December 17, 2010

Public Proclamation No. 21

On December 17, 1944, the US government issued Public Proclamation No. 21: ‘Persons of Japanese Ancestry Exemption From Exclusion Orders, 10 Fed.Reg. 53.’

For the more than 100,000 Japanese, two-thirds of whom were Japanese-Americans with full American citizenship, the nightmare of internment in ‘relocation’ camps was nearly over.  The new policy went into effect in January, though most of the camps were open through the summer as internees slowly relocated once again – and this time they were on their own.  The government that had torn them from their jobs, homes, communities and hauled them to isolated barracks in ten remote locations declined to do more than give them $25 and a train ticket.

Main street, Manzanar. Photo by Ansel Adams, 1943. LoC PPD

Today, only Manzanar remains.  The center for internees from San Francisco and Los Angeles, Manzanar was a great treeless plain in the Owens Valley.  Most of the area was owned by the city of Los Angeles, which had bought up 80% of the valley from the ranchers and farmers that lived there at the turn of the century.  The city wanted their water, the water that had made the Owens Valley viable.  ‘Manzanar,’ after all, meant apple orchard.  But the water was siphoned off by the city and by 1929 Manzanar was abandoned.

Young internee in transit. Photo by Dorothea Lange, 1942. LoC PPD

The War Relocation Agency leased six thousand acres from the city.  The first internees were volunteers who were sent to build the camp.  Ultimately, almost 11,000 people, most of them American citizens, lived at Manzanar.

Two of America’s great photographers – Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange – photographed Manzanar.  Their work can be found in the LoC Prints and Photographs Division.


  1. good story thank you


    Comment by avery — December 17, 2010 @ 8:33 am | Reply

  2. I loved President Roosevelt,but he too proved a disappointment, I wonder that he was allowed to make this brutal decision, He didn’t intern German- Americans.


    Comment by GALYA TARMU — December 17, 2010 @ 11:59 am | Reply

  3. wow…intense…great point galya 🙂


    Comment by Nina — December 17, 2010 @ 1:10 pm | Reply

  4. Aren’t we humans unthinking and really uncaring? There’s a summer art program at Manzanar that I almost signed up for. Would like to see the area. c.


    Comment by Carol — December 17, 2010 @ 2:55 pm | Reply

  5. […] 17 December 1944, Japanese-Americans started to be released from the ‘relocation’ camps to which the government had sent […]


    Pingback by Weekend Wanderings « We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France — December 19, 2010 @ 9:38 am | Reply

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