Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066

Alternative Facts: The Lies of Executive Order 9066

Directed by Jon Osaki (2018)

Film Review

This documentary traces the US government internment of 120,000 West Coast Japanese-American citizens during World War II.

The film begins by describing the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act banning Chinese immigrants, which led West Coast farmers to turn to Japanese immigrants as their primary source of cheap labor. Many Japanese would save enough money to purchase their own land in California’s Central Valley, regarded as worthless desert by Caucasian farmers because it was hard to irrigate.

Concerned about a potential Central Valley takeover by Japanese farmers, in 1924 their Caucasian neighbors successfully lobbied Congress to ban all Asian immigration.

Anti-Japanese feeling intensified following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, aggravated by the mainstream media dissemination of rumors about Japanese saboteurs collaborating via shortwave  with Japanese bombers and submarines off the coast of California.

Despite a two-year investigation by the Office of Naval Intelligence that failed to identify a single case of Japanese sabotage, the War Department heavily lobbied Roosevelt to intern Japanese American citizens as a “genetic” enemy of the US. California Attorney General (later Supreme Court Chief Justice) Earl Warren also made it a major issue in his 1942 campaign for governor.

Despite strong opposition from the Justice Department, the War Department prevailed and in February 1942 Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. The latter ordered all Japanese Americans living in Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona to be stripped of their lands and imprisoned in internment camps. Congress subsequently validated the Executive Order with Public Law 503.

Three Japanese-Americans challenged the public law in a case that went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1944, SCOTUS upheld their internment. The decision would be overturned in 1983, based on documents in the US Archives revealing the US government had altered, suppressed, and destroyed evidence in laying out the case before the Court.

Japanese Americans would remain in internment camps until March 1946.

The film can be viewed free until June 1st, either at New Day Films or via Kanopy (by anyone with a public library card). Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

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