coram nobis cases, federal district and appellate courts ruled that newly uncovered evidence revealed an unfairness which, had it been known at the time, would likely have changed the Supreme Court's decisions in the Yasui, Hirabayashi, and Korematsu cases.[8][24] These new court decisions rested on a series of documents recovered from the National Archives showing that the government had altered, suppressed and withheld important and relevant information from the Supreme Court, including the Final Report by General DeWitt justifying the internment program.[104] The Army had destroyed documents in an effort to hide the fact that alterations had been made to the report.[24] The coram nobis cases vacated the convictions of Korematsu and Hirabayashi (Yasui died before his case was heard, rendering it moot), and are regarded as one of the impetuses for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.[104]

The rulings of the US Supreme Court in the Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases, specifically in its expansive interpretation of government powers in wartime, have yet to be overturned. They are still the law of the land because a lower court cannot overturn a ruling by the US Supreme Court. The coram nobis cases totally undermined the factual underpinnings of the 1944 cases, leaving the original decisions without much logical basis.[104] Nonetheless, in light of the fact that these 1944 decisions are still on the books, a number of legal scholars have expressed the opinion that the original Korematsu and Hirabayashi decisions have taken on renewed relevance in the context of the War on Terror.

Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who represented the US Department of Justice in the "relocation," writes in the epilogue to the 1992 book Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans:[105]

The truth is—as this deplorable experience proves—that constitutions and laws are not sufficient of themselves...Despite the unequivocal language of the Constitution of the United States that the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, and despite the Fifth Amendment's command that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, both of these constitutional safeguards were denied by military action under Executive Order 9066.[106]

Terminology debate

Since the end of World War II, there has been debate over the terminology used to refer to camps in which Americans of Japanese ancestry and their immigrant parents, were incarcerated by the United States Government during the war.[107][108][109] These camps have been referred to as "War Relocation Centers," "relocation camps," "relocation centers," "internment camps", and "concentration camps", and the controversy over which term is the most accurate and appropriate continues to the present day.[110][111][112]

Dr. James Hirabayashi, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, wrote an article in 1994 in which he stated that he wonders why euphemistic terms used to describe these camps are still being used.

Let us review the main points of the debate. Over 120,000 residents of the U.S.A., two thirds of whom were American citizens, were incarcerated under armed guard. There were no crimes committed, no trials, and no convictions: the Japanese Americans were political incarcerees. To detain American citizens in a site under armed guard surely constitutes a "concentration camp." But what were the terms used by the government officials who were involved in the process and who had to justify these actions? Raymond Okamura provides us with a detailed list of terms. Let's consider three such euphemisms: "evacuation," "relocation," and "non-aliens." Earthquake and flood victims are evacuated and relocated. The words refer to moving people in order to rescue and protect them from danger. The official government policy makers consistently used "evacuation" to refer to the forced removal of the Japanese Americans and the sites were called "relocation centers." These are euphemisms (Webster: "the substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit") as the terms do not imply forced removal nor incarceration in enclosures patrolled by armed guards. The masking was intentional.[113]

Hirabayashi went on to describe the harm done by the use of such euphemisms and also addressed the issue of whether or not only the Nazi camps can be called "concentration camps."

The harm in continuing to use the government's euphemisms is that it disguises or softens the reality which subsequently has been legally recognized as a grave error. The actions abrogated some fundamental principles underlying the Constitution, the very document under which we govern ourselves. This erosion of fundamental rights has consequences for all citizens of our society and we must see that it is never repeated. Some have argued that the Nazi Germany camps during the Holocaust were concentration camps and to refer to the Japanese American camps likewise would be an affront to the Jews. It is certainly true that the Japanese Americans did not suffer the harsh fate of the Jews in the terrible concentration camps or death camps where Nazi Germany practiced a policy of genocide. Although the loss of life was minimal in America's concentration camps, it does not negate the reality of the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese American citizens. Michi and Walter Weglyn's research concerning Nazi Germany's euphemisms for their concentration camps revealed such phrases as "protective custody camps," "reception centers," and "transit camps." Ironically, two Nazi euphemisms were identical to our government's usage: "assembly centers" and "relocation centers." It might be well to point out, also, that the Nazis were not operating under the U.S. Constitution. Comparisons usually neglect to point out that Hitler was operating under the rules of the Third Reich. In America all three branches of the U.S. government, ostensibly operating under the U.S. Constitution, ignored the Bill of Rights in order to incarcerate Japanese Americans.[113]

In 1998, use of the term "concentration camps" gained greater credibility prior to the opening of an exhibit about the American camps at Ellis Island. Initially, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the National Park Service, which manages Ellis Island, objected to the use of the term in the exhibit.[114] However, during a subsequent meeting held at the offices of the AJC in New York City, leaders representing Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans reached an understanding about the use of the term.[115] After the meeting, the Japanese American National Museum and the AJC issued a joint statement (which was included in the exhibit) that read in part:

