Chronology, 1790-1990

Chronology of World War II Incarceration

March 26, 1790 The U.S. Congress, through the act of 1790, decrees that "any alien, being a free white person who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for a term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof." The phrase "free white person" remained in tact until 1873 when "persons of African nativity or descent" was added. This act would be used to deny citizenship to Japanese and other Asian immigrants until the mid-20th Century.

May 6, 1882 Congress passes the Chinese Exclusion Act over the veto of President Garfield. Chinese immigration would essentially be shut off for the next sixty years.

February 8, 1885 The City of Tokio arrives in Honolulu carrying the first 944 official immigrants from Japan to Hawaii.

September 2, 1885 Rioters attack and set fire to Chinatown in Rock Springs, Wyoming, killing 28 Chinese miners and wounding 15. Several hundred others are driven out of town and an estimated $148,000 worth of goods are destroyed. The "Rock Springs Massacre" resulted from mounting anti-Chinese sentiment over their role as cheap labor and as strikebreakers. Although sixteen white suspects were arrested and tried, all were acquitted.

February 23, 1905 The San Francisco Chronicle front page headline reads: "The Japanese Invasion: The Problem of the Hour." This launches an unrelenting string of editorials against the Japanese which serve to kick the anti-Japanese movement into high gear.

May 14, 1905 The Asiatic Exclusion League is formed in San Francisco, marking the official beginning of the anti-Japanese movement. Among those attending the first meeting are labor leaders (and European immigrants) Patrick Henry McCarthy and Olaf Tveitmoe of the Building Trades Council of San Francisco and Andrew Fufuseth and Walter McCarthy of the Sailor's Union. Tveitmoe is named the first president of the organization.

May 19, 1913 California Governor Hiram Johnson signs the 1913 Alien Land Law to become effective on August 10. This law prohibited "aliens ineligible to citizenship" from owning land.

November 1920 The new 1920 Alien Land Law, a more stringent measure intended to close loopholes in the 1913 Alien Land Law, passes as a ballot initiative. It is to become effective on December 9.

July 19, 1921 Armed white raiders deport 58 Japanese laborers from Turlock, California by truck and warn them not to return. Similar events occur elsewhere in California and in part of Oregon and Arizona.

November 13, 1922 The United States Supreme Court rules on the Ozawa case, definitively prohibiting Issei from becoming naturalized citizens on the basis of race. This ban would last until 1952.

May 26, 1924 Calvin Coolidge signs the 1924 immigration bill into law, effectively ending Japanese immigration to the U.S.

August 18, 1941 In a letter to President Roosevelt, Representative John Dingell of Michigan suggests incarcerating 10,000 Hawaiian Japanese Americans as hostages to ensure "good behavior" on the part of Japan.

November 12, 1941 Fifteen Japanese American businessmen and community leaders in Los Angeles Little Tokyo are picked up in an F.B.I. raid. Records and membership lists for such organizations as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Central Japanese Association are seized. The fifteen would cooperate with authorities, while a spokesman for the Central Japanese Association states: "We teach the fundamental principles of America and the high ideals of American democracy. We want to live here in peace and harmony. Our people are 100% loyal to America."

December 7, 1941 The attack on Pearl Harbor. Local authorities and the F.B.I. begin to round up the Issei leadership of the Japanese American communities in Hawaii and on the mainland. By 6:30 a.m. the following morning 736 Issei are in custody; within 48 hours, the number would be 1,291. Caught by surprise for the most part, these men are held under no formal charges and family members are forbidden from seeing them. Most would spend the war years in enemy alien internment camps run by the Justice Department.

December 11, 1941 The Western Defense Command is established with Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt as commander. The West Coast is declared a theater of war.

December 15, 1941 After a brief visit to Hawaii, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox tells the press, "I think the most effective Fifth Column work of the entire war was done in Hawaii with the possible exception of Norway"--this despite the complete lack of evidence of such sabotage.

February 19, 1942 President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066 which allows military authorities to exclude anyone from anywhere without trial or hearings. Though the subject of only limited interest at the time, this order in effect set the stage for the entire forced removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans.

February 25, 1942 The Navy informs Japanese American residents of Terminal Island near Los Angeles Harbor that they must leave in 48 hours. They are the first group to be removed en masse and suffer especially heavy losses as a result.

