Executive order 9066

The internment of Japanese Americans commenced after Japan’s attack on American soil. The bombing of Pearl Harbor caused Americans to distrust people of Japanese descent.  “In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066”. This order allowed military to evict and construct “camps” or “relocation centers” where Japanese Americans were forced to relocate. They had to figure out what to do with their properties and belongings, as they were only given days to move. People were only allowed to take what they could carry so most sold them for prices well below their worth.

The Japanese Americans were sent to one of the ten war relocation centers, most located in desolate and remote areas. The camps were not set up to house the amount of people that were sent there, so privacy and living conditions were of concern. The barracks were made up into blocks, which housed 200-400 people. They were forced to share tight living quarters, toilets, showers, laundry rooms, and a mess hall. These people were treated like prisoners (although not personally guilty of any crimes) because of the color of their skin. The camps were surrounded with armed guard towers, and barbed wire fencing. To make light of a bad situation they could build gardens, play sports, and publish a free press.

View from Guard Tower

The president and other government officials were worried about possible attacks on the west coast and the safety of Americans. The Japanese Americans were thought to be traitors and loyal to Japan. They set up agencies who conducted surveillance on Japanese American communities who reported the population was little threat to Americans, however after the bombing many were considered “enemy aliens”. The ruling to issue the executive order was mainly driven by fear. The government did what they felt was right at the time to protect the American citizens without thinking of the effects to the people.  In this situation they were not innocent until proven guilty.

Early into 1943 the government sent out a poll to separate the “loyal” from the “disloyal”. Based on a loyal response the individuals were able to join the army or leave the camps. When the order was lifted, it came with stipulations like they couldn’t return to the west coast. While trying to relocate and settle into homes they were not welcomed back into the communities and were treated very poor.

For years Japanese Americans felt racial discrimination, due to laws that prohibited allowing them to become U.S. Citizens, and Americans (mainly whites) treating them as lower-class citizens. I cannot imagine they would have a positive outlook on becoming a Citizen after their imprisonment. Why would they want to live in a country that treated them so poor? It seems that some would have been bitter towards the treatment, but America was the only home they ever knew.

The Civil Liberties Act off 1988 provided a President apology and $20,000 payment to all survivors. Was that enough? Some Japanese Americans protested the internment and fought the ruling all the way up to the supreme court. They hoped to prevent other groups from this type of treatment.

Thinking about myself in that situation is scary. Change is hard for some people and being uprooted from your home, job and life as you know it can be traumatic. We take for granted what we have today. I cannot imagine being essentially homeless and living in shelters.  The idea of going to prison is terrifying.   

Manzanar National Historic Site, 02/28/2018


The Japanese American Legacy Project http://densho.org/looking-like-the-enemy/

5 thoughts on “Executive order 9066

  1. The featured image is truly heartbreaking, and Executive Order 9066 should never have existed. Sure the United States had just been bombed by the Japanese, but that does not make it right to judge people and their loyalty based on their ancestors. Many of those who had Japanese blood in them were basically shunned and barred from the community. To make matters worse the United States decided to send them to relocation centers. In many cases, these “relocation centers” were less from ideal, and the government attempted to hide the truth from the public. Basically, the camps were prisons although not directly called that. It is difficult to imagine the parents of Japanese kids trying to explain what was happening. Although the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided a Presidential apology and awarded victims 20,000 dollars it was not enough. These survivors had been hurt both physically and mentally.

  2. Even after these people were forced to sell everything they had, move away from their homes and live in camps, essentially prison camps, they still were treated badly after they finally got their freedom back. It is truly terrifying how far people will go in the name of bigotry and prejudice. They tore people away from their homes, put them in camps and then shunned the people afterward. With the camps, tearing people from their homes and the racial undertones of it all, could they not see the similarities to the massive genocide in Europe? Sure what the Americans did to the Japanese-Americans was not a holocaust by any means, but the racial hatred was still present on both sides of the battlefield. The Japanese in America went through some terrible things back then, but I am happy we have eventually got to a more accepting culture today.

  3. This was certainly a scary time for many, both Americans and Japanese. Of course the Americans were scared due to what had just happened with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, but the Japanese were scared due to the backlash from the Americans. The Americans had just experienced something devastating and traumatic, but their actions afterward had the same affect on the Japanese. They forced them to get rid of almost all of their belongings, leave their homes, and place them in camps essentially like prisons. Something that none of us could even think about experiencing. Although Americans did eventually realize what they did was wrong, it still left fear in the Japanese. Especially since, even when they were released, they still experienced hate and racial discrimination.

  4. The internment of Japanese Americans was a major issue that happened during World War II. These were American citizens that were taken from their home and thrown into places that were similar to prison. There was no privacy in the internment camps, and every place was overcrowded. I can’t imagine how the Japanese Americans felt about being taken from their homes and sent to these camps. They even had to sell everything their owned for a fraction of the price which is heartbreaking. There were many actions that could have been taken to at least improve the living conditions. Nobody should be subjected to these internment camps because of the fear that other American citizens have of a certain race.

  5. I find it heartbreaking that America only offered an apology and cash for those who survived. I find it even more heartbreaking that it took a very long time for them to issue these things. Those who were effected by this discrimination deserved plenty more than 20k and an “I’m sorry” .

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