World War II: Internment of Japanese Americans


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January 1944, a Supreme Court ruling halted the detention of U.S. citizens without cause, and the exclusion order was rescinded, and the Japanese Americans began to leave the camps, most returning home to rebuild their former lives.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)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.
Jump to Comments

Most Recent

  • Eddie Adams/AP

    The Vietnam War, Part III: Hands of a Nation

    The photojournalist Eddie Adams, who covered the Vietnam War for the Associated Press, not only captured the action and chaos but took the time to get up close to the Vietnamese people whenever he could.

  • Horst Faas/AP

    The Vietnam War, Part II: Losses and Withdrawal

    Tactically, the 1968 Tet Offensive was a huge loss for the North, but it marked a significant turning point in public opinion and political support, leading to a drawdown of U.S. troop involvement, and eventual withdrawal in 1973.

  • Horst Faas/AP

    The Vietnam War, Part I: Early Years and Escalation

    Fifty years ago, in March 1965, 3,500 U.S. Marines landed in South Vietnam, the first American combat troops on the ground in a conflict that had been building for decades.

  • Bill Ingalls/NASA

    Photos of the Week: 3/21-3/27

    This week, we have photos of the Germanwings flight crash scene, preparations for launch at the Baikonur cosmodrome, a sinkhole in New Jersey, unrest and airstrikes in Yemen, Alaskan Wood bison returning to the wild, the last Jew in the Turkish town of Edirne, a memorial to Singapore's founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and much more.

Join the Discussion