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World War II: Internment of Japanese Americans

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Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the secretary of war to designate military zones within the U.S. from which "any or all persons may be excluded." The order was not targeted at any specific group, but it became the basis for the mass relocation and internment of some 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, including both citizens and non-citizens of the United States. In March 1942, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, commander of the U.S. Army Western Defense Command established a massive exclusion zone along the west coast and demanded that all persons of Japanese ancestry report to civilian assembly centers. On short notice, thousands were forced to close businesses, abandon farms and homes, and move into remote internment camps, also called relocation centers. Some of the detainees were repatriated to Japan, and others moved eastward to other parts of the U.S. outside of the exclusion zones. A number even enlisted with the U.S. Army. But most simply endured their internment in frustrated resignation. In January 1944, a Supreme Court ruling halted the detention of U.S. citizens without cause, and the exclusion order was rescinded, and the Japanese Americans began to leave the camps, most returning home to rebuild their former lives. The last camp closed in 1946, and by the end of the 20th century the U.S. government had paid $1.6 billion in reparations to detainees and their descendants. See also color film of the camps in our video channel. (This entry is Part 10 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos]

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Tom Kobayashi stands in the south fields of the Manzanar Relocation Center, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California's Owens Valley, in 1943. Famed photographer Ansel Adams traveled to Manzanar in 1943 to document the Relocation Center and the Japanese Americans interned there. (Ansel Adams/LOC)
Tom Kobayashi stands in the south fields of the Manzanar Relocation Center, at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California's Owens Valley, in 1943. Famed photographer Ansel Adams traveled to Manzanar in 1943 to document the Relocation Center and the Japanese Americans interned there. (Ansel Adams/LOC)
This store owned by a man of Japanese ancestry is closed following evacuation orders in Oakland, California, in April of 1942. After the attack on Pearl Harbor the owner had placed the "I Am An American" sign in the store front window. (AP Photo/ Dorothea Lange) #
Two plainclothes men, left, watch as Japanese aliens are removed from their homes on Terminal Island, a vital Naval and Shipbuilding center in Los Angeles, California, on February 3, 1942. Some 400 male Japanese aliens -- Terminal Island residents -- were rounded up early on February 2 by 180 federal, city and county officers. (AP Photo/Ira W. Guldner) #
On a brick wall beside an air raid shelter poster, exclusion orders were posted at First and Front Streets in San Francisco, California, directing the removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the first part of San Francisco to be affected by the evacuation. The order was issued April 1, 1942, by Lieutenant General J.L. DeWitt, and directed evacuation from this section by noon on April 7, 1942. (NARA) #
Japanese heads of family and persons living alone form a line outside Civil Control Station located in the Japanese American Citizens League Auditorium in San Francisco, California, to appear for "processing" in response to Civilian Exclusion Order Number 20, on April 25, 1942 (NARA) #
How the evacuation of Japanese from Seattle would affect a second grade class in a local school is shown in these two views in Seattle, Washington, on March 27, 1942. At the top is a crowded classroom with many Japanese pupils and at the bottom is the same class without the Japanese students. (AP Photo) #
A farmhouse in a rural section of Mountain View, California, where farmers of Japanese ancestry raised market garden crops. Evacuees from this and other military areas were later moved to War Relocation Authority centers. (NARA) #
Many evacuated children attended Raphael Weill Public School, in San Francisco, California. Rachel Karumi, photographed here in 1942, will be among them. (NARA) #
A farewell letter posted in a window of T.Z. Shiota, an importer in San Francisco's Chinatown, in April of 1942, prior to evacuation of residents of Japanese ancestry. The final paragraph reads: "At this hour of evacuation when the innocents suffer with the bad, we bid you, dear friends of ours, with the words of beloved Shakespeare, 'PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW'." (NARA) #
Two friends play one final game while awaiting evacuation, in San Francisco, California, in early 1942. (NARA) #
View of a business district on Post Street in a San Francisco neighborhood occupied by residents of Japanese ancestry, before evacuation, in 1942. View this same intersection as it appears today in this Google Maps Street View. (NARA) #
A soldier and his mother in a strawberry field near Florin, California, on May 11, 1942. The soldier, age 23, had volunteered for the Army on July 10, 1941, and was stationed at Camp Leonard Wood, Missouri. He was furloughed to help his mother and family prepare for their evacuation. He is the youngest of six children, two of them volunteers in United States Army. The mother, age 53, came from Japan 37 years ago. Her husband died 21 years ago, leaving her to raise six children. She worked in a strawberry basket factory until last year when her children leased three acres of strawberries "so she wouldn't have to work for somebody else". (NARA) #
Persons of Japanese ancestry from San Pedro, California, arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly center in Arcadia, California, in 1942. Evacuees lived at this center at the Santa Anita race track before being moved inland to other relocation centers. (NARA) #
