California legislators are expected to pass a resolution condemning the state’s role in the US government’s internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War Two.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942 led to incarcerations at 10 camps, two in California.
The Democratic assemblyman who introduced the resolution said the state would be apologizing for a time when ‘California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.’
A monument honoring the dead is seen against the background of the Eastern Sierra mountains at the World War Two-era Manzanar internment camp in Manzanar, California, in this 2015 file photo
The measure has bipartisan support, a rarity in the Legislature.
Star Trek actor George Takei, whose family was among those interned, praised California legislators.
‘Welcome, yet long overdue,’ tweeted Takei, who gained fame by playing Hikaru Sulu on the Star Trek television series in the 1960s and 70s.
Takei’s tweet on Sunday included a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr, who said: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’
Takei, who in recent years has amassed nearly three million Twitter followers, has used his large social media platform to blast President Trump.
‘Welcome, yet long overdue,’ tweeted Star Trek actor George Takei. Takei’s tweet on Sunday included a famous quote from Martin Luther King, Jr, who said: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.’
Star Trek actor George Takei (seen above in August 2019) welcomed an expected decision by the California state legislature to issue an official apology on Thursday for helping the federal government round up Japanese Americans and send them to internment camps in 1942
Takei, 82, was a five-year-old boy (left) when he and his family (right) were forced out of their homes and sent to an internment camp in Arkansas
In 2015, Takei (in uniform second from left) starred in Allegiance, a Broadway musical based on his own life story. He is seen above with the cast of the show at the Longacre Theater in New York City in November 2015
The actor, who is also an activist for LGBTQ causes, has compared the Trump administration’s policies of detaining illegal immigrants to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s executive order mandating the round-up of Japanese Americans in 1942.
In June 2018, as the nation reacted to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant families at the border, Takei said what the government was doing to illegal immigrants was worse than the internment of Japanese Americans.
Last year, Takei, 82, published a best-selling book, They Called Us Enemy, a memoir recounting his experiences as a young boy during the internment period
‘At least during the internment, when I was just five years old, I was not taken from my parents,’ the actor wrote in an opinion piece published in Foreign Policy magazine.
Last year, Takei, 82, published a best-selling book, They Called Us Enemy, a memoir recounting his experiences as a five-year-old who along with his family was rounded up by the government and transported to a camp in Rohwer, Arkansas.
In 2015, Takei starred in a Broadway musical, Allegiance, which tells the story of a Japanese American family forced out of their homes in Salinas, California, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and into an internment camp in rural Wyoming.
The show, which ran on Broadway for about a year, was inspired by Takei’s life story.
On Tuesday, Les Ouchida was holding a photo of himself and his siblings taken in 1943 at the internment camp his family was moved to.
He was at the permanent exhibit titled ‘UpRooted Japanese Americans in World War II’ at the California Museum in Sacramento.
Ouchida is a docent, or guide, for the exhibit.
His family was forced to move in 1942 from their home near Sacramento to a camp in Jerome, Arkansas.
Japanese Americans’ internment: A dark chapter in US history
In 1942, the government of the United States created a military ‘exclusion area’ spanning Washington State, Oregon, California, and Arizona – areas with large populations of Japanese-Americans. The above map also shows 10 internment camps
After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in late 1941, the United States government pursued a policy of isolating American citizens of Japanese descent who were suspected of disloyalty.
Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, forced Japanese-Americans, regardless of loyalty or citizenship, to leave the West Coast and other areas for designated camps surrounded by barbed wire and military police.
The order signed by FDR authorized the military to remove any or all people from military areas ‘as deemed necessary or desirable.’
Half of those detainees were children.
The order also created military zones in California, Washington State, and Oregon – all of which had large concentrations of Japanese Americans at the time.
Some 120,000 Japanese Americans spent as long as four years in 10 internment camps.
The order signed by FDR affected 77,000 U.S. citizens and 43,000 legal and illegal resident aliens.
They were taken to camps in Western and Southern states, including California, Colorado, Idaho, Arizona, Wyoming, Utah, Arkansas, New Mexico and other sites.
In August 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act, a bill providing $20,000 reparations to Japanese-Americans interned during World War II, conceding that ‘no payment can make up for those lost years.’
The internment camps were often nothing more than makeshift barracks, with families and children cramped together behind barbed wires.
The inmates were law-abiding citizens of Japanese descent who were forced to sell their businesses and properties at a steep loss before they were taken by the war relocation authorities to the camps.
‘We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country,’ John Tateishi said of the experience, which he called ‘humiliating and disorienting.’
