Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

August 19, 1938 – January 15, 2018

Sleepless son of the sleepless fatherStory Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

My father listened to the radio in the middle of the night. If I woke I could hear the soft tones of some seemingly distant program or if the Yankees were playing on the west coast, the announcer’s play-by-play.

I loved listening to the radio in the middle of the night.  As a teenager I’d slowly dial the tuner to find music or whatever caught my ear. I still am a night-listener, though nowadays it’s mainly podcasts.

At some point years ago when dialing around I heard someone telling a story. A remarkable voice.  In that sleepy-middle-of-the-night zone, I was hooked, but confused in a few minutes.

This storyteller, this Voice, had taken a turn somewhere and led me down the proverbial rabbit hole.

There was no Google. No internet to quickly look up a station’s schedule (if I’d even known what the station was). I never found out whose voice. Every few years in the middle of the night as the dial turned I’d hear him again and know I was in for another strange trip if I was lucky enough to have fallen at the beginning of this venture.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Joe Frank?

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

When I saw a headline that Joe Frank had died, I thought Joe Frank? Joe Frank died years ago. Then I realized I was thinking of old time  TV and radio personality Joe Franklin from New York City.

So. Joe Frank?

Yes. Joe Frank. After decades of wonder, enthrallment, and confusion, I’d found the voice.

Dozens of individuals and groups have since sadly noted Franks’s passing with glowing articles, interviews, and podcasts . If you Google “Joe Frank” the first page alone lists links to the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, NPR, WNYC, Slate Magazine, the Washington Post, Chicago Reader, and LA Observed.

WNYC’s Brooke Gladstone’s comments typify these unanimous plaudits: Joe Frank died Monday. He was 79. And he was a radio giant. He conducted interviews, read stories, wrote dramas, and none of it was like anything done before because it was so raw and, frankly, nuts. To many of us, it was shocking and sad. He wasn’t a huge star but his light has been reflected in the great work of people you do know

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Who do we know?

People like Harry Shearer who said on Twitter: The great radio artist of our time has passed away. You will never hear anybody smarter, darker, funnier than Joe Frank. RIP, my friend. Check him out at https://t.co/yIYHeWiQHN No better honor of his memory than you hearing his work.

People like Ira Glass of This American Life who heard Frank and realized that this type of storytelling, this type of production, was what Glass wanted to try do, too.

Jad Abumrad, co-host and founder of the very successful radio program and podcast, Radiolab cites how important Joe Frank was to his career path. Abumrad spoke of when he first began Radiolab he was over his head, but after the show, Joe Frank came on…

“…and he was part of my shift. And every time, I’d just be like, what the F- is this stuff? I, I would just be sitting there listening to him and just like amazed and like mentally taking notes, being, like, oh, this guy has a feel and a — there’s a surreal-ity and a disorienting-ness to his stuff that I was just really fascinated by, and I was like, oh, I want to, want to do that.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Dressed like a chicken

To simply quote a piece Joe Frank cannot do justice to the power of listening to a piece, but just to give you an idea of Frank’s absurd genius, here is a small example:

There was a time when I danced on a street corner dressed as a chicken. My job was to draw attention to a furniture store down the block. One evening, when my shift was over, still wearing my chicken outfit, I walked into a bar across the street. I’d ordered a Bombay martini straight up, olives on the side.

A prostitute sat down next to me. She was young, willowy, had a faraway look in her eyes. Her name was Meredith. We talked about our careers, the importance of networking, setting goals, focus.

Then I excused myself, walked into the men’s room, entered a stall and sat down on the toilet and had a bowel movement that broke in two.

And half of it was still hanging out of me, so I had to wipe myself 50 times, repeatedly checking to see if there was more left on the toilet paper.

And written on the wall were the words, “Know that someone is suffering anonymously and unknown and that by the time you read this, I’ll be dead.”

Disgusting? Sure. Troubling? Yup. Intriguing? Absolutely. Keep listening? Hard not to. Where  was it going? How would it end?

Jad Abumrad spoke with Ira Glass on a Radiolab podcast tribute to Frank and both spoke enthusiastically, glowingly, and humorously about Frank’s influence on them. And if you have never heard Ira Glass drop a few F-bombs and you’d like to, follow that link!

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

A lifetime of illnesses

Joe Frank died of colon cancer complications, but health issues had filled his life from birth.