A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are. Although many groups have been singled out for such persecution throughout history, the term 'concentration camp' was first used at the turn of the [20th] century in the Spanish American and Boer Wars. During World War II, America's concentration camps were clearly distinguishable from Nazi Germany's. Nazi camps were places of torture, barbarous medical experiments and summary executions; some were extermination centers with gas chambers. Six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Many others, including Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and political dissidents were also victims of the Nazi concentration camps. In recent years, concentration camps have existed in the former Soviet Union, Cambodia and Bosnia. Despite differences, all had one thing in common: the people in power removed a minority group from the general population and the rest of society let it happen.[116][117]

The New York Times published an unsigned editorial supporting the use of "concentration camp" in the exhibit.[118] An article quoted Jonathan Mark, a columnist for The Jewish Week, who wrote, "Can no one else speak of slavery, gas, trains, camps? It's Jewish malpractice to monopolize pain and minimize victims."[119] AJC Executive Director David A. Harris stated during the controversy, "We have not claimed Jewish exclusivity for the term 'concentration camps.'"[120]

On July 7, 2012, at their annual convention, the National Council of the Japanese American Citizens League unanimously ratified the Power of Words Handbook, calling for the use of "...truthful and accurate terms, and retiring the misleading euphemisms created by the government to cover up the denial of Constitutional and human rights, the force, oppressive conditions, and racism against 120,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry locked up in America's World War II concentration camps." [121]

According to the Power Of Words Handbook:

From government documents and propaganda, to public discourse and newspapers, many euphemisms have been used to describe the experiences of Japanese Americans who were forced from their homes and communities during World War II. Words like evacuation, relocation, and assembly centers imply that the United States Government was trying to rescue Japanese Americans from a disastrous environment on the West Coast and simply help them move to a new gathering place. These terms strategically mask the fact that thousands of Japanese Americans were denied their rights as US citizens, and forcibly ordered to live in poorly constructed barracks on sites that were surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers. Although the use of euphemisms was commonplace during World War II, and in many subsequent years, we realize that the continued use of these inaccurate terms is highly problematic.[122]

Notable internees

  • Richard Aoki (1938–2009), Black Panther Party, as a child at Topaz
  • Violet Kazue de Cristoforo (1917–2007), poet (Tule Lake and Jerome)
  • Takayo Fischer (1932-- ) actress (Jerome and Rohwer)
  • Mike Honda (1941-- ) Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from California (Amache)
  • Bill Hosokawa (1915–2007), journalist (Heart Mountain)
  • Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, author (Manzanar)
  • Lawson Fusao Inada, poet (multiple camps)
  • Robert Ito, actor (Japanese-Canadian Internee)
  • Hiroshi Kashiwagi, actor, poet, playwright (Tule Lake)
  • Bill Kasuga, co-founder of Kenwood Corporation
  • Kichimatsu Kishi (?-1956), founder of an agricultural colony and a small oil company
  • Yuri Kochiyama, activist (Jerome)
  • Ralph Lazo (Manzanar)
  • Bob Matsui (1941–2005), U.S. Congressman (Tule Lake)
  • Doris Matsui (1944– ), U.S. Congresswoman (born in Poston)
  • Pat Morita (1932–2005), actor, comedian (Gila River)
  • Norman Mineta (1931– ), former Mayor of San Jose, California, U.S. Congressman, Sec. of Commerce, Sec. of Transportation (Heart Mountain)
  • Tōyō Miyatake (1896–1979), photographer (Manzanar)
  • Robert A. Nakamura (1937– ), Filmmaker, Founder of Visual Communications (VC) (Manzanar)
  • George Nakashima (1905–1990), woodworker, furniture designer, architect (Minidoka)
  • John Okada, author, (Minidoka)
  • Arthur Okamura (1932–2009), screen print artist (Granada)
  • Miné Okubo (1912–2001), artist, author Citizen 13660 (Tanforan and Topaz)
  • Tura Satana (1938–2011), actress, burlesque star (Manzanar)
  • Yuki Shimoda (1921–1981), actor (Tule Lake)
  • Larry Shinoda (1930–1997), automotive designer
  • Monica Sone (1919–2011) autobiographer (Nisei Daughter, 1953) (Camp Harmony and Minidoka)
  • Jack Soo (1917–1979), actor, comedian (Topaz)
  • Pat Suzuki (1930- ) singer, actress, entertainer
  • Shinkichi Tajiri (1923–2009), soldier, 442nd. Documenta artist, sculptor, photographer, lived in the Netherlands. With the family at Poston.
  • Iwao Takamoto (1925–2007), animator, TV producer (Manzanar)
  • George Takei, (1937– ), actor (Rohwer and Tule Lake)
  • A. Wallace Tashima, Ninth Circuit judge (Poston)
  • Dave Tatsuno (1913–2006), (Topaz), who filmed scenes of the camp with an illegal camera, later compiled as Topaz, and placed in the National Film Registry
  • Yoshiko Uchida (1921–1992), author ("Journey to Topaz" for children and "Desert Exile" for adults) (Tanforan and Topaz)
  • Michi Nishiura Weglyn (1926–1999), author of Years Of Infamy
  • Hisaye Yamamoto (1921–2011), author (Poston)
  • Wakako Yamauchi, author, playwright (Poston)

