President Biden Calls Japanese Internment Camps During WWII “Shameful”
Written by Mac Watson on February 19, 2023
UPDATE: Monday, 11:45AM Aura Sunada Newlin, from the Heart Mountain Interpretative Center commented on what President Biden said yesterday about the use of internment camps for Japanese-Americans. Her quote has been added to the story.
President Joe Biden called the use of internment camp for Japanese Americans who lived on the west coast of the United States during World War II, “one of the most shameful periods in American history” on Sunday.
“When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, eighty-one years ago today, it ushered in one of the most shameful periods in American history,” Biden said in a strongly worded statement that marked the anniversary of FDR’s executive order, which would be ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court.
“The incarceration of Japanese Americans reminds us what happens when racism, fear and xenophobia go unchecked,” Biden added. “As we battle for the soul of our nation, we continue to combat the corrosive effects of hate on our democracy and the intergenerational trauma resulting from it.”
Over 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced into the internment camps during World War II, with Biden saying on Sunday that it split families and decimated thriving communities in states like California, Oregon and Washington State.
“The wrongful internment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent tore families apart,” Biden said. “Men, women and children were forced to abandon their homes, their jobs, their communities, their businesses and their way of life. They were sent to inhumane concentration camps simply because of their heritage.”
Closer to home, Wyomingites are reminded of the terrible chapter in American History with the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, now called the Heart Mountain Interpretative Center, which is located halfway between towns of Cody and Powell, Wyoming. Heart Mountain was one of ten “relocation” or concentration camps that were used to house Japanese Americans who were relocated from the West Coast Exclusion Zone by the FDR executive order, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor that started America’s involvement in World War II.
Aura Sunada Newlin, interim executive director of the Heart Mountain Interpretative Center, says it’s important for a current president to recognize what happened during World War II to the Japanese-American community. Ms. Sunada Newlin adds, “The Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation is grateful for President Biden’s statement reaffirming the federal government’s acknowledgement of the harm it wrought on the Japanese-American community 81 years ago. Mass exclusion and incarceration of any minority group damages society as a whole. Our work at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center and the new Mineta-Simpson Institute at Heart Mountain strives to heal the divisions caused by invented notions of who belongs and who does not.”
The recommendation to use “relocation camps” came from Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, who was a four-star general in the United States Army. General DeWitt believed that Japanese nationals and Japanese Americans on the west coast of the U.S. either were or would conspire to sabotage the American war effort, bringing unrest, defiance and, perhaps violence. General DeWitt recommended in a letter that the Japanese Americans (again, only from the west coast) be removed from these coastal cities and towns. Thus, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. DeWitt used the authority given to him to issue orders that placed most of the west coast off-limits to Japanese Americans.