Executive Order 9066: Significance & Effects

Instructor: Christina Boggs

Chrissy has taught secondary English and history and writes online curriculum. She has an M.S.Ed. in Social Studies Education.

Did you know that in the United States during World War II, over 120,000 Japanese people were forced to leave their homes and live in internment camps? This lesson explores the significance and effects of Japanese internment.

After Pearl Harbor

Imagine someone knocks on your front door and tells you that you have to move. You can no longer go to your school. You can no longer live in your home. You can no longer go to work. Sounds pretty terrible, right? Beginning in 1941, a similar thing happened to over 120,000 Japanese families living on the West Coast.

After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, hysteria was on the rise. Countless Japanese families lived on the West Coast. What if they helped their native country attack the U.S. on American soil? How could they be stopped?

Executive Order 9066

To reduce these irrational fears, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. The executive order authorized the Army to remove any person living on the West Coast deemed a threat to national security. The Army had the power to force people to relocate to one of ten internment camps around the United States.

Significance of Executive Order 9066

At first, Japanese families were given the option to evacuate their homes on their own. Eventually, optional evacuation changed to forced evacuations. In total, over 120,000 Japanese people were sent to live in internment camps. Over half of the people evacuated were nisei, or second-generation Japanese. This means they were actually born in the United States and were U.S. citizens.

Japanese people living in the barracks were faced with a difficult adjustment. Plucked from their comfortable homes and neighborhoods, many Japanese had to live in temporary housing before the internment camps were completely finished. The phrase 'temporary housing' is used very loosely, some places they were forced to sleep included stables.

The barracks themselves were bleak. Families were forced to live in large barracks and eat in massive mess halls. Children attended barrack schools, while parents and adults worked at menial tasks for no more than $5 a day. To put this in perspective, many of the Japanese forced to live in the internment camps were doctors or professionals who made much more money before the war.

Effects of Executive Order 9066

In December 1944, President Roosevelt rescinded Executive Order 9066 and in the following six months internees were released and the internment camps shut down. After nearly 3 years living in the camps, countless Japanese found they couldn't return to their pre-war homes. Anti-Japanese sentiment after World War II prevented countless people from going back to business as usual.

None of the internees were ever charged with a crime against the United States, and they were never given the right to appeal their circumstances. Throughout the course of World War II, only ten people were actually convicted for helping the Japanese government. Not a single one of them was actually of Japanese descent. These facts, and many others, point to the injustice of Japanese internment during the war.

As a result of Japanese internment, it's estimated that the internees lost over $1 billion in property damages and nearly $3 million in income. In 1948, Congress passed the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of 1948 that made small claims payments for property damages.

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