One of the darkest moments in United States history for the executive and judicial branches was the promulgation of Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, authorizing the military to “exclude” Japanese Americans from “military areas.” More than 110,000 Japanese Americans – more than 60 percent of whom were American citizens – were placed in internment camps located in seven states. The United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the executive order and incarceration in United States v. Korematsu an opinion issued December 18, 1944. (Justices Jackson, Murphy and Roberts dissented.)
The plaintiff in the case was Fred Korematsu who was 23 years old at the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Fred was a Nisei – second generation Japanese American. He was born in Oakland, third of four brothers. His parents owned a flower nursery. Fred was a welder in a shipyard in May 1942 when he refused to report to an assembly center per Executive Order 9066. Fred was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California of “remaining in the prohibited area after the evacuation deadline.” Fred’s appeal ultimately reached the Supreme Court. According to Fred’s daughter Karen Korematsu – the executive director of the Fred Korematsu Foundation – Fred pursued his case because he was an American citizen and believed his incarceration was wrong.