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Japanese American Internment Camps During WWII

April 19, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 204

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 that authorized the Secretary of War to declare regions of the United States as military areas, "from which any or all persons may be excluded." The results of this rather cryptic order was the mass relocation of approximately 110,00 Japanese Americans living along the Pacific Coast.

For President's Day weekend, I managed through the crush of traffic in Los Angeles, but the frustration was well worth the trip; I got to spend time in Little Tokyo. It's a quiet reprieve nestled next to downtown LA that has a pedestrian walkway filled with restaurants, a bakery, a cafe and hanging paper lanterns. It's also home to the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy as well as the Japanese American National Museum.

The Museum, in particular, has a resource center with more than 60,000 artifacts that include photographs, diaries, personal papers, movies, and even clothing from the early plantation workers. The exhibition halls cover the history of the internment camps, including the Notice of Exclusion flyer that ordered Japanese-Americans to evacuate their homes. Volunteer docents also talk to visitors about their personal experiences during WWII.

Mr. Tohru Isube shared his own internment camp experience with me. Now 85 years old, he recalled how in 1942 the FBI came into his home and questioned his father. Soon thereafter, he and his whole family packed a bag and left his birthplace in Southern California. He was first transported to the transitional camp of Santa Anita along with 18,000 other Japanese Americans.

From Santa Anita, Mr. Isube was put on a train for three days until he arrived at an internment camp in Wyoming. There he stayed for three years in rudimentary living conditions. The barracks had communal toilets, cots, and a small heating stove in the middle. Today, the museum has a re-creation of the barracks Mr. Isube remembers well. The internees ate in mess halls and didn't know when they would be able to leave. Women, children, the elderly, and even those who served in the United States Armed Forces during WWI were internees. At the end of the war, Mr. Isube was released He returned to Southern California only to find that his home and his belongings were gone.

In addition to the internment camp history, the Japanese American National Museum has many rooms with works by modern Japanese-American artists. The Drawing the Line: Japanese American Art, Design & Activism in Post-War Los Angeles exhibits a photograph of a woman with her lips pressed into a glass window. The caption above her reads: "Do you hear me?"

While the Japanese-American community has bounced back-Little Tokyo is a wonderful example of a thriving area in LA-the memory of internment still festers as a wound. Each year, the Japanese American National Museum commemorates the day of the Executive Order. Mr. Isube volunteers his time in order to make people aware of how easily our freedoms can be taken away.

To find out more about notable places to visit in California, visit

Source: EzineArticles
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