Leaving the Camps Behind

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Personal justice denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Part Two: Recommendations (excerpt). 1982. Courtesy of Purdue University via HathiTrust.

President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, which began and legalized the process of Japanese internment, was unofficially rescinded in December 1944, less than a year before World War II ended. Soon after, the War Relocation Authority began a six-month resettlement process that released internees into temporary housing. By 1946, all of the camps that forcibly held Japanese Americans were closed.

What those thousands of men and women found when they returned, however, was that the lives they left were no longer available to them. Workers lost their jobs during deportation, and families had lost their homes and property to opportunists who had seized them in their absence. It would be another thirty years before the men and women who survived internment were offered any formal apology by the United States government.

During the "Redress Movement" of the 1960s and 70s, Japanese internment once again gained national attention. Thanks to the activism of many young Japanese Americans, President Gerald Ford officially rescinded Roosevelt’s Executive Order in 1976, calling internment a "national mistake."

Four years later, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which studied Japanese internment and held hearings across the country. Their findings, called Personal Justice Denied, described internment as  a "grave injustice" rooted in prejudice. The Civil Liberties Act in 1988 later issued $20,000 to each surviving internee as a redress for their experiences.

Today, each of the ten detention sites are now historical landmarks, where the experiences and lasting legacy of the Japanese American immigrants and citizens forcibly detained by the government are remembered and recognized.