War and Conflict

World War II

Why did the U.S. government order the internment of Japanese Americansduring World War II?

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, American citizens of Japanese descent were viewed as threats to the nation’s security. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945) signed an Executive Order directing that they be moved to camps for containment for the duration of the war. More than 100,000 people, most of them from California and other West Coast states, were rounded up and ordered to live in secure camps. The action drew immediate criticism. With thousands of lives interrupted without cause, the chapter is one of the saddest in American history. In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, which made reparations to the victims of the Japanese internment; $20,000 was paid to “internees, evacuees, and persons of Japanese ancestry who lost liberty or property because of discriminatory action by the Federal government during World War II.” It also established a $1.25-billion public education fund to teach children and the public about the internment period.


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