Remembering the Internment of Japanese Americans

By:  Bob Adelmann
Remembering the Internment of Japanese Americans

Seventy-one years ago today an overzealous general, following unconstitutional orders from his commander-in-chief, started sending American citizens living in California to internment camps outside the state for the crime of being Japanese.

On Wednesday, April 1, 1942, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt issued “Instructions to all persons of Japanese ancestry” that they “will be evacuated from the above designated area [north San Francisco] by 12 o’clock noon Tuesday, April 7th … The Civil Control Station at 1701 Van Ness Avenue will provide temporary residence elsewhere …[and] transport persons … to their new residence….” Some 120,000 persons were deported from California and sent to internment camps in Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Arkansas.

This was the expected result of President Roosevelt’s declaration of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, issued ten weeks after Pearl Harbor, authorizing the Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, to “prescribe” certain areas of the United States as military zones. This cleared the way for the inevitable deportation of these Americans of Japanese descent to those internment camps, called relocation centers, for the duration of the war.

This followed DeWitt’s Public Proclamation No. 1 that declared that “such persons or classes of person as the situation may require” be “excluded” from “Military Area No. 1” — a 100-mile swath of land from the Pacific Coast inland from Washington to Mexico. Having less than five days to prepare for evacuation still gave time for some shop owners to hang protest signs of “I Am An American!” in their front windows, and others to post letters of appreciation on their front doors to their customers. One letter, from T. Z. Shiota, an owner of an antique store on Grant Avenue for 43 years, said:

Dear San Franciscans and Friend Customers:

Time has come for us to say “au revoir” after faithfully created the world renown Chinatown by service with quality merchandise for 43 years.

To you, San Franciscans and friend customers, the members of the firm T. Z. Shiota wish to acknowledge each and every one of you for your past patronage and cooperation.

At this hour of evacuation when the innocents suffer with the bad, we bid you, dear friends of ours, with the words of beloved Shakespeare, “PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW.”

Till we meet again,

T. Z. Shiota

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Photo of Japanese-Americans at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, Jan. 1943

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