This year marks the 80th anniversary of the widespread incarceration of Bay Area and West Coast U.S. citizens of Japanese descent. In recognition of this event, on Feb. 19 Gov. Gavin Newsom declared Feb. 19 “A Day of Remembrance: Japanese American Evacuation.”
United States Executive Order 9066, issued on Feb. 19, 1942, authorized the forced relocation and incarceration of thousands of citizens because of their Japanese ancestry. Over two and-a-half years, the U.S. government removed Japanese Americans from their homes throughout the Bay Area and up and down the West Coast, separating families and forcing them into concentration camps.
Newsom’s proclamation states: “We honor their sacrifice, as well as the resilience that made it possible for thousands of Japanese American families to reclaim and rebuild their lives after the war. A decision motivated by discrimination and xenophobia, the internment of Japanese Americans was a betrayal of our most sacred values as a nation that we must never repeat. This stain on our history should remind us to always stand up for our fellow Americans, regardless of their national origin or immigration status, and protect the civil rights and liberties that we hold dear.”
On its Website, The San Francisco Museum shares links to many of the newspaper articles of that time, describing the FBI and police sweeps of San Francisco that were carried out during the first six months of 1942, mostly in response to the Dec. 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese military on Pearl Harbor.
According to the museum, San Francisco business and government leaders began planning to physically clear the Japanese community from the Western Addition by declaring it a “slum area.”
Oakland had a thriving Japanese American community in the 1940s that was impacted by the relocation order.
According to the history Website California Japantowns, Oakland’s population of almost 1,800 Japanese residents at the onset of World War II ranked among California’s largest. San Jose and Sacramento also had large populations.
During the forced relocation process, a facility called the Tanforan Assembly Center was opened at the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno. Occupied from April 28, 1942 to Oct. 13, 1942 the assembly center held 8,033 detainees (with a maximum of 7,816 at a time) from the San Francisco Bay Area. The assembly center had about 130 barracks, half within the racetrack infield. In addition, stables were used to house detainees.