President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the internment with Executive Order 9066, which allowed local military commanders to designate "military areas" as "exclusion zones", from which "any or all persons may be excluded." This power was used to declare that all people of Japanese ancestry were excluded from the entire Pacific coast, including all of California and most of Oregon and Washington, except for those in internment camps. In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the exclusion orders, while noting that the provisions that singled out people of Japanese ancestry were a separate issue outside the scope of the proceedings.
In 1988, Congress passed and President Ronald Reagan signed legislation which apologized for the internment on behalf of the U.S. government. The legislation stated that government actions were based on "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". About $1.6 billion in reparations were later disbursed by the U.S. government to surviving internees and their heirs.
In the first half of the 20th century, California experienced a wave of anti-Japanese prejudice distinct from the Japanese American experience in the broader United States. Over 90% of Japanese immigrants to the USA settled in California, where labor and farm competition fed into general anti-Japanese sentiment. In 1905, California's anti-miscegenation law was amended to prohibit marriages between Caucasians and "Mongolians" (an umbrella term which, at the time, was used in reference to the Japanese, among other ethnicities of East Asian ancestry). That anti-Japanese sentiment was maintained beyond this period is evidenced by the 1924 "Oriental Exclusion Law", which blocked Japanese immigrants from attaining citizenship.
In the years 1939–1941, the FBI compiled the Custodial Detention index ("CDI") on citizens, "enemy" aliens and foreign nationals, based principally on census records, in the interest of national security. On June 28, 1940, the Alien Registration Act was passed. Among many other "loyalty" regulations, Section 31 required the registration and fingerprinting of all aliens above the age of 14, and Section 35 required aliens to report any change of address within 5 days. Nearly five million foreign nationals registered at post offices around the country, in the subsequent months.
The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 led some to suspect the Japanese were preparing a full-scale attack on the West Coast of the United States. Japan's rapid military conquest of a large portion of Asia and the Pacific between 1936 and 1942 made their military forces seem unstoppable to some Americans.
Reportedly, "within weeks of Pearl Harbor, Lieutenant General John DeWitt, head of the Western Command, requested approval to conduct search and seizure operations to prevent alien Japanese from making radio transmissions to Japanese ships." "The Justice Department refused, however, to seek the warrant without probable cause, the FBI concluded that the security threat was only a perceived one [and] in January, the FCC reported that the Army's fears were groundless."
Knowing that "public opinion would not support the direction of the Justice Department and the FBI, however, and DeWitt was undeterred." By January 2, "the Joint Immigration Committee of the California Legislature sent a manifesto to California newspapers summing up 'the historical catalogue of charges against the ethnic Japanese,' who, said the manifesto, were 'totally unassimilable.'" "The manifesto declared that all of Japanese descent were loyal to the Emperor, and attacked Japanese language schools as teaching Japanese racial superiority." "The committee had the support of the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West and the California Department of the American Legion, which in January demanded that all Japanese with dual citizenship be 'placed in concentration camps'." It was feared that this population might commit acts of espionage or sabotage for the Japanese military. Internment, however, was never limited to those who had been to Japan, but "included a smaller number of German and Italian enemy aliens suspected of disloyalty." By February, "Earl Warren, at the time Attorney General of California, and U.S. Webb, a former Attorney General, were vigorously seeking to persuade the federal government to remove all ethnic Japanese from the west coast."
Civilian and military officials had concerns about the loyalty of the ethnic Japanese on the West Coast and considered them to be potential security risks, although these concerns often arose more from racial bias than actual risk. Major Karl Bendetsen and Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt each questioned Japanese American loyalty. DeWitt, who administered the internment program, repeatedly told newspapers that "A Jap's a Jap" and testified to Congress,
Those that were up to 1/16th Japanese could be placed in internment camps. There is some evidence supporting the argument that the measures were racially motivated, rather than a military necessity. For example, orphaned infants with "one drop of Japanese blood" (as explained in a letter by one official) were included in the program.
Upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Presidential Proclamations 2525 (Japanese), 2526 (German) and 2527 (Italian) were signed. Information from the CDI was used to locate and incarcerate foreign nationals from Japan, Germany and Italy (although Germany or Italy didn't declare war on the U.S. until December 11).
Presidential Proclamation 2537 was issued on January 14 1942, requiring aliens to report any change of address, employment or name to the FBI. Enemy aliens were not allowed to enter restricted areas. Violators of these regulations were subject to "arrest, detention and internment for the duration of the war."
Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19 1942, allowed authorized military commanders to designate "military areas" at their discretion, "from which any or all persons may be excluded." These "exclusion zones", unlike the "alien enemy" roundups, were applicable to anyone that an authorized military commander might choose, whether citizen or non-citizen. Eventually such zones would include parts of both the East and West Coasts totaling about 1/3 of the country by area. Unlike the subsequent detainment and internment programs that would come to be applied to large numbers of Japanese Americans, detentions and restrictions directly under this Individual Exclusion Program were placed primarily on individuals of German or Italian ancestry, including American citizens.
These edicts included persons of part-Japanese ancestry as well. Chinese-Japanese Americans (i.e., those who had Chinese ancestry as well), Korean-Americans considered to have Japanese nationality (since Korea was occupied by Japan during WWII), Japanese-Hawaiians residing in the mainland, those with Japanese-Cherokee ancestry and Japanese Latin Americans (or "Japanese Latinos") from the West Coast of the United States during World War II were subject to restrictions under these programs. Anyone who was at least one-eighth Japanese, even if they had mostly Caucasian ancestry, was eligible.
Austin E. Anson, managing secretary of the Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association, told the Saturday Evening Post in 1942:
"Fear, combined with prejudice, was also at work, aided by the January release of the Roberts Commission Report, prepared at President Franklin D. Roosevelt's request." "That report concluded that Japanese in America were responsible for espionage, contributing to the Pearl Harbor tragedy." Columnist Henry McLemore reflected growing public sentiment fueled by this report:
Further, "California newspapers endorsed mass evacuation." The Los Angeles Times caught the spirit of the times:
State politicians joined the bandwagon embraced by Leland Ford of Los Angeles, who demanded that "all Japanese, whether citizens or not, be placed in [inland] concentration camps." In fact internment was likely responsible for a massive influx in immigration from Mexico. Significant labor was necessary to take over the Japanese Americans' farms at a time when many American laborers were also being inducted into the Armed Forces. Thousands of Nikkei, temporarily released from the internment camps to harvest Western beet crops, were credited with saving this industry.
Lowman argues that the Battle of Midway was won by the US only because the US read the Japanese ciphers. Otherwise the two American carriers would not have been in the right position to sink four Japanese carriers. He also credits Magic with shooting down Admiral Yamamoto's plane.
In fact, architects of the internment, including DeWitt and Army Major Karl Bendetsen, cited the complete lack of sabotage as "a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken" (Memorandum to Secretary of War, 13 FEB 1942).
Critics of the internment also note that it seems unlikely that Japanese Americans in Japan had any choice other than to be conscripted into the Japanese army, given (1) that it was near-impossible for them to return to the U.S. from Japan, and (2) that the United States had already classified all people of Japanese ancestry as "enemy aliens."
An additional reason to question the necessity of internment was an official report by Lieutenant Commander Kenneth Ringle, a naval intelligence officer tasked with evaluating the loyalty of the Japanese American population. LCDR Ringle estimated in a 1941 report to his superiors that "more than 90% of the Nisei (second generation) and 75% of the original immigrants were completely loyal to the United States." A 1941 report prepared on President Roosevelt's orders by Curtis B. Munson, special representative of the State Department, concluded that most Japanese nationals and "90 to 98%" of Japanese American citizens were loyal. He wrote: "There is no Japanese 'problem' on the Coast… There is far more danger from Communists and people of the Bridges type on the Coast than there is from Japanese.
FBI director J. Edgar Hoover also opposed the internment of Japanese Americans. Refuting General DeWitt's reports of disloyalty on the part of Japanese Americans, Hoover sent a memo to Attorney General Francis Biddle in which he wrote about Japanese American disloyalty, "Every complaint in this regard has been investigated, but in no case has any information been obtained which would substantiate the allegation." Hoover was not privy to MAGIC intercepts, although he was sometimes sent sanitized synopses.
General DeWitt and Colonel Bendetsen kept this information out of Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast - 1942, which was written in April 1943 — a time when DeWitt was fighting against an order that Nisei soldiers (members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service) were to be considered "loyal" and permitted into the Exclusion Zones while on leave. DeWitt and Bendetsen initially issued 10 copies of the report, then hastily recalled them to rewrite passages which showed racist bases for the exclusion. Among other justifications, the report stated flatly that, because of their race, it was impossible to determine the loyalty of Japanese Americans. The original version was so offensive — even in the atmosphere of the wartime 1940s — that Bendetsen ordered all copies to be destroyed. Not a single piece of paper was to be left giving any evidence that an earlier version had existed.
