Chronology of Japanese-American Internment

Japanese-American farmers
The U.S. Census reports that 126,947 Japanese lived in the United States, sixty percent of them native born citizens. Nine out of ten lived in three Pacific coast states, three-quarters in California. Another 150,000 people of Japanese ancestry live in Hawaii, amounting to 37 percent of the population. Almost 80 percent were native born.


Aug. 18
In a letter to President Roosevelt, Representative John Dingell of Michigan suggests incarcerating 10,000 Hawaiian Japanese Americans as hostages to ensure "good behavior" on the part of Japan.
Nov. 12
Fifteen Japanese American businessmen and community leaders in Los Angeles Little Tokyo are picked up in an F.B.I. raid. A spokesman for the Central Japanese Association states: "We teach the fundamental principles of America and the high ideals of American democracy. We want to live here in peace and harmony. Our people are 100% loyal to America."
Dec. 7
Japan attacks the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and American military facilities in the Philippines, Guam, and Midway Island.
Dec. 8

The United States declares war on Japan.

Frank Biddle became Attorney general in September, 1941.
Frank Biddle became Attorney General in September, 1941

The Attorney General announces that the FBI is detaining a select group of Japanese aliens who are regarded as “dangerous to the peace and security” of the nation.

He states that only a small number of Japanese aliens would be arrested and warned against a tendency to consider all Japanese aliens in the United States as enemies.

By Dec. 11, 1941, 1200 Japanese aliens had been arrested.

The government closes the United States’s borders to all enemy aliens and to all people of Japanese ancestry, whether alien or citizen.
Dec. 11
The Army creates the Western Defense Command, which is given the responsibility of defending the Pacific Coast of the United States.
Dec. 30
The Attorney General of the United States authorizes raids without a search warrant on the homes of people of Japanese descent provided that at least one resident is a Japanese alien.
Jan. 28
The Roberts Commission report about the Pearl Harbor attack alleges without documentation that espionage agents in Hawaii, including Japanese-American citizens, helped the Japanese naval force that attacked Pearl Harbor.

Feb. 10

Secretary of War Henry Stimson
Henry Stimson

Secretary of War Henry Stimson writes in his diary: "The second generation Japanese can only be evacuated either as part of a total evacuation, giving access to the areas only by permits, or by frankly trying to put them out on the ground that their racial characteristics are such that we cannot understand or even trust the citizen Japanese. This latter is the fact but I am afraid it will make a tremendous hole in our constitutional system to apply it."

Attorney General Francis Biddle is advised by agency lawyers that removal of people of Japanese descent from Pacific Coast areas would be a legal exercise of the President's war powers.

Feb. 11
Secretary of War Henry Stimson calls President Roosevelt and recommends the mass evacuation of people of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast area. Roosevelt tells Stimson to do whatever he believes is necessary.
Feb. 12
Columnist Walter Lippmann publishes a nationally syndicated column in which he says, "The Pacific Coast is in imminent danger of a combined attack from within and from without". The Japanese navy has been reconnoitering the coast more or less continuously. The Pacific Coast is officially a combat zone; some part of it may at any moment be a battlefield. Nobody's constitutional rights include the right to reside and do business on a battlefield. And nobody ought to be on a battlefield who has no good reason for being there."
Feb. 13
Members of Congress from the Pacific Coast send President Roosevelt a letter in which they recommend the "immediate evacuation of all persons of Japanese lineage" aliens and citizens alike from the entire strategic area of California, Washington, and Oregon.
Feb. 14
The U. S. Army’s Western Defense Command sends a memorandum to the Secretary of War recommending the evacuation of “Japanese and other subversive persons” from the Pacific Coast area.
Feb. 19
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9066, which empowers the Secretary of War or any military commander authorized by him to designate “military areas” and exclude “any and all persons” from them. Shortly before signing the Executive Order, the President received a memorandum from his advisers which said, “In time of national peril, any reasonable doubt must be resolved in favor of action to preserve the national safety, not for the purpose of punishing those whose liberty may be temporarily affected by such action, but for the purpose of protecting the freedom of the nation, which may be long impaired, if not permanently lost, by nonaction.”
Feb. 23
A Japanese submarine shells an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, California, causing little damage. A submarine launched aircraft dropped two incendiary bombs in the forest near Brookings, Oregon on Sept. 9, 1942, and another two bombs were dropped by the same aircraft in the Oregon forest about three weeks later. Neither bombing caused significant damage. These four incidents are the only authenticated Japanese attacks on the American mainland during World War II.
Feb. 25
The Navy informs Japanese American residents of Terminal Island near Los Angeles Harbor that they must leave in 48 hours. They are the first group to be removed en masse.
Feb. 27
Idaho Governor Chase Clark tells a congressional committee in Seattle that Japanese would be welcome in Idaho only if they were in "concentration camps under military guard.
Mar. 2
The Western Defense Command issues a proclamation which designates the western halves of California, Oregon, and Washington, and the southern third of Arizona as a military area and states that all persons of Japanese descent are to be removed from this area.
Mar. 18
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9102, which establishes the War Relocation Authority (WRA) within the Department for Emergency Management. The WRA is empowered “to provide for the removal from designated areas of persons whose removal is necessary in the interests of national security….” The WRA is further empowered to provide for evacuees’ relocation and their needs, to supervise their activities, and to provide for their useful employment. Milton S. Eisenhower is named director of the WRA.
Mar. 21
President Roosevelt signs Public Law 77-503, which makes it a federal crime for a person ordered to leave a military area to refuse to do so.

