Nearly 10,000 King County residents were among those incarcerated.
On Tuesday, Metropolitan King County Council held a ceremony to recognize it has been 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. The order authorized the United States military to carry out the unconstitutional forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This included 9,600 Japanese-American residents of King County.
“We must never forget the events leading up to this travesty, the irreparable harm inflicted, and the patriotism and courage of those who spoke out against the violations of their civil liberties,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski. “Linking this history to contemporary issues, we must ensure we do not repeat past atrocities.”
Under Executive Order 9066 the United States was authorized to exclude whomever it saw fit under the guise of “military necessity” in response to racially inflected wartime hysteria following Pearl Harbor. Japanese-Americans responded to their incarceration in several ways – some joined the military, others refused to go to the camps, some were draft resisters, and there were those who refused to sign the loyalty questionnaires required of those in the camps.
Ultimately more than 12,000 joined segregated military units, many as members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare, with its members receiving over 9,400 Purple Hearts as well as 21 Medals of Honor.
“As one of the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were uprooted and removed from the West Coast as a result of Executive Order 9066 and the widow of a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, I thank the members of the King County Council for their expression of remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Executive Order signed in 1942,” said Louise Kashino, Nisei Veterans Committee member. “Today’s recognition is especially meaningful to us Japanese Americans who went through a similar experience of what is happening to immigrants today.”
“The 75th anniversary of the Executive Order ordering the forcible removal of community members of Japanese ancestry from their homes, businesses, and lives, both here and across the country, is a sobering reminder for us all to remain vigilant in supporting and protecting all members of our community – especially in the most trying of times,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “We’ve learned a terrible lesson at the expense of the human and civil rights of our neighbors, friends, and family about the harm that we create when fear guides our actions. I hope we all can acknowledge this anniversary as a stark reminder to never repeat these mistakes again.”
In 1982, the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found “no military or security reason for the internment” of persons of Japanese ancestry, but determined the cause of the forced removal as “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation, and incarceration of Japanese Americans and granted reparations to those citizens who had been imprisoned by their own government.
“As the son and grandson of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, I founded Densho to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated before their memories are extinguished,” said Tom Ikeda, Executive Director of Densho: the Japanese American Legacy Project. “I thank the King County Council for hosting today’s important ceremony. The first step toward ensuring that we aren’t doomed to repeat these tragic actions is to acknowledge them.”
The proclamation reads as follows:
WHEREAS, 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. military to forcibly remove and incarcerate over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, including 8,870 residents of King County; and
WHEREAS, this drastic course of action gave the U.S. army power to exclude whomever it saw fit under the guise of “military necessity” in response to racially inflected hysteria following the attack on Pearl Harbor; and
WHEREAS, more than 33,000 Japanese-Americans responded to questions about their patriotism by joining mostly segregated military units and amassing an unparalleled battle record; and
WHEREAS, nearly 300 Japanese Americans resisted the draft, refusing to report until their civil rights had been restored, which proved to be deeply divisive among Japanese Americans, keeping the history of the draft resisters largely suppressed in the community for some 40 years; and
WHEREAS, Japanese Americans challenged the exclusion, and the cases of Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu, and Minoru Yasui were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, with the Court ultimately upholding the legality of the racially based expulsion, later vacated in the 1980s; and
WHEREAS, in 1983, the federal Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found “no military or security reason for the internment” of persons of Japanese ancestry, but determined the cause of the forced removal as “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership”; and
WHEREAS, “Never Again” has been the rallying cry for many Japanese Americans, and this cry reminds us of the trauma of our nation’s persecution and unlawful detention of its own citizens; and
WHEREAS, through this travesty of justice, Japanese-Americans suffered immense economic loss of property and assets, immeasurable physical and psychological harm, and deprivation of their constitutional liberties and due process of law;
NOW, THEREFORE, the Metropolitan King County Council recognizes the 75th anniversary of the signing of
EXECUTIVE ORDER 9066
and remembers the sacrifices of Japanese-Americans; defends the rights and liberties of other marginalized groups; and honors the lessons and blessings of liberty and justice for all.
DATED this twenty-first day of February, 2017.