Japanese internment camps in America Allison, Keaton, & Jake

It was common for people to put up discriminating signs up against Japanese.

How did it start?

Two months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order (Executive Order 9066) making all the Japanese evacuate the west coast. Americans were on board because they were scared that the Japanese, even those born in the U.S, would stay loyal to their country and sabotage the U.S government. 120,000 Japanese people were put in one of ten strategically placed internment camps.

Executive Order 9066

What was it like?

The camps were located in places where no one lived, like swamps, desserts and other unpopulated areas. They liked to play baseball and this was very important to them. Some joined the U.S. army because they didn't want to be put in camps. They lived in a small blocks, like a horse stall, that did not have any plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind. 4,724 Japanese died in the camps.

Families were not separated, even in the camps.

How did it end?

In 1944, Korematsu vs. United States was a Japanese man - lying to be a Mexican American - who testified against the camps and the government claiming it was unconstitutional. Although the courts did find it to be unconstitutional, they decided the risk of espionage was greater than violating one group's constitutional rights. This decision is known to be the American Supreme Court's worst decision ever. In 1995 the government made the camps shut down because this was unconstitutional. Upon leaving, the survivors were given a bus ticket home and 25 dollars. In 1988, Ronald Reagan tried to apologize by giving each survivor 20,000 dollars, but by that time nearly half of them had passed.

Fred Korematsu

Facts - In numbers

In 1943, the government began handing out surveys to anyone 17 or older. The survey was used to determine who was loyal to the U.S. and who wasn't. If you were deemed loyal, you got released.

The government estimated that these people's financial losses added up to be close to $400,000,000 because they were forced to sell everything before being moved to the camps. Businesses were sold for a fraction of their value and whatever money they had, they could use in the camps to better their living space, clothing, or food.

In the beginning, the camps were called "concentration camps" because Americans thought Germany was doing the same thing with the Jews. After Americans learned what really happned in Nazi concentration camps, they changed the name to "internment camps."

Map of the United States Internment Camps

First-Hand Account

Interviewee: Mieko Shintani

Interviewers: Dilian Guardado, Susanna Arakelyan, Nicole Elkin, and Daniel Rabaso

Mieko stated many times that the camps weren't horrible conditions, but they weren't the best. She says that it was rare to see families split up, but seeing close neighbors and friends in camp was sometimes hard to manage. Most communities were split up. Although she wasn't captured in the very beginning, she remembered her family telling her stories about how the camps weren't fully completed yet so the Japanese were forced to stay in temporary barracks. She doesn't remember much about getting to the camp - she was too little - she does, however, remember that her parents were stressed and everything was a huge rush.


Sadly, Americans were too scared to help. No one wanted to, they all believed that any person with any Japanese ancestry was communicating with the Japanese government to attack the United States. The very few people not scared of that was scared of getting killed. Anyone who escaped was shot on the spot and no one wanted to risk it. Even today you still see some discrimination against Japanese-Americans, especially the older generation, some things never change.


The Japanese Internment camps in America are not a common subject covered in American classrooms. We seem to try to cover up this scuff in our past because our country has finally realized that what we did was wrong. Even American History books tend to leave out most details about what happened. In our books provided by the schools there is under half a page dedicated to Japanese Internment Camps.


The Japanese camps in America were nothing like that of those in Germany. We should definitely share more about this to show that Germany was in the wrong yes but we are not perfect either. Do mass genocides exist today? Well most of the world didn't know the extent of German concentration camps until after the war, so really yes. There could be underground forms of mass genocide happening near us with out our knowing. If there weren't first-hand accounts of these camps, they would be a forgotten topic. We had never even heard of them until a few weeks ago in history class we talked about how it is a covered part of American history. It is important that we keep this topic alive to spread awareness to make sure nothing like this will happen again.

Works Cited

"Countries at Risk." Genocide Watch. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.

"Did the United States put its own citizens in concentration camps during WWII?" HowStuffWorks. N.p., 07 May 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

Guardado, Dilian, Susanna Arakelyan, Nicole Elkin, and Daniel Rabaso. "Interview." Japanese- American Internment Camps. Nicole Elkin Daniel Rabaso , 11 May 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

"Historical Overview of the Japanese American Internment." Historical Overview of the Japanese American Internment. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

History.com Staff. "Japanese-American Relocation." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

"Korematsu v. United States (1944)." US Conlawpedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

"Timeline." Japanese-American Internment Camps. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

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