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A new podcast: Order 9066

Each year we mark the Day of Remembrance with events recognizing Executive Order 9066, signed on February 19, 1942, after Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. The order put into motion a military proclamation that forcibly uprooted 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes and sent them to incarceration centers in desolate locations in the United States for the duration of the war. Two-thirds of them were American citizens.

Last year, to commemorate the 75th anniversary, the museum opened the exhibition Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II, which will remain on view until December 2018.

This year, in a continued effort to increase public engagement about this chapter of American history, the museum partnered with American Public Media to create Order 9066, a landmark podcast series examining this sobering period in the nation’s history. Two of the podcast's eight episodes are now available, along with bonus material from the project.

This three-minute trailer provides a brief overview of the Order 9066 series.

What was going through the minds of the Japanese Americans as they heard news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor? What about those who received orders to leave their homes? Order 9066 is engaging and multifaceted with eye-witness accounts and dramatizations. The episodes are narrated by Sab Shimono and Pat Suzuki, veteran actors and stage performers who were both incarcerated—Shimono at Tule Lake, California, and later Amache, Colorado, Suzuki at Amache, Colorado.

Two portraits, side-by-side
Sab Shimono (left) and Pat Suzuki (right) host the podcast series. Both are former incarcerees. Images courtesy of American Public Media.

“The Day of Remembrance made this an especially important time to launch Order 9066, but the series’ themes of fear, intolerance, and perseverance are important to reflect upon in today’s fractious political climate,” said series co-producer Stephen Smith. “The tragic events surrounding Order 9066 pose a major historical lesson about how America should, and should not, respond when the nation’s founding principles are under attack.”

A signed button-down shirt on a table
As part of their collaboration, APM Reports and the museum have been crowdsourcing objects that connect people to this chapter in American history. This shirt, submitted by Dennis Kato, belonged to his mother, an incarceree. It is embroidered with the signatures of friends from the Amache incarceration center. This and other objects can be found on the podcast’s website.

The series describes the racist atmosphere of the time, life in the incarceration centers, and the extraordinary ways incarcerees adapted. It tries to help listeners understand the complexities of incarcerees’ views on topics like patriotism, resistance, and loyalty. Later episodes will focus on the movement for redress that eventually led to a formal apology from the U.S. government, and much more.

By hearing archival audio, historical context, and first-person narratives, listeners will experience a nuanced and memorable account of a dark chapter in the country’s past, and they will be able to imagine what their own actions might have been at the time. We hope you’ll subscribe and listen!

Support for “Order 9066” comes from the Terasaki Family Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and Penelope Scialla.

Righting a Wrong: Japanese Americans and World War II is generously supported by the Terasaki Family Foundation, with additional assistance from the Japanese American Citizens League and AARP.

Noriko Sanefuji is a museum specialist, and Julie Abo is a volunteer in the Division of Armed Forces History.