Franklin D. Roosevelt is rated in most polls of scholars as our second greatest President, right behind Abraham Lincoln, or if placed third, behind George Washington as well.
FDR did so much good for us in the years of the Great Depression, with his wide variety of New Deal programs, and he also took us through the travails of World War II.
But he made a horrible mistake, when he issued Executive Order 9066 on this day in 1942, 72 years ago, allowing the building of prison camps, specifically for Japanese Americans, but also for some German Americans and Italian Americans, on the basis that they might be a “Fifth Column” working for the nation of their family’s origin.
About 110,000 mostly Japanese Americans were locked up in internment camps, and if they tried to escape, were shot and killed by guards. They were kept there until the middle of 1945, for no crime other than their ethnicity.
Many of the young Japanese American men went off to fight in Europe in World War II, and won more medals, honors, and awards for their bravery in battle, than any other unit of the war effort.
It took until 1988 for President Ronald Reagan to sign legislation granting compensation to the approximate 50,000 such victims still alive.
On the 31st anniversary of Executive Order 9066, President Gerald Ford signed legislation in 1976, declaring that executive order null and void for the future, with the memory of the miscarriage of justice that had been visited on Japanese Americans.
Never again should any such executive order be issued against any ethnic, racial, or religious group, but one can be sure that there are many right wingers who would love to do the same to our Muslim population, or our Latino population.
This mistake by FDR, giving in to hysteria, was upheld shamelessly by the Supreme Court in Korematsu V. US in December 1944, a low moment for the Court, but not the only one it has done in its long history!
Civil liberties of people should never be breached in the name of hysteria and panic!