GHC Observes the Day of Remembrance - February 19, 2022

Posted on: Feb, 16, 2022

Grays Harbor College Logo

February 19th is a significant date for the Japanese American community. On this day in 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which gave the U.S. Army the authority to remove civilians from the military zones established in Washington, Oregon, and California during WWII. This led to the forced removal and incarceration of some 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry (about 80,000 were US citizens) living on the West Coast, who had to abandon their jobs, their homes, and their lives to be sent to one of ten concentration camps scattered in desolate, remote regions of the country. They were only allowed to take what they could carry.

No Japanese Americans were ever charged, much less convicted, of espionage or sabotage against the United States. Yet they were targeted, rounded up, and imprisoned for years, simply for having the “face of the enemy.”

Grays Harbor College and Aberdeen are linked to this incarceration through two harborites: Karl Bendetsen and Perry Saito.

Karl Bendetsen was born in Aberdeen and had Jewish ancestry. He is remembered primarily for his role as an architect of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He was a lawyer who had an office in the old Finch building on Heron Street.

Just down the street from the Finch Building was the Saito’s Oriental Gift Shop. One of the locations of the gift shop is now Jay’s Farm Stand. Perry Saito grew up in Aberdeen and was a student at Grays Harbor Junior College from 1939 to 1941, where he participated in many activities such as Phi Theta Kappa and baseball. Perry Saito and his family were incarcerated at the Tule Lake concentration camp in California.

Incarceration such as this may still be constitutional in the United States. In the 1944 landmark case of Korematsu v. United States, the US Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the incarceration. The Supreme Court may have possibly overturned its decision 73 years later in the 2018 case of Trump v. Hawaii. The Court upheld the validity of the Muslim Travel Ban and both sides of this decision referenced the Korematsu decision, stating that the Supreme Court was wrong in 1944. However, since Korematsu v United States was not directly overturned, it can be argued that it is still constitutional to incarcerate US citizens and others based on their race.

More information can be found at: