Executive Order 9066

Japanese Relocation

Figure 1.1

This is a photograph of a news paper posting, that indicates the instructions for all internees to follow as part of the immediate undergoing Mass removal of the Japanese. 

Executive Order 9066

On February 19, 1942 Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a petition to remove all Japanese Americans from the western part of the region and placing them into temporary holding areas as a direct result of the December 7, 1941 Japanese bombing on Pearl Harbor (Conrat, 1972). This petition came to be know as the Executive Order 9066, which went into affect two short months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The initial purpose of the Executive Order 9066 was to prevent espionage as well as to protect Japanese Americans from harm. At this time, there were many Americans who had strong anti-Japanese attitudes due to the attack on Pearl Harbor. These designated areas that Japanese Americans were assigned to were referred to as ‘internment camps’. This mass removal of Japanese Americans resulted in 110,000 of these individuals pilling into these internment camps. Ironically, two-thirds of these imprisoned Japanese were actually U.S. citizens. However, despite this factor the government strongly denied them permission to return to their communities in Washington, Oregon, California and Arizona (Ourdocuments.gov).

            Although, the Executive Order was initially composed to reinforce structure after such a brutal attack as that of Pearl Harbor, the mass removal and placement in internment camps of Japanese Americans proved to be a contradiction and injustice. Within weeks of the Executive Order going into affect, all people of Japanese descent whether they were citizens or enemy aliens, young or old, rich or poor were ordered to assembly centers near their homes. Following this, all Japanese were sent to permanent relocation centers outside restricted military zones. In fact, prior to the actual signing and initiation of the Executive Order the Department of Justice had already been detaining thousands of Japanese Americans who were deemed as potential threats to national security. To follow, an investigation was done that confirmed that in fact there no threat of espionage amongst the remaining Japanese American population those of which would later be sanctioned to internment camps anyways. Due to the fact that it was confirmed that there in fact was no threat of espionage at the hands of Japanese Americans, prior to the initiation of the Executive Order pushing the order into affect after the fact was irrelevant to the cause. Thus, the decision to push for the authorization of the Executive Order was a decision largely based on anti-Japanese attitudes and beliefs. Attitudes and beliefs that Japanese Americans were incapable of being dutiful American citizens, said to be proved the actions of the Pearl Harbor attack. A notable example the anti-Japanese attitudes and beliefs came from General John Dewitt, a general in the United States Army where he states that “once a Jap, always a Jap”. 

Roosevelt signing Executive Order 9066

Figure 1.2

In this photo, is President Franklin D. Roosevelt signing the petition known as the Executive Order 9066 of 1942. This image was retrieved from the center for National Archives. 

Franklin D. Roosevelt

While there were plenty apparent flaws in the Executive Order, the words of General John Dewitt worked as fuel for the many supports of the petition who deeply possessed Anti-Japanese beliefs. This choice of words offered by General John Dewitt gave the presumption that the proposal of the Executive order was clearly justifiable. Justifiable in the way that President Roosevelt believed that the Executive order was an implantation to protect the U.S. and prevent another potential attack from the Japanese as that of Pearl Harbor. President Roosevelt made it very apparent that he was in full support of the implementations of the Executive Order as he says “the successful prosecution of the requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national defense material, national defense premises, and national defense utilities” (Robinson, 2003). An explanation that can be drawn from Roosevelt’s words and those of General John Dewitt, is that despite the obvious flaws and internal beliefs behind the push for the order there was no admittance of any wrong being done only explanations offered to justify reasoning for the Executive Order. Thus, Roosevelt as well as the many other supporters seemed to believe in the implementations of the Executive Order as a greater good for the nation. 

Mrs. Roosevelt Asks for Tolerance

Eleanor Roosevelt

While there were many supporters of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, there were equally as many individuals opposed to it. One of the most notable individuals of the order was that of President Roosevelt’s very own wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt was taken by surprise by her husband’s composition of the Executive Order. To which she strongly protested her husband against the initiation of the Executive Order. However, Mr. Roosevelt promptly told her he would not discuss it any further, ultimately his mind was made up and the was going into affect (Denshoencyclopedia.org). Mrs. Roosevelt was not going to take no for answer, therefore she even went so far as to meet with one of her husband’s friends a man by the name of Archibald MacLeish who was the director of the Office of Facts and Figures. She was hoping to put together arguments to use against the mass removal of Japanese Americans. However, this went without success and FDR dismissed it. Following her failed attempts, Executive Order 9066 launched Eleanor into a quandary that she was unable to resolve. As the president’s wife, she had no other choice but to publicly support his policy. Although, her attempts to put a stop to the initiation of the Executive Order had failed, this did not stop her from furthering her opposition once implemented (Denshoencylopedia.org).

         Eleanor privately lamented that innocent people were being made to pay for crimes of the guilty. She kept herself informed on Japanese-American’s and their problems to help where she could. She authorized the transfer of money from the special projects fund she had maintained with the American Friends Service Committee to pay for emergency programs. Following her best efforts, in March 1943 Eleanor received a letter from Harriet Gibson that consisted of rumors about Issei and Nisei fifth columnists. She addressed to representative John Tolan who discovered and informed her that there had been no incidents of sabotage and no Japanese Americans convictions of disloyal acts. Finally, due to her persistence FDR agreed to allow Eleanor to visit one of the internment camps. In April of 1943, Mrs. Roosevelt visited an internment camp by the name of Gila River. Although the inmates were pleased that she was trying to plead with them, ultimately they felt that she was blaming them for their own incarceration.


As a result, on February 19th of 1976 President Gerald R. Ford issued a proclamation to which he titled “An American Promise”. This proclamation rescinded the Executive Order 9066. According to President Gerald R. Ford the reason the executive order was rescinded was due to the fact that the mass removal and incarceration of Japanese Americans was a “setback to fundamental principles”. 


 1.Article. “Mrs. Roosevelt Asks for Tolerance”, from the Pacific Citizen, Vol. 14 No. 161. Densho Encyclopedia. 1942 January.http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-eleanorroosevelt-article-1/

 2. Conrat, Maisie, Richard Conrat, and Dorothea Lange. 1972. Executive order 9066: the internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press for the California Historical Society.

 3. Densho Encyclopedia contributors,  "Executive Order 9066,"   Densho Encyclopedia   http://encyclopedia.densho.org/Executive%20Order%209066/ 

 4. Executive Order 9066, February 19, 1942; General Records of the Unites States Government; Record Group 11; National Archives.


 5. Greg Robinson, By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans (Harvard University Press, 2003).

6. Haun, Marjorie. “The Lone Politician Who Stood against Japanese Internment”. AmericanThinker.com. 18 December 2011.