Japanese Americans

WWII Japanese American Internment and Relocation Records in the National Archives: Introduction

What's Online in this Section: What's Not in this Section:
  • Learn about some of the records at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) relating to WWII Japanese-American internees.
  • Explore our online search tools to find information about our Japanese-American records.
  • Obtain order forms and information about how to place an order for copies of materials.
  • Discover further steps you can take to research the internment of Japanese-Americans and Japanese during World War II.
  • Information about all records in the National Archives relating to the internment and redress of Japanese-Americans and Japanese.
  • Information on how to file a claim or receive compensation for properties or monies lost because of internment.
  • Images of documents and case files online. (You can see what's available online in the National Archives Catalog.)

Research Paths

Why Search Records Relating to Japanese Americans Internment during World War II (WWII)?

The records on Japanese-American internees can provide a wealth of information for researchers and family historians. The records of particular interest, and highlighted here, are the:

  • War Relocation Authority (WRA) Records in Record Group (RG) 210.
    These records can contain personal descriptive information on Japanese and Japanese Americans from the West Coast whom the government forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to one of 10 WRA relocation centers during World War II. An online database of internees is available, and case files may also be available. We recommend WRA records as the best place to start.
    Proceed to the WRA page
  • WWII Alien Enemy Detention and Internment Case Files, Department of Justice (DOJ) in RG 60.
    These case files generally document administrative proceedings by which alien enemies considered dangerous to the internal security of the U.S. were released, paroled, or interned. There is an alphabetical index searchable online.
    Proceed to the WWII Alien Enemy page

Background to the Internment

  • The attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, launched a rash of fear about national security, especially on the West Coast. In February 1942, just two months after Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which resulted in the evacuation and relocation of about 117,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, both citizens and aliens, from parts of California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Alaska and Hawaii, that were designated as military areas.

    Persons of Japanese ancestry were ordered first to assembly centers near their homes, and then were sent to one of 10 permanent relocation centers. The exclusion order was finally revoked in December, 1944, and all relocation centers closed by 1946.

    Read More
  • Compensation and Redress Case Files, Department of Justice (DOJ) in RG 60
    A. The files from the Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act of July 2, 1948, contain approximately 26,550 claims for compensation from Japanese American citizens who were removed from the West Coast during World War II for losses of real and personal property. Partial searches can be done online.

    B. The files from the Office of the Redress Administration for restitution payments include claims from more than 82,219 people of Japanese ancestry.

    Proceed to the Compensation and Redress page
  • Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) Records in RG 220.
    These records reflect the Commission's 20 days of hearings and testimonies from more than 750 witnesses between July and December, 1981, nationwide, from people who had lived through the events of WWII. Descriptions of the records are online, as well as the entire Commission report, Personal Justice Denied.
    Proceed to the Public Hearings and Testimonies page
  • Office of the Provost Marshal General (OPMG) Records in RG 389.
    Among these records are cases of individuals' release from relocation centers, information about Japanese-American men eligible for military service, personal data cards, and more.
    Proceed to the Military Records page
  • Western Defense Command (WDC) Records in RG 499.
    These records include assembly center records, with folders on individual families.
    Proceed to the Military Records page

By reviewing each of these sections, you can learn what NARA has in its holdings and steps you can do online. While images of case files and documents are not online, the searches you can perform in these record groups will prepare you for further research. You can then continue your research with records at the National Archives by visiting us in person, contacting us by phone or e-mail, or by hiring an independent researcher.

Next Step

We recommend that you start your search with the War Relocation Authority records. An online database of Japanese American internees is available, and as a source, contains information on the largest number of people. Case files related to internees may also be available.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or for more information, contact us:

By e-mail: https://www.archives.gov/contact

By phone: 1-866-272-6272