What was Executive Order 9066?
Executive Order 9066 is one of the more infamous executive orders in the history of the United States. With that order, President Franklin D. Roosevelt started what is known as the Japanese Internment in World War II.
Executive Order 9066 was signed on February 19, 1942. At that point, the attack on Pearl Harbor was just over two months past and Japan’s military was advancing in many directions around the Pacific and Indian Oceans. There was a great deal of fear on the part of the American people that the war would be lost. There was also fear that people of Japanese descent would take actions that would help the Japanese win the war. These fears were particularly pronounced in the coastal areas of the West Coast states. The fears were very strong even though no people of Japanese descent were actually found to have done anything to help Japan against the US.
Executive Order 9066 authorized the military to set up zones from which it could exclude anyone it deemed dangerous. Soon after the order was issued, the military set up zones of about 50 miles in width along the Pacific coast. All people of Japanese descent in those zones were made to leave their homes and move to internment camps far from the coast. This forced most of them to lose essentially all of their property. They were also deprived of their liberty for years. All of this happened without any attempt to prove that any of the particular people who were being interned were guilty of any crime.
Executive Order 9066 paved the way for what is perhaps the greatest denial of human rights in the United States in the last century. Because it deprived over 100,000 people of their liberty (and, indirectly, their property) without them having been convicted of any crime, its issuance is an infamous moment in our history.