WWII Timeline--Japanese American Internment


Suggested Incarceration of 10,00 Japanese Americans

August 18, 1941

In a letter to President Roosevelt, Rep. John Dingell (MI) suggests incarcerating 10,000 Japanese Americans as hostages to ensure "good behavior" on the part of Japan.

FBI Raid in Little Tokyo (LA)

November 12, 1941

Fifteen Japanese American business and community leaders in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo are picked up in an FBI raid.

Attack on Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941

The attack on Pearl Harbor. Local authorities and the FBI begin to round up the leaders of Japanese American communities. Within 48 hours, 1,291 Issei are in custody. These men are held on no formal charges and family members are forbidden from seeing them. Most would spend the war years in enemy alien internment camps run by the Justice Department.

Executive Order 9066 Issued

February 19, 1942

President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, which allows military authorities to exclude anyone from anywhere without trial or hearings. Though the subject of only limited interest at the time, the order set the stage for the entire forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.

First Civilian Exclusion Order Issued

March 24, 1942

The first Civilian Exclusion Order issued by the army is issued for the Bainbridge Island area near Seattle. The forty-five families there are given one week to prepare. By the end of October, 108 exclusion orders would be issued, and all Japanese Americans in Military Area No. 1 (includes the western boundaries of California, Oregon, and Washington state) and the California portion of No. 2 would be incarcerated.

Death of Ichiro Shimoda

May 13, 1942

45-year-old Ichiro Shimoda, an LA gardener, is shot to death by guards while trying to escape from Fort Still (Oklahoma) internment camp. The victim was seriously mentally ill and had attempted suicide twice since being picked up on December 7. He is shot despite the guards' knowledge of his mental state.

Attempted Shooting of Hikoji Takeuchi

May 16, 1942

Hikoji Takeuchi, a Nissei, is shot by a guard at Manzanar. The guard claims that he shouted at Takeuchi and that Takeuchi began to run away from him. Takeuchi claims he was collecting scrap lumber and didn't hear the guard shout. His wounds indicate that he was shot in the front. Though seriously injured, he eventually recovered.

Deaths of Two Issei

July 27, 1942

Two Issei--Brawly, CA farmer Toshiro Kobata and San Pedro fisherman Hirota Isomura--are shot to death by camp guards at Lourdsburg, New Mexico enemy alien internment camp. The men had allegedly been trying to escape. It would later be reported, however, that upon their arrival to the camp, the men had been to ill to walk from the train station to the camp gate.

Concentration Camps vs. Relocation Centers

October 20, 1942

President Roosevelt calls the relocation centers "concentration camps" at a press conference. The WRA had consistently denied that the term "concentration camps" accurately described the camps.

Death of James Hatsuki Wakasa

April 11, 1943

James Hatsuki Wakasa, a 63-year-old chef, is shot to death by a sentry at Heart Mountain camp while allegedly trying to escape through a fence. It is later determined that Wakasa had been inside the fence and facing the sentry when shot. The sentry would stand a general court-martial in Fort Douglas, Utah and be found "not guilty".

"A Jap's a Jap."

April 13, 1943

"A Jap's a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty...This coast is too vulnerable. No Jap should come back to this coast except on a permit from my office." --General John L. DeWitt, head, Western Defense Command; before the House Naval Affairs Subcommittee

Nisei Eligibility for the Draft is Restored

January 14, 1944

Death of Shoichi James Okamoto

May 24, 1944

Shoichi James Okamoto is shot to death at Tule Lake by a guard afters topping a construction truck at the main gate for permission to pass. Private Bernard Goe, the guard, would be acquitted after being fined a dollar for "unauthorized use of government property"--a bullet.

442nd Regimental Combat Team Rescue

October 27, 1944 - October 30, 1944

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team rescues an American battalion which had been cut off and surrounded by the enemy. Eight hundred casualties are suffered by the 442nd to rescue 211 men.

442nd Reception on White House Lawn

July 15, 1946

The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is received on the White House lawn by President Truman. "You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice--and you have won."