A scene during one of many transfers of Japanese American evacuees from Assembly Centers to War Relocation Centers in 1942. (LOC) #
Japanese Americans are being vaccinated by fellow evacuees upon arrival at the Assembly center in Arcadia, California, in 1942. (NARA) #
A Japanese farmer and his daughter view the strawberry farm they must leave on Bainbridge Island, in Washington, on March 23, 1942. (LOC) #
A crowd of onlookers in Seattle jam an overhead walk to witness the mass evacuation of Japanese from Bainbridge Island, Washington, on March 30, 1942. Somewhat bewildered, but not protesting, some 225 Japanese men, women and children were taken by ferry, bus and train to California internment camps. The evacuation was carried out by the U.S. Army. (AP Photo) #
This bus, bringing evacuees of Japanese ancestry to the Colorado River War Relocation Authority center, has become sand-bound near its destination, near Poston, Arizona in 1942. (NARA) #
Evacuees of Japanese ancestry were not permitted to use their automobiles at War Relocation Authority centers. Cars brought to this camp, the Manzanar Relocation Center in California, have been impounded for the duration. Photo taken on April 2, 1942. (NARA) #
The Santa Anita Park race track is converted into an internment camp for evacuated Japanese Americans who will occupy the barracks erected in background in Arcadia, California. Photo taken on April 3, 1942. (AP Photo) #
Salinas, California, 1942. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry identify their luggage at this Assembly center, prior to their transfer to a War Relocation Authority center. (NARA) #
Japanese Americans removed from their Los Angeles homes line up at Manzanar Relocation Center, in California, on March 23, 1942, for their first meal after arrival at the camp. Rice, Beans, Prunes, and bread were included in the menu. (AP Photo) #
In the Manzanar Relocation Center, in 1943, pictures and mementos sit on top of a radio in the Yonemitsu home. (Ansel Adams/LOC) #
Women pose outside the barber shop in the Tule Lake Relocation Center, in Newell, California. Photo taken in 1942 or 1943. (LOC) #
A wide view of the Tule Lake Relocation Center, in Newell, California. Photo taken in 1942 or 1943. (LOC) #
Japanese American farm workers at the Tule Lake Relocation Center, in Newell, California. Photo taken in 1942 or 1943. (LOC) #
Portraits of evacuees housed in the Manzanar Relocation Center in California, taken by Ansel Adams in 1943. Clockwise, from top left: Mrs. Kay Kageyama, Toyo Miyatake (Photographer), Miss Tetsuko Murakami, Mori Nakashima, Joyce Yuki Nakamura (eldest daughter), Corporal Jimmy Shohara, Aiko Hamaguchi (Nurse), Yoshio Muramoto, (electrician). At its peak, more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were held in Manzanar. (Ansel Adams/LOC) #
Four young evacuees from Sacramento, California, read comic books at the newsstand in the Tule Lake Relocation Center, in Newell, California, on July 1, 1942. (NARA) #
Japanese American evacuees make camouflage nets for the War Department in the Manzanar Relocation Center, in California, on July 1, 1942. (NARA) #
A dust storm hits Manzanar Relocation Center, in California, on July 3, 1942. (Dorothea Lange/NARA) #
These 48 Japanese Americans from the Granada Relocation Center near Lamar, Colorado, reported for preinduction physical examinations at the Denver Induction Station, on February 22, 1944. (AP Photo) #
A crew of evacuee farmers at work on a semi-automatic-feeding, rotary potato planter, on July 1, 1945, at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in Newell, California. (NARA) #
Cameramen from a San Francisco newspaper photograph potato planting on May 26, 1943, at the Tule Lake Relocation Center. (NARA) #
A street scene at the Manzanar Relocation Center, winter, 1943. (Ansel Adams/LOC) #
Artist C.T. Hibino, at the Manzanar Relocation Center, in 1943. (Ansel Adams/LOC) #
Calisthenics at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, in 1943. (Ansel Adams/LOC) #
Japanese Americans removed from their Los Angeles homes attend a dance at the government's camp at Manzanar, California, on March 23, 1942. (AP Photo) #
A referee in traditional dress watches over a Sumo wrestling match in front of Japanese-Americans interned at Santa Anita, California. (LOC) #
Nursery school children play with a scale model of their barracks at the Tule Lake Relocation Center, Newell, California, on September 11, 1942. (NARA) #
A funeral is held for James Wakasa at the Topaz Relocation Center in, Utah, on April 19, 1943. A military policeman shot and killed James Wakasa near Topaz's barbed wire fence on April 11, 1943. Fellow evacuees protested the shooting and demanded the right to hold a public funeral on the spot where Wakasa was shot. The soldier who shot Wakasa was court-martialed, and later found "not guilty". (NARA) #
After the orders to relocate and detain persons of Japanese ancestry were rescinded, evacuees began returning home, and camps began to close. Here, Shuichi Yamamoto, the last evacuee to leave the Granada Relocation Center, in Amache, Colorado, says "Goodbye" to Project Director James G. Lindley, as the War Relocation Authority camp is officially closed October 15, 1945. Mr. Yamamoto, 65 years of age, was returning to his former home in Marysville, California. (NARA) #
Roaring into Sacramento on Monday morning, July 30, 1945, a special train of seven cars brought some 450 Japanese American residents of California back to their homes after staying over three years at the Rohwer Center of the War Relocation Authority, in McGehee, Arkansas. (Hikaru Iwasaki/LOC) #
A crowd of Japanese Americans stand behind a barbed wire fence waving to departing friends on train leaving Santa Anita, California. (LOC) #
A Japanese family returning home from a relocation center camp in Hunt, Idaho, found their home and garage vandalized with anti-Japanese graffiti and broken windows in Seattle, Washington, on May 10, 1945. (AP Photo) #
Evacuees from Arizona's Poston War Relocation Center stand in line before the departure station where they received ration books and bus tickets home in September of 1945. (NARA) #

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