LearnBoost welcomes Fred T. Korematsu Elementary School At Mace Ranch
Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu (是松 豊三郎, January 30, 1919 – March 30, 2005) was one of the many Japanese-American citizens[clarification needed] living on the West Coast during World War II. Shortly after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of War and his military commanders to require all Japanese Americans be removed from designated "military areas" and placed in internment camps. When such orders were issued for the West Coast, Korematsu instead became a fugitive. His conviction for disobeying that order led to a test of the order's legality before the United States Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States.
Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California in 1919, the third of four sons to Japanese parents who immigrated to the United States in 1905. Fred resided continuously in Oakland from his birth until the time of his arrest. He attended public schools, participated in the Castlemont High School tennis and swim teams, and worked in his family's flower nursery in nearby San Leandro, California. He encountered racism in high school when an army recruiting officer was handing out recruiting flyers to Korematsu’s non-Japanese friends. The officer told Korematsu, “We have orders not to accept you.” Even his girlfriend, Ida Boitano’s Irish parents felt that people of Japanese descent were inferior and unfit to mix with white people.
Korematsu was rejected by the U.S. Navy when called for military duty under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, due to stomach ulcers. Instead, he trained to become a welder in order to contribute his services to the defense effort. First, he worked as a welder at a shipyard. He went in one day to find his timecard missing and seeing the shocked look on his face; his coworkers hastily explained to him that he was Japanese so therefore he was not allowed to work there amongst them. He then found a new job, but was fired after one week when the boss, who had just returned from an extended vacation, found that there was a “Jap” working at his business. He lost his employment because of his ancestry after the United States' entry into World War II in December 1941 following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On March 27, 1942, General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Area, prohibited Japanese Americans from leaving the limits of Military Area No. 1, in preparation for their eventual evacuation to detention camps. Korematsu decided to evade evacuation by migrating to Nevada or the Midwestern United States. He underwent plastic surgery on his eyelids in the unsuccessful hope of passing as a Caucasian, changed his name to Clyde Sarah, and claimed to be of Spanish and Hawaiian heritage.
When on May 3, 1942, General DeWitt ordered Japanese Americans to report on May 9 to Assembly Centers as prelude to being removed to the camps, Korematsu refused and went into hiding in the Oakland area. He was arrested on a street corner in San Leandro on May 30, 1942, after being recognized as a "Jap". He was held at a jail in San Francisco, Shortly after Korematsu's arrest, Ernest Besig, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union in northern California asked him if he would be willing to use his case to test the legality of the Japanese American internment. Korematsu agreed, and was assigned civil rights attorney Wayne M. Collins. The American Civil Liberties Union actually said that Ernest Besig couldn’t fight Korematsu’s case, since many top people in the ACLU were friends of Franklin Roosevelt and the ACLU didn’t want to be perceived badly in time of war, but Besig decided to fight anyway. Korematsu felt “people should have a fair trial and a chance to defend their loyalty at court in a democratic way, because in this situation, people were placed in imprisonment without any fair trial.”  On June 12, 1942 Korematsu had his trial date and was given $5,000 bail ($66762.3 today). Ernest Besig paid the bail but moments after Korematsu walked out of the courtroom, he was again arrested. Korematsu was tried and convicted in federal court on September 8, 1942, for a violation of Public Law No. 503, which criminalized the violations of military orders issued under the authority of Executive Order 9066, and was placed on five years' probation. He was taken from the courtroom and returned to the Tanforan Assembly Center, and thereafter he and his family were placed in the Central Utah War Relocation Center situated at Topaz, Utah. As an unskilled laborer, he was eligible to receive only $12 per month ($160.23 today) for working eight hours per day at the camp. He was placed in a horse stall with one light bulb. He remarked that “jail was better than this.”
Some people looked down upon what Korematsu did. Many Japanese residents living on the West Coast were happy to cooperate with the government internment order, hoping to prove their loyalty as Americans. The Japanese American Citizens League actually told its members to cooperate. Korematsu was thus disdained for his opposition to government order and was seen as a threat in the eyes of other Japanese. When Korematsu’s family was moved to the internment camp in Topaz, Utah, he described feeling lonely because people recognized him and felt that if they talked to him, they would also be seen as troublemakers. Korematsu actually asked to be placed in the back corner of the camp, so he wouldn’t have to interact with other Japanese people.
He appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals. They granted review on March 27, 1943, but upheld the original verdict on January 7, 1944. He appealed again and brought his case to the United States Supreme Court, which granted review on March 27, 1944. On December 18, 1944, in a 6-3 decision, authored by Justice Black, the Court held that compulsory exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of "emergency and peril". (See Korematsu v. United States for more information.)
However, the Court also decided Ex parte Endo in December 1944, granting Mitsuye Endo her liberty from the camps because the Department of Justice and War Relocation Authority conceded that Endo was a "loyal and law-abiding citizen" and that no authority existed for detaining loyal citizens longer than necessary to separate the loyal from the disloyal. Endo's case did not address the question of whether the initial removal itself was constitutional, as did Korematsu's case.