Mar. 22

Lone Pine, California. Soldiers assist elderly evacuee of Japanese descent leave car steps in transfer to War Relocation Authority center at Manzanar. Photo: Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. Source: National Archives.

The first removal of people of Japanese descent from the designated Pacific Coast area occurs. The people are from the Los Angeles area; they are sent to the Manzanar relocation center in northeastern California. The center comprises a 6000 acre site, enclosed by barbed wire fencing, and within that site a 560 acre residential site with guard towers, search lights, and machine gun installations. During the next eighteen months, about 120,000 people of Japanese descent are removed from the Pacific Coast area to ten relocation centers in California, Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Arkansas.
Mar. 24
The first Civilian Exclusion Order issued by the Army is issued for the Bainbridge Island area near Seattle. The forty-five families there are given one week to prepare. By the end of Oct., 108 exclusion orders would be issued, and all Japanese Americans in Military Area No. 1 and the California portion of No. 2 would be incarcerated.
Mar. 27 to 30
The Western Defense Command issues proclamations which severely restrict the movements of persons of Japanese descent in the Pacific Coast military area, and which prohibit them from leaving the military area.
Mar. 28
Minoru Yasui walks into a Portland police station at 11:20 p.m. to present himself for arrest in order to test the curfew regulations in court.

Apr. 7

Dust storm at this War Relocation Authority center where evacuees of Japanese ancestry are spending the duration, July 3, 1942. Photo: Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. Source: National Archives.

A meeting of WRA officials with representatives of eleven western states convenes in Salt Lake City, Utah. The representatives for the most part express distrust of and dislike for the people of Japanese descent who were being evacuated to their states. The WRA concludes that, because of this hostile local opinion, the evacuees from the Pacific Coast must be housed in evacuation camps guarded by the Army. During the meeting, the governor of Wyoming told the director of the WRA, “If you bring Japanese into my state, I promise you they will be hanging from every tree.”
May 13
Forty-five-year-old Ichiro Shimoda, a Los Angeles gardener who is mentally ill, is shot to death by guards while trying to escape from Fort Still (Oklahoma) internment camp
May 16
Hikoji Takeuchi, a Nisei, is shot and wounded by a guard at Manzanar
WRA administrators divide the people of Japanese descent in the Pacific Coast military zone into three categories: (1) Issei, immigrant Japanese born in Japan (about 40,000 in the military zone); (2) Nisei, American born and educated children of Issei parents (about 63,000 in the military zone); and (3) Kibei, American born but educated wholly or partly in Japan (about 9,000 in the military zone). A fourth category was Sansei, second generation American born, the children of the Nisei (about 4,500 in the military zone).
The WRA begins releasing college students, agricultural laborers, and linguists from the relocation centers on a temporary basis.
The movie "Little Tokyo, U.S.A.," released by Twentieth Century Fox, portrays Japanese Americans as a "vast army of volunteer spies" and "blind worshippers of their Emperor.”
June 17
Dillon S. Myer is named director of the WRA, succeeding Milton S. Eisenhower. Myer served as director until the agency’s program is shut down in 1946.
June 21
A Japanese submarine shells the Oregon coast, causing little damage.
July 27
Two Issei -- Brawley, CA farmer Toshiro Kobata and San Pedro fisherman Hirota Isomura -- are shot to death by camp guards at Lourdsburg, New Mexico enemy alien internment camp
Aug. 4
A routine search for contraband at the Santa Anita "Assembly Center" turns into a riot.
Aug. 7
The Western Defense Command announces the completion of its removal of people of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast military area.