He was born Joseph Langermann on August 19, 1938, in Strasbourg, France, His parents and he escaped the Nazi pogrom in 1939 by fleeing to New York City.

Frank had club feet. His father died when he was five on a day of a procedure aimed at correcting that condition. His mother told him that his father had gone on a business trip.

One of his testicles never descended and when he was 20 he got cancer in his one testicle. Radiation saved him.

He had bladder cancer. He got colon cancer. He had scoliosis.

He had kidney failure and a first cousin donated their kidney to save Franks’s life, but later charged Frank for the kidney.

His colon cancer came back.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

The road to radio

Away from doctors and treatments, Joe Frank attended Hofstra University (NY)–he said he’d cheated on his entrance exam. After earning a degree in English.

He attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, but didn’t finish the program.

He taught for 10 years at Dalton, an exclusive private school in NYC hoping to be a writing, but teaching was too time-consuming.

For two years, still living in NYC, he formed a company to produce musical acts at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Massachusetts.

On the drives between NYC and Massachusetts he listened to the radio, particularly liking baseball games, not so much for the way the announcers called the play-by-play, but the way the announcers told side stories. Radio became his passion.


Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

WBAI to NPR

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

In 1975, he began to work at the Pacifica station WBAI in NYC. According to Frank in an LA Weekly article,  “in 1976 I was given my own show [ “In the Dark.”] from 4 a.m. to 5 a.m., every Tuesday. I figured nobody was listening at that hour so I felt free to do whatever I wanted, and that was the beginning of the idea of telling stories on the radio. The show was well-received…”


In 1978, he moved to National Public Radio in Washington, DC and its “All Things Considered,” but that did not work out. He continued to work sporadically for NPR as an independent producer.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

KCRW

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

In 1986, he and KCRW (Bakersfield, CA) found a partnership. His first series, Work in Progress, was followed by In the Dark, which morphed into Somewhere Out There, and finally The Other Side.

That relationship lasted until 2002 when a disagreement with Ruth Seymour, KCRW’s general manager, led to his firing.

By then the internet had arrived and Frank expanded his web page and his live performances.

He did return to KCRW before leaving again in due to recurring poor health.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Outside radio

Joe Frank was also a writer.  His site lists his published works:

Theatre Publications:

  • “The Decline Of Spengler” (New Directions 48, New York)
  • “A Tour Of The City” (Tanam Press, New York)

Three of Frank’s radio plays were produced for theatre:

  • “A Tour of the City” by Theatre Anima in Montreal, Canada, translated into French, which included performers from Cirque du Soleil.
  • “Rent-a-Family” by Stages Trilingual Theatre in Los Angeles.
  • “Jerry’s World Onstage” by Infernal Bridegroom Productions, Houston, Texas.

There are films he is associated with:

Short films based on Joe Frank’s programs:
“Hitchhiker,”
“Jilted Lover,”
“The Perfect Woman,”
“Memories,” 
directed by Paul Rachman

Coma and Eleanor
directed by Todd Downing

Magda and Dirt 
directed by Chel White

Finally, the industry recognized his talent with many awards.

  • George Foster Peabody Award “For creating radio of style, substance and imagination…”
  • Two Major Armstrong Awards For the “Most Innovative Radio Drama.”
  • Two Gold Awards from the International Radio Festival of New York for outstanding radio drama.
  • Two Corporation for Public Broadcasting Radio Program Awards for best Broadcast Performance.
  • A Broadcast Media Award from San Francisco University.
  • An Emmy Award for “Joe Frank: Storyteller” featured on public television station KCET.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from Third Coast International Audio Festival. Listen to Joe’s acceptance speech (Stream | Download)
  • Mr. Frank is also a Guggenheim Fellow.

Joe Frank was also the author of “The Queen of Puerto Rico and Other Stories,” a collection of short stories based on his radio work published in 1993 by William Morrow.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

Frank was 79 when he died on January 15 in Beverly Hills, California.  

“I’ve heard people say they’re not afraid of death but I never believe them — I don’t even believe religious people aren’t afraid of death,” he adds. “When a pope dies, people grieve. If they believed what they claim to believe, they would be celebrating the fact that the pope has gone to heaven. And the pope doesn’t want to die, either.”
Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank

I wish I knew your name sooner, Joe Frank, but you will always be in my ears.

