California apologises for Japanese internment camps and discrimination in World War II

United States

The state of California has officially apologised for discriminating against Japanese-Americans and helping the US government send them to internment camps during World War II.

Key points:

  • 120,000 Japanese-Americans were forced into 10 US camps during World War II
  • Then-US president Roosevelt signed an executive order for internments on February 19, 1942
  • California Governor Newsom has declared February 19 a Day of Remembrance

The California Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday as several former internees and their families looked on.

After the votes, politicians gathered to hug and shake hands with victims, including 96-year-old Kiyo Sato.

Ms Sato said young people need to know about the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were sent to internment camps because the US government feared some would support Japan in WWII.

The US joined the war after the Japanese bombed an American naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941.


The state of California, including Governor Gavin Newsom, apologised for discrimination against Japanese Americans during WWII. (AP: Rich Pedroncelli)

Two camps in the mid-1940s were in California, at Manzanar and Tule Lake.

“We need to remind them that this can’t happen again,” Ms Sato said.

The resolution came a day after California Governor Gavin Newsom declared February 19 a Day of Remembrance.

That was the date in 1942 when US president Franklin D Roosevelt signed an executive order that led to the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in 10 camps across the country.

California assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who was born in Japan, introduced the resolution.

The governors of Idaho and Arkansas also proclaimed it a Day of Remembrance, and events were held nationwide.

A congressional commission in 1983 concluded that the detentions were a result of “racial prejudice, war hysteria and failure of political leadership.”


Governor Gavin Newsom declared February 19 a Day of Remembrance for Japanese sent to California’s WWII camps. (AP: Rich Pedroncelli)

Five years later, the US government paid $US20,000 ($30,286) in compensation to each victim.

“We are specifically apologising for wrongs that were committed on this floor,” California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said.

“We are apologising for what we have done.”

Among those sent to internment camps was California-born Les Ouchida, who was taken from his home as a five-year-old, along with his family, and imprisoned in the state of Arkansas.

“We had the wrong last names and wrong faces”, he said.

Ouchida, who teaches about the internments at the California Museum in Sacramento, remembers straw-filled mattresses and toilets with no barriers between them.

“They put a bag over their heads when they went to the bathroom,” he said.

California has the largest population of people of Japanese descent of any state, numbering roughly 430,000.



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