Post written by Erin Sato, Assistant Archivist at Go For Broke National Education Center
February 19th, 1942 commemorates the Day of Remembrance, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066, which called for the forced removal and incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. This day changed the lives of thousands of Issei and Nisei living on the West Coast, for they had to pack up whatever belongings they could carry and move into various incarceration facilities located in California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, Idaho, and Utah. About two thirds of those forcibly removed from their homes were American citizens, who had shown no signs of disloyalty to the United States.
My friends and I passed by the historic site of Manzanar Incarceration Camp driving home from Mammoth last Sunday. Although we did not stop for a visit, I could see the stand-alone barracks, a guard tower, and the remnants of a basketball court – it was hard to miss among the barren landscape. In that moment I thought to myself, “Could I have endured life in an incarceration camp?” It was hard to imagine what it must have been like to live within the cramped quarters of the barracks, eating in a crowded mess hall, and showering in a communal bathroom with little to no privacy. But what disturbed me the most was the fact that it was the American government who had forced Japanese Americans, like myself, to live in those conditions in the first place.
Then I began to think about the brave men who volunteered from those camps to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service. They were able to overcome the hardships that were imposed on them and perform incredible feats overseas, earning numerous awards, commendations, and accolades for their bravery and acts of heroism during the course of the war. They showed incredible resilience amidst oppression, fighting to prove their loyalty to the same government who incarcerated their families. To me, the Day of Remembrance not only signifies the day that the American government committed a heinous injustice against the Japanese American community, it helped rally the Nisei men and fueled their famous “Go For Broke” attitude.