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“Mess Line, Noon,” photograph by Ansel Adams, Manzanar Relocation Center, California, 1943

During World War II, the federal government forcibly moved more than 10,000 Japanese Americans to the Manzanar War Relocation Center in a remote area of California. In 1992 Congress passed the Japanese American National Historic Theme Study Act, designating Manzanar a national historic site. Maintained by the National Park Service, Manzanar today preserves the stories of wartime internment of American citizens.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

“Mess Line, Noon,” photograph by Ansel Adams, Manzanar Relocation Center, California, 1943

Wartime Internment of Civilians

In February 1942, two months after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order authorizing the evacuation and internment of Japanese Americans residing in the western United States and Hawaii. Congress legislated to implement the relocation of approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans to remote camps for the duration of World War II, resulting in tremendous loss of property and rights. 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.

The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity. . . . A grave injustice was done to American citizens and resident aliens of Japanese ancestry who, without individual review or any probative evidence against them, were excluded, removed and detained by the United States during World War II.

Personal Justice Denied, Part 2: Recommendations, 1982