Gordon Hirabayashi was a student in the 1940s when he challenged the internment orders for Japanese Americans during World War II. Opposing the wartime removal of more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants from the West Coast to detention centers, Mr. Hirabayashi involved himself in a debate that echoed throughout the remainder of the century.
In February 1942, two months after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, approved the establishment of ‘military areas’ to ‘exclude therefrom any or all persons.’ In March a curfew was instituted along the West Coast for people of Japanese ancestry, and in May 1942, the West Coast military command ordered their removal to austere camps in isolated locations.
Hirabayashi was imprisoned from March to October, 1942 after refusing to obey curfew and internment orders. In the 1980s a professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, Peter Irons, found documents revealing that in presenting to the Supreme Court the federal government had held back its own assessment that Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were not dangers to national security. In September 1987the federal appeals court in San Francisco overturned Mr. Hirabayashi’s conviction. He died in January at age 93.