Story Weaver Extraordinaire Joe Frank
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Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

For most people, death is an uncomfortable topic, particularly one’s own mortality. We speak of people “passing,,” not dying. We choose healthy lifestyle, hoping to postpone the inevitable.

Others challenge the actuarial tables by smoking, drinking excessively, eating as much and whatever whenever, driving without seat belts, or something else society warns us not to do.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Only the good die young?

Regardless of our personal life style, regardless of others’ life styles, death comes. to the young, the old, those between, those healthy, and those ill. To all.

Many dream of a quiet death surrounded by loved ones who had the time to get to their bedside in a comfortable setting and with had the time to impart sage advice. Forgiveness.

For others, death  comes as a horrifically slow and painful chronic illness. 

Jack Kevorkian hoped to provide solace to the latter. 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Early life

Kevorkian was born in Pontiac, Michigan, on May 26, 1928.In 1952, he graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School. His parents had survived the Armenian holocaust in Turkey.

As a young doctor, some of his views were medically and socially non-traditional. For example, he proposed that society give death row prisoners  the choice to undergo capital punishment by medical experimentation while under anesthesia. 

The medical community denied any such procedure.

Kevorkian proposed, based on successful research, the transfusion of blood from dead patients to patients in need of blood. He proposed the idea to the military.

The military denied such a procedure.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Euthanasia

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

It is no surprise, then, that euthanasia became on of Kevorkian’s interests and on June 4, 1990 he was present at the death of Janet Adkins, a 54-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman with Alzheimer’s disease.

Her death occurred in Kevorkian’s 1968 Volkswagen van in Groveland Oaks Park near Holly, Michigan. 

He used a device he developed called that “Thanatron” from the Greek works for death and machine. It worked by the patient pushing a button to deliver the euthanizing drugs mechanically through an IV. It had three canisters mounted on a metal frame. Each bottle had a syringe that connected to a single IV line in the person’s arm. One contained saline, another contained a sleep-inducing barbiturate called sodium thiopental and the third a lethal mixture of potassium chloride, which immediately stopped the heart, and pancuronium bromide, a paralytic medication to prevent spasms during the dying process.

On June 5 he gave an interview to the NY Times about Adkins. In it he prophetically said that, “”They’ll all be after me for this. My ultimate aim is to make euthanasia a positive experience. I’m trying to knock the medical profession into accepting its responsibilities, and those responsibilities include assisting their patients with death.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Legal issues begin

June 8, 1990: an Oakland County Circuit Court Judge enjoined Kevorkian from aiding in any suicides.

December 12, 1990: District Court Judge Gerald McNally dismissed the murder charge against Kevorkian in death of Adkins.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1991

February 5, 1991: a Michigan court barred Kevorkian from assisting in suicides.

October 23, 1991:  Kevokian attended the deaths of Marjorie Wantz, a 58-year-old Sodus, Michigan, woman with pelvic pain, and Sherry Miller, a 43-year-old Roseville, Michigan, woman with multiple sclerosis. The deaths occur at a rented state park cabin near Lake Orion, Michigan. Wantz died from the suicide machine’s lethal drugs, Miller from carbon monoxide poisoning inhaled through a face mask.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Kevorkian would stop using the Thantran and began to use what he called the Mercitron (“mercy machine”).  The Mercitron used a mask through which a person inhaled carbon dioxide. 

November 20, 1991: the Michigan state Board of Medicine summarily revoked Kevorkian’s license to practice medicine in Michigan.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1992

May 15, 1992: Susan Williams, a 52-year-old woman with multiple sclerosis, died from carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Clawson, Michigan.

July 21, 1992: Oakland County Circuit Court Judge David Breck dismissed charges against Kevorkian in the deaths of Miller and Wantz.

September 26, 1992: Lois Hawes, 52, a Warren, Michigan, woman with lung and brain cancer, dies from carbon monoxide poisoning at the home of Kevorkian’s assistant Neal Nicol in Waterford Township, Michigan.

November 23, 1992: Catherine Andreyev of Moon Township, Pennsylvania, died in Kevorkian’s assistant Neil Nicol’s home. She was 45 and had cancer. Hers is the first of 10 deaths Kevorkian attended over the next three months; all die from inhaling carbon monoxide.