The WRA decides that its purpose must be to resettle the evacuees in new homes well outside the Pacific Coast military area, not to detain them indefinitely in the relocation centers. By the end of 1944, about 30,000 evacuees had been resettled in new homes, primarily in states such as Illinois, Colorado, Ohio, Utah, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York.
Nov. 14
An attack on a man considered an informer results in the arrest of two popular inmates at Poston and mushrooms into a mass strike.
Dec. 5
After Fred Tayama is attacked by a group of inmates at Manzanar, the arrest of Harry Ueno for the crime triggers a mass uprising.
The number of evacuees at relocation centers peaks at about 107,000.
Feb. 1
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is activated, made up entirely of Japanese Americans.
Mar. 11
The director of the WRA sends a letter to the Secretary of War in which he recommends an immediate relaxation of the exclusion order against persons of Japanese descent. In a letter of May 10, 1943, the Secretary of War said he would not consider the WRA director’s recommendation until the “vicious, well-organized, pro-Japanese minority group[s]” were removed from the relocation centers.
Apr. 11
James Hatsuki Wakasa, a sixty-three-year-old chef, is shot to death by a sentry at Heart Mountain camp while allegedly trying to escape through a fence

May 14

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. An evacuee resting on his cot after moving his belongings into this bare barracks room. An army cot and mattress are the only things furnished by the government. All personal belongings were brought by the evacuees, April 2, 1942. Photo: Department of the Interior. War Relocation Authority. Source: National Archives.

Dillon S. Myer, director of the War Relocation Authority, issues a statement which says that the relocation centers:

“are undesirable institutions and should be removed from the American scene as soon as possible. Life in a relocation center is an unnatural and un-American sort of life. Keep in mind that the evacuees were charged with nothing except having Japanese ancestors; yet the very fact of their confinement in relocation centers fosters suspicion of their loyalties and adds to their discouragement. It has added weight to the contentions of the enemy [the Empire of Japan] that we are fighting a race war-that this nation preaches democracy and practices racial discrimination.”

