The following is a release from King County:
The Metropolitan King County Council held a ceremony today to recognize it has been 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. The order authorized the United States military to carry out the unconstitutional forced removal and incarceration of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This included 9,600 Japanese-American residents of King County.
“We must never forget the events leading up to this travesty, the irreparable harm inflicted, and the patriotism and courage of those who spoke out against the violations of their civil liberties,” said Council Vice Chair Rod Dembowski. “Linking this history to contemporary issues, we must ensure we do not repeat past atrocities.”
Under Executive Order 9066 the United States was authorized to exclude whomever it saw fit under the guise of “military necessity” in response to racially inflected wartime hysteria following Pearl Harbor. Japanese-Americans responded to their incarceration in several ways – some joined the military, others refused to go to the camps, some were draft resisters, and there were those who refused to sign the loyalty questionnaires required of those in the camps.
Ultimately more than 12,000 joined segregated military units, many as members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare, with its members receiving over 9,400 Purple Hearts as well as 21 Medals of Honor.
“As one of the 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were uprooted and removed from the West Coast as a result of Executive Order 9066 and the widow of a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, I thank the members of the King County Council for their expression of remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Executive Order signed in 1942,” said Louise Kashino, Nisei Veterans Committee member. “Today’s recognition is especially meaningful to us Japanese Americans who went through a similar experience of what is happening to immigrants today.”
“The 75th anniversary of the Executive Order ordering the forcible removal of community members of Japanese ancestry from their homes, businesses, and lives, both here and across the country, is a sobering reminder for us all to remain vigilant in supporting and protecting all members of our community – especially in the most trying of times,” said Council Chair Joe McDermott. “We’ve learned a terrible lesson at the expense of the human and civil rights of our neighbors, friends, and family about the harm that we create when fear guides our actions. I hope we all can acknowledge this anniversary as a stark reminder to never repeat these mistakes again.”
In 1982, the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found “no military or security reason for the internment” of persons of Japanese ancestry, but determined the cause of the forced removal as “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which acknowledged the fundamental injustice of the evacuation, relocation, and incarceration of Japanese Americans and granted reparations to those citizens who had been imprisoned by their own government.
“As the son and grandson of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, I founded Densho to preserve the testimonies of Japanese Americans who were unjustly incarcerated before their memories are extinguished,” said Tom Ikeda, Executive Director of Densho: the Japanese American Legacy Project. “I thank the King County Council for hosting today’s important ceremony. The first step toward ensuring that we aren’t doomed to repeat these tragic actions is to acknowledge them.”