Expulsions and population transfers of World War II

The internment of Japanese Americans has sometimes been compared to the persecutions, expulsions, and dislocations of other ethnic minorities in the context of World War II, in Europe and Asia.[123][124][125][126] An estimated 500,000 Volga Germans were rounded up and deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, with many of them dying en route.[123] The Volga Germans were deported prior to the Battle of Stalingrad, as they were regarded, in the "war hysteria of the moment", as a potential "Fifth Column".[124]

In 1944, the Red Army rounded up about 500,000 Chechens and Ingushes for relocation; a third of this population perished in the first year, from starvation, cold, and disease.[125] Other nationalities which faced ethnic cleansing for having been identified as potential collaborators with the Germans were the Balkars, Crimean Tatars, Karachi, Kalmyks, and Meskhetians.[126]

Exhibitions and collections

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History has more than 800 artifacts from its A More Perfect Union collection available online. Archival photography, publications, original manuscripts, artworks, and handmade objects comprise the collection of items related to the Japanese American experience.[127]

On October 1, 1987, the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History opened an exhibition called, "A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution." The exhibition examined the Constitutional process by considering the experiences of Americans of Japanese ancestry before, during, and after World War II. On view were more than 1,000 artifacts and photographs relating to the experiences of Japanese Americans during World War II. The exhibition closed on January 11, 2004. On November 8, 2011, the National Museum of American History launched an online exhibition of the same name with shared content.[128]

On April 16, 2013, the Japanese American Internment Museum was opened in McGehee, Arkansas regarding the history at two internment camps.

References in music

Fort Minor's 2005 album The Rising Tied contains a track entitled "Kenji", which relates the tale of a Japanese American family's experience during the internment period. Lead singer Mike Shinoda's paternal grandparents were interned during World War II, along with his father (as an infant). Shinoda is a third generation Japanese American, and his father is Nisei.

Folk/country musician Tom Russell wrote "Manzanar", a song about the Japanese American internment, that was released on his album Box of Visions (1993).[129]

In Billy Bragg's 1991 album Don't Try This At Home, the song "Everywhere" is told by a young Marine in a foxhole in the Philippines, remembering a Japanese American friend who wanted to join and fight alongside him, but instead was taken to a Japanese American internment camp.

See also

References and notes

  1. "War Relocation Camps in Arizona 1942-1946". Retrieved October 2, 2012. 
  2. National Park Service. Manzanar National Historic Site
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Various primary and secondary sources list counts between persons.
  4. Ogawa, Dennis M. and Fox, Jr., Evarts C. Japanese Americans, from Relocation to Redress. 1991, page 135.
  5. Semiannual Report of the War Relocation Authority, for the period January 1 to June 30, 1946, not dated. Papers of Dillon S. Myer. Scanned image at Retrieved September 18, 2006.
  6. "The War Relocation Authority and The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II: 1948 Chronology," Web page at Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Korematsu v. United States dissent by Justice Owen Josephus Roberts, reproduced at Retrieved September 12, 2006.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Korematsu v. United States majority opinion by Justice Hugo Black, reproduced at Retrieved September 11, 2006
  9. Hakim, Joy (1995). A History of Us: War, Peace and all that Jazz. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 100–104. ISBN 0-19-509514-6. 
  10. JR Minkel (March 30, 2007). "Confirmed: The U.S. Census Bureau Gave Up Names of Japanese-Americans in WW II". Scientific American. 
  11. Haya El Nasser (March 30, 2007). "Papers show Census role in WWII camps". USA Today. 
  12. 100th Congress, S. 1009, reproduced at Retrieved September 19, 2006.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Wwii Reparations: Japanese-American Internees". Democracy Now!. Retrieved January 24, 2010. 
  14. Okihiro, Gary Y. The Columbia Guide to Asian American History. 2005, page 104
  15. Nash, Gary B., Julie Roy Jeffrey, John R. Howe, Peter J. Frederick, Allen F. Davis, Allan M. Winkler, Charlene Mires, and Carla Gardina Pestana. The American People, Concise Edition Creating a Nation and a Society, Combined Volume (6th Edition). New York: Longman, 2007
  16. Irons, Peter. (1993 page 7-9). Justice At War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases. University of Washington Press. 
  17. Prange, Gordon W Gordon Prange (1962). December 7, 1941: The Day the Japanese Attacked Pearl Harbor. New York: McGraw Hill. 
  18. Fred Mullen, "DeWitt Attitude on Japs Upsets Plans," Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, April 16, 1943. p.1, reproduced by Santa Cruz Public Library. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
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