WWII Incarceration

Governor Signs Bill Creating Fred Korematsu Day

September 25, 2010

On September 23, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed AB 1775 designating January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California. 

Each January 30 (which was Korematsu's birthday) the state of California will encourage schools across the state to teach students about Fred Korematsu’s story and its relevance in today’s post-9/11 environment.

In 1942, police arrested twenty-three year old Fred Korematsu (pictured here third from left) for not complying with the military’s orders forcing all Japanese Americans to leave the west coast to be incarcerated in desolate camps. Korematsu was one of a handful of Japanese Americans who challenged the government's orders.  Represented by the ACLU of Northern California, he brought a lawsuit against the forced exclusion of Japanese Americans. 

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him, accepting the government's argument that there was a "military necessity" for the mass removal of Japanese Americans.

Nearly forty years later, attorney and political science professor Peter Irons was researching the Korematsu case in the National Archives and discovered documentation that during World War II government attorneys in their arguments to the Supreme Court had deliberately omitted relevant evidence favorable to Japanese Americans and instead provided misleading information. Based on this evidence of government misconduct, Korematsu petitoned for his criminal convication to be reversed.  He was vindicated in 1983 when a federal judge overturned his conviction.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Korematsu spoke out vigorously about civil liberities violations against others. In 2004, he commented on racial profiling, saying: "No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy."

Fred Koremastu died in 2005 at the age of 86.

(Photo Courtesy of Karen Korematsu)

The civil liberties hero's birthday will be an annual occasion for California students to study his life and the importance of the freedoms and rights guaranteed in the Constitution.

Attempt to Strip Japanese Americans of Voting Rights

As the U.S. government was forcing Japanese Americans to leave their west coast homes to be incarcerated in concentration camps, the Native Sons of the Golden West brought a lawsuit to deny American citizens of Japanese descent their right to vote.

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KQED Forum: California, 'Wherever There's a Fight'

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Date: 
July 28, 2010

Host Michael Krasny talks with Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi about the many unsung heroes of California's past profiled in their book.

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Department of Justice Admits Former Solicitor General Withheld Critical Evidence in WWII Japanese American Cases

May 25, 2011

In an unprecedented "confession of error" statement posted on the Department of Justice's website, Neal Katya, the Acting Solicitor General of the United States, acknowledged that Charles Fahy, Solicitor General during World War II, withheld key evidence in historic Supreme Court cases regarding the incarceration of Japanese Americans.

Katya explained that Fahy intentionally suppressed evidence favorable to Japanese Americans in lawsuits filed by Fred Korematsu (pictured here third from the left), a San Leandro welder convicted of violating government orders that Japanese Americans be incarcerated, and Gordon Hirabayashi, a University of Washington student who challenged curfew orders imposed on Japanese Americans prior to mass incarceration.  

Fahy refused to inform the court of an Office of Naval Intelligence report that concluded Japanese Americans were not a threat to national security. He also did not tell the court that the FBI and FCC had discredited claims of Japanese Americans using radio transmitters to communicate with enemy submarines.

The Supreme Court upheld Korematsu's and Hirabayashi's convictions, claiming that "military necessity" justified the government's targeting and mass incareration of Japanese Americans.

In 1983 and 1987, after the discovery of the evidence Katya cited, proving the government had known there was no grounds for the mass incarceration, both Korematsu and Hirabayashi re-opened their cases, leading to the overturning of their criminal convictions by federal courts.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Fred Koremastu died in 2005 at the age of 86.

Last year, the state designated January 30 of each year as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California. 

Each January 30 (which was Korematsu's birthday) the state of California will encourage schools to teach students about Fred Korematsu’s story and its relevance in today’s post-9/11 environment.

(Photo Courtesy of Karen Korematsu)

Learn More

In an unprecedented admission of error, current Solicitor General acknowledges mistakes by his World War II-era predecessor

[Chapter 12] Behind Barbed Wire: World War II Removal and Incarceration

During World War II, the federal government took the unprecedented action of incarcerating Japanese Americans who were living on the west coast. Two of the camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated--Manzanar and Tule Lake--were in desolate areas of California.

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Dianne Feinstein Attempts to Restore Due Process Rights

March 1, 2012

On February 29, Calfornia Senator Dianne Feinstein chaired a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on legislation she is sponsoring to protect due process rights that are threatened by the National Defense Authorization Act, which President Obama signed on December 31.

That law allows the military to arrest, detain, and indefinitely imprison anyone in the U.S. suspected of terrorism without charges or trials. 

Feinstein's bill would protect the due process rights of American citizens and legal residents but not of business travelers, tourists, undocumented immigrants or others who are not U.S. citizens or green card holders.

Thus far, 24 senators have co-sponsored the legislation.

Feinstein has compared the controversial provision of the National Defense Authorization Act to the 1942 Executive Order that authorized the military to exclude people from any part of the U.S.  That order was the basis for the mass incarceration, without charges or trials, of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Learn More

Her legislation addresses a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act allowing the military to arrest and imprison Americans without charges or trials.

California State Assembly Passes Bill to Honor Fred Korematsu

May 26, 2010

On May 20, the California State Assembly voted unanimously to designate January 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution in California.  The legislation must be approved by the state senate and signed by the governor before taking effect. 

In 1942, police arrested twenty-three year old Fred Korematsu (pictured here third from left) for not complying with the military’s orders forcing all Japanese Americans to leave the west coast to be incarcerated in desolate camps like Manzanar in California's Owens Valley. Korematsu and his Italian American fiancée intended to leave California to marry. Korematsu was one of a handful of individuals who challenged the government's orders.  Represented by the ACLU of Northern California, he brought a lawsuit against the forced exclusion of Japanese Americans. 

In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against him, accepting the government's argument that there was a "military necessity" for the mass removal of Japanese Americans.

Nearly forty years later, attorney and political science professor Peter Irons was researching the Korematsu case in the National Archives and discovered documentation that during World War II government attorneys in their arguments to the Supreme Court had deliberately omitted relevant evidence favorable to Japanese Americans and provided misleading information. Based on this evidence of government misconduct, Korematsu petitoned for his criminal convication to be reversed.  He was vindicated in 1983 when a federal judge overturned his conviction.

In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Fred Koremastu died in 2005 at the age of 86.

(Photo Courtesy of Karen Korematsu)

Legislators unanimously approve honoring the World War II-era hero who defied the government's orders excluding Japanese Americans from the west coast.

Tenth Anniversary Edition of "Wherever There's a Fight" to be Released

September 24, 2019

Heyday is proud to announce the publication of the Tenth Anniversary edition of Wherever There’s A Fight:  How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists, Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California

According to Heyday publisher Steve Wasserman, "Ten years ago, Heyday published Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi's stirring compendium of California heroes, both sung and unsung, who down the decades demonstrated exemplary courage fighting the good fight to ensure civil liberties for all Californians and in so doing helped put the golden state at the forefront of a better, more just America. The stories they tell so well are needed now more than ever and this tenth anniversary edition is designed to reach readers everywhere, young and old alike, to inspire and provide hope for new generations of citizens who continue to fulfill the promise of the California--nay, American, dream."

November 5 release date set for special anniversary edition of award-winning book whose stories of civil liberties struggles are all the more relevant now.

World War II Incarceration: 1939

President Franklin Roosevelt authorizes the FBI to compile a “Custodial Detention” list comprised of “potentially dangerous” individuals to be detained or placed under surveillance in the event of war.

World War II Incarceration: Nov. 1941

Secret “Munson Report” circulated among federal officials, including President Roosevelt. The report states that Japanese Americans are loyal to the U.S. and do not pose a security threat.

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