JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

1942: Family No. 1319

April 1942. "Santa Anita reception center, Los Angeles County, California. The evacuation of Japanese and Japanese-Americans from West Coast areas under United States Army war emergency order. Japanese family arriving at the center." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Office of War Information. View full size.

April 1942. "Santa Anita reception center, Los Angeles County, California. The evacuation of Japanese and Japanese-Americans from West Coast areas under United States Army war emergency order. Japanese family arriving at the center." Medium format acetate negative by Russell Lee for the Office of War Information. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Oh Yes, It Was Racism

Well, oldvet, kamikaze air attacks didn't even begin until 1944 when Japan was clearly losing the war. True, though, many Japanese soldiers were indeed willing to die for the Emperor and many shinto beliefs contributed to the idea of fighting warrior spirit (bushido) and other military traits, but the kamikazes were later.

And no, there is literally no evidence to my knowledge that Japanese living or born in the U.S. were a threat because of their belief in shinto (do Roman Catholics pose a threat?). The ugly truth is they looked different, spoke differently, believed differently, and people like them had attacked the U.S. To the handful of nisei I have known, it felt racist and unjust. Period. They're pretty sure.

I'll let the Japanese families

Who were the victims of this tell me whether it was bigotry/racism or not. And they say yes, it was. So, yeah, racism and a very shameful unfair thing for the US to do.

Some other considerations

The Niʻihau incident occurred on December 7–13, 1941, when Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service pilot Shigenori Nishikaichi (西開地 重徳, Nishikaichi Shigenori) crash-landed his Zero on the Hawaiian island of Niʻihau after participating in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Imperial Japanese Navy had designated Niʻihau as an uninhabited island for damaged aircraft to land and await rescue.

However, the Hawaiians could not understand Nishikaichi, who spoke only Japanese with a limited amount of English. They sent for Issei Ishimatsu Shintani, who was married to a native Hawaiian, to translate.

Having been briefed on the situation beforehand and approaching the task with evident distaste, Shintani exchanged just a few words with the pilot and departed without explanation. The puzzled Hawaiians then sent for Yoshio Harada, who was born in Hawaii of Japanese ancestry, and his wife Irene (an Issei), both of whom constituted the remainder of the Niʻihau population of Japanese ancestry. Nishikaichi informed Harada of the attack on Pearl Harbor,

There's More to the Story

Reading from the tag attached to the girl's sweater I believe this is the Shimamoto family, Frances/Fumiye (the little girl) and likely her father (Suyehiko) and one of her three older brothers (Kenichi, Takeshi, or Seiya). Frances' father and mother (Seiju) were born in Japan and so were ineligible to become citizens. Frances and her brothers were all born in US and were citizens. In 1942 the family was living in Long Beach Ca. and when evacuated were sent to the Rohwer camp in Arkansas. At some point they were all transferred to the Tule Lake camp in Northern California. They were held in the camp until December of 1945 at which time the entire family was repatriated to Japan.

There Were Major Differences

To those wondering why our government did not 'evacuate' Germans and Italians following the attack on Pearl Harbor let me explain some significant differences.

Most of the domestic German population was centered in the upper Midwest. Not an area where they might be expected to engage in sabotage with offshore enemies. There was significant military action by German submarines off the coast of New England initially and at least one landing on Long Island by German saboteurs but they were not considered a significant domestic threat by the FBI.

Most of the domestic Italian population was centered in the Northeast but the Italians were not considered a military threat.

Japanese were not assimilated into American culture to the degree that Germans and Italians were and so were looked at with much more suspicion. Although there were some incidents of Japanese in Hawaii spying on our military it wasn't the Japanese-Americans but rather Japanese consulate personnel. I can only guess the reason Japanese-Americans in Hawaii were not 'evacuated' was that (a) significant numbers were employed in support of our military posts there and (b) where would they have been put? It would have taken many ships to move that population and those ships were needed desperately in the Atlantic at that time.

Don't forget the profiteers

Interesting that the US government didn't make any offer or attempt to hold relocated Japanese Americans assets in trust, so the "good ones" wouldn't be unfairly punished. While many Japanese Americans lost everything, those who were not Japanese American bought homes, farms, businesses, etc. with large profits already built in. Sounds like profiteers saw yet another opportunity to use racism to their advantage; and racism was only too happy to accommodate.

Just Sad

In my school days, this would have been just another picture from our history. Since then, I've become quite fond of the Japanese, having lived in Northern Japan for several years. They are wonderful people, and had I been living in the '40s, this would have been sad to see.

Racism? No.

