“Order 9066,” a podcast from APM (American Public Media) Reports and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, is now available online at: https://www.apmreports.org/order-9066
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 just months after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Some 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced from their homes on the West Coast and sent to one of ten “relocation” camps, where they were imprisoned behind barbed wire for the length of the war. Two-thirds of them were American citizens.
“Order 9066” chronicles the history of this incarceration through vivid, first-person accounts of those who lived through it. The series explores how this shocking violation of American democracy came to pass, and its legacy in the present.
Sab Shimono and Pat Suzuki, veteran actors and stage performers who were both incarcerated at the Amache camp in Colorado, narrate the episodes. The series covers the racist atmosphere of the time, the camps’ makeshift living quarters and the extraordinary ways people adapted; the fierce patriotism many Japanese Americans continued to feel and the ways they were divided against each other as they were forced to answer questions of loyalty; the movement for redress that eventually led to a formal apology from the US government, and much more.
• Chapter 1: “The Roundup.” Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Hours later, the FBI began rounding up people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. This episode explores the history of anti-Asian prejudice in the United States that laid the groundwork for an assault on Japanese American communities after Pearl Harbor.
Bonus: “Sab Shimono Remembers ‘Camp.’” Shimono shares childhood memories of living behind barbed wire.
• Chapter 2: “The Order.” After Pearl Harbor, pressure grew to forcibly relocate all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast. This episode tells the story behind FDR’s decision to sign EO 9066, and Japanese Americans recall the painful process of leaving their lives and belongings — and even their family pets — behind.
Bonus: “Songs of Incarceration.” Musicians Julian Saporiti and Erin Aoyama perform songs about the incarceration in a former barrack at Heart Mountain in Wyoming. With a special appearance from Kishi Bashi.
• Chapter 3: “Prison Cities.” In the first months of incarceration, Japanese Americans were hit with the humiliating conditions of camp life. The U.S. government denied that people of Japanese ancestry living in the “assembly centers” were prisoners, but the first summer in these camps proved otherwise.
Bonus: “Music on Heart Mountain.” Kishi Bashi, a renowned alt-rock musician, has been improvising music in places connected to the Japanese American incarceration. That includes the top of Heart Mountain. Hear Kishi Bashi climb the mountain and perform a song that is part of his “songfilm” project, “Omoiyari.”
• Chapter 4: “Gaman — Making Do.” It was a time to persevere in the face of the unendurable, and to do so with dignity. The Japanese term for that is gaman. This episode explores the ways people in the camps practiced gaman: through work, school, and simply making do.
• Chapter 5: “Fighting for Freedom.” More than 33,000 Japanese American men and women served in World War II. They fought as soldiers in Europe, and as translators in the Pacific.
Bonus: “Objects of Incarceration.” A handmade pin tells an improbable love story from camp.
• Chapter 6: “Resistance.” The story of the Japanese Americans who protested their incarceration and defied the pressure to prove their patriotism.
Bonus: “Childhood at Heart Mountain.” Two men who were imprisoned at Heart Mountain as boys remember their time in camp and how the experience shaped them as adults.
• Chapter 7: “Leaving Camp.” At the end of 1944, the U.S. government lifted the order barring people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Many people freed from camp faced racism and poverty as they tried to rebuild their lives. Some found that leaving camp was even harder than being sent there.
• Chapter 8: “Seeking Redress.” Japanese Americans incarcerated during the war demand that the federal government take account of their suffering and make reparations.
“Order 9066” is also being distributed to public radio stations for broadcast as a three-part series; check local listings.
Producers: Kate Ellis, Stephen Smith. Editors: Mary Beth Kirchner, Chris Julin. Theme music: Genji Siraisi. Audio mix: Michael Osborne, Corey Schreppel, Veronica Rodriguez, Stephen Smith.
Smithsonian National Museum of American History production team: Jennifer Jones, Noriko Sanefuji, Valeska Hilbig.
APM Reports production team: Mike Reszler, Nathan Tobey, Chris Worthington, Alex Baumhardt, Hana Maruyama, Emerald O’Brien, Shelly Langford, Andy Kruse, Mike Mulcahy, Eric Ringham.
Special thanks to Densho — The Japanese American Legacy Project.
Support for “Order 9066” comes from the Terasaki Family Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, and Penelope Scialla.