Japanese-American Internment

During the opening months of World War II, the United States government imprisoned almost 120,000 Japanese Americans. Two-thirds of the people interned were citizens of the United States.

This action was fueled by fear that Americans of Japanese ancestry might commit acts of treason against the United States. So Japanese Americans were forced to leave their homes, sell much of their property at enormous losses, and move into detention/internment camps as a result of Executive Order 9066, issued by President Franklin Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. Japanese Americans in Hawaii did not suffer this same fate because they made up such a large proportion of the population of the territory of Hawaii. They did, however, suffer from discrimination throughout the war and after.

Although it is not widely discussed, it should be noted that many German American and Italian Americans were also placed in U.S. internment camps during WWII. Visit the Freedom of Information Timesfor information on the internment of German Americans.

Sample some of the following activities to learn more about Japanese internment during World War II.


Places To Go    People To See    Things To Do    Teacher Resources    Bibliography

Places To Go

The following are places to go (some real and some virtual) to find out about Japanese internment.

Camp Harmony
As Japanese-American were removed from their homes after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, many were sent to assembly centers--sort of like gathering and sorting places--and sent by trains to internment camps. Virtually visit this assembly center near Puyallup, Washington and learn about life in these temporary locations.
Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites
This site features photos, maps, and drawings of the relocation centers. It also contains intervfiew with former internees and research information about the artifacts remaining at the sites.
Manzanar - America's Concentration Camp
Virtually visit Manzanr Internment Camp near Lone Pine, California. Manzanar barracks measured 120 x 20 feet and were dividied into six one-room apartments, ranging in size from 320 to 480 square feet. Each block of 15 barracks shared bath, latrine, and mess buildings.
Marriott Library - Images from Topaz 
Travel to Topaz Internment Camp sixteen miles west of Delta, Utah. The first internees were moved into Topaz in September, 1942, and it was closed in October, 1945. At its peak, Topaz held 9,408 people in barracks of tarpaper and wood.
Relocation Camps in World War II
Virtually travel to the ten Japanese internment camps in the U.S. Read an interview with Hiroyo Kato, a 91 year old first generation Japanese immigrant and learn about her experiences at Tule Lake internment camp.
Japanese-American Internment Camps
Via these collections of photographic collections and personal remembrances, virtually visit the 10 Japanese-American internment camps that were created in the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

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People To See

442nd Regimental Combat Team
Meet the men of the the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. This Japanese-American unit was the most decorated for its size and length of service in American military history. U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye, a member of the 442nd, lost an arm in comat in World War II and won the Distinguished Service Cross, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart.
Children of the Camps
Spend time with "six Americans of Japanese ancestry who were confined as innocent children to internment camps by the U.S. government during World War II."
From Fences to Freedom 
Meet many of the former inhabitants of the Japanese-American internment camps and learn what their life was like after WWII ended. When they were able to return to their homes, most of them had lost everything that they had worked for.
George Takei
Meet George Takei. He is the actor who plays Mr. Sulu in the old Star Trek television series and also in the popular motion pictures. As a boy, Mr. Takei lived for 3 years in the Tule Lake internment camp in California and also in the Rowher camp in Arkansas.
The Life and Work of George Hoshida
George Hoshida was an artist who documented what life was like in the internment camps with his pencil and brush.

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Things To Do

Abundant Dreams Diverted
Learn about the Japanese-American population in the Seattle area during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988
Find out about redress and how Japanese American citizens were partially compensated for time spend in internment camps.
Dear Miss Breed
Read letters written by Japanese children living in the internment camps to Miss Clara Estelle Breed, Children's Librarian at the San Diego Public Library from 1929 to 1945.
Internment of San Francisco Japanese
View actual news articles from San Francisco in 1942 and read the bias in the news accounts and realize the influence that these articles had on public opinion.
Japanese American National Museum: Manabi and Sumi Hirasaki National Resource Center
From the long list of links at this site, find incarceration facts, a chronology of Japanese internment, information about Japanese-Americans serving in wartime capacities, and much more.
Japanese Internment Camps
Locate maps of where the majority of Japanese Americans lived in the pre World War II years.
Journey to Topaz - A Virtual Museum
Enter the world of Yuki Sakane, the main character from Journey to Topaz. Created by award winning author Yoshiko Uchida, Yuki will guide you through a tragic wartime episode in our history known as Japanese Internment.
Masumi Hayashi
Virtually travel to ten Japanese-American internment camps scattered across the western United States. Select "The Map Pages" from the menu.
National Japanese Historical Society
From their online journal, locate articles relating to the interment camps.
National Museum of American History
Explore this exhibition at the National Museum of American History, which is part of the Smithsonian. It examines the constitutional process by exploring the experiences of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement, 1942-1945
View historical photographs of Japanese Americans and life in the internment camps.
When Americans Were Treated as Traitors
Read the account of a Japanese family living in Palo Alto, California during World War II.

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Teacher Resources

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  • Alonso, Karen. Korematsu v. United States: Japanese-American Internment Camps. Springfield, NJ: Enslow, c1998.
  • Arrington, Leonard J. The Price of Prejudice. Topaz Museum, 1997.
  • Brimner, Larry Dane. Voices From the Camps: Internment of Japanese Americans During World War II. New York: F. Watts, c1994.
  • Houston, Jeanne Wakatsuki. Farewell to Manzanar: A True Story of Japanese American Experience During and After the World War II Internment. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books, 1974.
  • Sinnott, Susan. Our Burden of Shame: The Japanese-American Internment During World War II. New York: F. Watts, 1995.
  • Stanley, Jerry. I Am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment. New York: Crown Publishers, c1994.
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. Journey to Topaz. Berkeley, Calif.: Creative Arts, 1985.
  • Yancey, Diane. Life in a Japanese American Internment Camp. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, c1998.