Thursday, December 17, 2009

This Land is Your Land...Unless You're Japanese in America in 1942

On December 17, 1944 the U.S. Army announced it would be ending its policy of holding Japanese Americans in internment camps, allowing “evacuees” to return home.

President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 which began the process of rounding up 120,000 Americans of Japanese heritage to be funneled into camps (Executive Order 9066). These Americans were sent to “relocation centers” in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas.

The call to push Japanese Americans into internment camps was fueled by farmers who competed against the Japanese for labor, politicians who catered to anti-Japanese constituencies, and the panic that resulted from the attack on Pearl Harbor. At a time when Norman Rockwell was painting his “Four Freedoms” the American government was denying basic freedoms to thousands of its own citizens.

In 1988, Congress passed legislation which repaid the remaining 60,000 camp survivors reparations of $20,000.00 each. I doubt that made any great difference to the survivors, who lost something in those years that can never really be quantified, namely, their dignity.

For more information on Japanese internment, including the condition of the U.S. camps and legal challenges to internment, click here.

For information on a PBS documentary on the subject, and more information on the camps, click here.

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