December 3, 1992: The Michigan Legislature passed a ban on assisted suicide to take effect on March 30, 1993.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1993

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian
May 31, 1993 edition of Time magazine

February 15, 1993: Hugh Gale, a 70-year-old man with emphysema and congestive heart disease, died in his Roseville home. Prosecutors investigated after Right-to-Life advocates said that they found papers that showed Kevorkian altered his account of Gale’s death, deleting a reference to a request by Gale to halt the procedure.

The investigator’s follow up investigation read: “It is my decision that no charges will be filed against Dr. Jack Kevorkian or any other person in connection with the death of Hugh Gale. Mr. Gale’s death can only be regarded as a suicide. Those present at the time of his death did nothing more than provide the means for him to accomplish a result that he desired. The great weight of evidence is that he never faltered in that desire up to the point that he lost consciousness.”

February 25, 1993: Michigan Governor John Engler signs the legislation banning assisted suicide. It makes aiding in a suicide a four-year felony but allows law to expire after a blue-ribbon commission studies permanent legislation.

April 27, 1993: a California law judge suspended Kevokian’s medical license after a request from that state’s medical board.

August 4, 1993: Thomas Hyde, a 30-year-old Novi, Michigan, man with ALS, is found dead in Kevorkian’s van on Belle Isle, a Detroit park.

September 9, 1993: hours after a judge ordered him to stand trial in Thomas Hyde’s death, Kevorkian is present at the death of cancer patient Donald O’Keefe, 73, in Redford Township, Michigan.

November 5 – 8, 1993: Kevorkian fasts in Detroit jail after refusing to post $20,000 bond in case involving Hyde’s death.

November 29, 1993: Kevorkian begins fast in Oakland County jail for refusing to post $50,000 bond after being charged in the October death of Merian Frederick, 72. 

December 17, 1993: he ended fast and left jail after Oakland County Circuit Court Judge reduced bond to $100 in exchange for his vow not to assist in any more suicides until state courts resolved the legality of his practice.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1994

January 27, 1994:  a Circuit Court Judge dismissed charges against Kevorkian in two deaths, becoming the fifth lower court judge in Michigan to rule that assisted suicide was a constitutional right.

May 2, 1994: a Detroit jury acquitted Kevorkian of charges he violated the state’s assisted suicide ban in the death of Thomas Hyde.

May 10, 1994: The Michigan Court of Appeals strikes down the state’s ban on assisted suicide on the grounds it was enacted unlawfully.

November 8, 1994: Oregon became the first state to legalize assisted suicide when voters passed a tightly restricted Death with Dignity Act. Legal appeals kept the law from taking effect until 1997.

November 26, 1994: hours after Michigan’s ban on assisted suicide expired, 72-year-old Margaret Garrish died of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home in Royal Oak. She had arthritis and osteoporosis. Kevorkian was not present when police arrived. 

December 13, 1994: the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Michigan’s 1993-94 ban on assisted suicide and also rules assisted suicide is illegal in Michigan under common law. The ruling reinstated cases against Kevorkian in four deaths

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1995

June 26, 1995: Kevorkian opened a “suicide clinic” in an office in Springfield Township, Michigan. Erika Garcellano, a 60-year-old Kansas City, Missouri, woman with ALS, is the first client. A few days later, the building’s owner kicks out Kevorkian.

September 14, 1995: Kevorkian arrived at the Oakland County Courthouse in Pontiac, Michigan in homemade stocks with ball and chain. He is ordered to stand trial for assisting in the 1991 suicides of Sherry Miller and Marjorie Wantz.

October 30, 1995: a group of doctors and other medical experts in Michigan announced its support of Kevorkian , saying they will draw up a set of guiding principles for the “merciful, dignified, medically-assisted termination of life.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1996

February 1, 1996: the New England Journal of Medicine published massive studies of physicians’ attitudes towards doctor-assisted suicide in Oregon and Michigan. The studies demonstrated that a large number of physicians surveyed support, in some conditions, doctor-assisted suicide. [2000 NEJM article]

March 6, 1996, : the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that mentally competent, terminally ill adults have a constitutional right to aid in dying from doctors, health care workers and family members. It is the first time a federal appeals court endorses assisted suicide.

March 8, 1996,  a jury acquitted Kevorkian in two deaths. 

