Saturday, February 20, 2016

Today in American History 02/19/1942: The Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II

Today in American History, 02/19/1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066.  This Executive Order authorized the "evacuation" of everyone of Japanese ancestry from the west coast of the United States.  This order began what is known as the Japanese Internment during World War II, this continued until June 30, 1946.

Members of the Mochida Family tagged and waiting to be relocated.

In response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent war with Japan, the order was issued and allowed regional military commanders to designate "military areas" that would allow "any and all persons to be excluded."  This order was vague enough to allow all people of Japanese ancestry to be excluded from the entirety of the American West Coast, including all of California, most of Oregon, Washington and Arizona.  It is estimated that somewhere between 100,000 and 125,000 Japanese were forcibly relocated during this time period.   Approximately 5,000 Japanese Americans voluntarily relocated before March of 1942 before the military began removing people.

The forcible removal and subsequent incarceration was seemingly applied unequally, partially because of the different population concentrations.  While there were over 100,000 Japanese Americans moved on the West Coast, the situation in Hawaii was much different.  Only approximately 1,500 out of the 150,000 Japanese in Hawaii were moved into government camps because the population center of Hawaii was approximately 1/3rd Japanese.

Of the approximately 130,000 Japanese Americans who were interred in the Western part of the United States and Hawaii, it is estimated that over 62% of them were American citizens.  The United States Census Bureau assisted with the locating and removal of Japanese Americans by providing personal and confidential data to the military.
Locations of Camps
 The Bureau actively denied its role in the removal of American citizens until documents that proved its role came to light in 2007.  This removal of American citizens against their will was upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court in 1944 in the United States vs. Fred Korematsu.  While the court upheld the validity of the right to remove an American citizen from their home against their will, it said nothing about the subsequent incarceration of the citizens without due process.

The Japanese Americans that were taken from their homes and incarcerated without their consent or due process often lost everything they owned, including their homes and personal possessions.  The War Relocation Authority was a civilian run organization that was tasked with assigning people to camps and maintaining them.  All told there were 69 camps spread out all over the country, with some even holding Americans of Italian and German ancestry, too.  While some of the camps were maintained and kept up within reason, the majority of them featured poor living conditions. 

Workers harvesting food at an internment camp.
This dark period in American history was kicked off because of a combination of things.  The government feared that there were Japanese spies living within the communities, and they publicly said that the move was to protect the citizens from possible violence from Americans who blamed the Japanese for Pearl Harbor.  In the 1980 report by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens entitled "Personal Justice Denied", the commission found that there was very little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and concluded that the incarceration had been a product of racism.  They recommended that the government pay reparations to the survivors and their families.  In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act that authorized a payment of $20,000 to each individual camp survivor.  In the act the government admitted to wrongdoing based on "racial prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership."  The total amount of money paid out was more than $1.6 billion.

Bruce holds a degree in Computer Science from Temple University, a Graduate Certificate in Biblical History from Liberty University and is working towards a Masters Degree in American History at American Public University.  He has worked in educational and technology for over 18 years, specializes in building infrastructures for schools that work to support the mission of technology in education in the classroom.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  

Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel

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