Fortnightly logo

Our Worst Wartime Mistake?

0n February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, paving the way for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. As Americans have become aware of this injustice in recent years, many have asked how the United States government could imprison its own citizens, solely on the basis of ancestry and race. Over 110,000 men, women, and children lost homes, farms, and businesses as they made the trek to desolate camps, where they lived for much of the war under armed guard and behind barbed wire.

Since the 19th century, Japanese Americans had made the United States their home. Despite decades of toll and investment, they found themselves prisoners in their own country. The government's justification of "national security" rang hollow as illegal aliens and citizens of Italian and German ancestry did not suffer the fate of wholesale forced removal. The Day of Remembrance speaker, historian Yuji Ichioka, will address the many questions surrounding the internment of the Japanese American, describing the episode as "our worst wartime mistake."

Ichioka, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, is an internationally-recognized scholar of Japanese American history. Educated at UCLA and Columbia University, Ichioka has taught history and Asian American studies for twenty years. The author of numerous publications, he is best known for his award-winning book, The Issei: The World of the First Generation Japanese Immigrants, 1885-1924 (1988). A native of San Francisco, Ichioka was incarcerated, along with his family, in the internment camp in Topaz, Utah, during World War II.

The Day of Remembrance commemorates a tragic and sad episode in our nation's history. Starting in 1978, Days of Remembrance ceremonies have taken place in many cities across the country each year. Most events take place on or near the 19th of February, which marks the tumult set into motion by Executive Order 9066.