War in the Pacific: The First Year
A Guide to
the War in
the Pacific
The Rising Sun

The Fall of the Philippines

Midway and the Aleutians

Japanese Occupation of Guam

Papua and New Guinea

Assault on the Solomons

Internment Camps


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 situation.

internment camp
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 rates.

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.

young girl
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 history.