Japanese American internment facts for kids
Quick facts for kidsJapanese American Internment
Manzanar internment camp for Japanese Americans
|Period||February 1942 – June 30, 1946|
|Cause||Attack on Pearl Harbor; racism; war hysteria|
|Total||Over 110,000 Japanese Americans, including over 66,000 U.S. citizens, forced into internment camps|
|Deaths||1,862 from disease in camps|
Japanese American internment happened during World War II, when the United States government forced about 110,000 Japanese Americans to leave their homes and live in internment camps. These were like prisons. Many of the people who were sent to internment camps had been born in the United States.
On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and declared war on the United States. Many Americans were angry, and some blamed all Japanese people for what had happened at Pearl Harbor. They spread rumors that some Japanese people knew about the attack ahead of time and had helped the Japanese military. The FBI and other parts of the United States government knew that these rumors were not true, but did not say anything.
Japanese Americans began to feel that other Americans were becoming upset with them. For example, John Hughes, a man who read the news on the radio in Los Angeles, California, spent about a month saying bad things about Japanese Americans. There were reports of businesses that had anti-Japanese signs. For example, a barber shop put up a sign saying "Free shaves for Japs" and "not responsible for accidents." A funeral home hung a sign saying "I'd rather do business with a Jap than an American."
In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This order said that people who lived in some parts of the country could be taken out of those areas for any reason. While the order did not use the exact words "Japanese Americans", people knew that those were the people who would be taken out of those areas. The areas included all of California and the western parts of Oregon, Washington, and Arizona. (See the area marked "exclusion zone" on the map on this page.) This was where most Japanese Americans lived at that time.
Japanese Americans were given only 48 hours to leave for internment camps in other states. They were only allowed to carry one bag with them, and could not bring radios or cameras.
|“||My family were Americans. We were citizens of this country. We had nothing to do with the war We simply happened to look like the people that bombed Pearl Harbor. But without charges, without trial, without due process—the [most important part] of our justice system—we were summarily rounded up, all Japanese Americans on the West Coast, where most of us lived, and sent off to 10 barb wire internment camps—prison camps, really, with [guard] towers, machine guns pointed at us.I was a five-year old, we lost everything. - George Takei||”|
Who was interned
In total, the United States forced over 110,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps.
About 80% of the Japanese-American people who lived in the continental United States were forced to leave their homes and live in internment camps. More than three out of every five of these people were born in the United States, and were United States citizens.
Most of the Japanese Americans who were interned lived in the continental United States. About 160,000 Japanese Americans lived in the state of Hawaii, but only a little over 1,000 of them were interned. Because there were so many Japanese American people living in such a small state, interning them would be almost impossible.
In the camps
There were three government agencies that ran camps. Ninety percent of the Japanese Americans were in camps run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA). Only Japanese Americans lived in the WRA camps.
Ten percent of the Japanese Americans were in mixed-race camps. These were either run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or the United States Army. Many different people were interned in INS and Army camps. These people included:
- German and Italian immigrants
- German Americans and Italian Americans
- Some refugees
- Commercial seamen from Germany and Italy whose ships were taken by the United States Navy, and passengers on those ships
WRA camps were surrounded by barbed wire. They were also guarded by soldiers who waited in watchtowers holding guns. Some people were shot. For example, James Wakasa, who stepped outside the barbed wire fence, was shot and killed. The guard who shot him said that Wakasa was trying to escape, but the Japanese Americans in the camp did not believe the guard. Most of the camps were many miles away from the coast, and often in rural areas. Many of the camps were in the desert, which was uncomfortable for many of the Japanese Americans who were not used to that type of climate. This also meant that even if somebody escaped, there would be nowhere for them to go.
In the camps, people had to stand in line to eat or to go to the bathroom.
One famous camp was Manzanar, which was in California. Many Japanese from Los Angeles and San Francisco were sent there. Other camps included Poston in Arizona and Minidoka in Idaho. There were a few camps outside of the western U.S., such as Jerome in Arkansas. Japanese Americans were often crowded into small spaces, such as race tracks, before being sent to the camps.
The camps tried to provide medical care. Many of the people who worked in the camp hospitals were Japanese American doctors and nurses who lived in the internment camps. However, there were not enough doctors and nurses, and not enough medical supplies. Also, conditions at the camps helped cause some diseases. For example:
- Because the camps were so crowded, infectious diseases spread easily. These diseases included typhoid fever, smallpox, whooping cough, flu, diphtheria, and tuberculosis. The camps could give vaccines to prevent some of these illnesses, like typhoid fever and smallpox, but not others.
- Bad sanitation caused outbreaks of food poisoning at many camps.
- At camps in the desert, there was so much dust that people with asthma and breathing problems got worse.
- At camps in Arkansas, people got malaria from mosquitoes.
A total of 1,862 people died from medical problems while in the internment camps. About one out of every 10 of these people died from tuberculosis.
The End of Internment
By 1943, the government allowed some Japanese Americans to leave the camps to work or go to school. However, the government would not let them return to the West Coast. Some Japanese Americans were even allowed to serve as soldiers in the U.S. Army, and many served with honor in Europe.
In 1944, the United States government said that it would stop putting Japanese Americans in internment camps. The people who were placed in the camps were given $25 and a bus ticket home. However, it would take more than 40 years for the government to apologize to Japanese Americans for what had happened. In 1988, the government said it was sorry and paid $20,000 to people who had been sent to internment camps. Canada paid $21,000.
Images for kids
Eleanor Roosevelt at the Gila River Relocation Center, April 23, 1943
A baseball game at Manzanar. Picture by Ansel Adams c. 1943
A Japanese American grocer put up these signs just before his internment
Heart Mountain Relocation Center, in Wyoming
Growing spinach at Tule Lake Relocation Center, a high-security center for people who "caused problems"
Graveyard at Granada Relocation Center in Colorado (1945)
Japanese American internment Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.