During World War II, the United States government placed more than 120,000 Japanese Americans from the west coast and Hawaii in ten war relocation camps. Two of those camps were located in southeastern Arkansas. One in Rohwer and the other in Jerome. Life Interrupted will offer a unique opportunity to educate Arkansans and Americans on the unique struggle fo the Japanese American people during this trying time in our nation’s past.
Life Interrupted – Timeline of Events
March 26: The U.S. Congress, in the Act of March 26, 1790, states that “any alien, being a free white person who shall have resided within the limits and under the jurisdiction of the United States for a term of two years, may be admitted to become a citizen thereof.”
The United States purchases the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon for $15 million.
Arkansas becomes the 25th state. She enters the Union with Michigan to maintain the balance between free and slave states.
First group of Japanese immigrants arrive in U.S. and establish the Wakamatsu Colony at Gold Hill in California.
The phrase “persons of African nativity or descent” is added to the language of the act of 1790, which is used to deny citizenship to Japanese and other Asian immigrants until 1952.
May 6: Congress passes Chinese Exclusion Act, which bars further Chinese immigration and prohibits Chinese from citizenship. Enforced from 1882 to 1892, it creates labor demand, seen as the major reason for increased immigration of Japanese to the Pacific Coast.
Japanese laborers begin arriving in Hawaii, recruited by plantation owners to work the sugarcane fields.
Japanese immigrants arrive on the mainland U.S. for work primarily as agricultural laborers.
June 27: A U.S. district court rules that Japanese immigrants cannot become citizens because they are not “a free white person” as the Naturalization Act of 1790 requires.
Hawaii annexed by the U.S., enabling about 60,000 Japanese residing in Hawaii to proceed to mainland U.S. without passports.
The vast majority of Japanese emigrated to the U.S. between 1900 and 1920. Under pressure from U.S., the Japanese government stops issuing passports to laborers desiring to enter the U.S. Since territory of Hawaii is not mentioned in the agreement, Japanese continue to immigrate there.
May 7: The first large-scale anti-Japanese protest in California is held, organized by various labor groups.
California urges U.S. Congress to limit Japanese immigration.
May 14: Representatives from sixty-seven organizations, including labor leaders and European immigrants, meet in San Francisco to form Asiatic Exclusion League of San Francisco, marking the first organized effort of the anti-Japanese movement.
October 11: San Francisco School Board orders segregation of 93 Japanese American students, as well as children of Chinese and Korean ancestry, from the majority population.
On orders from President Theodore Roosevelt, San Francisco School Board rescinds segregation order; but strong feelings against Japanese persist. Anti-Japanese riots break out in San Francisco in May, and again in October, much to the embarrassment of the U.S. government. Congress passes immigration bill forbidding Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. via Hawaii, Mexico, or Canada.
Alien Land Law (Webb-Haney Act) passed, denying “all aliens ineligible for citizenship” (which includes all Asians except for Filipinos, who are “subjects” of the U.S.) the right to own land in California. Leasing land is limited to 3 years. Similar laws eventually adopted in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Minnesota.
California’s Alien Land Law amended to close all loopholes. Forbids Issei to buy land in the names of their Nisei children (see date 1913).
November: A new, more stringent Alien Land Law passes as a ballot initiative in California, intending to close loopholes found in the 1913 Alien Land Law, to be effective December 9.
Japanese American farmers produce $67 million dollars worth of crops, more than ten percent of California’s total crop value. There are 111,000 Japanese Americans in the U.S., 82,000 are immigrants and 29,000 were born in the U.S.
Arkansas’ leading crop is cotton with over 40 percent of state farmland under cultivation producing the crop.
November 13: Supreme Court rules in Takeo Ozawa v. U.S. that naturalization is limited to “free white persons and aliens of African nativity,” thus legalizing previous practice of excluding Asians from citizenship. This ban would last until 1952.
Congress passes Immigration Exclusion Act, barring all immigration from Japan. Protests held throughout Japan. July 1 declared “Day of Humiliation.”
