Internment Background Information:

Part One:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared that the day of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, would live in infamy. The attack launched the United States fully into the two theaters of the world war. Prior to Pearl Harbor, the United States had been involved in the European war only by supplying England and other antifascist countries of Europe with the munitions of war.

The attack on Pearl Harbor also launched a rash of fear about national security, especially on the West Coast. In February 1942, just two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt as commander-in-chief, issued Executive Order 9066, which had the effect of relocating all persons of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and aliens, inland, outside of the Pacific military zone. The objectives of the order were to prevent espionage and to protect persons of Japanese descent from harm at the hands of Americans who had strong anti-Japanese attitudes.

In Washington and Oregon, the eastern boundary of the military zone was an imaginary line along the rim of the Cascade Mountains; this line continued down the spine of California from north to south. From that line to the Pacific coast, the military restricted zones in those three states were defined.

Roosevelt's order affected 117,000 people of Japanese descent, two-thirds of whom were native-born citizens of the United States. The Issei were the first generation of Japanese in this country; the Nisei were the second generation, numbering 70,000 American citizens at the time of internment. Within weeks, all persons of Japanese ancestry--whether citizens or enemy aliens, young or old, rich or poor--were ordered to assembly centers near their homes. Soon they were sent to permanent relocation centers outside the restricted military zones.

For example, persons of Japanese ancestry in western Washington State were removed to the assembly center at the Puyallup Fairgrounds near Tacoma. From Puyallup to Pomona, internees found that a cowshed at a fairgrounds or a horse stall at a racetrack was home for several months before they were transported to a permanent wartime residence. Relocation centers were situated many miles inland, often in remote and desolate locales. Sites included Tule Lake, California; Minidoka, Idaho; Manzanar, California; Topaz, Utah; Jerome, Arkansas; Heart Mountain, Wyoming; Poston, Arizona; Granada, Colorado; and Rohwer, Arkansas.

As four or five families with their sparse collections of clothing and possessions squeezed into and shared tar-papered barracks, life took on some familiar routines of socializing and school. However, eating in common facilities and having limited opportunities for work interrupted other social and cultural patterns. Persons who became troublesome were sent to a special camp at Tule Lake, California, where dissidents were housed.

In 1943 and 1944 the government assembled a combat unit of Japanese Americans for the European theater. It became the 442d Regimental Combat Team and gained fame as the most highly decorated of World War II. Their military record bespoke their patriotism.

As the war drew to a close, the relocation centers were slowly evacuated. While some persons of Japanese ancestry returned to their home towns, others sought new surroundings. For example, the Japanese American community of Tacoma, Washington, had been sent to three different centers; only 30 percent returned to Tacoma after the war. Japanese Americans from Fresno had gone to Manzanar; 80 percent returned to their hometown.

The internment of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II sparked constitutional and political debate. In the 1940s, two men and one woman--Hirabayashi, Korematsu, and Endo--challenged the constitutionality of the relocation and curfew orders. While the men received negative judgments from the court, in the 1944 case ExParte Mitsuye Endo, the Supreme Court ruled that, "Mitsuye Endo is entitled to an unconditional release by the War Relocation Authority." Some people refer to the relocation centers as concentration camps; others view internment as an unfortunate episode, but a military necessity. During the Reagan-Bush years Congress moved toward the passage of Public Law 100-383 in 1988 which acknowledged the injustice of the internment, apologized for it, and provided a $20,000 cash payment to each person who was interned.

One of the most stunning ironies in this episode of American civil liberties was articulated by an internee who, when told that the Japanese were put in those camps for their own protection, countered "If we were put there for our protection, why were the guns at the guard towers pointed inward, instead of outward?"

Part Two: Read Executive Order 9066 Read and complete the document analysis sheet

Part Three: Read the following text (see below for links) of the conference between DeWitt and Rowe (Document 1), and the Final Report (Document 2).

Consider the following (respond in writing): Should the government be allowed to suspend Civil Liberties during times of war? Do the benifits outweigh the costs?

Part Four: Review the  Amendments in question: The Fourth Amendment upholds the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures. The Fifth Amendment guarantees that Americans will not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. The First Amendment ensures Americans the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Part Five: As a result of Executive Order 9066, Japanese Americans were notified and quickly relocated to internment camps. Visit the site - view the pictures/maps/etc.


In Class:

Part One

Photograph Analysis Worksheet

Group1:  Notification Part A (Documents 4-6)

Group 2: Notification Part B (Documents 7-9)

Group 3: Relocation (Documents 10-13)

Group 4: Relocation Center Part A ( Documents 14-16 )

Group 5:  Relocation Center Part B (Documents 17-20)

Complete one worksheet for each photograph. Each group will  describe the group's set of photographs to the class and explain what the documents reveal about internment.

Part Two:

Dramatic Presentations

Write a dialogue and present it in front of your classmates.

Students in the Notification Part A group will create a dialogue between members of a family that for 25 years has owned a business. The family might be docile in its acceptance of Executive Order 9066 or angry and antagonistic toward the implications of the order. Both responses could occur within the family.

Students in the Notification Part B group will create a dialogue between the parents and two children (child) shown in the photograph of Raphael Weill Public School, San Francisco, in which the children (child) ask some poignant questions about relocation. Students in this group could also create a dialogue between the parents and older children of the Shibuya or Futamachi families as they discuss their options in response to Executive Order 9066.

