The American Internment of Japanese Americans

The United States naval base at Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941. Due to the attack, society was afraid that all Japanese and Japanese Americans were a threat if they were near any military bases. This caused Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to sign an Executive Order 9066. This order permitted the military to declare certain areas off-limits. General John L. DeWitt, who was the head of the Western Defense Command, declared the entire West Coat a military zone which was closed to all persons of Japanese ancestry.

With the entire West Coast being closed to all Japanese ancestry, would cause 110,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans to be forced to leave their homes and had only days to decide what to do with their homes and possessions. Majority of their belongings being left behind, or sold. They were only allowed to take what they could carry. The War Relocation Authority, which was created from Roosevelt, oversaw the removal of 38,000 Japanese immigrants and 72,000 Japanese American citizens. Each family was assigned an identification number and were loaded into cars, buses and trains to internment camps where they were incarcerated for up to 4 years.

Internment living conditions were harsh. Japanese Americans died in internment camps due to lack of medical care and emotional distress. The housing sections were surrounded by wires and guard towers that were monitored by the military. 200-400 people would be living in each block that consisted of 14 barracks that were divided into four rooms. Men and women shared toilets, showers, laundry rooms, and a mess hall. “Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.” (National Park Service). Temperatures would get as high as 110 degrees in the summer, and below freezing in the winter.

I can honestly say that the incarceration of law-abiding, American Citizens is unfathomable. Two thirds of Japanese Americans were citizens by birth, even Japanese American veterans from World War I were forced to leave their homes, their belongings, and taken to these horrible camps. You can fight for America, but when American’s feel threatened by you, you become the enemy, regardless of any substantial proof. This is a part of history that influences Japanese Americans to speak out when different races are being targeted. “When threatened, we can easily discard our democratic ideals of justice and equality to chase after imaginary enemies. Furthermore, false rumors—sensationalized and given credence by a profit-maximizing media or vote-seeking politicians—can overwhelm and contradict research and evidence-based analysis.” (Densho).


Keene, Jennifer D., Visions of America: A History of the United States, Vol 2, 3e, Pearson, 2017.

“Why Does This Matter Now?” DENSHO. 2017. Accessed 17 Oct. 2018.

“Japanese Americans at Manzanar.” National Park Service. 2015. Accessed 18 Oct. 2018.

5 thoughts on “The American Internment of Japanese Americans

  1. Jennifer,
    You had great points backed by rich information. One point I found interesting, in particular, is that Japanese American veterans were also included in the incarceration. You mentioned that they could fight for the country, but not be protected when they were now considered the “enemy”. It seems quite contradictive.
    Great post!

  2. It does seem very hypocritical to allow people to stand up and fight for our county but when push comes to shove the country turned their back on them. Could you imagine locking up soldiers who served in Afghanistan? The American people today would never allow it no matter what the soldiers heritage…. so why was it allowed back then? This is the most disturbing part to me from this time period.

  3. I find it really odd just how awful these people were treated. While we weren’t killing them like Hitler in Nazi Germany, deaths were allowed to happen because they only gave them the very basics for living. At times, if someone needed a doctor, they might not be able to get one. What I find even weirder is that two-thirds of these people were born in America and were citizens. They would’ve never known Japan and more than likely would’ve fought against them. Some of these people were veterans as well. They’ve already proven their dedication to America by fighting for it, but were taken to these camps anyway.

  4. Great read! It’s interesting to learn about the internment camps. Most history classes talk about the internment camps but never go into detail about how the Japanese were treated during this time.

  5. I really enjoyed reading your post and you had a lot of great information. Even though we weren’t killing them like Hitler was doing, these Japanese Americans were living in extremely harsh conditions. Many of them died because of lack of medical care. These people meant no harm, they were treated poorly for four years just because of their heritage.

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