The Real History Of ‘The Terror: Infamy’- Internment Camps and Modern Detention Centers

Photo Credit: Ed Araquel/AMC

Fact is so much scarier than fiction.  The Terror: Infamy has come out of the gate swinging.  As eerie and disturbing as some of the visuals, and the shapeshifting Yurei are, the casual mistreatment shown in just episode 1 is even more unsettling.  It is also all too familiar.  AMC appears to be walking the perfect line between real world terror and otherwordly fears with season two of their intellectual take on horror.  Yuko is disturbing, but what really happened to the men and women, many of whom were American citizens is the real Evil in the room.  What is the real history behind internment.

Japenese Internment
A few months following the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States issued Executive Order 9066; the evacuation of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans to interment camps. The harsh reality of these camps was only shadowed by the millions of deaths overseas, and yet the scars from the horrific order still remain. Prior to the camps being finished, Japanese Americans were held in whatever was available including stables used by race tracks. Almost two-thirds of the interns were NISEI, or Japanese Americans born in the United States like Chester Nakayama.  In fact 62% of all detainees were American citizens. 
Food shortages were common and in the hastily built facilities out in the middle of nowhere, sanitation was more than a little bit lacking. Over the course of the war, close to two thousand died within the camps. Coal was often hard to come by so many slept under piles of blankets in effort to stay warm. Those who were able to work would never receive more than a pittance for their labor. Locked by barbed wire, several brave members sought to right these wrongs, the most notable of which being Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu. Refusing to be remanded to the camps, Korematsu sued the government for violating his fifth amendment rights.  Despite losing, it was at least on record in the dissenting opinion that the living conditions of the detained “resembled the abhorrent and despicable treatment of minority groups by the dictatorial tyrannies which this nation is now pledged to destroy,”.  Sadly the supreme court upheld the use of the interment camps citing “pressing public necessity”.  Despite the historic shame of these internment camps the Korematsu decision has never been overturned.  
As if the deaths, poor treatment, and forced loyalty wavers weren’t enough, during the war the United States ordered the drafting of the same Japanese Americans. To counteract the cruel and hypocritical treatment of these people The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was born in an effort to fight against the government. The committee, led by Frank Emi, a Japanese American who had been born and raised in America, went on to resist the draft and told others to simply not fill out the physical forms during recruitment sessions. During that period, over 500 would go on to resist the draft, many of which would be arrested and jailed alongside the members of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee. 
Between 1942 and 1945, a total of 10 major camps were open, not including several other smaller camps along the West. As for the homes, businesses and cars that the approximately 120,000 owned- they were sold at incredibly low rates. Those that refused to sell their cars were told their cars were needed for the war and taken anyway.  Henry Nakayama’s theft of his car by Stan Grichuk foreshadowed the all to real property theft that happened during this time.  Later in the war, some Japanese were designated as “Loyal” and were given jobs in the Midwest or East. In 1946 the last camp was closed and those who still had homes against all odds, returned to them to repair their broken lives.
In 1988 the Civil Liberties Act was passed granting 20,000 dollars to each who had suffered.  $1.00 in 1940 was approximately the equivalent to $17.00 today.  This would be comparable to giving $340,000.00 to each immigrant detained today.  The payments began in 1990 and 82,219 received reparations.  Formal apology letters were signed by President George H. W. Bush and the checks were delivered by Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.  In addition, the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund was established to educate the public about the atrocities.  They were originally awarded 50 million dollars but that number was eventually cut to just 5 million.
Modern Internment
America’s paranoia was not just found during World War Two however. The despicable treatment of minority groups continues to flourish under new fears. Although the minority has changed from Japanese to the Arab world and/or South Americans, the very really punishments are exactly the same.  Interment camps have been swapped out for makeshift detention centers. Children separated from parents cry out just as Korematsu and every son or daughter who lost their parent did. Where one person might have done wrong, the whole group is blamed, persecuted, and punished. During World War 2, fears of espionage haunted Roosevelt, and now fears of rampant gangs and terrorists fuel new policy and new hate. 
Fort Sill in Oklahoma once held Japanese Americans, and now its being used to hold migrants. Yale historian Joanne Freeman said on Twitter: “It feels as though history can’t yell any louder than this.” 

​Just as they fought their forced imprisonment, Japanese Americans stand against these injustices. In June a small group of Japanese internment camp survivors protested outside the gates of Fort Sill on behalf of the immigrants. Children at these facilities are often scared, dirty, and hungry, but what’s worse is our inability to overcome our fears that sparked this. As The Terror Infamy begins to explore the horrifying behavior people remain more scary than any spirit ever could be.