- Direct students to read about the internment of Japanese American in their textbook during World War II and provide students with a copy of the following background information.
For nearly a decade prior to the outbreak of war, various federal agencies had been conducting surveillance in Japanese American communities in anticipation of a possible war with Japan. The general consensus of those agencies was that the Japanese American community as a whole posed little threat to the U.S. should war with Japan take place. They also put together custodial detention lists of those who would be arrested should war come. These lists allowed the government to begin rounding up what were now “enemy aliens” within hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the most part, those apprehended were male immigrant community leaders who were suspect for the positions they held—heads of a Japanese Association branch or priests at Buddhist temples, for instance—rather than for anything they had specifically done. Initially held in local facilities—along with some prisoners of German and Italian descent—they were moved to internment camps run by the army or Immigration and Naturalization Service, with most spending the duration of the war there, sometimes alongside Japanese Latin Americans who had been evicted from their homes and brought to the U.S for internment.
Despite the swift arrest and detention of all whom prewar surveillance had identified as suspect, calls for stronger measures soon came from West Coast political leaders, who drew upon five decades of anti-Japanese sentiment. Such sentiment dovetailed with views held by General John L. DeWitt, the head of the army’s Western Defense Command, which was charged with the defense of the Western U.S. They influenced key figures in the War Department to advocate for removing all Japanese Americans from West Coast states. Though the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Francis Biddle, opposed such measures, the proponents of mass removal won out, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066—which gave the army power to exclude whomever it saw fit under the guise of “military necessity”—on February 19, 1942.
Armed with EO 9066, General DeWitt wasted no time in ordering the West Coast be cleared of Japanese Americans. At first, Japanese Americans were encouraged to move inland on their own, what the government called “voluntary evacuation.” Not surprisingly, leaders of other Western states objected, and this plan was called off after a mere 5,000 out of 110,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast had moved. Instead, the army’s Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA) quickly created fifteen “assembly centers” and two “reception centers” to house the Japanese Americans. The “assembly centers” utilized existing facilities such as fairgrounds and horse racing tracks located near the areas where Japanese Americans were being removed. The WCCA efficiently removed Japanese Americans neighborhood-by-neighborhood over the spring and summer of 1942 in a series of 108 exclusion orders. Residents of the area defined by each order were given a week to tie up their affairs and report for their own exile. Stories abound of profiteers offering distressed Nikkei pennies on the dollar for their possessions or taking over farms filled with ready-to-harvest produce. As Japanese Americans got on the trains and buses, they wondered what the future held for them. http://www.densho.org/looking-like-the-enemy/
March 18, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9102, which establishes the War Relocation Authority (WRA) within the Department for Emergency Management. The WRA is empowered “to provide for the removal from designated areas of persons whose removal is necessary in the interests of national security….” The WRA is further empowered to provide for evacuees’ relocation and their needs, to supervise their activities, and to provide for their useful employment. Milton S. Eisenhower is named director of the WRA.
March 21, 1942:President Roosevelt signs Public Law 77-503, which makes it a federal crime for a person ordered to leave a military area to refuse to do so.
March 22, 1942:The first removal of people of Japanese descent from the designated Pacific Coast area occurs. The people are from the Los Angeles area; they are sent to the Manzanar relocation center in northeastern California. The center comprises a 6000-acre site, enclosed by barbed wire fencing, and within that site a 560-acre residential site with guard towers, searchlights, and machine gun installations. During the next eighteen months, about 120,000 people of Japanese descent are removed from the Pacific Coast area to ten relocation centers in California, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas.
March 27 to 30, 1942: The Western Defense Command issues proclamations which severely restrict the movements of persons of Japanese descent in the Pacific Coast military area, and which prohibit them from leaving the military area. The Western Defense Command had decided that allowing people of Japanese descent to leave the military area and go wherever they chose was creating too much disturbance and opposition among local people.
April 7, 1942: A meeting of WRA officials with representatives of eleven western states convenes in Salt Lake City, Utah. The representatives for the most part express distrust of and dislike for the people of Japanese descent who were being evacuated to their states. The WRA concludes that, because of this hostile local opinion, the evacuees from the Pacific Coast must be housed in evacuation camps guarded by the Army. During the meeting, the governor of Wyoming told the director of the WRA, “If you bring Japanese into my state, I promise you they will be hanging from every tree.”
Spring 1942: WRA administrators divide the people of Japanese descent in the Pacific Coast military zone into three categories: (1) Issei, immigrant Japanese born in Japan (about 40,000 in the military zone); (2) Nisei, American born and educated children of Issei parents (about 63,000 in the military zone); and (3) Kibei, American born but educated wholly or partly in Japan (about 9,000 in the military zone). A fourth category was Sansei, second generation American born, the children of the Nisei (about 4,500
in the military zone). Truman Library. http://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/japanese_internment/1942.htm
April 24, 1946:The Truman administration sends to Congress proposed legislation which would establish an Evacuation Claims Commission to adjudicate claims against the United States for losses suffered by evacuees as a result of their removal from their homes and detention in relocation centers.
