2017 was the seventy-fifth anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which was what I thought forced the removal and incarceration of 120,000 West Coast Japanese Americans. I would be the first to admit my knowledge is incomplete and I have more to learn – but, there’s more to the story – the Executive Order was just the first step. It authorized the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas. How the Executive Order was implemented by Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt of the Army’s Western Defense Command with 108 civilian exclusion orders and other military directives actually forced the Japanese Americans into concentration camps. DeWitt signed these orders in his office in Building 35 at the Presidio of San Francisco.
The exhibit, which was originally scheduled to run a year, but has been extended, fills a gallery at the Presidio Officers’ Club, with additional related content in the hallways. It is informative and thought-provoking – discussing before, during and after the War, focusing particularly on the Presidio’s role, with a fascinating selection of pictures and documents of the times. I was particularly moved by the listing of all the names of the incarcerees covering the hallway windows. It made the scope of the impact very real at the visceral level. I would recommend a visit if you are in the area.