The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII is regarded as one of the greatest violations of civil liberties on American soil, although it seemed to be appropriate to most Americans at the time.


Leading up to this were discriminatory legislative efforts like the Alien Land Law and Immigration Exclusion Act, that were motivated by efforts of Americans to get rid of the Japanese community and other APA communities that they saw as intruders and competition.  On December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese drop numerous bombs on U.S. fleet and military bases at Pearl Harbor. This instantly changes the lives of Japanese American’s living on the West Coast.






During WWII:

On December 8th 1941 Congress declares war on Japan and immediately arrests 736 Japanese resident aliens as security risks in Hawaii and mainland. On December 11th 1941 when the United States declares war on Germany and Italy over 2,000 issei are imprisoned in Hawaii and the mainland that were mostly prominent figures in the Japanese community. Key players in the confusion that followed the bombings of Pearl Harbor were Lt. General John L. Dewitt, and Secretary of War Henry Stimpson. Both of them insisted it was a necessity to recommend a mass evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast Area immediately. When Attorney General Francis Biddle is advised that the removal of people of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast would be a legal exercise of the President’s war power, he contacts the War Department to demand the President’s concern. With continuing propaganda circulating about heightening threats of a west coast invasion and continuing pressures from Congress, the Attorney General, and Secretary of war, President Roosevelt ignores the Munson, Ringle , and Naval intelligence reports which argue against mass internment. On February 19th, 1942 President Roosevelt signs the Executive Order 9066 that gave the Secretary of War the authority to exclude certain individuals from military areas. On March 2nd 1942, Western Defense Command designates the western sides of California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona as military zones and for the removal of everyone of Japanese descent. On March 18 1942, President Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9102 that establishes the War Relocation Authority to provide evacuees with relocation and their needs. Starting on March 22, 1942, the first removal of people of Japanese descent started in Los Angeles and with in the next 18 months some 123,000 people were moved from the Pacific Coast into the 10 different relocation centers. Two- thirds of the Japanese were American citizens and half of them were children, whom were incarcerated for up to four years without any due process of law or factual basis. Unlike the mainland, Hawaii was not in favor of interning the Japanese there because of the density of the Japanese population, but after threats from the United States War Department, fewer than 15,000 out of the 150,000 in Hawaii were eventually sent to internment camps on the mainland. Tension remained high on the mainland can be felt through the statement from the 1942 Governor of Wyoming who states,” If you bring Japanese to my state I promise they will be hanging from every tree”. On August 7th 1942 the War Relocation Authority announces the completion of removal of the Japanese people from the Pacific Coast military area.  It is not until after the Imperial Japanese surrender on September 2nd, 1945 that the Japanese are allowed to leave the internment camps. On March 20, 1946 the last of the ten camps, Tule Lake is closed.





Post War:

After the war discriminatory legislative acts like the Alien Land Law are denounced and replaced by the Walter- McCarran Immigration and Nationality Act, that finally allowed Japanese and other Immigrants to become naturalized in 1952. Over forty years after the last camp was closed, Congress passes the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 that entitled the approximately 60,000 survivors an apology and payment of 20,000 dollars. On October 9th, 1990 President George bush signs the first letters of apology presented to the survivors of Executive Order 9066 with the redress payment of 20,000 dollars. On February 5th, 1999 the office of Redress Administration officially closes its doors having distributed redress payments to 82,220 claimants. Any efforts on behalf of the United States cannot make up for the discriminatory actions against the Japanese people morally, mentally, and physically.


%d bloggers like this: