cover image

Internment of Japanese Americans

World War II mass incarceration in the United States / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Dear Wikiwand AI, let's keep it short by simply answering these key questions:

Can you list the top facts and stats about Japanese American Internment?

Summarize this article for a 10 years old


During World War II, the United States forcibly relocated and incarcerated at least 125,284 people of Japanese descent in 75 identified incarceration sites.[5][6] Most lived on the Pacific Coast, in concentration camps in the western interior of the country. Approximately two-thirds of the inmates were United States citizens.[7] These actions were initiated by president Franklin D. Roosevelt via an executive order.[8]

Quick facts: Date, Location, Cause, Outcome, Inquiries...
Internment of Japanese Americans
Clockwise from top left:
DateFebruary 19, 1942 – March 20, 1946[1][2][3]
LocationWestern United States,
and parts of Midwestern and Southern United States[4]
CauseAttack on Pearl Harbor
OutcomePassage of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988
InquiriesCommission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (1983)
PrisonersBetween 110,000 and 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast
1,200 to 1,800 living in Hawaii

Of the 127,000 Japanese Americans who were living in the continental United States at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, 112,000 resided on the West Coast.[9] About 80,000 were Nisei (literal translation: 'second generation'; American-born Japanese with U.S. citizenship) and Sansei ('third generation', the children of Nisei). The rest were Issei ('first generation') immigrants born in Japan who were ineligible for U.S. citizenship under U.S. law.[10]

Japanese Americans were placed in concentration camps based on local population concentrations and regional politics. More than 112,000 Japanese Americans who were living on the West Coast were incarcerated in camps which were located in its interior. In Hawaii (which was under martial law), where more than 150,000 Japanese Americans comprised over one-third of the territory's population, only 1,200 to 1,800 were incarcerated.[11] California defined anyone with 116th or more Japanese lineage as a person who should be incarcerated.[12] Colonel Karl Bendetsen, the architect of the program, went so far as to say that anyone with "one drop of Japanese blood" qualified for incarceration.[13]

Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9066, issued two months after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. The order allowed regional military commanders to designate "military areas" from which "any or all persons may be excluded."[14] Although the executive order did not mention Japanese Americans, this authority was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were required to leave Alaska[15] and the military exclusion zones from all of California and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Arizona, with the exception of those inmates who were being held in government camps.[16] The detainees were not only people of Japanese ancestry, they also included a relatively small number—though still totaling well over ten thousand—of people of German and Italian ancestry as well as Germans who were expelled from Latin America and deported to the U.S.[17]:124[18] Approximately 5,000 Japanese Americans relocated outside the exclusion zone before March 1942,[19] while some 5,500 community leaders had been arrested immediately after the Pearl Harbor attack and thus were already in custody.[20]

The United States Census Bureau assisted the incarceration efforts by providing specific individual census data on Japanese Americans. The Bureau denied its role for decades despite scholarly evidence to the contrary,[21] and its role became more widely acknowledged by 2007.[22][23] In its 1944 decision Korematsu v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the removals under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution.[24] The Court limited its decision to the validity of the exclusion orders, avoiding the issue of the incarceration of U.S. citizens without due process, but ruled on the same day in Ex parte Endo that a loyal citizen could not be detained, which began their release.[25][26] The day before the Korematsu and Endo rulings were made public, the exclusion orders were rescinded.[27] Japanese Americans were initially barred from military service, but by 1943, they were allowed to join, with 20,000 serving during the war.[28] Over 4,000 students were allowed to leave the camps to attend college.[29]

At the time, Japanese incarceration was intended to mitigate a security risk which Japanese Americans were believed to pose. The scale of the incarceration in proportion to the size of the Japanese American population far surpassed similar measures undertaken against German and Italian Americans who numbered in the millions and of whom some thousands were interned, most of these non-citizens.[30][31] Relocation was popularly supported at the time. According to a March 1942 poll conducted by the American Institute of Public Opinion, 93% of Americans supported the relocation of Japanese non-citizens from the Pacific Coast whereas only 1% opposed it. According to the same poll, 59% supported the relocation of Japanese people who were born in the country and were United States citizens, whereas 25% opposed it.[32]

In the 1970s, under mounting pressure from the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and redress organizations,[33] President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into concentration camps had been justified by the government. He appointed the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to investigate the camps. In 1983, the Commission's report, Personal Justice Denied, found little evidence of Japanese disloyalty at the time and concluded that the incarceration had been the product of racism. It recommended that the government pay reparations to the detainees. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which officially apologized for the incarceration on behalf of the U.S. government and authorized a payment of $20,000 (equivalent to $49,000 in 2022) to each former detainee who was still alive when the act was passed. The legislation admitted that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."[34] By 1992, the U.S. government eventually disbursed more than $1.6 billion (equivalent to $3.96 billion in 2022) in reparations to 82,219 Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated.[33][35]