Executive Order 9066
On February 19, 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the U.S. military to incarcerate Japanese American families living on the West Coast, after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. Without hearings or due process, the U.S. government put into motion a mass incarceration program that targeted persons of Japanese ancestry based on the claim, later proven to be false, of military necessity.
The government forcibly removed over 110,000 innocent persons of Japanese ancestry from their homes and communities. They were imprisoned in remote areas under primitive and overcrowded conditions. Tule Lake was unique of the ten War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps for becoming the only Segregation Center.
In 1943 the U.S. Government developed a loyalty questionnaire that contained two deeply-flawed questions. One concerned willingness to serve in the U.S. armed forces; the other was a disavowal of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or other foreign government. Those who refused to answer “yes” to either of the two questions or gave qualifying statements such as “if my rights are restored” or “if my family is freed” were labeled “disloyal” and segregated to Tule Lake.
Converted to a high-security Segregation Center in 1943, Tule Lake became the largest of the 10 War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, imprisoning 18,789 people. It was also the last WRA camp to close remaining in operation seven months after World War II ended. Learn who lived at Tule Lake in 1943 and 1944.
In 2008, President George W. Bush created the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, which includes many sites throughout the Pacific Islands. Tule Lake was included in the new national park unit, so that the stories of these Americans will be remembered for future generations.
Another section of Tule Lake monument is Camp Tulelake, a former Civilian Conservation Corps camp. During WWII, after the CCC program ended, the camp was used before segregation to imprison several hundred Japanese American men who protested and refused to answer the loyalty questionnaire. It was used again shortly after segregation to house Japanese American strikebreakers brought in from other WRA camps to harvest the crops that Tule Lake strikers were leveraging to demand better living and working conditions. Between 1944 and 1946 the camp housed German and Italian Prisoners of War who worked for local farmers in the Klamath Basin.
These important historic sites will be developed over the next few years. As the new park moves forward with development, there will be news about restoration of parts of the Tule Lake site and activities around the history of the wartime incarceration.For more information, visit the website of the Tule Lake Unit.