Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and the United States entered a war in Europe and the Pacific, the nation was overcome by shock, anger, and fear—a fear exaggerated by long-standing anti-Asian prejudice. Ten weeks later President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, under which nearly 75,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry were taken into custody. Another 45,000 Japanese nationals living in the United States (but long denied citizenship because of their race) were also incarcerated. Some forty years later, members of the Japanese American community led the nation to confront the wrong it had done—and to make it right.

American Guardian by Roger Shimomura, 2007
Courtesy of Lawrence Lithography Workshop, Kansas City

Evacuees were allowed to bring only what they could carry. The Watanabe family brought this suitcase marked by identification number 17703 with them to the Minidoka camp in Idaho.

Awaiting an evacuation bus on Bush Street in San Francisco, 1942
Courtesy of National Archives

The Fuchigami family used this baggage tag with the number 20480 assigned to their family when they were ordered to leave their peach and walnut farm.

Twenty-year-old Bill Fuchigami wore this ID tag with the family number 20480 as he was transported first to a temporary detention center in California and then to the Amache camp in Colorado.

Members of the Mochida family await an evacuation bus in Hayward, California, May 8, 1942.
Dorothea Lange, Courtesy of National Archives

Kazuko Kita sent this hand-carved wooden pin through the mail to Ayako Sugino, who was held at a camp in Poston, Arizona.