Japan invades China by end of the year, capturing Nanking, capital of Nationalist China.
U.S. breaks off commercial relations with Japan.
Britain and France declare war on Germany, signaling beginning of World War II.
August 14: In a letter to President Roosevelt, Representative John Dingell of Michigan suggests incarcerating 10,000 Hawaiian Japanese Americans as hostages to ensure “good behavior” on the part of Japan.
November 7: Report prepared by presidential investigator Curtis Munson and submitted to the President, State Department and Secretary of War certifies that Japanese Americans possess an extraordinary degree of loyalty to U.S. Corroborates years of surveillance by FBI and Naval Intelligence, and do not pose a threat to national security in the event of war with Japan.
November 12: Fifteen Japanese American businessmen and community leaders in Los Angeles Little Tokyo are picked up in an FBI raid. Records and membership lists for such organizations as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and the Central Japanese Association are seized. The fifteen would cooperate with authorities, while a spokesman for the Central Japanese Association states: “We teach the fundamental principles of America and the high ideals of American democracy. We want to live here in peace and harmony. Our people are 100% loyal to America.”
December 7: Japan bombs U.S. fleet and military base at Pearl Harbor. Over 3,500 servicemen are wounded or killed. Martial law is declared in Hawaii.
December 7: The FBI begins arresting Japanese immigrants identified as community leaders: priests, Japanese language teachers, newspaper publishers, and heads of organizations. Within 48 hours, 1,291 are arrested. Most of these men would be incarcerated for the duration of the war, separated from their families.
December 8: U.S. Congress declares war on Japan. Within hours, FBI arrests 736 Japanese resident aliens as security risks in Hawaii and mainland.
December 11: The Western Defense Command is established with Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt as the commander.
December 1941 – January 1942: The FBI searches thousands of Japanese American homes on the West Coast for contraband. Short wave radios, cameras, heirloom swords, and explosives used for clearing stumps in agriculture are among the items confiscated. Over 2000 Issei in Hawaii and mainland – teachers, priests, officers of organizations, newspaper editors and other prominent people in Japanese community are imprisoned by the U.S. government.
Confusion and rumors of subversion abound. U.S. and allied forces suffer catastrophic defeats for four months, heightening the threat of a West Coast invasion.
January 5: War Department classifies Japanese American men of draft age 4-C “enemy aliens.” Status not changed until June 16, 1946.
February 19: President Roosevelt signs Executive Order 9066, giving the Secretary of War authority to designate “military areas from which to exclude certain people.” The order did not specify Japanese Americans, but they were the only group to be imprisoned as a result of it. Eventually 120,000 Japanese, aliens and citizens, were incarcerated.
February 27: Idaho Governor Chase Clark tells a congressional committee in Seattle that Japanese would be welcome in Idaho only if they were in “concentration camps under military guard.” Some credit Clark with the conception of what was to become a true scenario.
March 2: Public Proclamation #1 issued by Lt. General John L. DeWitt, head of the Western Defense Command, specifies military zones 1 and 2. Zone 1 includes western halves of California, Washington and Oregon and southern third of Arizona. A curfew goes into effect in these areas; all those of Japanese ancestry must remain at home from 8 pm to 6 am.
March 18: The President signs Executive Order 9102 establishing the War Relocation Authority with Milton Eisenhower as director.
March: The Wartime Civil Control Administration opens 16 “Assembly Centers,” 13 of them in California, to detain approximately 92,000 men, women, and children until the permanent incarceration camps are completed. Many of the California residents who eventually end up in Arkansas are assigned to the Stockton, CA, center which operated from May 10 through October 17.
May: The evacuees begin transfer to permanent WRA incarceration facilities or “camps.” They total ten: Manzanar, Poston, Gila River, Topaz, Granada, Heart Mountain, Minidoka, Tule Lake, Jerome, and Rohwer.
June 5: Incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry from designated military zones now complete.
