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Executive Order 9066

Not until the end of January 1942 was there a concerted drive by some press, civic, business, and agricultural interests to remove all persons of Japanese ancestry, citizens and aliens alike. According to business and agriculture reports, a number of thriving businesses owned by Japanese Americans were strong competitors in the agricultural industryGeneral John L. DeWitt, commanding officer of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command, pursued greater power to remove all enemy aliens from zones around strategic West Coast installations.

DeWitt’s Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast did not present any evidence of sabotage or espionage that had occurred, merely that “there were indications that these [Japanese] are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity.
The very fact that no sabotage or espionage has taken place to date is disturbing and confirming indication that such action will take place.”

The reports from the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Naval Intelligence indicating no evidence to support eviction and internment were suppressed.

DeWitt’s recommendations were accepted by both the Army and the civilian heads without question. Chief of Staff George C. Marshall and the heads of the War Department (now the Defense Department) reviewed and approved them, deferring to the military decision.

The Justice Department viewed the mass evacuation as unnecessary; the mass evacuation of citizens unconstitutional, and any mass evacuation too large a task for the War Department to handle. Nevertheless officials conceded and helped polish up the order. Within two days the order was presented to President Roosevelt and received his signature. It was an election year, and his advisors recommended it as a show of popular support. He did not ask for a justification of the program nor was the subject considered by the Cabinet.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 (view full text), authorizing the Army to “designate military areas” from which “any persons may be excluded.” The words “Japanese,”or “Japanese Americans” never appeared in the Order. But the intent of the command was used only against persons of Japanese ancestry. Italian Americans and German Americans, whose ancestral countries were also at war with the Allies, were to be exempted.

Military Areas #1 and #2 were established in the western states of Washington, Oregon, California, and southern Arizona. Public Law 503 was enacted on March 9, 1942, to enforce the Order, imposing criminal penalties for its violation. Military decrees beginning on March 28, set curfews on Japanese Americans and a series of exclusion orders followed.


The mass removal of persons of Japanese ancestry ordered by the President, supported by the Justice Department, implemented by the Army and sanctioned by the Supreme Court, was based on the pretext of “military necessity,” a justification which later proved groundless and without evidence.