Behind Barded Wire, Heart Mountain, Wyoming, c. 1943. Photography by Hansel Mieth and Otto Hagel.
On February 19, 1942, nearly ten weeks after the outbreak of war, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. This order authorized the exclusion of all persons of Japanese descent—even citizens—from designated areas of Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona, with an emphasis on zones around airports, dams, power plants, railroads, shipyards, and military installations, in order to prevent any possible acts of sabotage and espionage.
Within weeks of the signing of E.O. 9066, all Japanese Americans were instructed to secure or sell their houses and possessions and report to designated civil control stations. Here they were first registered and labeled, then herded into buses and trains and taken to “assembly centers” which were just off-season race-tracks, unused fairgrounds, and abandoned stockyards. After an average of about three months, internees were moved into isolated prison camps surrounded by barbed wire, where they were kept under armed guard for most of the duration of the war. In all, there were sixteen assembly centers and ten internment camps, scattered throughout the more remote areas of the United States: Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, California, Idaho, Arkansas. The last internment camp did not close until March, 1946.