This Sunday marks the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced internment of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans who lived along the West Coast. The order came after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In the wake of the attack, Japanese-Americans were immediately cast as a threat too dangerous to be allowed to live freely.
The U.S., citing national security interests, demanded that Japanese-Americans be interned without due process or, it would eventually turn out, any factual basis. Whole communities were rounded up and sent to camps, sometimes just clapboard shelters or converted horse stables, in arid deserts and barren fields in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arkansas. Any state away from the coast where Japanese-Americans could theoretically consort with others who might again harm the U.S. Families were forced to abandon their businesses, communities, property and homes. Some families were separated and interned separately. Some were given just 48 hours to pack up and leave their homes. The majority–more than two thirds–of those interned were U.S.-born citizens.
Later, it would be revealed that the U.S. government held no evidence that any Japanese-American engaged in espionage, and a congressionally appointed commission eventually found, instead, that the four-year internment was "motivated largely by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."
For many, the country’s post-9/11 treatment of American Muslims, Arabs, South Asians and people of Middle Eastern descent carries near identical echoes of the not so distant past. Many Japanese-Americans have spoken out about the increased surveillance and indefinite detention that Muslim and Arab communities face today.
"I feel that racial profiling is absolutely wrong and unjustifiable," Holly Yasui, whose father was interned, told the New York Times in 2007. Yasui, like many other Japanese-Americans, have joined in solidarity with communities that find themselves similarly criminalized and vilified today. It is a deeply personal fight.
Join us as we recognize the 70th anniversary of what’s come to be known as the Day of Remembrance.
Japanese Americans in front of poster with internment orders. (Photo: Creative Commons/National Archives)
Members of the Mochida family waiting for an evacuation bus in Hayward, California, May 1942. (Photo: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration)
Family members board evacuation bus in Centerville, California, May 1942. (Photo: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration)
Lining up for lunch at the Santa Anita camp which was a converted racetrack with stalls as interim dwelling cells until folks were transferred to distant internment camps, April 1942. (Photo: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration)
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, CA. (Photo: Dorothea Lange/National Archives and Record Administration)
One of the groups of Japanese American repatriates, most came from Texas internment camps. (Photo: University of Southern California, Regional History Collection)
Many Japanese Americans were taken into custody by the FBI and local police. Here, an official of the San Francisco Japanese Association, Shojiro Hori, is being taken away by police. (Photo: University of Southern California, Regional History Collection)
Federal agents arrested two Japanese laundry workers, shown being booked at the police station. (Photo: University of Southern California, Regional History Collection)