OLYMPIA – February 19, 2020 marked the 78th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 which authorized the forcible removal and incarceration of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans into concentration camps along the west coast. Many of those incarcerated were U.S. citizens who had never been to Japan.
While their families were imprisoned in these American concentration camps, thousands of young Japanese American men nevertheless volunteered to enlist in the U.S. military service. They formed the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became known as the “Purple Heart Battalion” and remains the most decorated military unit of its size in U.S. history.
Last week, the Washington State House of Representatives and State Senate recognized the Japanese American experience during World War II and adopted resolutions commemorating these lessons of liberty and justice for all. Participants in the joint event included legislators, former incarcerees, veterans, and community members.
“My mother was incarcerated hundreds of miles from her home in Sacramento,” said Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle). “Racism forced her to be imprisoned simply for being Japanese American.”
“The story of Japanese Americans during WWII is a lesson for all Americans to learn from,” said Sen. Bob Hasegawa (D-Seattle). “My entire family, my entire community, was swept up in the war hysteria created at that time because of a lack of political leadership and put into concentration camps for the duration of the war. So this story is a lesson for all of us to pay attention to so that it never happens again.”
In a video released last week, Sen. Hasegawa and Rep. Santos said it was important to stand up for other communities and ensure that “this injustice never happens again”.