This is a critical primary source in the history of the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Published by the Government Printing Office and written by General John L. DeWitt, the commander in charge of the “evacuation” operation, the report includes DeWitt’s summary of the removal and internment of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast, along with dozens of photographs, statistical tables, reproductions of government documents, and maps, including three large fold-out maps showing the exclusion areas (108 in all, each with about 1,000 people to be interned), assembly centers, and relocation centers.
The internment of Japanese-Americans followed President Roosevelt’s issuing of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. Despite the fact that prewar military reports on people of Japanese descent in Hawaii and California found no significant disloyalty towards the United States, and that no acts of sabotage had been committed by Japanese-Americans before or after the Pearl Harbor attack, DeWitt and other members of the military and Roosevelt’s administration were convinced that the presence of Japanese-descended people posed a grave threat to the American war effort. In his “Final Report,” DeWitt continually refers to the extreme measures taken as a necessity, even while acknowledging that the measures undertaken would be considered a violation of civil liberties under normal circumstances.
In all, some 110,000 Japanese-Americans, most of them U.S. citizens, were sent to concentration camps stretching from California to Arkansas. Throughout the war, DeWitt strenuously opposed any efforts to allow these detainees to return home after passing a “loyalty test,” or to allow for the formation of Japanese-American units in the U.S. Army (this latter development did occur, resulting in the 442nd Infantry Regiment composed of second-generation Japanese-Americans, which went on to become one of the most decorated units in U.S. military history).
Japanese-Americans challenged their removal and internment in court, winning some decisions in lower federal courts, which were promptly ignored by DeWitt. Several cases reached the U.S. Supreme Court, most notably Korematsu v. United States, where the Court upheld that the internment was justifiable on grounds of military expediency, one of its most notorious decisions ever. Many Japanese-Americans lost their prewar property and faced discrimination and harassment after returning from the camps. Official apologies, reparations, and the overturning of Korematsu and other court cases only came in the 1970s and 1980s.