March 20, 1996: Rep Dave Camp (R-MI), introduced a bill in the US House of Representatives to prohibit tax-payer funding of assisted suicide.

April 1, 1996,  trial began in Kevorkian’s home town of Pontiac in the deaths of Miller and Wantz. For the start of his third criminal trial, he wears colonial costume–tights, a white powdered wig, and big buckle shoes–a protest against the fact that he is being tried under centuries-old common law. He would face a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if convicted in the Wantz/Miller deaths.

May 14, 1996: jury acquitted Kevorkian.

November 4, 1996: Kevorkian’s lawyer announced a previously unreported assisted suicide of a 54-year-old woman. This brought the total number of his assisted suicides, since 1990, to 46.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1997

June 12, 1997, in Kevorkian’s fourth trial, a judge declared a mistrial. The prosecution later dropped the case.

June 26, 1997: in Washington v. Glucksberg. The U.S. Supreme Court rules unanimously that state governments have the right to outlaw doctor-assisted suicide. The Court had been asked to decide whether state laws banning the practice in New York and Washington were unconstitutional. (Oyez article)

October 27,  1997: the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, which voters had approved by referendum on November 8, 1994, and which allowed voluntary end of life, took effect on this day. The law allowed individuals to voluntarily end their own lives by ingesting a life-ending drug that a licensed physician prescribed.

The law has survived two challenges. Oregon voters rejected a repeal measure by a margin of 60 percent in 1997. And in 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the law, in Gonzales v. Oregon. (Oregon Health Authority article)

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1998

March 14, 1998: Kevorkian’s 100th assisted suicide, a 66-year-old Detroit man.

September 1, 1998: Michigan’s second law outlawing physician-assisted suicide goes into effect.

September 17, 1998: Kevorkian videotapesd the voluntary euthanasia of Thomas Youk, 52, who was in the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. He sent the tape to CBS.

November 3, 1998: Michigan voters rejected a proposal to legalize physician-assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

November 22, 1998: CBS’s “60 Minutes” aired Kevorkian’s videotape of Thomas Youk.  The broadcast triggered an intense debate within medical, legal and media circles. [60 Minutes Overtime article]

November 25, 1998:  Michigan charged Kevorkian with first-degree murder, violating the assisted suicide law and delivering a controlled substance without a license in the death of Thomas Youk. Prosecutors later drop the suicide charge. Kevorkian insists on defending himself during the trial and threatens to starve himself if he is sent to jail.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

1999

March 26, 1999: Kevorkian convicted of second-degree murder for giving a lethal injection to an ailing man whose death was shown on “60 Minutes.”

April 13, 1999: Michigan judge Jessica Cooper of Oakland County Circuit Court sentenced Kevorkian to 10 – 25 years in prison for conviction of second-degree murder and delivery of a controlled substance in the death of Thomas Youk. [CNN article]

Cooper denied bail pending appeal and said to Kevorkian that, “This trial was not about the political or moral correctness of euthanasia…It was about you, sir. It was about lawlessness.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

21st Century

September 29, 2005: in an MSNBC interview, by Rita Cosby Kevorkian said that if he were granted parole, he would not resume directly helping people die and would restrict himself to campaigning to have the law changed.

When asked if he had any regrets, he responded: “Well, I do a little.  It was disappointing because what I did turned out to be in vain, even though I know it could possibly end that way.  And my only regret was not having done it through the legal system, through legislation, possibly.”

December 22, 2005: Kevorkian was again denied parole by a board.

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Paroled

June 1, 2007: paroled for good behavior. He had spent eight years and two and a half months in prison. On June 4, the NY Times published an interview with him following his release.

In it he said that, ““I said I won’t do it again,” he said, “and it’s not even worth doing again by me because it’d be counterproductive to what I’m fighting for. It’s up to others. If you people don’t want that right, then don’t do it. Then let your government trample all over you. If you don’t want to do it, it’s all right by me, but you don’t get me talking about it and going back to that thing called prison.”

Doctor Jacob Jack KevorkianApril 14 , 2010: the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack premiered at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City. Kevorkian walked the red carpet alongside Al Pacino, who portrayed him in the film. Pacino received Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his portrayal, and personally thanked Kevorkian, who was in the audience, upon receiving both of these awards. Kevorkian stated that both the film and Pacino’s performance “brings tears to my eyes – and I lived through it.”

