Washington, D.C. · February 19, 1942

On this date in 1942 President Franklin D. Roose­velt signed Execu­tive Order 9066. It autho­rized the War Depart­ment to desig­nate “mili­tary areas” in the U.S. and ex­clude from them any­one whom the depart­ment felt to be a danger to the security of the nation. Although the order was care­fully neu­tral, it ulti­mately led to the intern­ment of more than 110,000 per­sons of Japa­nese an­cestry, citi­zens and non-citi­zens alike, living along the West Coast of the U.S. Almost three-quarters of those interned were Amer­i­can-born U.S. citi­zens, reclas­si­fied by the govern­ment as “non-aliens” to mini­mize any awk­ward­ness. (In Canada, 20,000 Japa­nese Cana­dians and Japa­nese suffered similar treat­ment. South of the border almost 5,000 Japa­nese were removed from Mexico’s Paci­fic Coast.) Deprived of their pro­perty, Japanese Amer­ican and Japa­nese-born inter­nees were taken first to assem­bly cen­ters, or tem­porary deten­tion camps (the Santa Anita, Cali­for­nia race­track stables was one), then to one of ten per­ma­nent in­land relo­cation cen­ters where they were forced to live behind barbed wire, watched over by armed guards (see map below). Ger­man Amer­i­cans and Ger­man U.S. resi­dents escaped a similar fate and were not in­terned en masse. Under the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment’s Enemy Alien Con­trol Pro­gram, the govern­ment detained and in­terned over 11,000 Ger­man enemy aliens, as well as a small num­ber of Ger­man Amer­i­can citi­zens, either natu­ral­ized or native born. The popu­la­tion of Ger­man citi­zens in the United States—not to men­tion Amer­i­can citizens of Ger­man birth—was far too large for a gen­eral policy of in­tern­ment compa­rable to that used in the case of the Japa­nese. Instead, Ger­man citizens were de­tained and removed from coastal areas on an indi­vid­ual basis. The evic­tions amounted to only several hun­dred. In addi­tion, over 4,500 eth­nic Ger­mans were brought to the U.S. from Latin Amer­i­ca and similarly detained based on a list drawn up by the Federal Bureau of Inves­ti­gation. The FBI suspected these Ger­mans of sub­ver­sive activities abroad and, following Ger­many’s declara­tion of war on the U.S., demanded their evic­tion to this coun­try for deten­tion or their return to Ger­many. Many had been resi­dents of Latin Amer­ica for years, some for decades. Nine Latin American countries and Canada set up their own Axis internment camps.

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Executive Order 9066 Cleared the Way for the Forced Relocation of West Coast Japanese Americans to Internment Camps Far From Their Homes

Japanese American internment camps in U.S.

Above: Map of World War II intern­ment camps for Japanese Americans as well as for over 31,000 sus­pected enemy aliens and their fami­lies interned under the Enemy Alien Con­trol Pro­gram. (The latter camps and mili­tary facilities are indi­cated by stars; for example, Koos­kia Intern­ment Camp in Idaho and Fort Missoula Intern­ment Camp in Mon­tana.) In the map legend, WCCA = War­time Civil Con­trol Admin­is­tra­tion, WRA = War Relo­cation Autho­rity. More than 110,000 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. In Hawaii, where 150,000-plus Japa­nese Amer­i­cans com­prised over one-third of the pop­u­lation, only 1,200 to 1,800 were interned.

San Francisco newspaper headlinePosted exclusion order

Left: “OUSTER OF ALL JAPS IN CALIFORNIA NEAR!” San Francisco Examiner headlines of Japanese relocation, February 27, 1942.

Right: Official notice of exclusion and removal, April 1, 1942. The posted exclusion order directed Japanese Americans living in the first San Francisco section to evac­u­ate. Years before the Decem­ber 7, 1941, Japa­nese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the U.S. govern­ment had drafted plans to intern some Japa­nese Amer­icans and had already placed some West Coast communities under surveillance.

Mochida family awaits evacuation busYoung evacuee and baggage

Left: Members of the Mochida family await an evacuation bus, Alameda County, California, May 8, 1942.

Right: A young evacuee of Japanese ancestry waits with the family baggage before leaving by bus for an assembly center in the spring of 1942.

Poster protests summary evacuation orderPresident Reagan signs 1988 Civil Liberties Act

Left: Owned by a University of California graduate, this Oak­land, Califor­nia store closed in March 1942 following orders to per­sons of Japanese descent to evacuate from certain West Coast areas.

Right: In 1944 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders, described by many Americans as the worst official civil rights violation of modern U. S. history. On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which granted reparations for the wartime internment of Japanese Americans.

Disingenuous Government-Produced Film From 1943 Defends the Massive Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II