Japanese Internment Camps

During the 1880s, Asian immigrants, mostly Chinese, were imported to the United States. By 1908, 135,000 Japanese had arrived. With the Oriental Exclusion Proclamation (1907) the U.S. government limited Japanese immigration. By 1924 further immigration was banned and those who had entered the country earlier were barred from becoming U.S. citizens. This ban was not lifted by Congress until 1952!

On February 19, 1942 President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that authorized US government to forcibly roundup 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry into 10 internment camps. At this time, the Canadian government interned 26,000 Japanese Canadians.

Look at Ansel Adams's photos of Daily Life, Portraits, Agricultural Scenes, and Sports and Leisure Activities in the Manzanar internment camp.
Read a NPR (National Public Radio) story with photos about the food and eating conditions in the camps.


Why and where were these camps established? 


Where do Japanese-Americans live in the United States?
Examine a county-based map.
Where do Asian-Americans live in the United States?
Examine a county-based map.

Japanese immigrants were concentrated in a few cities on the West Coast and worked largely in a only a couple of industries: fishing and intensive irrigation agriculture. The map below shows where and what they were producing in agriculture. The presence of Japanese in San Francisco can still be seen  in the Japanese Garden in Golden Gate Park, the gardener of which was interned during WWII.


Optional
1)
For a personal account of being interned, read Reiko Oshima Komoto's essay.
[For permission to reproduce this essay, contact Professor Cary Komoto, Geography, UW-Barron County, ckomoto@uwc.edu.]
2) Read Martha Bridegam's Fear Itself: Tanforan and Public Memory. A mall stands on the former site of a racetrack where, in 1942, some 7,800 Bay Area people of Japanese descent were imprisoned by the U.S. government as potential saboteurs. They were held there, living in horse stables under primitive conditions, for four to five months. Then nearly all were taken by guarded trains to wait out the war behind barbed wire in the alkali desert of Topaz, Utah.
3)
Watch the video, Come See the Paradise, about a West-Coast Japanese-American family before and during World War II. They had 7 days to leave their homes and business and they could only take 70 pounds each to the "camps" -- more like outdoor prisons! A powerful and moving personal and political film, very relevant today with Congress passing anti-democratic and anti-constitutional laws such as the 340-page USA Patriot Act, establishing a Homeland Security Department, and authorizing the President to preemptively invade Iraq.

 

Created by Ingolf Vogeler on 1 June 1996; last revised on March 27, 2014.