February 19 Marks 75th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

Seventy-five years ago, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans on the West Coast of the U.S. all shared a concern about possible further Japanese attacks there.  The military command began to take measures to secure strategic military facilities, harbors and bases as civilians continued to live their daily lives with perhaps a sharpened sense of potential peril.  After all, they were in closest geographical proximity to the Japanese enemy.

Among these West Coast residents were several hundred thousand residents of Japanese descent.  Some were fishermen, others farmers and still others owners of a variety of businesses up and down the coast.  For them, life in the winter of 1942 continued as for other Americans:  busy but with a wary ear to news of possible Japanese military activity.

For some Japanese Americans, war news came from a different direction.  One young boy, now in his eighties, recalls that one day, with no warning, armed FBI agents showed up at his home to take his father away without any explanation. They did not tell the family where or why they were taking him.  He was the family’s bread-winner.  This happened to numerous other families whose fathers were deemed to be “potential threats” because they served as leaders in their communities.

San Francisco, California. Japanese family heads and persons living alone, form a line outside Civil Control Station located in the Japanese American Citizens League Auditorium at 2031 Bush Street, to appear for “processing” in response to Civilian Exclusion Order Number 20.boy, now in his eighties, recalls that one day, with no warning, armed FBI agents showed up at his home to take his father away without any explanation.  They did not tell the family where or why they were taking him.  He was the family’s bread-winner.  This happened to numerous other families whose fathers were deemed to be “potential threats” because they served as leaders in their communities.

In late February and onward through the spring, Japanese American families received notices and saw posters announcing that they would be sent away from the coast to undesignated “secure areas.”  Later they received specific times by which they had to be ready to leave their homes taking only what they could carry.  Each family was given tags with their family Identification number to attach to their persons and their bags. Imagine how hard it would be to store or get rid of your possessions, your house, your business in just a few weeks’ time.  And how to decide what to take when you don’t know where you are going or for how long.

During the spring of 1942, under the authorization of Executive Order 9066, signed by

Los Angeles, California. Mr. and Mrs. K. Tseri have closed their drugstore in preparation for the forthcoming evacuation from their “Little Tokyo” in Los Angeles.

President Franklin Roosevelt, and the War Relocation Authority, more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent, some 80,000 of whom were natural born US citizens, were herded first into relocation centers, such as the stables at Santa Anita Racetrack, and then on to one of the ten incarceration centers mostly located in the most desolate parts of the western United States.   This happened without any due process of or evidence of disloyalty to the U.S.  In the camps they were expected to put their lives together under armed military supervision for they knew not how long.   Conditions in the camps were generally harsh.  When the prisoners arrived, the camps were not yet completed and they had to help finish building the tar paper barracks where they were to live.  There was little privacy: walls were thin and the communal bathroom buildings had no stall partitions.  Meals, which by overwhelming opinion were awful (think spam and cold potatoes), were served in mess halls.  The authorities had not thought what to do with them except to imprison them in camps.  They had to create their own schools for the children and create their own activities such as gardening, baseball teams and making art from scraps and found objects.

After the war, investigations by government committees found that no Japanese Americans had offered aid to the enemy or committed any crimes.  Many of those of military age joined the armed forces fighting in Europe in the 442nd, one of the most decorated units in the Army.  Others were instrumental in the Military Intelligence Service serving as battlefield interpreters and translators.

Learn more about this part of U.S. history at the Library. Mark your calendars now for Wednesday, May 17 at 7 p.m. at the Main Library in Burlington when Gordon Yoshikawa talks about his experience living in a Japanese internment camp as a young child.   

There is a large body of literature, non-fiction and fiction, that recounts the experiences of Japanese Americans during the time of their incarceration by the U.S. Government. Below are some of these books that can be checked out at Boone County Public Library.

Children and Teen Books:

 Adult Books:

Written by Betsy Sato

Betsy Sato is retired from teaching Japanese and Chinese history and being an administrator at what is now UC International at the University of Cincinnati. Currently  she serves as Governor of the Midwest District of the Japanese American Citizens League. She lives in Union and practices tai chi.


This weekend at the Library: trumpets, trombones and giant puppets!

Looking for something to do this weekend? We will have lots of things happening at Boone County Public Library,1786 Burlington Pike, in Burlington.

On Friday, February 17, check out the Jump ‘n Jive Big Band at 7 p.m. With swingin’ arrangements, this band includes trumpets, trombones, saxophones, and more! Enjoy an energetic concert of music from the past and support musicians who dedicate their time and concert earnings to purchase instruments for students through the Cincinnati Music Foundation.

The fun continues on Saturday, February 18 with the ArtsWave Arts Sampler 2017. Join us for your morning exercise at the Creative Aging Cincinnati: Jazz/Musical Theater at 10: 30 a.m. This up-beat, wellness program is sure to bring a smile to your face and heart. Rhythmic, catchy show tunes will get you moving, raise your heart rate and tone muscles with a medium impact at a gentle pace. Adaptable for seated or standing participants.

You’ll probably have worked up an appetite after the morning program and be ready for lunch. After grabbing a bite to eat, come back at 1 p.m. for an interactive demonstration of music-making with the New Horizons Orchestra. This orchestra is the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM)) Preparatory & Engagement’s premier ensemble geared toward adult learners. Many of the orchestra members never played a string instrument before joining. Led by CCM faculty member Dr. BettyAnne Gottlieb, the orchestra will perform, talk about their experiences with music and encourage audience members to try their instruments.

Saturday’s ArtWave’s Arts Sampler line-up ends with a show performed by giant Puppets! Madcap Puppets will present “Jumping Over the Moon” at 3 p.m. Appropriate for all ages! The audience will be called upon to help entertain with twists on traditional rhymes fit for a monster party!

Weekend Schedule:

Jump ‘n Jive Big Band
Friday, February 17, 7 p.m.

Creative Aging Cincinnati: Jazz/Musical Theater
Saturday, February 18, 10:30 a.m.

New Horizons Orchestra
Saturday, February 18, 1 p.m.

Madcap Puppets
Saturday, February 18, 3 p.m.