Japanese-American Internment - THE EVACUEES

NARA (the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration) contains a wealth of information, including photographs and documents, regarding this period of American history. From that vast collection, we have culled representative primary sources for this story.

Many of the people who were ordered to evacuate their homes and were sent to internment camps were children, infants and young adults who had not yet reached voting age. One Oakland, California woman arranged a bouquet of flowers (for the Japanese Independent Congregational Church altar) the day before she was sent to a camp.

In San Francisco, two Shinto priests were interned the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. According to NARA:

(T)wo Shinto priests...were interned on December 8, 1942, immediately upon declaration of war. The mother at right [the wife of one of the priests] has nine American born children and has been in the United States ten years. The mother on the left has been in this country two years, and neither speak English.

Not knowing how long they would be away, shop owners (like this optometrist on Post Street in San Francisco) boarded up their windows. Restaurant owners were forced to close. Even people like Dave Tatsuno, who was born in America, graduated from the University of California, and served as president of the Japanese American Citizens League of San Francisco, were ordered to pack up their belonging and leave.

Young people (such as these in San Francisco) were separated from their school friends. Their academic experience in the internment camps would be vastly different from normal school life.

In the beginning, because everything was put together so hastily, War Relocation officials were unable to provide classrooms, with tables and chairs, for the children. Instead, students (who were taught by volunteer teacher-evacuees) attended class outdoors. Sometimes, in the early days of the evacuation, the best a teacher could do was find a shady spot, behind a building (like this Manzanar camp situation).

Other children (from Redondo Beach, California), with registration tags hanging from their necks, were transported by truck to an assembly center in Arcadia. From there, they (like so many who were dressed in their finest clothes) were assigned to various relocation camps.

No one can doubt how afraid or bewildered they must have felt when their lives were inexplicably turned upside down.

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