Korematsu Day honors interned Americans
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Nevertheless, later that year he was convicted in Federal District Court and sentenced to probation to be served in internment camps, first at Tanforan and then in Utah. He lost appeals all the way to the U.S Supreme Court, which ruled 6-3 in 1944 to confirm the verdict on the military necessity argument. Released before the end of the war, he could not return west for years.
More than 33,000 Japanese-Americans served in the Army, Navy, nurses and women's services, mostly as volunteers from the camps. Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, who lost an arm in the war, has pointed out that the nearly all-Nisei 442nd Regiment, which fought the Germans up the spine of Italy, had the highest medal percentage and lowest venereal disease rate of any outfit in the Army.
The government reported there was not a single case of espionage or sabotage by Americans of Japanese heritage throughout the war. President Jimmy Carter ordered a 1980 commission study of the history of the relocation program, which led to the discovery that, in the Korematsu trial, the Justice Department prosecutor had suppressed the government report. As a result, in 1983 a federal judge struck down Korematsu's conviction.
President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which conceded that the relocation was prompted by racial bias and awarded $20,000 to each surviving internee. Meanwhile, Jim and other Yamakawas and various Matsyumas/Wallmans had returned to Sonoma Valley. Korematsu came back to the Bay Area with his wife and children, and began assisting attorneys in drafting briefs dealing with limitations on civil rights. President George H. W. Bush issued a blanket apology to the interned Nisei.
President Bill Clinton awarded Fred the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998, comparing him to Rosa Parks who had refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus. Korematsu has had schools named for him in Davis, Oakland and San Leandro, a street in San Jose and the Korematsu Institute, founded by his daughter. He became an elder of the Presbyterian Church, twice a Lions Club president and a member of the Boy Scouts Bay Area Council. Fred died in 2005 at age 86.
His legacy is capsulated in his declaration that "full vindication for the Japanese-Americans will arrive only when we learn that, even in times of crisis, we must guard against prejudice and keep uppermost our commitment to law and justice."
In 2010, the California Legislature adopted, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed, a resolution establishing an annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution every Jan. 30, 2011, ironically the birthday of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The celebration was centered in Wheeler Hall at the University of California. State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson declared it was fitting since Korematsu "helped to right one of history's great wrongs."