June 17: Milton Eisenhower resigns as WRA director. Dillon Myer is appointed to replace him.
July 1: Construction begins on Rohwer Relocation Center by the Linebarger- Senne Construction Company of Little Rock, Arkansas.
July 15: Construction begins on Jerome Relocation Center by A.J. Rife Construction Company of Dallas, Texas.
August 4: A routine search for contraband at the Santa Anita “Assembly Center” turns into a “riot.” Eager military personnel had become overzealous and abusive which, along with the failure of several attempts to reach the camp’s internal security chief, triggers mass unrest, crowd formation, and the harassing of the searchers. Military police with tanks and machine guns quickly end the incident. The “overzealous” military personnel are later replaced.
September: The last of the 16 Assembly Centers close when the inmates are transferred to concentration camps.
September 18: The first inmates arrive at Rohwer, Arkansas. Evacuees came from California and had to endure a three-day train ride from the assembly centers to reach Arkansas.
Background: The Rohwer Relocation Center is constructed in 1942 on approximately 10,161 acres in Desha County southeastern Arkansas. The site is located about 110 miles southeast of Little Rock and about 27 miles north of the Jerome Relocation Center. Approximately 500 acres serves as the central area of the relocation center and is home to most of the structures. There are more than 620 buildings at the relocation center including buildings for evacuees, military police, staff, fire station, health care, and mess halls.
Evacuees working outside the fenced area are subject to harassment caused by mistaken identity. Early in the relocation center occupation, evacuee volunteers clearing brush were reportedly taken off to a local jail at gunpoint by local residents who thought they were Japanese paratroopers
October 6: Camp at Jerome, Arkansas, opens. Evacuees are from California and Hawaii.
Background: The Jerome Relocation Center is constructed in 1942 on approximately 500 acres in Drew and Chicot counties in southeastern Arkansas. The site is located about 120 miles southeast of Little Rock and about 27 miles south of the Rohwer Relocation Center. The relocation center is in operation from October 6, 1942 until June 1944. The center is the last internment camp to open and the first to close. There are more than 610 buildings at the relocation center included buildings for evacuees, military police, staff, fire station, health care, and mess halls. Although space is reserved for schools, a church, and a store, these structures might not be built. After the relocation center was closed, it was converted into a prisoner of war camp for Germans.
October 20: President Roosevelt calls the “relocation centers” “concentration camps” at a press conference. The WRA had consistently denied that the term “concentration camps” accurately described the camps.
November: Jerome reaches its maximum population at 8,497 and Rowher does too, at 8,475. Maximum population, reached in November 1942, was 8,475.
November 17: A tenant farmer on horseback on his way home from deer hunting came across three Japanese Americans incarcerated at Jerome on a work detail in the woods. Thinking the Japanese Americans were trying to escape, he fired one round of buckshot, wounding two of them. Referring to the fact that a Caucasian engineer supervisor was present, the farmer explained he thought the supervisor was trying to aid the escape.
January 28: War Department announces plans to organize an all-Japanese American combat unit and calls for volunteers in Hawaii (where Japanese Americans were not incarcerated) and from among the men incarcerated in the camps.
January 29: A War Department press release announces the registration program for both recruitment and leave clearance.
February 8: Loyalty questionnaire administered in all ten camps to men and women over the age of seventeen. Contradictory and confusing nature of questions causes conflicts in families.
March: 10,000 Japanese American men volunteer for the armed services from Hawaii. 1,200 volunteer out of the camps.
April: 442nd Regimental Combat Team activated.
April 13: “A Jap’s a Jap. There is no way to determine their loyalty. . . This coast is too vulnerable. No Jap should come back to this coast except on a permit from my office.” General John L. DeWitt, head, Western Defense Command; before the House Naval Affairs Subcommittee.
July – November 1944: Jerome produced over 280,000 board feet of lumber and over 6,000 cords of firewood (from inmates clearing trees). In 1943, 630 acres were put under cultivation at Jerome. In 1944, 718 acres were under cultivation, 200 additional acres were cleared but not farmed, and several hundred more acres were partially cleared.
