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Korematsu v. United States

Japanese American Internment Camps

In the hysteria following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, federal authorities directed resident Japanese Americans to ten prisons, called internment camps, operated by the U.S. Justice Department. By July of 1942 more than 112,000 people of Japanese ancestry, approximately 70,000 of them American citizens, had been relocated to the camps where they lived for over two years. Camps were mostly located in bleak desert areas such as Poston and Gila River in Arizona, Manzanar and Tule Lake in California, Amache in Colorado, Minidoka in Idaho, Topaz in the salt flats of Utah, and Heart Mountain in Wyoming. Jerome and Rohwer, however, sat in the swampy Mississippi River delta of Arkansas.

The camps were divided into blocks of hastily erected barracks, flimsily partitioned into 20 by 25 foot cubicles to hold on average eight people. Privacy was non-existent. Furnishings included iron cots, straw mattresses, and a stove. Other barracks served as the mess hall, communal kitchen, recreation hall, and bathhouse. There were also laundry rooms and latrines. Winters were very cold, summers hot and dusty.

Although treated as prisoners, surrounded by barbed wire and watchtowers, in time the camps became town-like. Each camp had offices, schools, a hospital, social activities, and a post office.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1941 to 1953Korematsu v. United States - Significance, Korematsu Dissenters Question Constitutionality Of Detentions, Japanese American Internment Camps, Further Readings