Gov. Jerry Brown Monday issued a proclamation declaring Feb. 19, 2018 as “A Day of Remembrance: Japanese American Evacuation in the State of California.”
The order asks Californians to remember the thousands of Japanese American citizens who were wrongfully interned in American concentration camps without charge and without a fair hearing following a Feb. 19, 1942 executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
In San Diego County, as was the case across the country, the order meant tearing people from their lives.
People of Japanese descent living in San Diego County were removed from their communities in two separate phases, according the San Diego History Center. An April 1, 1942 order issued by the Western Defense Command authorized the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the area from south of Del Mar to the Mexican border on April 8, 1942. A second order issued May 10, 1942 authorized removal of citizens living in Del Mar to Orange County on May 17, 1942.
During the roundups, “evacuees” were lined up and loaded onto trains that came replete with armed guards and drawn shades, according to the history center.
The first contingent of evacuees traveled 125 miles by rail to reach their initial “assembly center” at the Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia. Evacuees were eventually “dispersed” to more permanent camps in desolate regions of the country.
The second contingent was sent to a concentration camp in Poston, Ariz., according to the history center.
One San Diego evacuee — Kiyuji Aizumi — spoke of bleakness upon arrival at the Arizona camp, as quoted by the history center:
“Extreme heat that can melt iron. No trees, no flowers, no singing birds, not even the sound of an insect. All at once a strong wind began to blow, sandy dust whirled into the sky, completely taking the sunshine and light from us. That night a full moon shone in the wilderness.”
In his proclamation Monday, Gov. Brown said, “The internment of Japanese Americans should serve as a powerful reminder that in defending this Nation and its ideals, we must do so as faithfully in the courtrooms and the public squares of this country as upon the battlefields.”
Roosevelt’s wartime order was finally rescinded by President Gerald R. Ford on February 19, 1976.