After release from camp, Korematsu had to move east, as the law would not allow a move back westward. He moved to Salt Lake City, Utah where he continued to fight racism. He still knew there were inequalities amongst the Japanese, as he experienced these inequalities in his everyday life. He found work repairing water tanks in Salt Lake City, but after three months on the job, he discovered he was being paid half of what his white coworkers were being paid. He told his boss that this was unfair and asked to be paid the same amount, but his boss only threatened to call the police and try to get Korematsu arrested for being Japanese, so he left his job. After this incident, Korematsu lost hope, remaining quiet for over thirty years. His own daughter did not find out about what her father did until she was in high school. Peter Irons said that Korematsu “felt responsible for the internment in a sort of backhanded way, because his case had been lost in the Supreme Court.” He moved to Detroit, Michigan, where his younger brother lived, and here he worked as a draftsman until 1949. He met a Caucasian woman and married her circa 1946–1947 in Detroit, where mixed race marriage was legal at the time. He soon visited the Oakland area again with her, and after his bride fell ill, they resettled there. His daughter was born in 1950, and a son in 1954.
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to investigate the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The commission concluded that the decisions to remove those of Japanese ancestry to prison camps occurred because of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership". In 1988, Congress apologized and granted personal compensation of $20,000 to each surviving prisoner.
In the early 1980s, while researching a book on internment cases, lawyer and University of California, San Diego professor Peter Irons came across evidence that Charles Fahy, the Solicitor General of the United States who argued Korematsu v. United States before the Supreme Court, had deliberately suppressed reports from the FBI and military intelligence which concluded that Japanese-American citizens posed no security risk. These documents revealed that the military had lied to the Supreme Court, and that government lawyers had willingly made false arguments. Irons found that the Supreme Court’s decision was invalid since it was based on unsubstantiated facts, distortions, and misrepresentations. Along with a team of lawyers headed by Dale Minami, Irons petitioned for writs of error coram nobis with the federal courts, seeking to overturn Korematsu's conviction.
On November 10, 1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally vacated the conviction. Korematsu stood in front of US District Judge Marilyn Patel and said, “I would like to see the government admit that they were wrong and do something about it so this will never happen again to any American citizen of any race, creed, or color.” He also said, “If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.”  Peter Irons described Korematsu’s ending statement during the case as the most powerful statement he’d ever heard from anyone. He related the statement as being as empowering as Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Judge Patel’s ruling cleared Korematsu’s name, but did not overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.
President Bill Clinton awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, to Korematsu in 1998, saying, "In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls. Plessy, Brown, Parks ... to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu."
A member and Elder of First Presbyterian Church of Oakland, Korematsu was twice President of San Leandro Lions Club, and for 15 years a volunteer with Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Council.
Korematsu spoke out after September 11, 2001 and how the United States government must not let the same thing happen to people of Middle-Eastern descent as what happened to Japanese Americans. When prisoners were detained at Guantanamo Bay for too long of a period, in Korematsu’s opinion, he filed two amicus briefs with the Supreme Court and warned them not to repeat the mistakes of the Japanese internment. He wrote his first Amicus Curiae in October 2003 for two cases appealed before the Supreme Court of the United States, Shafiq Rasul, v. George W. Bush and Khaled A.F. Al Odah v. United States of America. Attorneys Arturo J. Gonzalez and Sylvia M. Sokol of Morrison & Foerster LLP and Jon B. Streeter and Eumi K. Lee of Keker & Van Nest LLP worked on the Amicus Curiae. In the Amicus Curiae, Korematsu warned the Supreme Court that the restriction of civil liberties can never be justified, and had never been justified in the history of the United States. Furthemore Korematsu provided examples of specific cases in American history in which the government exceeded constitutional authority, such as the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 and the Japanese Interment of WWII. Korematsu thus reacted critically of the United States government who imprisoned detainees in Guantanamo Bay by restricting their civil liberties albeit in a time of, according to the respondent, “military necessity.” Similarly in his second Amicus Curiae, written April 2004 with the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Asian Law Caucus, the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area, Asian Pacific Islander Legal Outreach, and the Japanese American Citizens League, Korematsu responded to Donald Rumself v. Jose Padilla. The following attorneys worked on the Amicus Curiae: Geoffrey R. Stone, Dale Minami of Minami, Lew, and Tamaki LLP, Eric K. Yamamoto, Stephen J. Schulhofer of the Brennan Center for Justice, and Evan R. Chesler of Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP. The Amici Curiae’s statement of interest emphasized the similarity of the unlawful detainment between Fred Korematsu during WWII and that of Jose Padilla following the events of 9/11, and warned the American government of repeating their mistakes of the past. He believed 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.” 
From 2001 until his death, Korematsu served on the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee. Discussing racial profiling in 2004, he warned, "No one should ever be locked away simply because they share the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very dangerous times for our democracy."
Fred Korematsu died of respiratory failure at his daughter's home in Marin County, California on March 30, 2005. One of the last things Korematsu said was, “I'll never forget my government treating me like this. And I really hope that this will never happen to anybody else because of the way they look, if they look like the enemy of our country”. He also urged others to, “protest, but not with violence, and don’t be afraid to speak up. One person can make a difference, even if it takes forty years.” Korematsu was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery.
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