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World War II

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked the American Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. On December 8, the United States declared war on Japan and entered World War II. Japanese Americans were involved in WWII in two very different ways. At home, Japanese Americans faced extreme discrimination from the government and citizens. In combat abroad, Japanese Americans were American war heroes.

Pearl Harbor and Japanese Internment 

The United States's entrance in the war fueled anti-Japanese sentiment, particularly along the Pacific coast. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which called for the internment of thousands of Japanese Americans. By 1943, over 110,000 Japanese were interned in relocation centers in Arkansas, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Families lived in overcrowded barracks that often had no running water and little heat. The last camp did not close until March 1946; seven months after the war had ended.

The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 formally apologized for the internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II and authorized a reparations fund for internment survivors.

Ansel Adams's Photographs of Japanese-American Internment at Manzanar
The Library of Congress displays a collection of photos from Manzanar, an internment camp in California.

Life at a Japanese American WWII Internment Camp
Using this site, children place themselves in the shoes of Japanese American children during WWII. It includes a classroom activity in which students consider what they would take with them to an internment camp.

Korematsu v. United States (1944)

During WWII, Fred Korematsu and two other men were arrested and convicted for violating their curfews and failing report to the relocation centers. The men challenged their conviction and their case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld their convictions and justified their internment as a necessity of national security.

In 1983, the San Francisco Federal District Court reversed Korematsu's conviction. In 1998, President Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom for challenging the Japanese internment.

Learning about Landmark Law Cases
Students learn to evaluate arguments by examining the text of the Korematsu case and decision. The site also includes suggestions for classroom activities for teachers.

Conscience and the Constitution
PBS created a documentary about Japanese American civil rights leaders' work to fight the internment. This companion site includes biographies of the leaders, a timeline of the internment, and lesson plans for incorporating to the film in the classroom.

442nd Regimental Combat Team

During World War II, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team was an all Nisei (1st generation Japanese-American) unit from Hawaii and the mainland United States. The unit achieved many great feats abroad despite the discrimination they faced at home. For example, in October 1944 the 100th/442nd RCT rescued the "Lost Battalion," an American unit that was stranded and surrounded by German soldiers. The 442nd Regimental Combat Team was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service, in the history of the U.S. Military. In total, approximately 14,000 men served, ultimately earning 9,486 Purple Hearts and 21 Medals of Honor.

Go For Broke National Education Center
This organization is dedicated to memorializing the achievements of the 442nd Battalion during World War II. The site provides resources for teachers and students including lesson plans and curriculum guides for teachers and trivia games for students. Classrooms can also watch clips from documentaries and oral histories of the veterans or follow the path of the soldiers on interactive maps.