In 1980, a copy of the original Final Report was found in the National Archives, along with notes showing the numerous differences between the two versions. This earlier, racist and inflammatory version, as well as the FBI and ONI reports, led to the coram nobis retrials which overturned the convictions of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui on all charges related to their refusal to submit to exclusion and internment.
The courts found that the government had intentionally withheld these reports and other critical evidence, at trials all the way up to the Supreme Court, which would have proved that there was no military necessity for the exclusion and internment of Japanese Americans. In the words of Department of Justice officials writing during the war, the justifications were based on "willful historical inaccuracies and intentional falsehoods."
While this event is most commonly called the internment of Japanese Americans, in fact there were several different types of camps involved. The best known facilities were the Assembly Centers run by the Western Civilian Control Administration (WCCA), and the Relocation Centers run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which are generally (but unofficially) referred to as "internment camps." The Department of Justice (DOJ) operated camps officially called Internment Camps, which were used to detain those suspected of actual crimes or "enemy sympathies." German American internment and Italian American internment camps also existed, sometimes sharing facilities with the Japanese Americans. The WCCA and WRA facilities were the largest and the most public. The WCCA Assembly Centers were temporary facilities that were first set up in horse racing tracks, fairgrounds and other large public meeting places to assemble and organize internees before they were transported to WRA Relocation Centers by truck, bus or train. The WRA Relocation Centers were camps that housed persons removed from the exclusion zone after March 1942, or until they were able to relocate elsewhere in America outside the exclusion zone.
In addition 2,210 persons of Japanese ancestry taken from 12 Latin American countries by the U.S. State and Justice Departments were held at the Department of Justice Camps. Approximately 1,800 were Japanese Peruvians. Some state that the United States intended to use them in hostage exchanges with Japan. There was a program to repatriate Americans (civilian and POW) and Japanese nationals, but this was ended after reports by international observers described the treatment given to internees.
After the war, 1,400 were not allowed to return to their Latin American homes and more than 900 Japanese Peruvians were involuntarily deported to Japan. Three hundred fought deportation in the courts and were allowed to settle in the United States.
Initially, the Japanese brought into the United States from South America were to be deported because they had entered the country without passports or visas. Later Court of Appeals decisions overturned this absurd finding, pointing out that they had been brought into the country both against their will and following a process which was essentially a form of kidnapping at the behest of the United States.
|Tule Lake||California||May 1942||18,789|
|Gila River||Arizona||July 1942||13,348|
|Heart Mountain||Wyoming||August 1942||10,767|
The WRA camp at Tule Lake, though initially like the other camps, eventually became a detention center for people believed to pose a security risk. Tule Lake also served as a "segregation center" for individuals and families who were deemed "disloyal" and for those who were to be deported to Japan.
Somewhere between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were subject to this mass exclusion program, of whom approximately two-thirds were U.S. citizens. The remaining one-third were non-citizens subject to internment under the Alien Enemies Act; many of these "resident aliens" had long been inhabitants of the United States, but had been deprived the opportunity to attain citizenship by laws that blocked Asian-born nationals from ever achieving citizenship.
Internees of Japanese descent were first sent to one of 17 temporary "Civilian Assembly Centers," where most awaited transfer to more permanent relocation centers being constructed by the newly-formed War Relocation Authority (WRA). Some of those who did report to the civilian assembly centers were not sent to relocation centers, but were released under the condition that they remain outside the prohibited zone until the military orders were modified or lifted. Almost 120,000 Japanese Americans and resident Japanese aliens would eventually be removed from their homes in California, the western halves of Oregon and Washington and southern Arizona as part of the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.
Most of these camps/residences, gardens, and stock areas were placed on Native American reservations, for which the Native Americans were formally compensated. The Native American councils disputed the amounts negotiated in absentia by US government authorities and later sued finding relief and additional compensation for some items of dispute.
Under the National Student Council Relocation Program (supported primarily by the American Friends Service Committee), students of college age were permitted to leave the camps in order to attend institutions which were willing to accept students of Japanese ancestry. Although the program initially granted leave permits to only a very small number of students, this eventually grew to 2,263 students by December 31 1943.
To describe the conditions in more detail, the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in northwestern Wyoming was a barbed-wire-surrounded enclave with unpartitioned toilets, cots for beds, and a budget of 45 cents daily per capita for food rations. Because most internees were evacuated from their West Coast homes on short notice and not told of their assigned destinations, many failed to pack appropriate clothing for Wyoming winters which often reached temperatures below zero Fahrenheit. Many families were forced to simply take the "clothes on their backs."