January 20: Reinstatement of draft for Japanese Americans including those incarcerated in the camps. The vast majority comply, a few hundred resist and are brought up on federal charges. Most of the resisters are imprisoned in a federal penitentiary including those incarcerated in the camps. The vast majority comply.
June 30: Jerome becomes the first camp to close when the last inmates are transferred to Rohwer.
The closure of the Jerome Relocation Center was cited as a sign of the WRA’s success in placing Japanese Americans in jobs and homes outside of the West Coast restricted zone. The overall population of the ten relocation centers declined in 1944 as over 18,000 evacuees moved out through the WRA leave process. Jerome was chosen for closure for three reasons: it was the least developed of the relocation centers, it had one of the smallest populations, and the nearby Rohwer Relocation Center could absorb most of the Jerome residents reducing the amount of transportation needed.
October 30: 100th/442nd combat team rescues the Texas “lost battalion” after five days of battle. The battle results in 800 casualties, including 184 killed in action to rescue 211 Texans. After this rescue, the 442nd is ordered to keep advancing in the forest; they would push ahead without relief or rest until November 9.
October: Residents of Rowher erect two monuments in the camp cemetery. One monument, in the shape of a military tank, is to the Japanese Americans in the 100th Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team who were killed in Italy and France. The second monument is to those who died in the relocation center. It has both Japanese and English inscriptions. The Japanese translates to: “May the people of Arkansas keep in beauty and reverence forever this ground where our bodies sleep.” The English inscription reads: “Erected by the inhabitants of Rohwer Relocation Center October 1944.”
December 17: U.S. War Department announces revocation of the West Coast exclusion order against Japanese Americans (effective on January 2, 1945, in anticipation of possible negative ruling of Supreme Court the following day).
December 18: Supreme Court rules detention orders are valid use of “war powers” in the Korematsu case. In Endo case, it declares WRA cannot detain loyal citizens against will, opening way for Japanese Americans to return to West Coast.
January 2: Restrictions preventing resettlement on the West Coast are removed, although many exceptions continue to exist. A few carefully screened Japanese Americans had returned to the coast in late 1944.
August 6: U.S. drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.
August 9: U.S. drops atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Total of 3 million Japanese left homeless.
September 2: Japan surrenders formally.
September 4: Western Defense Command issues Public Proclamation No. 24, revoking all West Coast exclusion orders against persons of Japanese ancestry. Some 44,000 people still remain in the camps. Many have nowhere to go having lost their homes and jobs. Many are afraid of anti-Japanese hostility and refuse to leave.
November 30: Rowher, Arkansas, camp closes. After the relocation center was closed, 120 acres were deeded to the local school district and the remaining land was sold back to the original farmers or to veterans. Equipment and buildings were sold to bidders from across the country.
March 20: Tule Lake “Segregation Center,” last of ten major concentration camps, closes, culminating “an incredible mass evacuation in reverse.” In the month prior to the closing, some 5,000 internees had had to be moved, many of whom were elderly, impoverished, or mentally ill and with no place to go. Of the 554 persons left there at the beginning of the day, 450 are moved to Crystal City, 60 are released, and the rest are “relocated.”
July 15: “You not only fought the enemy but you fought prejudice… and you won.” These were the words of President Truman on the White House lawn as he received the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
December 12: President Harry Truman grants pardon to all 267 Japanese American draft resistors.
January 19: U.S. Supreme Court invalidates California alien land law which denies gift of land by immigrant Japanese to citizen children.
July 12: President Truman signs “Evacuation Claims Act” which would pay less than ten cents on dollar for lost property only. Although approximately $28 million was paid from this act, this was only a small fraction of the estimated loss in income and property. Many former internees are unable to produce required documentary proof of losses.
April 17: California Supreme Court declares racially restrictive alien land laws unenforceable.
