Report to the President:
Japanese-American Internment Sites Preservation
On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading to the relocation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. To carry out the order, the United States Government established War Relocation Centers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and other states. Almost 50 years later, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, acknowledging that "a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II." As a result, all Japanese Americans who were subject to internment received a letter from the U.S. Government that "acknowledged the wrongs of the past and offered redress to those who endured such grave injustice."
In 1992, Congress recognized the importance of protecting and interpreting the historical, cultural and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II by establishing the Manzanar National Historic Site (P.L. 102-248). Manzanar is intended to preserve and interpret a representative War Relocation Center as an aspect of the nation's Pacific Campaign of World War II. In 1999, as part of the effort to inventory the tangible remains currently left at the internment sites, the Department of the Interior (DOI) published "Confinement and Ethnicity: an Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites," describing the current condition of the War Relocation Centers and other relocation sites.
On November 9, 2000, President Clinton directed the Secretary of the Interior to follow up on this report by developing recommendations to preserve the existing Japanese American internment sites and to provide more opportunities for the public to learn about the internment. This report was to be developed within sixty days in consultation with members of Congress, States, Tribes, local officials, and other interested parties.
There are ten Japanese-American War Relocation Centers located in seven States. Parts of the historic cores of some of these sites are under the jurisdiction of DOI bureaus, primarily the National Park Service, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Bureau of Land Management. Two sites are located on Indian Tribal land, and three are located on private land. The sites have varying levels of historic recognition.
In addition to these War Relocation Centers, there are numerous other relocation and internment facilities. Most of the Japanese Americans were first sent to one of 17 temporary "Assembly Centers," where they awaited transfer to a more permanent relocation center. Most of those relocated were American citizens by birth. Many were long-term U.S. residents, unable to gain citizenship because of discriminatory naturalization laws. Thousands of these "aliens" were interned in Department of Justice and U.S. Army facilities.
The Japanese-American Internment sites represent a tangible reminder of a shameful part of American history. DOI has consulted with several national and local organizations strongly committed to ensuring that this period in American history is never forgotten. These groups, and the wealth of information they have about the sites, are an integral part of the development of this report. We have used this information, along with information gathered in DOI field offices to develop recommendations for the Relocation Centers.
In addition to the specific site recommendations included in Appendix A, the Department will focus its overall attention on three main areas: Interpretation, Historic Recognition, and Consultation. DOI has created an implementation team to follow through on these recommendations. The names of the team members are included in Appendix B.
This process has illustrated several preservation success stories and has highlighted many lessons that can be learned from the efforts of national, State and local organizations on the preservation of specific Internment sites. This report is designed to not only discuss how DOI will work with these organizations to preserve and/or interpret these sites, it also serves as a roadmap for Federal agencies, national, State and local organizations on the preservation of other Internment sites.
While this report focuses on the ten War Relocation Centers, there are also various preservation efforts for other sites that represent preservation "success stories." In particular, in 1999, the U.S. Forest Service dedicated the Catalina Federal Honor Camp as the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site, after the site's most famous prisoner. Details about the U.S. Forest Service's preservation efforts for the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site are included in Appendix D.
There are also numerous opportunities to better recognize and protect significant sites in addition to the Relocation Centers. Among the Assembly Centers, for example, the Santa Anita Racetrack in California, which served as one of the Assembly Centers, retains a high degree of historic integrity, and could well qualify as a national historic landmark. It is already a California state historic landmark. In addition, there were significant sites associated with the relocation and internment period that were administered by the Army, the Justice Department, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons that should be given future consideration for recognition and preservation.
This report is divided into three sections: