Trivia Minute February 19, 2016

Japanese Internment During World War II

by Marcus Michelson
By Dorothea Lange - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17247334
Members of the Mochida family awaiting a bus to an internment camp. (Photo by Dorothea Lange/U.S. National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons)

On February 19, 1942, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which would lead to the internment of more than 100,000 people of Japanese heritage living in the western United States.

Here are some things you may not have known about the forced relocation.

The United States became involved in World War II following the Japanese bombing of the naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.

Fear spread throughout the country that Japan planned a full-scale invasion of the West Coast. Public opinion was initially favorable to the Japanese-American population, but turned quickly in the following weeks.

Executive Order 9066 didn’t specifically target people of Japanese heritage, but it allowed the War Department to create military zones that any person could be excluded from for any reason.

Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1 on March 2, 1942. The proclamation created Military Area No. 1, which consisted of anywhere within 100 miles of the Pacific coast. It also required anyone of “enemy ancestry” to inform the War Department if they planned to move.

A little more than a week later another proclamation allowed the government to control property transfers for people of Japanese heritage. Later that month the government enacted an 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew for Japanese-Americans in the military zones.

On March 24, 1942, DeWitt issued the first civilian exclusion order, requiring Japanese-Americans to relocate. The first to receive this order were 227 residents of Bainbridge Island, Washington. The requirement applied to anyone with more than one-sixteenth Japanese ancestry, which included those from Korea and Taiwan, which were Japanese colonies at the time.

One hundred eight more exclusion orders were issued through August 1942.

The internees, many of them American citizens, were moved to camps across the country. The group from Bainbridge Island were given six days to prepare for their relocation to Manzanar, California.

Most of the camps consisted largely of tar paper shacks in remote, desolate areas. In some camps, 25 people were forced to live in quarters designed for four people.

Medical care focused mostly on inoculations to prevent disease from spreading in the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. Food poisoning was a constant concern.

The internment of those with Japanese ancestry was not unique to the United States. Canada and Peru also had internment programs, while Japanese people in Brazil were restricted as well.

In December 1944, the Supreme Court of the United States found that the exclusion of Japanese-Americans from the military areas was constitutional, but their incarceration was not. In early 1945, the exclusion order was rescinded and those in the camps were free to return home. They were each given $25 and a train ticket to their last place of residence.

Many had little to return to, having lost their homes and businesses.

Nine of the 10 camps were closed by the end of 1945. One remained open to house those slated for deportation to Japan.

Executive Order 9066 wasn’t officially rescinded until 1976 by President Gerald Ford.

In 1980, President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation into whether the detention of Japanese-Americans was justified. The committee found that the exclusion and detention was not justified by military needs and was motivated largely by racism. The committee also recommended that the federal government pay reparations to the survivors.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized to survivors and paid each of them $20,000. Ultimately, more than $1.6 billion was distributed.

In 2001, Congress authorized the sites of the internment camps to be preserved as historical landmarks. Also included is a site on Bainbridge Island where the Japanese residents were loaded onto a ferry to be relocated.

Our question: What novel, and its film adaptation, refer to the relocation of a family from Bainbridge Island?

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