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Men in "Little Tokyo" reading a notice written in Japanese announcing the start of force relocation, 1942. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration. 

Issued only two months after Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 authorized the forced evacuation and relocation of any person in undefined “military areas.” This order, premised on the assumption that all people of Japanese heritage were potential spies, moved Japanese Americans from more “dangerous” West Coast areas to remote locations in the country’s interior. Its logic dictated that when Japanese Americans were kept under surveillance, restricted from using traditional communication, and physically removed from bustling coastal cities that were geographically closer to Japan, they were less capable of assisting in another attack on US shores.

In just a few months, Japanese American families on the West Coast were forced to leave their homes behind and begin the long process of deportation. First came curfews and then bulletins posted in public areas informing them when residents from particular areas should report for evacuation and instructing them to bring only bedding, clothing, and personal effects. From March through May 1942, Japanese Americans were quickly assembled and removed from areas in Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington, where they owned property, attended schools, and had built communities for decades. Families were forced to abandon their homes, pets, furniture, and other items that would not make the journey with them. Japanese deportation and incarceration was supported by many white farmers who resented Japanese American farmers. Even more sympathetic neighbors and teachers did little to stop the removal of the Japanese Americans who lived among them.