Introduction

In March 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the War Relocation Authority to manage the forced removal of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Approximately 72,000 Japanese-Americans and 38,000 Japanese immigrants were sent to 10 internment camps located throughout interior areas of western states. Pages 80-81 reproduce the evacuation order as it was posted in west coast communities. The photo on page 82, taken by photographer Dorothea Lange, shows how the poster appeared at one San Francisco location. The War Relocation Authority hired photographer Dorothea Lange to document the removal process as humane and efficient. Lange took the assignment even though she disagreed with the decision to intern American citizens, and tried to capture the confusion and anxiety of the evacuees (see photo 3 on page 83). She hoped that her photographs would encourage people to think twice, but the majority of her photographs were censored and never published during the war.


Page 1 of “Instructions to Persons of Japanese Ancestry, Presidio of San Francisco, California, May 3, 1942.” (Box 74, Item 33, Manzanar War Relocation Center Records [Collection 122], Department of Special Collections, Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. Available from UCLA Institute on Primary Resources, https://goo.gl/crkBAP).

Page 2 of “Instructions to Persons of Japanese Ancestry, Presidio of San Francisco, California, May 3, 1942.” (Box 74, Item 33, Manzanar War Relocation Center Records [Collection 122], Department of Special Collections, Young Research Library, University of California, Los Angeles. Available from UCLA Institute on Primary Resources, https://goo.gl/crkBAP).

 

Dorothea Lange, “Civilian exclusion order #5, posted at First and Front streets, directing removal by April 7 of persons of Japanese ancestry, from the first San Francisco section to be affected by evacuation,” April 1942, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress LC-USZ62-34565.

A young San Francisco resident waits for the bus that will carry him and other Japanese Americans to a relocation center. Dorothea Lange, April 1942 (Library of Congress, LC-USZ62- 17132).

Study Questions

A. How much time were residents given to prepare for departure? What rules governed how much they could bring? What message does Lange’s photograph convey about the motivations behind the evacuation? Why would Lange photograph the exclusion order posted alongside air raid instructions? Does seeing the poster alone offer a different interpretation of the exclusion order?

B. What happened to Toyosaburo Korematsu (See Korematsu v. US) when he failed to leave the excluded area? Why did he stay?