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Sunday marked the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, which called for the exclusion and internment of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Inflammatory journalism, pressure groups, politicians and the U.S. Army created hysteria of fear against Japanese Americans as "the Fifth Column" and "the enemy within."

During the first phase, internees were transported on trains and buses under military guard to the hastily prepared temporary detention centers. Twelve temporary detention centers were in California and one was in Oregon. They were set up on racetracks, fairgrounds or livestock pavilions. Detainees were housed in livestock stalls or windowless shacks that were crowded and lacked sufficient ventilation, electricity and sanitation facilities. Food was often spoiled. There was a shortage of food and medicine.

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Japanese Americans filed lawsuits to stop the mass incarceration, but the wartime courts supported the hysteria. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hirabayashi v U.S., Yasui v U.S., and Korematsu v U.S. that the denial of civil liberties based on race and national origin were legal. In a later, contradictory ruling in Endo v U.S., the Supreme Court decided that a loyal citizen could not be detained, but this did not stop the internment. The government ignored the Courts.

Throughout the course of World War II, not a single incident of espionage or treason was found to have been committed by Japanese Americans. In fact, many Japanese Americans served with distinction in the military.

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On July 31, 1980, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians was established to investigate the incarceration of Japanese Americans and legal resident aliens during World War II. The Commission concluded: "the promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions which followed from it — detention, ending detention, and ending exclusion — were not driven by analysis of military conditions. The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership."

Harvey Rabinowitz

Taneytown

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