Civics: Life and death: Anti-Japanese order devastated S.F. citizens

Peter Hartlaub:

The directives started in late December 1941, with a command for San Francisco citizens of Japanese ancestry to surrender their cameras and short-wave radios to the nearest police station.

In just a few months, federal authorities would forcibly expel a racial demographic from the city — using euphemisms like “relocation” while threatening severe measures, should anyone resist orders to move to the nearest internment camp.

“Japanese aliens and citizens have two more days to leave the West Coast under their own power,” The Chronicle reported on March 8, 1942. “After Sunday night, the Army will take over.”

This month marks the anniversary of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942 in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Roosevelt ordered 110,000 Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast, including more than 5,000 from San Francisco.

A recently discovered cache of negatives, taken in 1941 and 1942 by unnamed Chronicle photographers, covers the agonizing journey of these citizens — from that first request to turn in radios, to their expulsion out of the state in crowded train cars.