Japanese-American Internment - LEAVING HOME

After President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, newspapers across the country blared headlines about what would happen to Japanese-Americans living in places like California. This image displays "the news" as published by the San Francisco Examiner. Photo online via the U.S. National Archives (ARC identifier number 195535). Public Domain.


Families gave away their pets and left comfortable homes (like the Sumi family’s residence in Los Angeles). Their first stop on this journey was to one of several assembly centers (this one was in Salinas, California). After registering there, families would be assigned to one of about ten internment camps. Their new homes would be barrack-apartments at one of the camps.

Along the way, evacuee baggage was inspected by government officials. One look at the watchtower, where guards stood with fixed bayonets (like these at the Santa Anita Park assembly center in Arcadia , California where Seabiscuit had raced just a few years before) would explain what was at stake should anyone try to leave.

Before the war, many Nisei (people of Japanese ancestry born in the United States) had attended leading agricultural colleges in America. After graduation, some became horticultural experts. They, too, were ordered to leave their homes and jobs.

The same was true for Japanese Americans who ran (or worked) in San Joaquin County’s vineyards. Families, who owned or operated both small and industrialized farms, were ordered to abandon their responsibilities and leave their homes. According to the government:

Farmers...will be given opportunities to follow their callings in War Relocation Authority Centers.

Of course, when they followed “their callings” in War Relocation Centers, they worked for others, not for themselves. At Manzanar, for example, experienced nurserymen worked with guayule seedlings in the guayule rubber experiment project.

No one asked the evacuees whether any of this was acceptable to them. Most, after all, were loyal Americans, too.

Despite the government’s interception of MAGIC cables (before the war), which clearly signaled potential problems, and knowledge gleaned from people like Minoru Genda (after the war) confirming that government concerns about future attacks on America’s mainland were legitimate, one still must question whether wholesale, indiscriminate evacuation orders were reasonable.

It apparently mattered little to government decision-makers that greenhouse or nursery owners were forced to go out of business. At least some owners could lease their land, equipment, and facilities. The owners of a loganberry farm in Centerville, California, according to the National Archives, found a “Caucasian tenant” to live in their home and work their land while they were away.

No one knew, of course, how long that would be.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Sep 01, 2017

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"LEAVING HOME" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 01, 2002. Jan 19, 2020.
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