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Japanese Americans waiting for a train to take them to Owens Valley, California, photograph by Russell Lee, April 1942

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Japanese Americans waiting for a train to take them to Owens Valley, California, photograph by Russell Lee, April 1942

Wartime Internment of Civilians

In February 1942, two months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans residing in the western United States and Hawaii. Congress legislated for the relocation of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans to remote camps for the duration of World War II, resulting in loss of rights and property. In 1980 Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, which recommended that restitution be made to former internees. In 1989 the U.S. government issued them a formal apology.

We took whatever we could carry. So much we left behind, but the most valuable thing I lost was my freedom.

Internee statement, Personal Justice Denied, 1982