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The Blackest Blots on American History

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At the beginning of World War II, millions of immigrants arriving in the United States from Japan, Italy, and Germany were officially classified as "enemy aliens. " Following Japan surprise attack on the U. naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US government was very worried about the possibility of espionage by Japanese Americans. Although many Japanese Americans were enlisted as soldiers in the US Armed Forces, some people gave in to fear and paranoia and clung to the groundless suspicion that Japanese citizens would sabotage the US war effort.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the relocation of Japanese Americans living on the West Coast to inland concentration camps. The US War Relocation Authority was created to prevent the feared espionage. They built 10 internment camps in states such as Idaho and Arkansas. Japanese Americans living in Washington, Oregon, and California were forced to leave their jobs, homes, and in some cases, their families, to move into the camps. Over 110,000 people, half of them children, were forcibly relocated against their will, even though they had committed no crime.

Conditions in the camps were deplorable: armed guards patrolled the barbed-wire perimeter, medical care was inadequate, and entire families were forced to live in poorly constructed, one-room cells. The camps were closed when the war ended in 1945. It wasn't until the 1970s that details began to emerge about the atrocities committed by the US government against Japanese Americans. Of the thousands detained in the camps, 70,000 were US citizens. In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

After examining the impact of the internment period on the Japanese American community, the commission concluded that the federal government was guilty of discrimination against its citizens.

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