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Japanese American Internment Camps

Updated on August 24, 2014

The Sad Beginning

On December 7, 1941 the Japanese launched a secret attack on a sleeping United States in Pearl Harbor. Killing more than 2,000 Americans in their deceitful and cowardly attack Japan woke a sleeping giant and brought America into World War II. At the time of the surprise attack Japan was pretending to be completing peace talks with the United States while during the entirety of the talks was planning an imminent attack on Pearl Harbor.

After the severe and catastrophic blow in Pearl Harbor America had many honorable moments. However, there are a few moments which Americans were not as noble as they should have been. American citizens let their fear get the best of them and our nation took innocent American civilians out of their homes and communities and relocated them into internment camps. With the fear of Japan and what happened in Pearl Harbor growing, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942 that stated that any American citizen with Japanese decent who is living in America must be placed in an internment camp. Some of the people placed in the camps had never even been to Japan. Some were even World War I veterans who fought for America only years earlier.

The Internment Camps

Over 127,000 U.S. citizens with Japanese decent were forced from their homes, their jobs, their businesses, and their communities and placed in internment camps in the west coast of the United States. As stated before some of the people placed in the internment camps had never been to Japan, they were born and raised in America, and in many cases some of the citizens had served in World War I fighting for America.


More than half of the 127,000 citizens jailed in the internment camps were children and many families were split apart from one another and forced to live in different camps and not allowed to see or communicate with each other. The citizens who were forced to move to the internment camps were also forced to sell their homes, possessions, and businesses. Since everything was very rushed, the Japanese Americans did not receive fair value for their property and belongings.


It is important to know that not every single Japanese American was placed in internment camps. There were areas in the country where the military found that it would beneficial that certain citizens of specific backgrounds should be excluded from. This ended up being 1/3 of the United States and if a Japanese American lived in these excluded areas they were removed and placed in internment camps.

Camp Locations

There were oer 65 different camps in the United States used to detain, relocate, or house American citizens who were seen has having the possibility to be a spy for another nation. Many of the camps were located in California but also were in the following states: Arizona, Wisconsin, Idaho, Kansas, Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Florida, New Mexico, Utah, Texas, Montana, Wyoming, Oregon, and Arkansas. Japanese Americans were not the only citizens detained there were also citizens of German and Italian decent who were detained.


Many of the camp locations were on Native American reservations. The Native Americans were paid a price for the usage of their land for the internment camps.

Life in the Camps

Life in the camps was very difficult and harsh. The citizens placed in the camps were only allowed to bring along a few possessions and the clothes on their backs. They were not informed of where they were going, so many times the citizens did not have the right kind of clothing for the location of their camp. Many were placed in areas where the winters were very cold but the citizens did not have clothing suitable for the cold winters of their camp.


In fact, in most cases the citizens being relocated to the internment camps were given 48 hours or less prior to being moved from their homes to the internment camps.


The camps had armed guards posted around the perimeter of the camps and were ordered to shoot and kill anyone who tried to escape. The camps were inside the barracks with homes which were simply tar papered covered barracks of simple frame construction. There were no plumbing or cooking facilities in the barracks. There was a communal mess hall area where everyone ate together and dined on army type meals. The citizens slept on cots and had to share un-partitioned bathrooms.


Education in the camps was very poor. The tiny school houses were over crowded and there were insufficient materials. The school houses were built in a jail like manner with few windows and the children often had to deal with extreme temperatures.

The End

The internment camps were disbanded in December 18, 1944 and it wasn't until Ronald Reagan's presidency that the citizens found a tiny amount of justice. The American government paid the survivor $20,000 in restitution for the unlawful detainment of them.

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    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 2 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Why do we expect integrity from others when our own is in question?