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WWII Japanese Internment Camps

Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California / photograph by Ansel Adams. Library of Congress

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) month which is a great time to learn more about the important contributions AAPI people have made, as well as some of the shocking injustices and challenges they have endured.

One of the most horrific injustices took place during WWII when Japanese Americans, the majority of whom were US citizens, were forcibly relocated from their homes to ten Japanese internment or concentration camps. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 on February 19, 1942, shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japanese forces. The intent of the order was to prevent espionage on in the United States but the effect of the order would be to radically alter the lives of approximately $120,000 Japanese Americans.

One of the camps was called Manzanar, which means apple orchard in Spanish. It was located 230 miles north of Los Angeles in the Owens Valley and was operated by the US War Relocation Authority from March 1942 to November 1945. Stay tuned for more information about Manzanar!

Extra credit: Note that the photograph above was taken by famed photographer, Ansel Adams. According to the National Park Service which operates the Manzanar National Historic Site, "Ansel Adams was over-age for the draft in 1942, but he wanted to participate in the war effort. Because he was friends with Manzanar camp Director Ralph Merritt, Adams was invited to document the internees and life at camp. Adams made a number of trips to Manzanar in 1943 and 1944. He keenly felt the injustice of the exclusion order against the Japanese Americans. When told he could not photograph the guard towers, Adams took photographs from the towers, giving away their existence."

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