Study Guide

Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation Analysis

By Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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  • Rhetoric


    Major disclaimer here: we're saying that the rhetorical approach this doc takes was based on logic. What we're not saying, by any stretch of the imagination, was that this E.O. was itself logical.

    Because it wasn't. Racist? Yes. Logical? Nopity, nope, nope.

    But back in the day, the public demanded that something be done to secure the peace and safety of the nation in the face of Japanese aggression and the dangers of World War II. Executive Order 9066 was FDR's logical conclusion to that demand.

    The first line states as much:

    Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104); (5)

    It's difficult to decipher because it's steeped in a dense vocabulary called "legalese," but FDR is saying, "Hey, if we're going to make it through this war successfully, we have to take care of ourselves. One way of doing that is to take action against possible spies."

    Note: the operative word here is "possible."

    The remainder of the text is a play-by-play of how this action will start to take place, by whom, and with what authority. Since it's basically a set of instructions, there's not much in the way of emotional appeal. In terms of ethics, well, there's that bit of legal citation (Section 4, Act of blah-blah-blah), which makes it at least temporarily lawful. However, if you want a broader discussion about the ethics of E.O. 9066, check out the "Why Should I Care?" section.

  • Structure

    A Thicket of Run-On Sentences and Dense Paragraphs

    You can just tell E.O. 9066 isn't meant to be spoken aloud like a speech or one of FDR's fireside chats.

    In fact, reading an IKEA manual out loud would probably get you a more enthusiastic round of applause.

    The first sentence alone is enough to garble any brain, whether that of speaker or listener. The entire text is packed to the gills with content. Snaking sentences, overly thorough listing, and the occasional foray into barely comprehensible legal citations are a dead giveaway that it's a government document.

    So much wordiness disguises the step-by-step structure of the document, which lays out FDR's plan for the secretary of war and the creation of military exclusion areas.

    The tone is overall pretty flat and dry, but wartime doesn't make for the most buoyant and fluffy language, right? If anything, the document is written in an exceptionally formal manner that's influenced by historical traditions of federal governance. In other words, it's written according to a set of preexisting rules to make certain that it actually passes muster in the eyes of the law and doesn't violate the Constitution.

    Available to the public, the primary audience for E.O. 9066 wasn't Ma and Pa chillin' at home by the radio. It was FDR's Cabinet members, who would have been very familiar with sitting in dim rooms full of heavy furniture reading executive orders. It was their job.

    Under FDR, they had their work cut out for them because he issued more executive orders than any other president, topping the charts with a record number 3,721, according to the American Presidency Project.

    How It Breaks Down

    Section 1: Titles and Stuff (Sentences 1-4)

    No Frills

    These sparse four lines simply indicate the official title of the document, its author, the type of document it is (an executive order), and to whom the document is specifically addressed.

    In that order. Don't get too excited.

    Section 2: Introduction (Sentence 5)

    Yeah, It's Both a Paragraph and a Sentence—Kind Of

    FDR gets awfully high and mighty in this first paragraph/sentence/run-on fragment.

    If you're thinking that this sentence is super awkward, you're correct. That's because it's really long and doesn't end with a period...or even an exclamation point (and we should probably be grateful it's not a question mark).

    The language is some hardcore legalese (see the "Rhetoric" section for more about this topic). It's meant to introduce the content that follows and, as officially as possible, frame the special political circumstances under which it is written.

    Oh, that confusing mess of numbers? It refers to two laws that pertain to war and national defense, which FDR invokes to make the document legally valid.

    Section 3: Paragraph 2, Part I (Sentence 6)

    Another Ungodly Long Sentence

    Well, it looks like that first sentence was just a warm-up for this next one, which could probably wrap around the circumference of the Earth.

    Here, FDR is stating that he's using his powers as POTUS to give legal power to the secretary of war and the dudes who work for him. With this power, they can create "military areas" whenever and wherever they want in the name of national security. Within the military areas, they can allow or exclude anyone they want—at any time. That means they can control who comes, who goes, and who gets the boot for as long as they're in power.

    Section 4: Paragraph 2, Part II (Sentence 7)

    "Responsible" Bullying

    In the second part of the second paragraph, the secretary of war and his cronies are "authorized" (more like told) by FDR to make the exclusion zones as exclusive as they'd like. They're also told to make sure the people who are excluded (primarily Japanese Americans) are provided for with the most basic amenities.

    Really big of him.

    Section 5: Paragraph 2, Part III (Sentence 8)

    Step Aside, Attorney General

    About the length of a football field, the second paragraph wraps up with an explicit statement regarding the attorney general, who's told to take a back seat on matters of national security. The powers designated for the secretary of war and his underlings are replacing similar powers that had been held by the attorney general since FDR's authorization of Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527, and the official declaration of war on Japan.

