Executive Order 9066
Now, therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as President of the United States, and Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy, I hereby authorize and direct the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders whom he may from time to time designate…to prescribe military areas in such places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military Commander may determine, from which any or all persons may be excluded, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion. The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary, in the judgment of the Secretary of War or the said Military Commander, and until other arrangements are made, to accomplish the purpose of this order.
-President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Read the Full Order Here
By Gavin Witt, Resident Dramaturg
"We got off the bus and sure enough, the wind was blowing like anything. We were given a canvas bag and were wondering what we were going to do with it. They told us to go to a pile of hay. We had to fill the canvas bag with the straw. That was our mattress. We went inside [the barrack] and we could just smell the dust in there. Well, we set up our bed, went to sleep, and got up the next morning. We looked, and there was a clear outline of our head on the mattress. Where our head was, was white but the rest of it was all gray with sand. My mouth was full of sand and our hair was just all sticky with sand in it!"
On February 19, 1942, not three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an order allowing for the relocation—voluntary or forced, as necessary—of more than 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry into what were effectively concentration camps. While some of those who began as “evacuees” and ended as “internees” were Issei—first generation Japanese immigrants barred by law from becoming naturalized citizens—many more were Nisei or Sensei, second and third generation descendants born and raised in America and hence as much citizens as the German Americans and Italian Americans who faced no such exclusion or resettlement.
One of the 10 main War Relocation Centers, as the camps were known, was Manzanar—built on dusty, desolate flatlands at the foot of steep mountains in the middle of precisely nowhere. It is here that the inhabitants of San Piedro Island are sent in Snow Falling on Cedars; but to some extent, and in its essentials, this camp had little to distinguish it from the others. Composed of acres of plain, bare barracks hastily built from raw wood and cheap components, often using the labor of the internees themselves; battered by extreme temperatures winter and summer; choked with dust and mud; surrounded by barbed wire and guard towers; subject to the often arbitrary regulation of the War Relocation Authority; these were rightly called prison camps. In them, initially ill-fed and ill-clothed families—uprooted from everything they had every known—struggled to establish some sense of privacy and dignity, to sustain morale and hold together as units, to educate their children and find some semblance of normalcy.