Post World War II

In 1980, under mounting pressure from redress organizations, President Jimmy Carter opened an investigation to determine whether the decision to put Japanese Americans into internment camps had been justified by the government. The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) investigated the camps and after extensive interviews and personal testimonies from victims, the commission issued its final report titled “Personal Justice Denied” calling the incarceration a “grave injustice” motivated by “racial prejudice, war hysteria and the failure of political leadership.”

On August 10, 1988, President Reagan, with Members of Congress Pete Wilson, Spark Matsunaga, Norman Mineta, Robert Matsui and Bill Lowery, signed the Civil Liberties Act to compensate more than 100,000 people of Japanese descent who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. The legislation offered a formal apology and paid out approximately $20,000 in compensation to each surviving internee.  The law won congressional approval only after a decade-long campaign by the Japanese-American community.  During the war, more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans (64% of whom were American-born citizens) were required to leave their homes and jobs and to live in 10 relocation camps.

Japanese-American internment camps were often nothing more than makeshift barracks, restricting families and children who were cramped together behind barbed wire. Most of the internees were U.S. citizens from the West Coast who were forced to abandon or liquidate their businesses when war relocation authorities escorted them to the camps. Some were able to find friends or neighbors to keep watch over their properties.

In many cases, homes were vandalized and personal property destroyed. Families emerged from camps with feelings of humiliation from the result of being considered betrayers to the United States. Most families never spoke about their experiences after the war.




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