Armed guards were posted at the camps, which were all in remote, desolate areas far from population centers. Internees were typically allowed to stay with their families, and were treated well unless they violated the rules. There are documented instances of guards shooting internees who reportedly attempted to walk outside the fences. One such shooting, that of James Wakasa at Topaz, led to a re-evaluation of the security measures in the camps. Some camp administrations eventually allowed relatively free movement outside the marked boundaries of the camps. Nearly a quarter of the internees left the camps to live and work elsewhere in the United States, outside the exclusion zone. Eventually, some were authorized to return to their hometowns in the exclusion zone under supervision of a sponsoring American family or agency whose loyalty had been assured.
The phrase "shikata ga nai" (loosely translated as "it cannot be helped") was commonly used to summarize the interned families' resignation to their helplessness throughout these conditions. This was even noticed by the children, as mentioned in Farewell to Manzanar. Although that may be the view to outsiders, the Japanese people tended to comply with the U.S. government to prove themselves loyal citizens. This perceived loyalty to the United States can be attributed to the collective mentality of Japanese culture, where citizens are more concerned with the overall good of the group as opposed to focusing on individual wants and needs.
The American Civil Liberties Union successfully challenged most of these renunciations as invalid because of the conditions under which the government obtained them. These conditions were described as "coercion, duress, and mass compulsion" by Marvin Opler, a WRA official who had observed some of the renunciation hearings and supported the restoration of citizenship to the expatriated Japanese Americans. It is interesting to note that many of the deportees were Issei (first generation Japanese immigrants) who often had difficulty with English and often did not understand the questions they were asked. Even among those Issei who had a clear understanding, Question 28 posed an awkward dilemma: Japanese immigrants were denied US citizenship at the time, so when asked to renounce their Japanese citizenship, answering "Yes" would have made them stateless persons. Faced with possible deportation to Japan, the Issei largely refused to renounce their only citizenship.
When the government circulated a questionnaire seeking army volunteers from among the internees, 6% of military-aged male respondents volunteered to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. Most of those who refused, however, tempered that refusal with statements of willingness to fight if they were restored their rights as American citizens. It is also important to note that there were 20,000 Japanese American men in the U.S. Army during World War II and many Japanese American women.
The famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Europe, was formed from those Japanese Americans who did agree to serve. This unit was the most highly decorated US military unit of its size and duration. Most notably, the 442nd was known for saving the 141st (or the "lost battalion") from the Germans. The 1951 film Go For Broke! was a fairly accurate portrayal of the 442nd, and starred several of the RCT's veterans.
After the Pearl Harbor attacks, Roosevelt authorized his attorney general to put into motion a plan for the arrest of individuals on the potential enemy alien lists. Armed with a blanket arrest warrant, the FBI seized these men on the eve of December 8 1941. These men were held in municipal jails and prisons until they were moved to Department of Justice detention camps, separate from those of the Wartime Relocation Authority (WRA). These camps operated under far more stringent conditions and were subject to heightened criminal-style guard, despite the absence of criminal proceedings.
Crystal City, Texas, was one such camp where Japanese Americans, German-Americans, Italian-Americans, and a large number of US-seized, Axis-descended nationals from several Latin-American countries were interned.
Canadian citizens with Japanese ancestry were also interned by the Canadian government during World War II (see Japanese Canadian internment). Japanese people from various parts of Latin America were brought to the United States for internment, or interned in their countries of residence.
The vast majority of Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents in Hawaii were not interned because the government had already declared martial law in Hawaii and this allowed it to significantly reduce the supposed risk of espionage and sabotage by residents of Japanese ancestry. Also, Japanese Americans comprised over 35% of the territory's population, with approximately 150,000 inhabitants; detaining so many people would have been enormously challenging in terms of logistics. Also, the whole of Hawaiian society was dependent on their productivity.
There were two internment camps in Hawaii, referred to as "Hawaiian Island Detention Camps". The Hawaiian camps primarily utilized tents and other temporary structures and few permanent structures. One camp was located at Sand Island, which is located in the middle of Honolulu Harbor. This camp was prepared in advance of the war's outbreak. All prisoners held here were "detained under military custody... because of the imposition of martial law throughout the Islands". The other Hawaiian camp was called Honouliuli, near Ewa, on the southwestern shore of Oahu. This camp is not as well-known as the Sand Island camp, and it was closed before the Sand Island camp in 1944.