New York Times reviewer Alessandra Stanley wrote, “When it comes to assisted suicide, it is possible to love the sin and hate the sinner.”

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian

Death

June 3, 2011: Kevorkian died after being hospitalized with kidney problems and pneumonia eight days earlier. (NYT obit)

Many of the dates from this chronology come from  PBS dot org Frontline 

Doctor Jacob Jack Kevorkian
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United States Japanese Internment Camps

United States Japanese Internment Camps

United States Japanese Internment Camps

On December 8, 1941, the day after Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, US Attorney-General Biddle called for tolerance in dealings with Japanese here “of unquestioned loyalty,” but in less than a month, many Americans felt the need to physically isolate those they perceived a danger. (Main Line Today article on Biddle)

United States Japanese Internment Camps
US Attorney-General Biddle
United States Japanese Internment Camps

January 1942

January 14, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2537, requiring aliens from World War II-enemy countries–Italy, Germany and Japan–to register with the United States Department of Justice. Registered persons were then issued a Certificate of Identification for Aliens of Enemy Nationality.

January 22, 1942 : Congressman Ford (Calif.) urged total evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry.

January 31, 1942: Caleb Foote, a pacifist and West Coast staff member for the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR),  denounced the developing plans to evacuate and intern all Japanese-Americans on the West Coast as “nothing could be more Hitlerian.”

Foote’s comment was one of the few during the war to draw the obvious comparison between the government’s plan and Adolph Hitler’s Nazi policies: stereotyping an entire group on the basis of their race, assuming that all members of the group posed a threat, and confining them to concentration camps without a trace of due process.

Foote went on to a distinguished civil liberties career. As a pacifist, he refused to cooperate with the draft, and was convicted and sentenced to prison. He later became a law professor and, in the 1950s, wrote path-breaking articles on how the money bail system in America discriminated against the poor. His articles stirred interest in the problems with the American bail system and helped pave the way for the historic 1966 Bail Reform Act, signed on June 22, 1966. (ASX article on Foote)

United States Japanese Internment Camps

February 1942

February 13, 1942:  the Pacific Coast Congressional group recommends evacuation.

February 19, 1942: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed and issued Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones.

Eventually, EO 9066 cleared the way for the relocation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.

During the course of World War II, 10 Americans were convicted of spying for Japan. Not one was of Japanese ancestry.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

March 1942

United States Japanese Internment Camps

March 2, 1942: General John L. DeWitt ordered evacuation from most of California, western Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona.  (NYT abstract)

March 18, 1942: the War Relocation Authority was created to “Take all people of Japanese descent into custody, surround them with troops, prevent them from buying land, and return them to their former homes at the close of the war.”

While roughly 2,000 people of German and Italian ancestry were interned during this period, 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were rounded up on the West Coast.

Three categories of internees were created: Nisei (native U.S. citizens of Japanese immigrant parents), Issei (Japanese immigrants), and Kibei (native U.S. citizens educated largely in Japan). The internees were transported to one of 10 relocation centers in California, Utah, Arkansas, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming.

March 24, 1942: more than 600 Japanese aliens and Japanese-Americans from the Pacific Coast assembled at Pasadena’s Rose Bowl under military orders to evacuate to an internment camp in Manzanar, Calif.

The New York Times referred to the arrivals as “pioneers,”  said that “all” the evacuees “had been vastly impressed” with the “courteous treatment” they had received so far, and that “good humor” prevailed. (NYT article)

March 29, 1942: ”Voluntary evacuation” of people of Japanese ancestry from Pacific Coast area prohibited. Before this date 10,231 moved out of restricted area on their own initiative after Army and newspapers requested this.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

 Long-term policy

April 7, 1942: at a conference in Salt Lake City, Utah officials of the War Relocation Authority and the governors and other officials of nine western and mountain states debated what to do with the Japanese Americans, who were being forcibly evacuated from the West Coast. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942) mentioned only evacuation and said nothing about what would happen to the evacuees. State officials strongly objected to having evacuees in their states. As a result, the decision was made to create a network of Relocation Centers, which have been more properly characterized as concentration camps. (A New York Times article on the conference referred to the “voluntary movement” of Japanese-Americans.)

