Pearl Harbor and Executive Order 9066

Explosion in Pearl Harbor
The attack on Pearl Harbor.

National Archives and Records Administration

Anti-Japanese sentiment had been growing since the end of the 1800’s when Japanese immigrants began seeking work in the United States. As relations between the United States and Japan strained, many expected that war would come soon. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the FBI began putting Japanese, Italian, and German enemy aliens on lists in the event of war. When Pearl Harbor occurred, the FBI immediately began arresting people on these so called “ABC” lists, putting them in detention facilities.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which allowed the Secretary of War and other military commanders to establish military zones where people, including citizens, could be excluded from these areas1. Public Law 503, enacted in March 1942, allowed courts to enforce military orders given resulting from Executive Order 90662. This led to the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. There was some opposition to the incarceration, leading to several court cases in an attempt to overturn the executive order. Despite these efforts, the Executive Order 9066 was not overturned until late 1944, with the case of Ex parte Mitsuye Endo in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Executive Order was unconstitutional since two-thirds of the population being incarcerated were Japanese Americans who were United States birthright citizens and were stripped of their rights as citizens because of their ethnicity3.
1President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Executive Order 9066. February 19, 1942.
2United States, National Archives and Records Administration, Our Documents: 100 Milestone Documents from
the National Archives
(New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 10.
3Brian Niiya. “Ex parte Mitsuye Endo” Densho. Accessed July 12, 2019.


Last updated: August 16, 2019

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