On January 2 1945, the exclusion order was rescinded entirely. The internees then began to leave the camps to rebuild their lives at home, although the relocation camps remained open for residents who were not ready to make the move back. The freed internees were given $25 and a train ticket to their former homes. While the majority returned to their former lives, some of the Japanese Americans emigrated to Japan. The fact that this occurred long before the Japanese surrender, while the war was arguably at its most vicious, weighs against the claim that the relocation was a security measure. However, it is also true that the Japanese were clearly losing the war by that time, and were not on the offensive. The last internment camp was not closed until 1946,Japanese taken by the U.S. from Peru that were still being held in the camp in Santa Fe took legal action in April 1946 in an attempt to avoid deportation to Japan.
One of the WRA camps, Manzanar, was designated a National Historic Site in 1992 to "provide for the protection and interpretation of historic, cultural, and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II" (Public Law 102-248). In 2001, the site of the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho was designated the Minidoka Internment National Monument.
Psychological injury was observed by Dillon S. Myer, director of the WRA camps. In June 1945, Myer described how the Japanese Americans had grown increasingly depressed, and overcome with feelings of helplessness and personal insecurity.
Some Japanese American farmers were able to find families willing to tend their farms for the duration of their internment. In other cases, however, Japanese American farmers had to sell their property in a matter of days, usually at great financial loss. In these cases, the land speculators who bought the land made huge profits. California's Alien Land Laws of the 1910s, which prohibited most non-citizens from owning property in that state, contributed to Japanese American property losses. Because they were barred from owning land, many older Japanese American farmers were tenant farmers and therefore lost their rights to those farm lands.
To compensate former internees for their property losses, the US Congress, on July 2 1948, passed the "American Japanese Claims Act", allowing Japanese Americans to apply for compensation for property losses which occurred as "a reasonable and natural consequence of the evacuation or exclusion." By the time the Act was passed, however, the IRS had already destroyed most of the 1939-42 tax records of the internees, and, due to the time pressure and the strict limits on how much they could take to the assembly centers and then the internment camps, few of the internees themselves had been able to preserve detailed tax and financial records during the evacuation process. Thus, it was extremely difficult for claimants to establish that their claims were valid. Under the Act, Japanese American families filed 26,568 claims totaling $148 million in requests; approximately $37 million was approved and disbursed.
During World War II, Colorado governor Ralph Lawrence Carr was the only elected official to publicly apologize for the internment of American citizens. The act cost him reelection, but gained him the gratitude of the Japanese American community, such that a statue of him was erected in Sakura Square in Denver's Japantown.
Beginning in the 1960s, a younger generation of Japanese Americans who were inspired by the Civil Rights movement began what is known as the "Redress Movement", an effort to obtain an official apology and reparations from the federal government for interning their parents and grandparents during the war, focusing not on documented property losses but on the broader injustice of the internment. The movement's first success was in 1976, when President Gerald Ford proclaimed that the evacuation was "wrong."
The campaign for redress was launched by Japanese Americans in 1978. The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) asked for three measures to be taken as redress: $25,000 to be awarded to each person who was detained, an apology from Congress acknowledging publicly that the U.S. government had been wrong, and the release of funds to set up an educational foundation for the children of Japanese American families.
In 1980, Congress established the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to study the matter. Some opponents of the redress movement argued that the commission was ideologically biased; 40% of the commission staff was of Japanese ancestry. On February 24 1983, the commission issued a report entitled Personal Justice Denied, condemning the internment as "unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity". Members of the redress movement and their allies considered the report a necessary recognition of the great injustice of the internment program.
In 1988, U.S. President (and former California governor) Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which had been pushed through Congress by Representative Norman Mineta and Senator Alan K. Simpson — the two had met while Mineta was interned at a camp in Wyoming — which provided redress of $20,000 for each surviving detainee, totaling $1.2 billion dollars. The question of to whom reparations should be given, how much, and even whether monetary reparations were appropriate were subjects of sometimes contentious debate.
On September 27 1992, the Civil Liberties Act Amendments of 1992, appropriating an additional $400 million in order to ensure that all remaining internees received their $20,000 redress payments, was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, who also issued another formal apology from the U.S. government.
Japanese and Japanese Americans who were relocated during WWII were compensated for direct property losses in 1948. Later on in 1988 following lobbying efforts by Japanese Americans, $20,000 per internee was paid out to individuals who had been interned or relocated, including those who chose to return to Japan. These payments were awarded to 82,210 Japanese Americans or their heirs at a cost of $1.6 billion; the program's final disbursement occurred in 1999.