June 5, 1942: first evacuation completed. Subsequently the remaining parts of California were evacuated, this being completed August 7, 1942.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Court challenges

September 1, 1942: in the first specific ruling on the constitutionality of actions by President Roosevelt, by Congress, and by Gen. John L. DeWitt in connection with evacuation of Japanese on the Pacific Coast, federal Judge Martin I Welsh of District Court of Northern California held that the Army was within its rights in evacuating, and in keeping in protective custody, all American-born Japanese as well as Japanese nationals.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

June 21, 1943:  authorities had convicted Gordon Hirabayashi of violating the curfew affecting Japanese-Americans in Seattle in 1942. In Hirabayashi v. United States — the first Japanese-American case to reach the Supreme Court — the Court upheld the curfew.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Life in Camps

United States Japanese Internment Camps
Tule Lake Segregation Center

October 15, 1943: at the internment camp in  California – which held over 18,000 Japanese Americans during World War II – a truck carrying agricultural workers tips over, resulting in the death of an internee. Ten days later, the agricultural workers went on strike; the internment camp director fired all of the workers and brought in strikebreakers from other internment camps. After several outbreaks of violence, martial law was declared and 250 internees were arrested and incarcerated in a newly constructed prison within the prison.

War winds down

December 17, 1944: Major General Henry C. Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes.

Fred Korematsu challenges internment

United States Japanese Internment Camps
Fred Korematsu in the 1940s

December 18, 1944: brought by Japanese-American Fred Korematsu regarding the Japanese internment, the Supreme Court sided with the government in Korematsu v. United States ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional. Korematsu (see for more)

Aftermath

November 21, 1945: Manzanar, one of the Relocation Centers (usually referred to as concentration camps) in the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-American during World War II, was officially closed on this day.

Many historians regard the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans as the greatest civil liberties tragedy in American history. The government’s program was officially ended on December 17, 1944, but Manzanar did not close until this day, almost a year later.

The site was designated a National Historic Site, on March 3, 1992, and is now managed by the National Park Service.

February 2, 1948: President Harry Truman delivered a special message to Congress on civil rights, with a set of legislative proposals. His proposals were based in large part on the report of his Civil Rights Committee, “To Secure These Rights,” [released on October 29, 1947].

This was the first-ever, comprehensive presidential message on civil rights. Truman recommended the establishment of a permanent Commission on Civil Rights; federal protection against lynching; protection of the right to vote; settling claims of Japanese-Americans who had been relocated after the attack on Pearl Harbor; statehood for Alaska and Hawaii; suffrage and self-government for the District of Columbia; and “prohibiting discrimination in interstate transportation facilities.”

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Norman Minetta

United States Japanese Internment Camps

January 3, 1975: Norman Minetta, who had been interned as a child as part of the Japanese-American evacuation and internment during World War II, took his seat in the House of Representatives. Minetta represented the San Jose, California area, and served in the House until 1995. He later served as Secretary of Commerce under President Bill Clinton (2000–2001) and then Secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush (2001–2006). (HuffPost article on Minetta)

Symbolic apology

February 19, 1976: in a largely symbolic act in the Bicentennial year, President Gerald Ford on this day issued Proclamation 4417, officially rescinding President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, authorizing the evacuation of Japanese-Americans from the West Coast. President Ford rescinded Roosevelt’s order on the same day Roosevelt had acted, thirty-four years later. (See February 19, 1942.)  Although a  symbolic act, President Ford’s order was an important statement, nonetheless.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Michi Weglyn’s Years of Infamy

May 3, 1976: Michi Weglyn’s Years of Infamy published. It became one of the most widely read and cited books on the internment.

Further Government review

July 31, 1980: President Carter signs the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians Act which created a group of people appointed by the U.S. Congress to conduct an official governmental study of Executive Order 9066, related wartime orders and their impact on Japanese Americans in the West and Alaska Natives in the Pribilof Islands.

February 22, 1983: The Report of the Commission of Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), entitled Personal Justice Denied, concluded that the exclusion, expulsion, and incarceration of Japanese-Americans were not justified by military necessity, and the decisions to do so were based on race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Fred Korematsu reviewed

November 10, 1983: the 1944 challenge that Fred Korematsu brought regarding the Japanese internment and that the Supreme Court sided with the government in Korematsu v. United States ruling that the exclusion order was constitutional, in response to a petition of error coram nobis (“error before us”) by Fred Korematsu, the San Francisco Federal District Court reversed Korematsu’s 1942 conviction and rules that the internment was not justified.

