What Is Executive Order 9066?

Executive Order 9066 was an order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, authorizing the secretary of war to remove possible enemy aliens from designated military zones in the United States. This resulted in the internment of approximately 120,000 people, mostly of Japanese origin.

Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, racism was common against Japanese-Americans in the United States. After the attack, there was fear that they would conduct sabotage in vulnerable areas, such as the U.S. West Coast. Following the signing of Executive Order 9066, the entire West Coast was designated a military zone. Japanese-American citizens and resident aliens were ordered to leave their homes with no more than they could carry. They were taken to makeshift compounds in remote, barren areas and housed in shacks made of tar paper surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. Some spent years in such camps, losing their homes, farms and businesses. Lesser numbers of German and Italian Americans were also interred.

In December 1944, the detainees were released after a Supreme Court ruling against their internment. In 1976, President Gerald Ford rescinded Executive Order 9066. In 1982, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens concluded that the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II was unjustified. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan apologized to those who were detained and authorized payment of restitution to the internees and their descendants.