February 27, 1942 Idaho Governor Chase Clark tells a congressional committee in Seattle that Japanese would be welcome in Idaho only if they were in "concentration camps under military guard." Some credit Clark with the conception of what was to become a true scenario.

March 2, 1942 John L. DeWitt issues Public Proclamation No. 1 which creates Military Areas Nos. 1 and 2. Military Area No. 1 included the western portion of California, Oregon and Washington, and part of Arizona while Military Area No. 2 included the rest of these states. The proclamation also inted that people might be excluded from Military Area No. 1.

March 18, 1942 The president signs Executive Order 9102 establishing the War Relocation Authority with Milton Eisenhower as director. It is allocated $5.5 million.

March 21, 1942 The first advance groups of Japanese American "volunteers" arrive at Manzanar. The WRA would take over on June 1 and transform it into a "relocation center."

March 24, 1942 The first Civilian Exclusion Order issued by the Army is issued for the Bainbridge Island area near Seattle. The forty-five families there are given one week to prepare. By the end of October, 108 exclusion orders would be issued, and all Japanese Americans in Military Area No. 1 and the California portion of No. 2 would be incarcerated.

March 27, 1942 The Army issues Public Proclamation No. 4 prohibiting the changing of residence for all in Military Area No. 1, effectively ending the "voluntary evacuation."

March 28, 1942 Minoru Yasui walks into a Portland police station at 11:20 p.m. to present himself for arrest in order to test the curfew regulations in court.

May 1, 1942 Having "voluntarily resettled" in Denver, Nisei journalist James Omura writes a letter to a Washington law firm inquiring about retaining their services to seek legal action against the government for violations of civil and constitutional rights and seeking restitution for economic losses. He was unable to afford the $3,500 fee required to begin proceedings.

May 8, 1942 The first "volunteers" (from Imperial Valley, California) arrive at the Colorado River or Poston camp. In the next three weeks, 7,450 inmates would arrive.

May 13, 1942 Forty-five year old Ichiro Shimoda, a Los Angeles gardener, is shot to death by guards while trying to escape from Fort Still (Oklahoma) enemy alien internment camp. The victim was seriously mentally ill, having tried suicide twice since being picked up on December 7. He is shot despite the guards' knowledge of his mental state.

May 16, 1942 Hikoji Takeuchi, a Nisei, is shot by a guard at Manzanar. The guard claims that he shouted at Takeuchi and that Takeuchi began to run away from him. Takeuchi claims he was collecting scrap lumber and didn't hear the guard shout. His wounds indicated that he was shot in the front. Though seriously injured, he eventually recovered.

May 29, 1942 Largely organized by quaker leader Clarence E. Pickett, the National Japanese-American Student Relocation Council is formed in Philadelphia with University of Washington Dean Robert W. O'Brien as director. By war's end, 4,300 Nisei would be in college.

June 1942 The movie "Little Tokyo, U.S.A." is released by Twentieth Century Fox. In it, the Japanese American community is portrayed as a "vast army of volunteer spies" and "blind worshippers of their Emperor, " as described in the film's voice-over prologue.

June 1942 The first official WRA resettlers from the camps arrive in Chicago, though others are said to have arrived as early as March.

June 3-6, 1942 The Battle of Midway results in a tremendous victory for the Allies, turning the tide of the war.

June 17, 1942 Milton Eisenhower resigns as WRA director. Dillon Myer is appointed to replace him.

July 20, 1942 The first advance groups arrive at the Gila River camp.

July, 27 1942 Two Issei--Brawley, CA farmer Toshiro Kobata and San Pedro fisherman Hirota Isomura--are shot to death by camp guards at Lourdsburg, New Mexico enemy alien internment camp. The men had allegedly been trying to escape. It would later be reported, however, that upon their arrival to the camp, the men had been too ill to walk from the train station to the camp gate.

August 4, 1942 A routine search for contraband at the Santa Anita "Assembly Center" turns into a "riot." Eager military personnel had become overzealous and abusive which, along with the failure of several attempts to reach the camp's internal security chief, triggers mass unrest, crowd formation, and the harassing of the searchers. Military police with tanks and machine guns quickly end the incident. The "overzealous" military personnel are later replaced.

