|Born||30 Jan 1919|
|Died||30 Mar 2005|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseFred Toyosaburo Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, United States in 1919 as the third of four sons to Japanese-American immigrants Kakusaburo Korematsu and Kotsui Aoki, who moved to the United States in 1905. He attended Castlemont High School and worked in his family's flower nursery in San Leandro, California. In school, a visiting US Army recruitment officer informed him that those of Japanese descent were not welcomed in the military. When he was called for military duty by the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, he was rejected under the pretense of having stomach ulcers. Between 1940 and 1941, he was twice fired for being of Japanese descent; all members of his family experienced the same after the Japanese Navy raided Pearl Harbor in the US Territory of Hawaii.
ww2dbaseAfter General John L. DeWitt gave the order to prohibit Japanese-Americans from leaving the west coast in preparation of mass internment of Japanese-American civilians, Korematsu underwent plastic surgery on his eyelids in an attempt to pass as someone of Spanish and Hawaiian descent; this attempt failed to trick the authorities. When the formal order for internment came down, he went into hiding. In May 1942, went into hiding when his family was ordered to assemble for deportation, but he was discovered and arrested within the month. Shortly after, director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in northern California Ernest Besig asked him to challenge the internment order, and he agreed. Despite ACLU's national leadership, which was politically tied to US President Franklin Roosevelt, undermined Besig's efforts, Besig and Korematsu continued to fight. In Jun 1942, despite of posting bail, authorities refused to let him go free; instead, he was taken into custody by the military police and was held at the Presidio in northern San Francisco. In Sep 1942, he was convicted for a violation of Public Law No. 503, which criminalized the violations of military orders issued under the authority of Executive Order 9066, in a federal court in San Francisco. He was given the sentence of five years probation and was prepared for deportation. He and his family was first moved to the Tanforan Assembly Center, and then was moved to Central Utah War Relocation Center in Topaz, Utah, United States. At the camp in Utah, he was given a unskilled job that demanded of him 8 hours of work per day at the wage of US$12 per month, and he was housed in a horse stall equipped with one light bulb. He was shunned by some Japanese-Americans, who thought it would be better to bear the burden of internment until the end of the war, and thought Korematsu a troublemaker; some, however, regarded him high for his willingness to challenge the unjust internment. In 1943 and in 1944, the US Court of Appeals and the US Supreme Court granted a reviews of Korematsu's case, but both ultimately upheld the original verdict.
ww2dbaseReleased from captivity after the war, Korematsu settled in Salt Lake City, Utah. He found a job repairing water tanks, but would quick after three months after finding out he was receiving half of what his Caucasian colleagues were paid, and his supervisor refused to give him the same wages because he was Japanese-American. He moved to Detroit, Michigan, United States where his younger brother settled after the war, and worked as a draftsman until 1949. He married Kathryn Pearson in Detroit in Oct 1946; they would have two children (daughter Karen, 1950; son Ken, 1954). In 1949, he briefly visited Oakland when his mother was ill. In 1976, President Gerald Ford formally terminated Executive Order 9066 and apologized for the internment, and in the early 1980s it was discovered that reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military intelligence noting that Japanese-Americans posed no threat to the United States were deliberately kept out of the Supreme Court during the Korematsu case. In Nov 1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of US District Court in San Francisco vacated Fred Korematsu's 1942 conviction, although this action did not overturn the 1944 Supreme Court decision. In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, and he resumed the role of a civil rights activist. After the terrorist attacks on the United States in Sep 2001, he spoke up against unconstitutional government actions in the name of military necessity, and filed two amicus curiae briefs with the Supreme Court when prisoners were held at Guantanamo Bay for too long a period. Between 2001 and 2005, he served on the Constitution Project's bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee. He passed away from respiratory failure at his daughter's home in Marin County, California, north of San Francisco, in Mar 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 was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.
ww2dbaseIn 2010, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California declared 30 Jan of each year the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution; the Commonwealth of Virginia and the state of Florida followed suit with the same commemoration in 2015 and 2016, respectively. In 2018, in the case of Trump v. Hawaii, the ruling against him was formally overruled.
Last Major Revision: Nov 2019
Fred Korematsu Timeline
|30 Jan 1919||Fred Korematsu was born in Oakland, California, United States.|
|9 May 1942||Fred Korematsu went into hiding in Oakland, California, United States, defying the orders to assemble for deportation.|
|30 May 1942||Fred Korematsu was arrested in San Leandro, California, United States and was placed in a jail in nearby San Francisco.|
|12 Jun 1942||In San Francisco, California, United States, Fred Korematsu was given a US$5,000 bail.|
|18 Jun 1942||Fred Korematsu was arraigned in San Francisco, California, United States. Despite having posted bail, US military police took custody of Korematsu, refusing to let him go free. Korematsu was taken to the Presidio in northern San Francisco.|
|8 Sep 1942||Fred Korematsu was convicted for a violation of Public Law No. 503, which criminalized the violations of military orders issued under the authority of Executive Order 9066, in a federal court in San Francisco, California, United States. He was given the sentence of five years probation and was prepared for deportation to the Tanforan Assembly Center.|
|27 Mar 1943||The US Court of Appeals granted a review of Fred Korematsu's case.|
|7 Jan 1944||The US Court of Appeals upheld the original 1942 verdict against Fred Korematsu.|
|27 Mar 1944||The US Supreme Court granted a review of Fred Korematsu's case.|
|18 Dec 1944||The US Supreme Court upheld the original 1942 verdict against Fred Korematsu.|
|12 Oct 1946||Fred Korematsu married Kathryn Pearson in Detroit, Michigan, United States.|
|10 Nov 1983||Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of US District Court in San Francisco, California, United States vacated Fred Korematsu's 1942 conviction.|
|30 Mar 2005||Fred Korematsu passed away from respiratory failure at his daughter's home in Marin County, California, United States.|
|23 Sep 2010||Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, United States declared 30 Jan of each year the Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945