Misguided nationalism and bigotry, yes. Germans and Italians were also rounded up and encamped. I would refer those researching this to author Jan Jarboe Russell's "The Train To Crystal City." It is a very well-written and compelling read.

To be sure, that this was done was damnable enough. Let us remember that this was the thinking back then. The best we can do is to ensure that anything of this sort never happens again.

442nd Infantry Regiment

The most decorated unit in US military history. This unit was made up al ost entirely of Nisei, second generation Americans of Japanese ancestry. About 1500 of these soldiers enlisted while living in the camps. Many gave their lives in liberating Europe. No one can ask for a greater show of American patriotism.

No excuses. It was racism.

I would point out that President Roosevelt admitted to his wife, Eleanor that the so-called evacuation was not based on intelligence but grass roots bigotry that politicians were catering to. On the other hand the government knew that German spies were operating along the West Coast and many had turned themselves in and yet not one German American was "evacuated".

People have been denying this obvious truth since I was a little boy and many still are. It wasn't the times. Nothing has changed if too many continue to make up stories in order to avoid contrition and simple amends for our racism.


The Japanese exclusion on the west coast was racism, pure and simple. The danger of Japanese attack in Hawaii was greater (obviously!), but people in Hawaii of Japanese ancestry weren't rounded up and put in concentration camps. The danger of German attack on the east coast and in the Gulf of Mexico was greater than that of Japanese attack on the west coast. The German submarine fleet operated and sunk ships along our east coast and in the Gulf. But people of German or Italian ancestry in the east and south weren't rounded up and put in concentration camps. Roosevelt gave in to racists in California. But perhaps Earl Warren learned his lesson. He was responsible for the Brown v. Board school integration decision after Eisenhower appointed him to the Supreme Court.

Yes, it was unfortunate, and yes, it was wrong.

For those of you who are arguing that there was justification for putting Japanese-Americans - many of whom were American-born US citizens - in camps, let me ask you a question: why weren't the many millions of American citizens of German and Italian descent also relocated from their homes in the east coast?

Just Curious

Where were the Italian-American and the German-American evacuation centers?

Lock 'em up

Uh ... because they might storm the Capitol?

Times Were Different

It is unfair to look back at this time using current thinking. When the 'evacuation' was ordered the thinking at the time was that the Japanese military could still attack Hawaii and perhaps even the West Coast. There had been no documented events by Japanese-Americans of spying or sabotage but it was very early in the war and we had just lost most of our capital ships in December of 1941. The defense of the West Coast was thought to be in great peril. To their great credit there still has been no documented event of a Japanese-American committing an anti-American act. Even though they were imprisoned and most lost their homes and businesses they remained loyal to their country.

Never again?

This pretty much breaks my heart. Let me recommend a visit to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center Museum between Cody and Powell, Wyoming. You'll never regret it.

Call it what you will --

It was a shameful period in our history.

Folks I Know

I go to church with a lovely lady who could be that child. She did time in the Camps. I may just share this pic with her. Evacuation, pssssh! They lost everything. Totally everything.

A disgraceful chapter in American history

Per the poignant comment above, let us not forget this incident by obfuscating the truth.

Yes, an evacuation.

There is nothing euphemistic about calling it an evacuation, because that's exactly what it was. Military authorities had good cause to be concerned about spies and saboteurs, and the removal of Japanese-Americans from coastal areas would have made it much more difficult for them to operate undetected. Yes, it was unfortunate, but it wasn't wrong.

Seeing her face I cannot find the words

"Imagine being told you had a week to pack up all your belongings. You can bring all the bedding, clothing, and toiletries you can carry, but you better find a way to store or sell just about everything else. Homes, cars, boats? Bargain them off for fractions of their worth, or find a friend and hope they keep things safe. Your family business? Liquidate your inventory in a panic sale. Crops and farmland? Sell or lease your land, and forget about seeing the profits from that harvest you’ve been toiling for all year.

These were just some of the many turmoils Japanese Americans faced 75 years ago this spring. As civilian exclusion orders were posted across West Coast cities, Japanese Americans learned they had a week to ten days to pack up their lives and report for indefinite incarceration."


An action which grows more disgraceful with each passing year!

May we learn from our mistakes.

In Korematsu v. United States, the Supreme Court permitted the removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Let's pause to appreciate Justice Frank Murphy, whose dissent said that the action "falls into the ugly abyss of racism," and resembles "the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy." Justices Roberts and Jackson also dissented.

So this was an "evacuation"?

That's what the Office of War Information called it.

Here's what George Orwell wrote four years later: "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. . . . euphemism, question begging and sheer cloudy vagueness."

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Accessibility Statement | Site © 2024 Shorpy Inc.