How would you like to be forced out of your home and sent to a camp where there wasn't good food or medical supplies? Not very much, right? Well about 110,000 Japanese Americans were taken from their homes and sent to internment camps during World War II.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7,1941, the United States entered into World War II. Many Americans were afraid of Japanese Americans because Japanese pilots had killed many Americans at Pearl Harbor. President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued executive order 9066. This order was for Japanese-Americans to be forced into internment camps. They were sent to the camps because the Americans didn't know if Japanese Americans were on the Japanese side or the American side of WWII.
These camps were out in the deserts, because that way they were far away from the big cities. There were ten camps in all. They were located in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming. Over 120,000 Japanese were evacuated from their homes in America and put in these internment camps.
The internment camps were very different than the nice homes that many of the Japanese were forced to leave. The camps had very little space considering how many people were in them. Each shack was only 20 by 25 feet and could have up to eight people living in it. There was no plumbing, stoves or heat. The Japanese slept under as many blankets as they could find. They were fed by other Japanese that lived there in a cafeteria that held 250-300 people. Many people died because of poor medical supplies.
Even though the conditions were bad, they made the best they could of the camps. In the Manzanar camp in California, they were able to grow many different kinds of fruits and vegetables and even began to make soy sauce and tofu during the three years they were there.
Some of the Japanese Americans proved that they were loyal to America by volunteering to enter the American Army. About 1,200 internees joined the military. Many of them were injured or even killed while fighting for America, while their families were still living in the camps. The people living in the camps helped out by making camouflage netting for the military.
Was it Necessary?
The camps were closed in 1945 and the Japanese were released. The camps were closed because the Americans realized they made a mistake and saw how loyal the people in the camps were, especially the ones who volunteered for the military. In 1948, the government gave each person that was released from the camp up to $2,500. This doesn’t seem fair because they spent three years in the camps and many lost their homes, farms and businesses.
Later, in 1980, two state representatives sponsored a bill to try to award more money to the survivors that were still alive. It was finally passed in 1988 and the survivors were awarded $20,000.
"May the injustice and humiliation suffered here as a result of hysteria, racism and economic exploitation never emerge again."
This is a quote from a historical marker at the Manzanar camp in California.