Civil Liberties Act of 1988

United States Japanese Internment Camps

August 10, 1988: Civil Liberties Act of 1988, signed by President Reagan and passed by Congress, provided for a Presidential apology and appropriates $1.25 billion for reparations of $20,000 to most internees, evacuees, and others of Japanese ancestry who lost liberty or property because of discriminatory wartime actions by the government. Civil Liberties Public Education Fund created to help teach the public about the internment period.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Redress payments

October 9, 1990: first Japanese internment redress payments issued at a Washington, D.C. ceremony. Reverend Mamoru Eto, 107 years old, is the first to receive his check.

US Concentration Camps as historic sites

March 3, 1992: Manzanar was one of ten Relocation Centers.

It had held just over 10,000 detainees. On this day, Manzanar became a National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service. Later, two other Relocation Centers also would also have national landmark status: Tule Lake (designated on February 17, 2006) and Heart Mountain (designated on September 20, 2006).

Additional funding

May 21, 1999: Congress passed legislation for additional funding to pay remaining eligible claimants who had filed timely claims under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and the Mochizuki settlement agreement.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

National Memorial

October 22, 1999: groundbreaking on construction of a national memorial to both Japanese-American soldiers and those sent to internment camps took place in Washington, D.C. with President Clinton in attendance.

United States Japanese Internment Camps

21st Century

United States Japanese Internment Camps
National Japanese-American Memorial to Patriotism

February 2. 2000: the White House announced its proposal for a new, $4.8 million initiative to help acquire and preserve several WWII concentration camp sites throughout the country.

December 21, 2006: President George W. Bush signed into law a bill that authorized up to $38 million for the preservation and interpretation of confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. The law directed the National Park Service to administer this grant program, once funds were available.

Fred Korematsu Day

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January 30, 2011: the first Fred Korematsu Day was celebrated to commemorate Korematsu, who was evacuated and interned during World War II along with about 120,000 other Japanese-Americans following the attack on Pearl Harbor. California established the day in September 2010.

Don Miyada

United States Japanese Internment Camps
by PAUL RODRIGUEZ, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

June 19, 2014: Don Miyada, 89, joined Newport (CA) Harbor High School’s 2014 graduating class on stage and received a standing ovation when he was hailed as an inaugural member of the school’s hall of fame. Miyada missed his 1942 graduation because he was locked in an internment camp for Japanese-Americans

Miyada was 17 when he was sent with his family and more than 17,000 other detainees to a patch of desert land near Poston, Arizona shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor during World War II. A teacher later sent him a letter expressing shock that he couldn’t finish high school and included a diploma — but Miyada always regretted that he missed the celebration. (LA Times article)

United States Japanese Internment Camps

Current events

Walmart

November 11, 2017:  Walmart removed the posters it was selling on its website of Japanese-American incarceration during World War II. Walmart took them down after author Jamie Ford tweeted the company asking why it was selling the posters and noting the offensive description of the products.

One particular poster featured a child waiting to be taken to an incarceration camp, and was advertised as “the perfect wall art for any home, bedroom, playroom, classroom, dorm room or office workspace.”

Wallmart said, ““We are very sorry such a sensitive topic was handled in such an insensitive way. The description used for these products was beyond tone-deaf, and unfortunately it wasn’t caught by us or the marketplace seller who listed these products on our site. When we were contacted about these over the weekend, we quickly removed the items from our Marketplace. We apologize this wasn’t caught sooner.”

Trump v Hawaii

June 26, 2018: In Trump v Hawaii, the US Supreme Court upheld President Trump’s ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, but in doing so Chief Justice Roberts’s comments officially overruled Korematsu—which upheld the exclusion of persons of Japanese ancestry, including US citizens, from their west coast homes during World War II.

Although Korematsu had been widely condemned, the Court had never formally overruled it. Quoting Justice Jackson’s dissent, Chief Justice Roberts took “the opportunity to make express what is already obvious: Korematsu was gravely wrong the day it was decided, has been overruled in the court of history, and—to be clear—’has no place in law under the Constitution.’

United States Japanese Internment Camps
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