Japanese American Incarceration During World War II
In the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and decades of discrimination against Asian Americans, President Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066 (EO 9066) on February 19, 1942. This order followed the Department of Justice’s initial arrest of Japanese American community leaders and individuals deemed potential threats to national security. Ultimately, EO 9066 lead to the mass removal of nearly 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent from western Washington and Oregon, southern Arizona, and all of California. This action by the government against Japanese Americans is often referred to as "internment."
Those removed from the West Coast were sent to incarceration camps (officially called Relocation Centers) located in remote and often inhospitable sections of the nation’s interior. Many living in the camps worked on projects to improve local infrastructure or worked on land reclamation projects. In addition, many provided farm labor at a time when the war effort taxed America’s resources.
In 1943, the U.S. military expanded the draft to the camp populations. While many opposed military service based on the injustice of the West Coast exclusion, others felt it an opportunity to improve the standing of Japanese Americans in the eyes of other Americans. In this way, the draft proved to be a source of pride and controversy amongst those incarcerated.
The War Relocation Authority, the agency governing the camps, attempted to decrease the population by encouraging resettlement to areas outside the restricted zones along the West Coast and southern Arizona starting in 1943. Ultimately, the West Coast ban in 1944 served as the lynchpin to decreasing the population of the camps. Between the summer of 1944 and the spring of 1946, all ten relocation camps run by the War Relocation Authority closed its doors.
This digital collection of materials related to the Japanese American incarceration revolves around a handful of collections donated by individuals and families closely tied to the internment experience. The collections listed below compliment the George and Frank C. Hirahara Collection, which is comprised largely of photographs taken when the Hirahara family was interned at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in northwest Wyoming.
Tom (Terumi) Hide was incarcerated at Heart Mountain Relocation Center from 1942-1944. His family was removed from Wapato, Washington (near Yakima) to the North Portland Assembly Center before moving on to Heart Mountain. During those years, Hide graduated from Heart Mountain High School and worked in Lyman, Nebraska, where his family was assigned to serve as farm laborers. Tom Hide’s older brother Makio (Mike) served in the military during World War II. After graduating from Heart Mountain High School in 1944, Tom attended Washington State College from 1944-1948. The materials posted online include photographs taken at Heart Mountain, Lyman, Nebraska, and Washington State College. It also includes pamphlets about internment published during World War II.
The Takeda family was incarcerated at Heart Mountain Relocation Center from 1942-1943. Prior to their removal from the West Coast, the Takeda family lived in Los Angeles, California. In 1943, the Takeda’s were granted leave from Heart Mountain after Shiro Takeda was hired as an instructor at the U.S. Navy Japanese Language School in Boulder, Colorado. The materials posted online include photographs taken at Heart Mountain and several documents collected in a scrapbook revolving around Shiro Takeda’s service to the United States during World War II.
The Okubara family was incarcerated at Grenada Relocation Center (in southeast Colorado). Prior to their removal from the West Coast, the Okubara family lived in Mill Valley, California. Mokoto (Sam) Okubara served in the military from 1945-1952, serving as a language instructor in Postwar Japan. The materials posted online include a suitcase Tora Okubara used at Granada Relocation Center.
George McIntyre supervised the motor pool for the Minidoka Relocation Center (in southern Idaho). The materials posted online include several photos from Minidoka Relocation Center illustrating the labor involved in maintaining the camp.
The Heart Mountain Relocation Center Quarterly Census contains a list of those interned at Heart Mountain at the time of the census, as well as each internee’s barrack number, age, marital status, and family number.
Thanks to Lauren Loftis who performed the digitization and much of the metadata creation, Cindy Ellis who provided technical support with ContentDM, Trevor Bond, Greg Matthews, Mark O'English, and Doug Lambeth for their input and advice. The project was funded by a grant from the National Park Service and supervised by Steve Bingo.