Under the 2001 budget of the United States, it was also decreed that the ten sites on which the detainee camps were set up are to be preserved as historical landmarks: “places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Amache, Jerome, and Rohwer will forever stand as reminders that this nation failed in its most sacred duty to protect its citizens against prejudice, greed, and political expediency”. Each of these concentration camps was surrounded by barbed wire and contained at least ten thousand detainees.
President Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War. On February 19 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt followed in his footsteps by signing Executive Order 9066, permitting exclusion of persons from wartime military zones.
Following the reluctance or inability of the vast majority of ethnic Japanese to establish new residences beyond the coastal regions of California, Oregon, and Washington, the U.S. government entered upon a mission of housing, feeding, and safeguarding in family groups as many as 122,000 ethnic Japanese residing in what became the Red War Zone. In point of fact, a significant number of Japanese living outside of the coastal areas requested and were granted the opportunity of joining others of their ethnic group in the relocation centers.
Former Supreme Court Justice Tom C. Clark, who represented the US Department of Justice in the "relocation," writes in the Epilogue to the 1992 book Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans (written by Maisie & Richard Conrat):
To this day, some believe that the legality of the internment has been firmly established as exactly the type of scenario spelled out, quite clearly, in the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798. Among other things, the Alien Enemies Act (which was one of four laws included in the Alien and Sedition Acts) allowed for the United States government, during time of war, to apprehend and detain indefinitely foreign nationals, first-generation citizens, or any others deemed a threat by the government. As no expiration date was set, and the law has never been overruled, it was still in effect during World War II, and still is to this day. Therefore, some continue to claim that the civil rights violations were, in fact, not violations at all, having been deemed acceptable as a national security measure during time of war by Congress, signed into law by President John Adams, and upheld by the Supreme Court. However, the majority of the detainees were American-born, thus exempt under law from the Alien and Sedition Acts except if found to directly be a threat due to their actions or associations. This exemption was the basis for drafting Nisei to fight in Europe, as the Laws of Land Warfare prohibit signatory nations (including the United States) from compelling persons to act against their homelands or the allies of their homelands in time of war.
Korematsu's and Hirabayashi's convictions were vacated in a series of coram nobis cases in the early 1980s. In the coram nobis cases, federal district and appellate courts ruled that newly uncovered evidence revealed the existence of a huge unfairness which, had it been known at the time, would likely have changed the Supreme Court's decisions in the Yasui, Hirabayashi, and Korematsu cases. These new court decisions rested on a series of documents recovered from the National Archives showing that the government had altered, suppressed and withheld important and relevant information from the Supreme Court, most notably, the Final Report by General DeWitt justifying the internment program. The Army had destroyed documents in an effort to hide the fact that alterations had been made to the report. The coram nobis cases vacated the convictions of Korematsu and Hirabayashi (Yasui passed away before his case was heard, rendering it moot), and are regarded as one of the impetuses for the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
It is important to note that the rulings of the US Supreme Court in the 1944 Korematsu and Hirabayashi cases, specifically, its expansive interpretation of government powers in wartime, were not overturned. They are still the law of the land because a lower court cannot overturn a ruling by the US Supreme Court. However, the coram nobis cases totally undermined the factual underpinnings of the 1944 cases, leaving the original decisions without the proverbial legal leg to stand on. But in light of the fact that these 1944 decisions are still on the books, a number of legal scholars have expressed the opinion that the original Korematsu and Hirabayashi decisions have taken on an added relevance in the context of the War on terror.
Another widely used name for the American camps is "internment camp". This phrase is also potentially misleading, as the United States Department of Justice operated separate camps that were officially called "internment camps" in which some Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.
"Concentration camp" is the most controversial descriptor of the camps. This term is criticized for suggesting that the Japanese American experience was analogous to the Holocaust and the Nazi concentration camps. For this reason, National Park Service officials have attempted to avoid the term. Nonetheless, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes each referred to the American camps as "concentration camps", at the time. Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower have also utilized the phrase "concentration camps".
Recognizing the controversy over the terminology, in 1971, when the Manzanar Committee applied to the California Department of Parks and Recreation to have Manzanar designated as a California State Historical Landmark, it was proposed that both "relocation center" and "concentration camp" be used in the wording of the plaque for the landmark. Some Owens Valley residents vehemently opposed the use of "concentration camp", and it took a year of discussion and negotiation before both terms were accepted and included on the plaque.