War in the Pacific: The First Year
The Internment Camps: America's Darkest Hour
As a result of war hysteria and paranoia throughout
the U.S. following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt signed
Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This executive action
resulted in the internment of Japanese emigrants and American citizens
of Japanese heritage in huge detention centers scattered throughout the
western U.S. In March, 1942, the War Relocation Authority was
established to administer the evacuation and internment. General John L.
DeWitt, in charge of the Western Defense Command, ordered the mass
evacuation, and the U.S. Congress passed Public Law 77-503, allowing for
fines and imprisonment of those who disobeyed the evacuation orders.
Shocked and angered by this act, the Japanese-Americans were unaware
they would be confined, in some cases, for nearly four years.
Evacuees were each allowed to bring only one duffel
bag and two suitcases; all other possessions were to be sold or stored.
The Farm Security Administration was charged with overseeing all
agricultural produce and farmland owned by Japanese-Americans to be sold
at a fair price; however, businesses, homes, cars, and other items were
sold quickly, and ruthless profiteers took advantage of the chaotic
The internment camp at Salinas, California.
Ten relocation centers were established, mostly in
isolated and remote parts of the western United States: Manzanar,
California; Poston, Arizona; and, Topaz, Utah, were some of the largest.
These camps were surrounded by barbed wire, as well as guard towers and
armed soldiers. The structures in the camps were erected hastily; in
several locations, animal stables were converted into apartments.
In July, 1942, the Selective Service assigned a 4-C (enemy alien)
draft classification to Japanese-Americans. This enraged many
Japanese-Americans, who interpreted it as further questioning of their
loyalty to the United States. Six months later, however, Secretary of
War Henry L. Stimson formed a special combat team of Japanese-American
volunteers to serve in the European theater. These volunteers were to
become the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat
Team, the most decorated units of the war with the highest casualty
By August, 1942, over 100,000 people had been
forcibly interned in the camps, 70,000 of whom were American citizens.
Not one case of treason or subversion was ever proven in one of domestic
America's darkest hours.
It was not until 1990 that the Japanese-Americans who
suffered this great injustice, were to be given a formal apology from
the United States government and compensation for these acts.
A young girl, one of over 100,000
Japanese-Americans, awaits evacuation orders by American authorities to
one of ten relocation centers in the western United States. War hysteria
swept through the U.S. following the stunning Japanese victories during
the first six months of the Second World War. Fifty years later,
interned Japanese Americans received financial compensation and a formal
apology for hardships suffered during a tragic episode in American