‘There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way,’ he told National Public Radio
In this photo from last Tuesday, Les Ouchida holds a 1943 photo of himself, front row, center, and his siblings taken at the internment camp his family was moved to in 1942
Ouchida and his family were forced to move in 1942 from their home near Sacramento to a camp in Jerome, Arkansas
Ouchida is now a guide at the California Museum in Sacramento, which houses a permanent exhibit titled ‘UpRooted Japanese Americans in World War II’
A building that was once a housing barrack for Japanese Americans interned at the Manzanar War Relocation Camp during World War II sits on what is now the Manzanar Historic Site
The Manzanar internment camp is seen in the above photo which was taken in 1942
The first group of 82 Japanese Americans arrive at the Manzanar internment camp (or ‘War Relocation Center’) carrying their belongings in suitcases and bags on March 21, 1942
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrence has introduced the resolution to apologize for California’s role in carrying out the federal government’s internment of Japanese-Americans.
A similar resolution will be brought up before the state Senate by Senator Richard Pan, D-Sacramento.
Ouchida was born an American just outside California’s capital city, but his citizenship mattered little after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States declared war.
Based solely on their Japanese ancestry, the 5-year-old and his family were taken from their home in 1942 and imprisoned far away in Arkansas.
They were among 120,000 Japanese Americans held at 10 internment camps during World War II, their only fault being ‘we had the wrong last names and wrong faces,’ said Ouchida, now 82 and living a short drive from where he grew up and was taken as a boy due to fear that Japanese Americans would side with Japan in the war.
California’s Legislature is expected to approve a resolution offering an apology to Ouchida and other internment victims for the state’s role in aiding the US government’s policy and condemning actions that helped fan anti-Japanese discrimination.
Japanese Americans are seen above transferring from train to bus at Lone Pine, California – bound for Manzanar
A guard tower stands near the entrance to the World War II Japanese Internment Camp at Manzanar
President Franklin D. Roosevelt´s executive order No. 9066 establishing the camps was signed on Feb. 19, 1942, and 2/19 now is marked by Japanese Americans as a Day of Remembrance.
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi was born in Japan and is one the roughly 430,000 people of Japanese descent living in California, the largest population of any state.
The Democrat who represents Manhattan Beach and other beach communities near Los Angeles introduced the resolution.
‘We like to talk a lot about how we lead the nation by example,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately, in this case, California led the racist anti-Japanese American movement.’
A congressional commission in 1983 concluded that the detentions were a result of ‘racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.’
Five years later, the US government formally apologized and paid $20,000 in reparations to each victim.
The money didn’t come close to replacing what was lost.
Ouchida says his father owned a profitable delivery business with 20 trucks. He never fully recovered from losing his business and died early.
The California resolution doesn’t come with any compensation.
It targets the actions of the California Legislature at the time for supporting the internments.
Two camps were located in the state – Manzanar on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in central California and Tule Lake near the Oregon state line, the largest of all the camps.
‘I want the California Legislature to officially acknowledge and apologize while these camp survivors are still alive,’ Muratsuchi said.
He said anti-Japanese sentiment began in California as early as 1913, when the state passed the California Alien Land Law, targeting Japanese farmers who some in California’s massive agricultural industry perceived as a threat.
Seven years later the state barred anyone with Japanese ancestry from buying farmland.
The internment of Ouchida, his older brother and parents began in Fresno, California.
Three months later they were sent to Jerome, Arkansas, where they stayed for most of the war.
Given their young ages at the time, many living victims such as Ouchida don´t remember much of life in the camps. But he does recall straw-filled mattresses and little privacy.
Communal bathrooms had rows of toilets with no barriers between users.
‘They put a bag over their heads when they went to the bathroom’ for privacy, said Ouchida, who teaches about the internments at the California Museum in Sacramento.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order in 1942 led to incarcerations at 10 camps, two in California. FDR is seen above in the undated file photo
Before the last camp was closed in 1946, Ouchida’s family was shipped to a facility in Arizona.
When the family was freed, they took a Greyhound bus back to California.
When it reached a stop sign near their community outside Sacramento, ‘I still remember the ladies on the bus started crying,’ Ouchida said.
‘Because they were home.’
The resolution, co-introduced by California Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido, makes a passing reference to ‘recent national events’ and says they serve as a reminder ‘to learn from the mistakes of the past.’
Muratsuchi said the inspiration for that passage were migrant children held in US government custody over the past year.
Ouchida said Japanese families like his always considered themselves loyal citizens before and after the internments.
He holds no animosity toward the US or California governments, choosing to focus on positives outgrowths like the permanent exhibit at the California Museum that provides an unvarnished view of the internments.
‘Even if it took time, we have the goodness to still apologize,’ he said.
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