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Internment and Service: Japanese Americans from the Inland Empire: Relocation & Internment

Relocation & Internment

 Relocation & Internment: Process of Removal and Internment

Process of Removal and Internment

The Japanese American community on Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle, was the first to fall victim to Executive Order 9066. On March 24, Army officials informed Issei and Nisei residents they had six days to dispose of their possessions, pack their essentials, and prepare for indefinite removal from their homes and community.

Events on Bainbridge were a rehearsal for the larger process of evacuation enforced on more than 110,000 Issei and Nisei all along the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California. Families received a week’s notice to pack their belongings and sell possessions they could not take with them. The families were transported by train to temporary detention centers, called Reception (or Assembly) Centers, some of which were former fairgrounds or racetracks. The living conditions were chaotic and unsanitary, and the families experienced tremendous stress as they waited. The War Relocation Authority sent Bainbridge Island Japanese Americans to the Puyallup fairgrounds; Yakima evacuees lived at Portland’s Assembly Center (where the Portland Expo Center is now located). After several months, the government sent evacuees to “Relocation Centers,” something that Japanese Americans called “internment camps.” Bainbridge Islanders were incarcerated at the Manzanar Relocation Camp in California. They requested to be transferred to the Minidoka Camp in Idaho where Seattle and Oregon State Japanese Americans were. The rest of Washington State’s Japanese American evacuees were held at Heart Mountain, Wyoming.

Incarceration and Protest

When the federal government (through the Executive Branch’s War Relocation Authority) seized Issei and Nisei and incarcerated them for an undetermined period in concentration camps, it violated the fundamental rights of both U.S. citizens and immigrants. Evacuees were not charged with any crimes, the government had no evidence of any wrongdoing, and evacuees never had their day in court, yet they spent years incarcerated in camps.

Many Japanese Americans challenged the government’s actions and protested the injustice of incarceration. Some protested by deliberately disobeying registration laws, curfew laws and evacuation orders. Others challenged the government’s “Loyal Questionnaire” or resisting the draft.

One of the most famous protesters was Seattle’s Gordon Hirabayashi. A University of Washington student in 1942, Hirabayashi violated the government’s curfew law, claiming that it unfairly restricted Japanese Americans’ fundamental freedom and liberty. When Hirabayashi lost his court challenge to the curfew law, he was moved from the King County Jail to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp in Arizona, where he served a three-month sentence before heading east to avoid internment.

School books: Engineering handbook and The Tempo (Heart Mountain Yearbook), 1944

Cover: School books: Engineering handbook and The Tempo (Heart Mountain Yearbook), 1944

Open book with hand notes: School books: Engineering handbook and The Tempo (Heart Mountain Yearbook), 1944

George and Frank C. Hirahara Photograph Collection of Heart Mountain, Wyoming 1943-1945. Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Many students were also interred, and to continue their education schools were set up at the internment camps. The yearbook holds many personal messages and shows how the students adapted to the change in their learning environment.

Suitcase

Suitcase

Okubara Family Collection, circa 1943-2008. Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections,
Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Many suitcases like these were taken by Japanese American families to the internment camps. The number on the top is the number that was assigned to the Okubara family, the monogram is visible above the handle.

Luggage Tags

Luggage Tags
Reproduced from the Tom Hide Collection, 1925-2012. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Internees were allowed to bring personal items with them when soldiers evacuated them from their homes to unknown destinations and for an unknown amount of time. These luggage tags accompanied Tom Hides few personal possessions.

Heart Mountain Carpenter’s Club Directory

Heart Mountain Carpenter’s Club Directory

Reproduced from Tom Hide Collection, 1925-2012. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

The Heart Mountain Carpenter’s Club List represents a wonderful combination of Japanese and American cultures.

Map of Internment Camps

Map of Internment Camps

From Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites
by Jeffery F. Burton, Mary M. Farrell, Florence B. Lord, and Richard W. Lord
(National Park Service, revised 2000), p. 2.

 The War Department designated a West Coast evacuation zone (shown here) and the War Relocation Authority managed ten internment camps (triangles) along with other evacuation sites and detention centers.

Children playing at Heart Mountain

Children playing at Heart Mountain

Reproduced from the Tom Hide Collection, 1925-2012. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections,
Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

The youngest internees, these children faced incarceration along with their older family members. Internees tried to build a sense of normal life amid watchtowers and prison barracks.

The Evacuazette, a publication of internees at the Portland Relocation Center, 1942

Page 1/4: The Evacuazette, a publication of internees at the Portland Relocation Center, 1942

Page 2/4: The Evacuazette, a publication of internees at the Portland Relocation Center, 1942

Page 3/4: The Evacuazette, a publication of internees at the Portland Relocation Center, 1942

Page 4/4: The Evacuazette, a publication of internees at the Portland Relocation Center, 1942

Reproduced from the Tom Hide Collection, 1925-2012. Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections,
Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

The Evacuazette highlights how internees quickly formed community ties and this map provides evidence that internees were concerned not only with their own destination but also those of their new friends and acquaintances.