August 10, 1942 The first inmates arrive at Minidoka, Idaho.

August 12, 1942 The first 292 inmates arrive at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

August 27, 1942 The first inmates arrive at Granada, or Amache, Colorado.

September 11, 1942 The first inmates arrive at Central Utah, or Topaz.

September 18, 1942 The first inmates arrive at Rohwer, Arkansas.

October 20, 1942 President Roosevelt calls the "relocation centers" "concentration camps" at a press conference. The WRA had consistently denied that the term "concentration camps" accurately described the camps.

November 14, 1942 An attack on a man widely perceived as an informer results in the arrest of two popular inmates at Poston. This incident soon mushrooms into a mass strike.

December 5, 1942 Fred Tayama is attacked and seriously injured by a group of inmates at Manzanar. The arrest of the popular Harry Ueno for the crime triggers a mass uprising.

December 10, 1942 The WRA establishes a prison at Moab, Utah for recalcitrant inmates.

January 29, 1943 A War Department press release announces the registration program for both recruitment and leave clearance.

February 1, 1943 The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is activated.

April 11, 1943 James Hatsuki Wakasa, a sixty-three year-old chef, is shot to death by a sentry at Heart Mountain while allegedly trying to escape through a fence. It is later determined that Wakasa had been inside the fence and facing the sentry when shot. The sentry would stand a general court marshall on April 28 at Fort Douglas, Utah and be found "not guilty."

April 13, 1943 "A Jap's a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty... This coast is too vulnerable. No Jap should come back to this coast except on a permit from my office." General John L. DeWitt, head, Western Defense Command; before the House Naval Affairs Subcommittee.

April 27, 1943 The WRA prison is moved from Moab, Utah to Leupp, Arizona.

June 21, 1943 The United States Supreme Court rules on the Hirabayashi and Yasui cases, upholding the constitutionality of the curfew and exclusion orders.

September 13, 1943 The realignment of Tule Lake begins. After the loyalty questionnaire episode, "loyal" internees begin to depart to other camps. Five days later, "disloyal" internees from other camps begin to arrive at Tule Lake.

November 4, 1943 The Tule Lake uprising caps a month of strife. Tension had been high since the administration had fired 43 coal workers involved in a labor dispute on October 7.

January 14, 1944 Nisei eligibility for the draft is restored. The reaction to this announcement in the camps would be mixed.

January 26, 1944 Spurred by the announcement of the draft a few days before, 300 people attend a public meeting at Heart Mountain. Here, the Fair Play Committee is formally organized. Kiyoshi Okamoto is chosen chairman and Paul T. Nakadate vice-president.

March 20, 1944 Forty-three Japanese American soldiers are arrested for refusing to participate in combat training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Eventually, 106 are arrested for their refusal, undertaken to protest the treatment of their families in United States concentration camps. Twenty-one are convicted and serve prison time before being paroled in 1946. The records of 11 are cleared by the Army Board of Corrections of Military Records in 1983. (The other 10 did not apply for clearance.)

May 10, 1944 A Federal Grand Jury issues indictments abgainst 63 Heart Mountain draft resistors. The 63 are found guilty and sentenced to jail terms on June 26. They would be granted a pardon on December 24, 1947.

May 24, 1944 Shoichi James Okamoto is shot to death at Tule Lake by a guard after stopping a construction truck at the main gate for permission to pass. Private Bernard Goe, the guard, would be acquitted after being fined a dollar for "unauthorized use of government property" --a bullet.

June 30, 1944 Jerome becomes the first camp to close when the last inmates are transferred to Rohwer.

July 21, 1944 Seven members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee are arrested, along with journalist James Omura. Their trial for "unlawful conspiracy to counsel, aid and abet violators of the draft" begins on October 23. All but Omura would eventually be found guilty.

October 27-30, 1944 The 442nd Regimental Combat Team rescues an American batallion which had been cut off and surrounded by the enemy. Eight hundred casualties are suffered to rescue 211 men. After this rescue, the 442nd is ordered to keep advancing in the forest; they would push ahead without relief or rest until November 9.

December 18, 1944 The Supreme Court decides that the Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu was indeed guilty of remaining in a military area contrary to the exclusion order. This case challenged the constitutionality of the entire exclusion process.

