On February 19, 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt issued his infamous Executive Order 9066 consigning all Japanese Americans on the West Coast to internment camps deep in the interior of the US. On March 21st, 1942 Congress enacted legislation giving authority to the President to enforce his decree. So now the order was all legal and 120,000 Japanese Americans were packed off to internment camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards.

However, several US citizens who believed that their incarceration was a violation of the US Constitution took their case to court. Two of the more famous ones were Fred Korematsu and Mitsuye Endo. Fred was a 23 year old young man from San Leandro California who refused to leave his home in the exclusion zone. Mitsuye was a 22 year old young woman who was fired from her job in the Department of Motor Vehicles in Sacramento. She was actually selected as a test case by civil rights attorney Saburo Kido of the Japanese American Citizens League because she was “Nisei” (second generation), a practicing Christian, spoke only English, had never been to Japan, and whose brother was serving in the US Army.

Both Korematsu and Endo had their cases worked up the courts, finally arriving at the US Supreme Court in the fall of 1944. (By this time the war had decisively turned against Japan.) Astoundingly, the US
Supreme Court ruled against Fred Korematsu, stating that the exclusion order was not discriminatory (since German Americans and Italian Americans were incarcerated also), and that the entire executive order was indeed constitutional. So, the US government had the authority to deprive US citizens of their fifth amendment rights, confiscate their property without remuneration, and incarcerate them without a trial.

Then, on the exact same day, the same US Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mitusye Endo! They said this was a different matter. The Court stated that a citizen could NOT be imprisoned if the government failed to prove that they were disloyal. Go figure. So, while Endo eventually resulted in the closing down of the camps and freeing the Japanese Americans, Korematsu also gave the government a loophole,
stating that the federal government can legally punish a citizen for refusing to be illegally imprisoned!

The US Supreme Court leaked their decision to President Roosevelt the day before their decision went public, and FDR rescinded his executive order that day. The next day the Supreme Court went public and the camps began closing down.