Over the course of just a few years, the U.S. federal government forced 120,000 people of Japanese descent into these camps in an attempt to quarantine and surveil them — and it took decades before these victims saw any form of redress.
In early 1942, President Roosevelt signed an executive order that legalized the creation and use of these camps.
Evacuation orders were subsequently distributed to people along the West Coast, often giving Japanese-American families less than a week to gather their things, leave their homes, and be forcibly relocated. With no information on where they were going or how long they would be away, people were forced to sell or abandon their homes and businesses.
Preschoolers children on the way to their barrack homes from morning class.
Barracks under construction at Poston. Barrack construction and materials were the same at all ten camps, including Manzanar. Poston, Arizona May 5, 1942
Typical interior scene in a Manzanar barrack apartment. Note the cloth partition separating one apartment from another, lending a small amount of privacy. June 30, 1942
Bunk space at Manzanar.
A camp mess hall.
Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags are used to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweet peas. They may have been deported to another camp, but what is striking her is that they were tagged.
Replica of an historic watch tower at the Manzanar National Historic Site, built in 2005. Eight watchtowers, equipped with searchlights and machine guns pointed inward at the incarcerees, were positioned around the perimeter of the camp. April 27, 2007
Of course in retrospect it is easy for anyone to judge. I am not saying that the US government did the right thing, because they didn’t , but if I had been put in that situation would I have reacted differently? I just don’t know.