The Japanese American Internment Camps during World War II

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The Japanese American Internment Camps during World War II
Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States. They were relocated to camps called "War Relocation Camps," after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The internment of Japanese Americans was applied harshly throughout the United States and totally ignored in other parts of the United States. Japanese Americans who lived on the West Coast of the United States were all interned, while in Hawaii, where more than 150,000 Japanese Americans composed over one-third of the territory's population, 1,200 to 1,800 Japanese Americans were interned. Of those interned, 62% were American citizens.

Executive Orders

Executive Order 9066


FDR signing the Executive Order 9066
n February of 1942 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed this order. This order authorized the Army to force everyone who was of Japanese heritage to leave the West coast of the United States. Even if they were born in the United Sates and were a citizen they would still be forced to leave.
Executive Order 9102

Following the Executive Order 9066 the Executive Order 9102 was signed. This authorized the creation of the War Relocation Authority, or the WRA. It was a federal agency that was responsible for the running of the ten large camps that held that held anyone of Japanese heritage on the West coast.


Civilian Assembly Centers

Civilian Assembly Centers were temporary camps. They were built to hold the people being relocated until the permanent ones were finished being built. The American Government decided it was too dangerous for the people to be there because of debris and dust created by construction. They were often located at horse race tracks and stables, fairgrounds, and warehouses.

Relocation Centers


Sign that reads, “Manzanar War Relocation Center”
elocation Centers were the main facilities and were permanent. The WRA ran these camps. After being registered a number for your family and waiting at the Civilian Assembly Centers you would be sent here. Within nine months, the WRA had opened ten facilities in seven states, and transferred over 100,000 people from the Assembly Centers.
Detention Camps

Many Relocation Centers became Detention Camps. Thesewere for people who were believed to be security risks. They also served as “segregation centers,” for people and their family who had been deemed disloyal. From here they would be sent back to Japan and never be able to come to American again.

Special Camps

Citizen Isolation Centers- The Citizen Isolation Centers were for those considered to be problem inmates.

Federal Bureau of Prisons- Detainees convicted of crimes, usually draft resistance, were sent to these camps
US Army facilities- These camps often held German and Italian detainees in addition to Japanese American.



There were two types of housing in the Internment Camps: horse stables or tar covered barracks. The only difference was the smell. If you stayed in a horse stable it smelled like horses and hay. If you stayed in the tar covered barracks it smelled like hot asphalt. Imagine a dark room with no windows the size of your bathroom. The only furniture you have is a small bed per family member. Since there are no windows, your only light comes from a single light bulb that hangs from the ceiling. The belonging you could carry in your hands was all put into a tiny closet and you have no running water or heat. However, the people in the camps were lucky enough to have shelter and food.



Meal being served at tables in the mess hall of a camp

Maps of all the facilities: Civilian Assembly Centers, Relocation Centers, Detention camps, Citizen Isolation Centers, Federal Bureau of Prisions, and US Army Facilities.
ll meals were served cafeteria style in a long line. The meals were basic and were the same almost every day. Six mess halls served three meals a day to everyone in camp. Meals were served at set times: breakfast was from 6:00 to 7:00 in the morning, lunch was from 11:30 to 12:30 in the afternoon and supper was from 5:00 to 6:00 at night. Long tables and benches ended family centered meals. Traditional Japanese style food was replaced by Vienna sausages, stewed tomatoes and bread, but the food later improved.The improved meals had fresh fruits and vegetables and some Japanese dishes including rice. Special treats such as candy, soda and ice cream could be bought over the fence of the camps. Local stores, customers and retailers met at the barbed wired fences and exchanged money for food.


For the prisoners the bathrooms took some getting used to. A family didn’t have a bathroom to themselves or even just have to sharewith the family next door. Over three hundred people shared the public toilets and showers. You often had to wait in very long lines and the bathrooms were not the cleanest. The showers only had warm water and never hot. Often the warm water ran out and you had to shower in cold. Even having a cold shower was much better than no shower.

Internment Ends

On January 2, 1945, both the Executive Orders were made illegal. The Japanese Americans that began to leave the camps to restart their lives at home. The camps did stay open for those who were not yet ready to return home. Anyone who had been held at the camps was given $25 and a train ticket to the home they had once been forced to leave. After feeling like outcast to the American society many of the prisoners emigrated to Japan for a fresh start. The last camp was closed in 1946. Now, many of the sites, like Manzanar, where the camps had once been are historical sights, and you are able to visit them.


Actions by Japanese Americans


Plane that crashed on the Hawaiian island of Niihau causing the Niihau Incident
he Niihau Incident, December of 1941: shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The incident involved three Japanese Americans on the island of Niihau, in Hawaii. They had assisted a Japanese pilot who had crashed there. Despite the incident, the Governor of Hawaii rejected all calls for mass internment of all the Japanese Americans who lived not only on the island of Niihau, but all of Hawaii.
United States District Court Opinion

There had been a report by General Dewitt and Colonel Bendetson about Japanese Americans. The report depicting racist bias against Japanese Americans was circulated and then obscured in 1943 and 1944. The report said that, because of their race, it was impossible to determine the loyalty of Japanese Americans and because of this internment was a necessity. The original report was so offensive that the Colonel ordered that all copies be destroyed. In 1980, the original copies were located in the National Archives. Although the Colonel thought all were gone these copies were the real thing. The courts found that the government intentionally withheld these reports and other critical evidence, at trials held all the way up to the Supreme Court. The files would have proved that Japanese Americans internment was not in fact a military necessity. The Department of Justice officials wrote this during the time of war, “willful historical inaccuracies and intentional falsehoods.”


In 1988


Ronald Reagan signing Japanese reparations bill

Ronald Reagan signing the Civil Liberties Act
nn 1988 Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act. The act was sponsored by Representative Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson. Both of which had been put into Internment Camps. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 provided reparations of $20,000 for each surviving Japanese American. The total of all the reparations was $1.2 billion dollars.
In 1992

In 1992, the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992 gave an additional $400 million to ensure all remaining internees received their $20,000 reparation payments. This was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, who also issued another formal apology from the U.S. government.

This is Manzanar’s monument to anyone who died in the Internment Camps. Today you can go visit Manzanar.

hen World War II ended all the camps were ordered to set all and any internees free. The message of World War II ending took a little while to get around, but within three months of the war ending all the camps were permanently closed. Internment camps were closed and Japanese Americans who had once been forced from their homes and into these camps were now set free. The American Government felt they were no longer a threat to national security after the end of World War II.All though these camps did detain actual spies that very well could have leaked secrets to the Japanese Government over 75% of all the detained were either elderly, under the age of twelve, or a woman. The camps served their purpose and now many are historical sights.

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