Japanese Americans are ordered to evacuate Seattle on April 21, 1942.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 11/09/1998
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 311
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On April 21, 1942, "evacuation" announcements addressed to Japanese Americans are posted on Seattle telephone poles and bulletin boards. The community is ordered to leave the city in three groups on the following Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan in December 1941 had set in motion a series of events and decisions that led to what has been called the worst violation of constitutional rights in American history: the expulsion and imprisonment of 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the U.S. West Coast. Two thirds of them were American citizens.

The U.S. government wasted no time in clamping down on the 9,600 Japanese Americans in King County. The FBI arrested Issei (first generation Japanese) and a few Nisei (second generation), including Buddhist priests, Japanese language teachers, and officials and leaders of community organizations.

By the end of March, 1942, sites had been determined for "assembly centers," temporary prison camps to be used as holding centers for persons of Japanese ancestry until the people could be moved to more permanent "relocation centers." At the time, 14,400 Japanese and Japanese Americans lived in Washington state, 9,600 of them in King County. The Japanese population of Seattle was nearly 7,000.

A total of 12,892 persons of Japanese ancestry from Washington state were incarcerated. Seattle and Puyallup Valley Japanese were sent to the Puyallup "assembly center" and then onto Minidoka in Idaho.


Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988); Anne Reeploeg Fisher, Exile of a Race (Seattle: F and T Publishers, 1965); Francis Fukuhara, Uncommon American Patriots Booklet (Seattle: Nisei Veterans Committee, 1991); Gail M. Nomura, "Washington's Asian/Pacific American Communities," in Peoples of Washington: Perspectives on Cultural Diversity ed. by Sid White and S.E. Solberg (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 1989); Monica Sone, Nisei Daughter (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1953); David A. Takami, Divided Destiny: A History of Japanese Americans in Seattle (Seattle: Wing Luke Asian Museum and University of Washington Press, 1998); Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's Concentration Camps (New York: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1976).

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