Japanese-American Internment

This Friday, February 19th, is the 74th anniversary of the signing and issuing of Executive Order 9066 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which paved the way for Japanese internment during World War II. The resulting internment camps remain a dark stain on our nation’s history.

In 1990, videomaker Nancy Cain spoke with Frank Emi for THE 90’s about his experiences in the camps, as well as his feelings about Ronald Reagan’s official apology over 40 years later.

In addition to segments from Cain’s video, we’re also sharing excerpts from a propaganda film produced by the US government, featuring Milton Eisenhower. Eisenhower was the Director of the War Relocation Authority which oversaw the internment, and was the younger brother of then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Of course, it’s easy to look back at the treatment of Japanese American citizens in this nation as solely a thing of the past, but unfortunately, the anti-foreigner mindset that led to the internment camps hasn’t entirely disappeared from American politics. Although the people being targeted has changed, major candidates can still successfully run on xenophobic rhetoric like the idea of a national registry of all Muslims. Videos like this are more than just a record of our past mistakes—they’re a reminder to never let ourselves commit similar mistakes now or in the future.

You can watch the entirety of the U.S. Office of War Information’s 1942 film, which euphemistically refers to the forced internment as a “relocation” and “evacuation” and praises the Japanese Americans for “cheerfully handl[ing] the enormous paperwork involved in the migration,” over at archive.org. In our own archive, you can also check out “Memories from the Dept. of Amnesia,” an experimental diary piece by Janice Tanaka about her grandmother, Yuriko Yamate, who was interned during the war.



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