Students in the Relocation group will create a dialogue between an old man (in his early 80s) and a young woman (high school age) who are discussing their futures as they look toward the inevitable internment at a relocation center; or between two adult neighbors who are discussing the practical aspects of getting their families organized for the move; or between two adult neighbors who are discussing the injustice of being removed from home and workplace.

Students in the Relocation Center Part A group will create a dialogue between two high-school-aged Japanese Americans in a relocation center who are discussing the confusion in their lives caused by internment.

Students in the Relocation Center Part B group will create a dialogue between members of the Hirano family and another relocated family who are discussing patriotism and relocation policy.


The Documents

  1. "Conference with General De Witt" at Office of Commanding General, Headquarters Western Defense Command and Fourth Army; January 4, 1942.
    ARC Identifier: 296057
    View Pages: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

  2. Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942, Headquarters Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, Office of the Commanding General, Presidio of San Francisco, California; Chapters 1 and 2.
    ARC Identifier: 296055
    View Pages:    Cover | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24

  3. Transcript of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin Roosevelt, February 19, 1942. Available from

  4. Posting of Exclusion Order at First and Front Streets in San Francisco, California, directing removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the first section in San Francisco to be affected by the evacuation.
    ARC Identifier: 536017

  5. Thank You Note in "Little Tokyo" in Los Angeles, California. Mr. and Mrs. K. Tseri have closed their drugstore in preparation for the forthcoming evacuation from their home and business.
    ARC Identifier: 536001

  6. Merchandise Sale in San Francisco, California. Customers buy merchandise in a store operated by a proprietor of Japanese ancestry during a pre-evacuation sale. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.
    ARC Identifier: 536042

  7. Children Pledge Allegiance to the Flag in San Francisco, California, at Raphael Weill Public School. Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education.
    ARC Identifier: 536053

  8. Family in Front of Farmhouse in Mountain View, California. Members of the Shibuya family are pictured at their home before evacuation. The father and the mother were born in Japan and came to this country in 1904. At that time the father had $60 in cash and a basket of clothes. He later built a prosperous business of raising select varieties of chrysanthemums which he shipped to Eastern markets under his own trade name. Six children in the family were born in the United States.
    ARC Identifier: 536037

  9. Manager of a Large Farm in Stockton, California. Henry T. Futamachi (left), superintendent of a 1,300-acre mechanized ranch, discusses agricultural problems with the ranch owner, John B. MacKinley. Before evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry, Futamachi, 45, was paid $4,000 a year and bonuses. He came to this country 28 years ago with his father. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration of the war.
    ARC Identifier: 536030

  10. Packing Up in San Francisco, California. Dave Tatsuno rereads notes he compiled while he was a student at the University of California where he was graduated in 1936. Tatsuno, with his two-year-old son at his side, is packing his possessions at 2625 Buchanan Street, prior to evacuation of residents of Japanese ancestry. Evacuees will be housed at War Relocation Authority centers for the duration. (This is the caption as it appeared on the photograph. According to the 1942 Polk Directory for San Francisco, the correct address is 1625 Buchanan.)
    ARC Identifier: 536039

  11. Registration in San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry file forms containing personal data, two days before evacuation, at a Wartime Civil Control Administration station.
    ARC Identifier: 536056

  12. Waiting for Evacuation in San Francisco, California. With baggage stacked, residents of Japanese ancestry await a bus at the Wartime Civil Control Administration station, 2020 Van Ness Avenue, as part of the first group of 664 to be evacuated from San Francisco on April 6, 1942. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
    ARC Identifier: 536065

  13. Wartime Civil Control Station in San Francisco, California. Japanese family heads and persons living alone form a line outside the station located in the Japanese American Citizens League Auditorium at 2031 Bush Street, to appear for "processing" in response to Civilian Exclusion Order Number 20.
    ARC Identifier: 536422

  14. Sorting Baggage at Minidoka in Eden, Idaho. Baggage belonging to evacuees from the assembly center at Puyallup, Washington, is sorted and trucked to owners in their barrack apartments.
    ARC Identifier: 538278

  15. Barracks Assigned at Minidoka in Eden, Idaho. Newly arrived evacuees from the assembly center at Puyallup, Washington, are registered and assigned barrack apartments at this War Relocation Authority center.
    ARC Identifier: 538283

  16. The Hirano Family, left to right, George, Hisa, and Yasbei with picture of a United States serviceman. Colorado River Relocation Center, Poston, Arizona.
    ARC Identifier: 535989

  17. High School Campus at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Classes are housed in tarpaper-covered, barrack-style buildings originally designed as living quarters for the evacuees.
    ARC Identifier: 537153

  18. Poster Crew at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The poster crew turns out fire and safety posters, announcements for public gatherings and dances, and some general instructions.
    ARC Identifier: 538754

  19. Court Session at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The court is composed of seven judges selected from the residents and appointed by the project director. They preside over infractions of center regulations and ordinary civil court cases.
    ARC Identifier: 537166

  20. Coal Crew at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. It takes approximately four carloads of coal a day to provide heat for residents at this Wyoming relocation center during the cold winter months. Here a crew of men load trucks from the coal gondola for delivery to barracks.
    ARC Identifier: 538770