June 27: Walter-McCarran Immigration and Nationality Act passes in Congress over President Truman’s veto. Truman considers the Act too restrictive in its quota system, which heavily favors northern European nations. However, Act allows Japanese and other Asian immigrants to become naturalized citizens for the first time.
The Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education and requires segregated public schools to be integrated.
Orval E. Faubus is elected to his first two-year term as Arkansas’ governor. He will serve a total of six terms from 1955 to 1967.
President Eisenhower sends US troops to help nine African Americans high school attend Central High School in Little Rock and federalized the Arkansas National Guard who were ordered by Governor Faubus to prevent the students from entering. Eisenhower’s actions upheld the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education and becomes one of the first step in the American Civil Rights Movement.
August 29: Hawaii becomes fiftieth state. Daniel Inouye is the first Japanese American elected to the House of Representatives.
Winthrop Rockefeller becomes the first Republican governor of Arkansas since Reconstruction.
July 10: A resolution by the JACL’s Northern California-Western Nevada District Council calling for reparations for the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans is announced. Titled “A Requital Supplication” and championed by Edison Uno, this resolution would have the JACL seek a bill in Congress awarding individual compensation on a per diem basis, tax-free.
President Gerald Ford signs proclamation entitled “An American Promise” rescinding Executive Order 9066.
November 28: Representative Mike Lowry (DWA) introduces the World War II Japanese-American Human Rights Violations Act (H.R. 5977) into Congress. This NCJAR sponsored bill is largely based on research done by ex-members of the Seattle JACL chapter. It proposes direct payments of $15,000 per victim plus an additional $15 per day interned.
July 31: President Jimmy Carter signs bill to create Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) to determine whether any wrongs had been committed in the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans, and also of 1,000 Aleutian and Pribilof Islanders. CWRIC is to recommend remedies.
The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) holds hearings in nine major cities from July 14 through December 9 as part of its investigation into the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The emotional testimony by Japanese American witnesses about their wartime experiences would prove cathartic for the community and might be considered a turning point in the redress movement. In all, some 750 witnesses testify.
June: CWRIC issues their report, Personal Justice Denied, concluding that the exclusion, expulsion and incarceration of Japanese Americans was not justified by “military necessity”; and that the decision was based on “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.” It recommends that Congress pass legislation which recognizes “grave injustice” done, offers the nation’s apologies and compensation of $20,000 to each of the estimated 60,000 surviving persons.
California State Legislature proclaims February 19, 1984 and February 19 of each year to be recognized as “A Day of Remembrance” of the concentration episode to encourage Californians to reflect upon their shared responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rights of all individuals at all times.
September 17: Congress passes Civil Liberties Act.
April 20: Senate passage of Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
August 10: President Ronald Reagan signs Civil Liberties Act of 1988, requiring payment of $20,000, an apology to the estimated 60,000 survivors of internment, and a $1.25 billion education fund.
November 21: President George Bush signs appropriation bill, containing a redress payment provision under the entitlement program.
October 9: First letters of apology signed by President George Bush presented to oldest survivors of Executive Order 9066 at Department of Justice ceremony along with redress payment of $20,000. One hundred seven year-old Rev. Mamoru Eto of Los Angeles is the first to receive his check.
Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton is elected the 42nd President of the United States. As President, he signs the last letters of apology sent to Japanese Americans with their redress.
President Clinton appoints the commissioners to the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund (CLPEF).
February 5: The Office of Redress Administration officially closes its doors, having distributed redress payments to 82,220 claimants. The “Go for Broke” Memorial (honoring the 100th, 442nd, and MIS) is dedicated in Los Angeles.
November 9: In a memorandum to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, President Clinton requests that the Department of the Interior report make recommendations to preserve the World War II Japanese-American Interment sites. Clinton states, “the Japanese American Internment sites represent a tangible reminder of the grave injustice done to Japanese Americans.”
January 9: Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt delivers the “Report to the President: Japanese American Internment Sites Preservation.”
June: Grand opening of the National Japanese American Memorial.