On this dayFeb 19, 1942

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Ordered Internment of Japanese Americans

Image | Toyo Miyatake, Toyo Miyatake Studio

During the early twentieth century, prejudice against Japanese Americans was rampant in the United States. After Japanese military forces bombed American forces at the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii in December 1941, the United States entered World War II. Anti-Japanese bigotry quickly worsened, and many political leaders and media outlets called for the internment of individuals of Japanese descent residing in the western portion of the country. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, authorizing military leaders to detain Japanese Americans in camps, en masse, without due process.

Although the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation insisted that people of Japanese descent did not pose a security threat, the internment process began soon after President Roosevelt signed the order. In March 1942, the United States military ordered all individuals of Japanese ancestry residing on the West Coast to report to concentration camps within seven days. This applied to over 120,000 people, 70,000 of whom were American citizens. Interned individuals were required to dispose of their possessions, homes, and businesses. Within the concentration camps, conditions were prison-like: armed guards and barbed wire surrounded the camps and housing areas were overcrowded and filthy.

Internment was politically favored and faced no serious opposition from elected officials or the courts. In 1944, the Supreme Court decided Korematsu v. United States, upholding the constitutionality of the internment order and authorizing the continued detention of Japanese Americans.

When the internment order was officially rescinded in January 1945, after the end of the war, individuals were released from internment but received no compensation for their lost property and mistreatment. More than four decades later, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed an act formally apologizing for internment and authorizing a $20,000 redress payment to each living internment survivor.
 

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