January 2, 1945 Restrictions preventing resettlement on the West Coast are removed, although many exceptions continue to exist. A few carefully screened Japanese Americans had returned to the coast in late 1944.

January 8, 1945 The packing shed of the Doi family is burned and dynamited and shots are fired into their home. The family had been the first to return to California from Amache and the first to return to Placer County, having arrived three days earlier. Although several men are arrested and confess to the acts, all would be acquitted. Some thirty similar incidents would greet other Japanese Americans returning to the West Coast between January and June.

May 7, 1945 The surrender of Germany ends the war in Europe.

August 6, 1945 The atomic bomb is dropped on Hiroshima. Three days later, a second bomb is dropped on Nagasaki. The war would end on August 14.

March 20, 1946 Tule Lake closes, culminating "an incredible mass evacuation in reverse." In the month prior to the closing, some 5,000 internees had had to be moved, many of whom were elderly, impoverished, or mentally ill and with no place to go. Of the 554 persons left there at the beginning of the day, 450 are moved to Crystal City, 60 are released, and the rest are "relocated."

July 15, 1946 The 442nd Regimental Combat Team is received on the White House lawn by President Truman. "You fought not only the enemy but you fought prejudice--and you have won," remarks the president.

June 30, 1947 U.S. District Judge Louis E. Goodman orders that the petitioners in Wayne Collins' suit of December 13, 1945 be released; native-born American citizens could not be converted to enemy aliens and could not be imprisioned or sent to Japan on the basis of renunciation. Three hundred and two persons are finally released from Crystal City, Texas and Seabrook Farms, New Jersey on September 6, 1947.

July 2, 1948 President Truman signs the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act, a measure to compensate Japanese Americans for certain economic losses attributable to their forced evacuation. Although some $28 million was to be paid out through provision of the act, it would be largely ineffective even on the limited scope in which it operated.

June 27, 1952 The Senate (52-76) follows the House (278-113) to successfully override President Truman's veto to vote the McCarran Bill into law. It will, among other things, grant Japan a token immigration quota and allow Issei naturalization. It will go into effect on December 24. Congress had initially passed it June 11 and it had been vetoed on June 25.

January 9, 1966 An article titled "Success Story: Japanese American Style" appears in the New York Times. "By any criterion of good citizenship that we choose, the Japanese-Americans are better than any group in our society, including native-born whites," writes author William Peterson.

July 10, 1970 A resolution by the JACL's Northern California-Western Nevada District Council calling for reparations for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans is announced. Titled "A Requital Supplication" and championed by Edison Uno, this resolution would have the JACL seek a bill in Congress awarding individual compensation on a per diem basis, tax-free.

November 28, 1979 Representative Mike Lowry (DWA) introduces the World War II Japanese-American Human Rights Violations Act (H.R. 5977) into Congress. This NCJAR sponsored bill is largely based on research done by ex-members of the Seattle JACL chapter. It proposes direct payments of $15,000 per victim plus an addtional $15 per day interned. Given the choice between this bill and the JACL supported study commission bill introduced two months earlier, Congress opts for the latter.

July 14, 1981 The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) holds a public hearing in Washington, D.C. as part of its investigation into the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Similar hearings would be held in many other cities throughout the rest of 1981. The emotional testimony by Japanese American witnesses about their wartime experiences would prove cathartic for the community and might be considered a turning point in the redress movement. In all, some 750 witnesses testify. The last hearing takes place at Harvard University on December 9, 1981.

June 16, 1983 The CWRIC issues its formal recommendations to Congress concerning redress for Japanese Americans interned during World War II. They include the call for $20,000 individual payments for those who spent time in the concentration camps and are still alive.

August 10, 1988 H.R. 442 is signed into law by President Ronald Reagan. It provides for individual payments of $20,000 to each surviving internee and a $1.25 billion education fund among other provisions.

October 9, 1990 The first nine redress payments are made at a Washington, D.C. ceremony. One hundred seven year-old Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles is the first to receive his check.

Chronology taken from Japanese American National Museum Quarterly, vol. 9 no. 3, October-December 1994, pp.11-16. Click here to visit the Japanese American National Museum on the web.

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