Seventy-five years ago, an executive order sent 120,000 Japanese-Americans into internment



Seventy-five years ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt committed one of the U.S. government's greatest violations of personal freedom: the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, on Feb. 19, 1942, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. That authorized the relocation of Japanese-Americans.

The fear was that Japanese-Americans would side with Japan if provoked by a full-out invasion.

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While German-Americans and Italian-Americans were also affected, they didn't face the same level of persecution.

Over 120,000 people — the majority Japanese-Americans — were relocated to one of 10 mainland camps.

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Japanese internment camps
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Japanese internment camps
Toyo Miyatake stands in his children's bedroom looking at his young daughter drawing at a desk, while her mother stands behind her, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A marble monument with an inscription that reads, "Monument for the Pacification of Spirits," in the cemetary at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A mess line is formed in front of a building at midday at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A terra cotta frieze by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a Japanese American strawberry farmer, is seen at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Ryie Yoshizawa and a class of female students sit at a table looking at fashion magazines and patterns. The students are: Satoko Oka, Chizuko Karnii, Takako Nakanishi, Kikiyo Yamasuchi, Masako Kimochita, Mitsugo Fugi, Mie Mio, Chiye Kawase, and Miyeko Hoshozike, at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
A nurse tends to four infants in cribs at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in a field at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY.
Origami cranes hang near a terra cotta frieze, by artist Steve Gardner, depicting a separated family at the Japanese American Exclusion Memorial on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Mrs. Yaeko Nakamura, holding hands with her two daughters, Joyce Yuki Nakamura and Louise Tami Nakamura, walk under a pavilion in a park at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, in this 1943 handout photo. February 19, 2017 marks the 75th anniversary of FDR signing executive order 9066, authorizing the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Courtesy Ansel Adams/Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-A35-4-M-10/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Ferries dock under mountain peaks of the distant Olympic Peninsula, on Puget Sound's Bainbridge Island, Washington, U.S. February 12, 2017. The island's Japanese-American community was the first to be sent to World War Two internment camps after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066 75 years ago, on February 19, 1942. Picture taken February 12, 2017. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
A guard tower at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A view out of the window of the former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The cemetery at Manzanar internment camp is seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
The former living quarters at Manzanar internment camp are seen in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
A gravestone is seen in the cemetery at Manzanar internment camp in Independence, California July 17, 2013. Nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes on the west coast by the U.S. Army and sent to Manzanar and nine other internment camps between March 1942 and November 1945. Two thirds of them were American citizens. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY)
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Once at a camp, people had no way of knowing how long they would be required so stay.

The last camp wasn't shut down until March 1946.

For nearly 50 years, the U.S. government struggled to recognize those who suffered.

During the war, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the president's order in two separate cases.

But in 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act. That deemed the internment "a grave injustice" and awarded restitution payments to eligible survivors.

Both former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton added their sympathies by sending apology letters to descendants of survivors of the camps.

Former President Barack Obama declared an internment camp in Hawaii as a national monument.

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President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
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President Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe deliver remarks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (C) and U.S. President Barack Obama (L) bow their heads during a wreath-laying ceremony aboard the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama prepares to deliver remarks at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam's Kilo Pier on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Shinzo Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor with a U.S. president and the first to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.

(Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greet Pearl Harbor survivors Everett Hyland, Al Rodrigues and Sterling Cale after giving remarks at Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, U.S. December27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Hugh Gentry)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) talks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a meeting at Camp H.M. Smith in Aiea, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama releases flower petals following a wreath-laying ceremony with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) aboard the USS Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) greets a Pearl Harbor survivor after delilvering remarks with U.S. President Barack Obama at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, U.S., December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greet Pearl Harbor Survivors Everett Hyland, Al Rodrigues and Sterling Cale after giving remarks at Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii, December 27, 2016.

(REUTERS/Hugh Gentry)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam's Kilo Pier on December 27, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Abe is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor with a U.S. president and the first to visit the USS Arizona Memorial.

(Photo by Kent Nishimura/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama (C) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe greet veterans at Kilo Pier overlooking the USS Arizona Memorial on December 27, 2016 at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Abe and Obama made a joint pilgrimage to the site of the Pearl Harbor attack on Tuesday to celebrate 'the power of reconciliation. 'The Japanese attack on an unsuspecting US fleet moored at Pearl Harbor turned the Pacific into a cauldron of conflict -- more than 2,400 were killed and a reluctant America was drawn into World War II.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

US President Barack Obama (R) listens as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks at the USS Arizona Memorial on December 27, 2016 at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii. Abe and Obama made a joint pilgrimage to the site of the Pearl Harbor attack on Tuesday to celebrate 'the power of reconciliation. 'The Japanese attack on an unsuspecting US fleet moored at Pearl Harbor turned the Pacific into a cauldron of conflict -- more than 2,400 were killed and a reluctant America was drawn into World War II.

(NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

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