June 26, 1946: President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9742, which terminates the WRA effective June 30, 1946.
February 2, 1948: President Truman sends to Congress a special message on civil rights in which he requests legislation to settle claims against the government by the 110,000 people of Japanese descent who were evacuated from their homes during World War II.
July 2, 1948: President Truman signs the Japanese-American Claims Act, which authorizes the settlement of property loss claims by people of Japanese descent who were removed from the Pacific Coast area during World War II. According to a Senate Report about the act, “The question of whether the evacuation of the Japanese people from the West Coast was justified is now moot. The government did move these people, bodily, the resulting loss was great, and the principles of justice and responsible government require that there should be compensation for such losses.” The Congress over time appropriated $38 million to settle 23,000 claims for damages totaling $131 million. The final claim was adjudicated in 1965.
Japanese Internment Timeline
- Japanese immigrants arrived in the U.S. mainland for work primarily as
- The San Francisco Board of Education passed a resolution to segregate
white children from children of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ancestry
- California passed the Alien Land Law, forbidding "all aliens ineligible for
citizenship" from owning land.
- Congress passed the Immigration Act of 1924, effectively ending all
Japanese immigration to the U.S.
Munson Report released
December 7, 1941
- Japan bombed U.S. ships and planes at the Pearl Harbor
military base in Hawaii.
February 19, 1942
- President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066,
authorizing military authorities to exclude civilians from any area without
trial or hearing.
- The War Department announced the formation of a segregated
unit of Japanese American soldiers.
- The War Department imposed the draft on Japanese American
men, including those incarcerated in the camps.
- The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Executive
March 20, 1946
Korematsu v. United States
–The last War Relocation Authority facility, the Tule Lake
“Segregation Center,” closed.
- The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was
- The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
issued its report,
Personal Justice Denied
August 10, 1988
- President Ronald Reagan signed HR 442 into law. It
acknowledged that the incarceration of more than 110,000 individuals of
Japanese descent was unjust, and offered an apology and reparation
payments of $20,000 to each person incarcerated.
Provide students with a copy of the Stanford “Historical Thinking Chart.” Discuss with students how they can investigate historical questions by employing the following reading strategies: sourcing, contextualizing, close reading and corroborating.
Provide students with a copy of the document titled “Ouster of all Japs in California Near.”
Library of Congress
- Engage students in an evaluation of the preceding document using the following “Primary Source Analysis Worksheet”.
Primary Source Analysis Worksheet. Note: Similar form located at the National Archives http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/worksheets/written_document_analysis_worksheet.pdf
I. Type of Source (check one of the following)
___ Newspaper ___ Telegram ___ Diary
___ Autobiography ___ Report ___ Oral History
___ Letter ___ Map ___ Advertisement
___ Gov. Document ___ Book ___ Other?______
___ Photograph ___ Broadside ___ Artistic Presentation
___ Cartoon ___ Poster ___ Sheet Music
___ Painting ___ Print ___ Other?________
II. When was this source created? __________________________________
How do you know? ______________________________________________
III. Who wrote/created this source? _________________________________
How do you know? ______________________________________________
Did the creator of this source have first-hand knowledge of the events?
IV. In the space below, write a 2-3-sentence description of the source. Here are
some questions to help you.
Document: Is it printed, typed or handwritten?
If handwritten, can you read it?
Are there any notations in the margins?
Any special marks or seals?
Any other interesting characteristics?
Graphics: What people/objects/activities appear in the graphic?
What symbols/words/phrases appear in the graphic?
How are all of the above arranged in the graphic?
V. Who (do you think) is the audience for this source? _________________
Why do you think that? _____________________________________
VI. Do you think the purpose of this source was to inform? To persuade? To
entertain? A combination of these? ____________________________
Why do you think that? ______________________________________
VII. What additional questions do you have about this source? How could you find
the answers to these questions?
- Assign students to review the film created by the U.S. Office of War Information to explain the movement of Japanese Americans in the U.S. during World War II located at https://archive.org/details/Japanese1943
Instruct students to consider the following questions as they film :
a. Who is narrating the film?
b. How does the narrator justify the removal of the Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses?
c. How did the U.S. Government help the Japanese Americans relocate?
d. What word did the narrator use to describe the move of the Japanese Americans by the U.S. Government?
e. To what locations were the Japanese Americans moved and why those locations?
- What employment opportunities were made available for the Japanese Americans?
g. What conclusions did you make about the purpose of the film and was the U.S. Government successful