The United States Supreme Court rules unanimously in Hirabayashi v. United States that a Japanese-American citizen must obey the curfew regulations promulgated by the Western Defense Command. One of the concurring opinions notes that “Today is the first time, so far as I am aware, that we have sustained a substantial restriction of the personal liberty of citizens of the United States based on the accident or race or ancestry…. It bears a melancholy resemblance to the treatment accorded to [Jews] in Germany.”
Ca. June
The Tule Lake relocation center is selected as the place where evacuees perceived to be loyal to Japan rather than to the United States, often on very imperfect evidence, are to be segregated. About 9,000 evacuees were moved to Tule Lake from the other nine relocation centers in Sept. and Oct., 1943. The center eventually housed about 18,000 evacuees.
An uprising at Tule Lake caps a month of strife. Tension had been high since the administration had fired 43 coal workers involved in a labor dispute on Oct. 7.
Jan. 1
The number of evacuees at relocation centers is about 93,000.
Jan. 14
Nisei eligibility for the draft is restored.
Jan. 26
At Heart Mountain camp, the Fair Play Committee is formally organized to support draft resistance.
Feb. 16
President Franklin D. Roosevelt issues Executive Order 9423, transferring the WRA from the Office for Emergency Management to the Department of the Interior in response to disturbances on Nov. 1 through 4 at the Tule Lake segregation center.
Mar. 20
Forty-three Japanese American soldiers are arrested for refusing to participate in combat training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, as a protest of treatment of their families in U.S. camps. Eventually, 106 are arrested for their refusal. Twenty-one are convicted and serve prison time before being paroled in 1946.
May 10
A Federal Grand Jury issues indictments against 63 Heart Mountain draft resistors. The 63 are found guilty and sentenced to jail terms on June 26. They would be granted a pardon on Dec. 24, 1947.
May 24
Shoichi James Okamoto is shot to death at Tule Lake.
June 30
The first of the ten relocation centers is closed.
July 1
President Roosevelt signs Public Law 78-405, called the Denaturalization Act of 1944, which creates a procedure whereby American citizens may lose their citizenship in time or war by renouncing it in writing. In late 1944 and early 1945, about 5,500 evacuees at the Tule Lake segregation center made application to renounce their American citizenship under the provisions of Public Law 78-405.
July 21
Seven members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee are arrested, along with journalist James Omura. Their trial for "unlawful conspiracy to counsel, aid and abet violators of the draft" begins on Oct. 23. All but Omura would eventually be found guilty.
Nov. 21
President Roosevelt says at a press conference that “a good deal of progress has been made in scattering [evacuees] through the country, and that is going on every day…. The example I always cite…is the…county…in [which] probably half a dozen or a dozen families could be scattered around on the farms and worked into the community.”
Dec. 18
The director of the WRA announces that all relocation centers will be closed by the end of 1945, and that the WRA’s operations will be ended by June 30, 1946.
Dec. 18
In Korematsu vs. United States, the Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of people from certain areas by the Secretary of War or military commanders designated by him. The court finds the Executive Order and the actions it authorizes to be a constitutional exercise of the President’s war powers.
In Ex Parte Endo, issued the same day, the court rules that Executive Orders 9066 and 9102 cannot be construed to give the WRA “authority to subject citizens who are concededly loyal” to detention in a relocation center.
Jan. 1
The number of evacuees at relocation centers is about 80,000.
Jan. 8
The packing shed of the Doi family is burned and dynamited and shots are fired into their home. The family had been the first to return to California from Amache and the first to return to Placer County, having arrived three days earlier. Although several men are arrested and confess to the acts, all would be acquitted. Some 30 similar incidents would greet other Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast between Jan. and June.
May 14
The Secretary of the Interior publicly denounces violent intimidation of Japanese Americans.
July 13
The director of the WRA announces that all relocation centers, except the one at Tule Lake, California, will be closed on scheduled dates between Oct. 15 and Dec. 15, 1945.
Aug. 1
The number of evacuees at relocation centers is about 58,000.
Aug. 14
Japan surrenders. Japan signed the formal instrument of surrender on Sept. 2, 1945.
Sept. 4
The Western Defense Command issues a proclamation revoking all exclusion orders and military restrictions against persons of Japanese descent.
Oct. and Nov., 1945
Eight of the remaining nine relocation centers close.
Dec. 1
The number of evacuees at the Tule Lake segregation center, the last of the WRA centers to remain in operation, is about 12,500.
Mar. 20
The Tule Lake segregation center is closed. About half of all evacuees released from the relocation centers returned to the Pacific Coast area; most of the remainder settled in other parts of the country.
Apr. 24
The Truman administration sends to Congress proposed legislation which would establish an Evacuation Claims Commission to adjudicate claims against the United States for losses suffered by evacuees as a result of their removal from their homes and detention in relocation centers.
June 26
President Harry S. Truman signs Executive Order 9742, which terminates the WRA effective June 30, 1946.
July 15
The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is received on the White House lawn by President Truman. "You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice -- and you have won," remarks the president.
In Oyama v. California, the Supreme Court struck down the Alien Land Laws as violations of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Evacuation Claims Act authorized payment to Japanese Americans who suffered economic loss during imprisonment: with the necessary proof, 10 cents was returned for every $1.00 lost
Feb. 2
President Truman sends to Congress a special message on civil rights in which he requests legislation to settle claims against the government by the 110,000 people of Japanese descent who were evacuated from their homes during World War II.
July 2
President Truman signs the Japanese-American Claims Act, which authorizes the settlement of property loss claims by people of Japanese descent who were removed from the Pacific Coast area during World War II. According to a Senate Report about the act, “The question of whether the evacuation of the Japanese people from the West Coast was justified is now moot. The government did move these people, bodily, the resulting loss was great, and the principles of justice and responsible government require that there should be compensation for such losses.” The Congress over time appropriated $38 million to settle 23,000 claims for damages totaling $131 million. The final claim was adjudicated in 1965.
Sept. 23
Congress passes, over President Truman’s veto, Public Law 81-831, which includes the Emergency Detention Act of 1950. This act authorizes the implementation of procedures, modeled on those used to incarcerate people of Japanese descent during World War II, which would be used against those, assumed to be Communists or Communist sympathizers, who might commit acts of espionage or sabotage in time or war or national emergency. Congress repealed this law in 1971.
Feb. 19
President Gerald R. Ford issues Proclamation 4417, titled “An American Promise,” on the 34th anniversary of the issuance of Executive Order 9066, which had authorized the removal of people from designated military areas. “I call upon the American people to affirm with me this American Promise,” President Ford’s proclamation reads, “that we have learned from the tragedy of that long-ago experience forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American, and resolve that this kind of action shall never again be repeated.”
A government report Personal Justice Denied concludes, “The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions which followed from it…were not driven by analysis of military conditions. The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership. Widespread ignorance of Japanese Americans contributed to a policy conceived in haste and executed in an atmosphere of fear and anger at Japan. A grave injustice was done to Americans and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who…were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.” The report recommends, among other things, that Congress apologize to the evacuees and that the United States make a tax-free payment of $20,000 to each surviving evacuee.
Aug. 10
President Ronald Reagan signs the Civil Rights Act of 1988, which includes a provision for payments of $20,000 each to surviving Japanese Americans who had been incarcerated because of their ethnicity during World War II. Japanese Americans referred to these payments as “redress” for the wrongs they suffered.
Oct. 9
Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, in a ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, DC, presents the first payments to Japanese Americans under the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1988. “Your struggle for Redress and the events that led to today,” the Attorney General said, “are the finest examples of what our country is about, and of what I have pledged to protect and defend, for your efforts have strengthened the nation’s Constitution by reaffirming the inalienability of our civil rights.”
  President Bill Clinton bestows the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Fred Korematsu, the plaintiff in Korematsu vs. United States (1944), in which the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the government’s removal of people of Japanese descent from the Pacific Coast military zone. Korematsu’s conviction had been overturned in 1984 because the government’s evidence was determined to be tainted.


This site was updated on 31-Jan-23.