Fred Korematsu was an American citizen who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. In May 1942, the federal government began interning Japanese Americans in camps because of security fears during World War II. (This was authorized by Executive Order 9066.) Korematsu refused to follow the orders. Instead, he moved to a nearby town, had facial surgery to hide his Japanese features, and changed his name. He was eventually found and convicted.
The majority of the Court upheld the conviction and said that the government had a right to force Japanese Americans into these camps during the current circumstances of emergency and peril. The dissenters vehemently rejected the national security claim, asserting that the internment was really based on racial prejudice.
323 U.S. 214 (1944)
CERTIORARI TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS
FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
1. Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 which, during a state of war with Japan and as a protection against espionage and sabotage, was promulgated by the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command under authority of Executive Order No. 9066 and the Act of March 21, 1942, and which directed the exclusion after May 9, 1942, from a described West Coast military area of all persons of Japanese ancestry, held constitutional as of the time it was made and when the petitioner -- an American citizen of Japanese descent whose home was in the described area -- violated it. P. 323 U. S. 219.
2. The provisions of other orders requiring persons of Japanese ancestry to report to assembly centers and providing for the detention of such persons in assembly and relocation centers were separate, and their validity is not in issue in this proceeding. P. 323 U. S. 222.
3. Even though evacuation and detention in the assembly center were inseparable, the order under which the petitioner was convicted was nevertheless valid. P. 323 U. S. 223.
140 F.2d 289, affirmed.
CERTIORARI, 321 U.S. 760, to review the affirmance of a judgment of conviction.
MR. JUSTICE BLACK delivered the opinion of the Court.
The petitioner, an American citizen of Japanese descent, was convicted in a federal district court for remaining in San Leandro, California, a "Military Area," contrary to Civilian Exclusion Order No. 34 of the Commanding General of the Western Command, U.S. Army, which directed that, after May 9, 1942, all persons of Japanese ancestry should be excluded from that area. No question was raised as to petitioner's loyalty to the United States. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, and the importance of the constitutional question involved caused us to grant certiorari.