    Hmm—wonder how U.S. Attorney General Robert H. Jackson felt about that?

    Section 6: Paragraph 3 (Sentence 9)

    Call in the Cavalry, If You Fancy

    FDR tells the secretary of war and his friends that they should feel free to "enforce compliance with the restrictions applicable to each Military area." In other words, they should crack down on anyone who doesn't do what they say.

    How, you might ask? Well, by bringing in the military to back up local law enforcement. You know…to "assist."

    Section 7: Paragraph 4 (Sentence 10)

    All Together Now

    Tearing people away from their homes, jobs, and lives might have been all in a day's work for the government, but that doesn't mean it was easy. That's why FDR directs all executive departments and affiliated federal entities to help the secretary of war ruin 120,000 lives.

    At least they provided medical aid, hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, and shelter in exchange for shattered dreams. They were also generous enough to provide specific comforts like "other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services."


    Section 8: Paragraph 5 (Sentence 11)

    Capping the Power

    In the final paragraph, FDR states that E.O. 9066 does nothing to change the effects of E.O. 8972, which increased the power of the military to defend and protect the country in a more general sense. No harm, no foul.

    He also states that E.O. 9066 won't influence or limit the activities of the FBI when dealing with matters of espionage. And, adding insult to injury, it also includes that the attorney general and the Department of Justice still have to fulfill the duties assigned to them by the "Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941," even if the secretary of war can surpass their power when it comes to military areas.

    Section 9: Conclusion (Sentences 12-14)


    The final lines include the president's name and signature, as well as the place and date issuance took place.

  • What's Up With the Title?

    Put this one up there with the great titles of all time, folks. Step aside, evocative gems like "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!" and "Tear Down This Wall."

    E.O. 9066 is here!

    Yeah, this title is pretty generic, especially if you're not totally sure what an E.O. actually is. As mentioned in the "Glossary," executive orders are instructions by the president that guide the activities of executive departments (also described in the "Glossary").

    Executive orders are the president's way of handing power to different parts of the government, as well as telling them what they can and can't do. They are directed at individuals and entities within the government, but they often directly impact the lives of citizens.

    Executive orders are assigned a specific number that indicates the order in which they were enacted, stretching all the way back to America's first president, good ol' George "Wooden Teeth" Washington. This is sort of helpful if you know what you're looking for, but if not, then picking through thousands and thousands of executive orders could be a major drag. That's why some are referred to by informal names or combined with subtitles that describe their actions.

    This document is one such example—E.O. 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation. Ahh, that clears things up a bit.

  • What's Up With the Opening Lines?

    Whereas the successful prosecution of the war requires every possible protection against espionage and against sabotage to national-defense material, national-defense premises, and national-defense utilities as defined in Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220, and the Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104); (5)

    This isn't going down in the annals of famous first lines anytime soon. In fact, E.O. 9066's intro sentence is clunky, to say the least.

    However, while it seems like a bunch of bureaucratic filler language, it's really performing a super important job. Clearly not concerned with being charming or eloquent, the first sentence states the purpose of the executive order, why it's being issued, and how it's legally possible.

    In this case, FDR is issuing E.O. 9066 in the name of national protection against espionage and sabotage. He aligns the order with two previously existing laws that apply to war and American defense in order to make it lawful and legal. In this way, the document becomes official and justified, even if it's not justifiable in retrospect.

  • What's Up With the Closing Lines?

    This order shall not be construed as modifying or limiting in any way the authority heretofore granted under Executive Order No. 8972, dated December 12, 1941, nor shall it be construed as limiting or modifying the duty and responsibility of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with respect to the investigation of alleged acts of sabotage or the duty and responsibility of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice under the Proclamations of December 7 and 8, 1941, prescribing regulations for the conduct and control of alien enemies, except as such duty and responsibility is superseded by the designation of military areas hereunder. (11)

    The closing line, all 103 words of it, doesn't function like traditional conclusions normally do.

    There's no final moment of reverie or a satisfying sense of resolution. Like the rest of the text that comes before it, the last section of E.O. 9066 is dry as a bone. And blunt. So, so blunt.

    Still official in tone and procedure, the conclusion is sort of a sink drain food trap for last-minute details. It's like FDR is saying, "Oh, and by the way…"

    Items addressed in this final, breathtaking run-on sentence include:

    • upholding and maintaining the powers of E.O. 8972.
    • upholding and maintaining the authority of the FBI.
    • reminding the attorney general and the Department of Justice that they should still do their jobs…just not in the military exclusion areas.

    It's not exactly "boats against the current"…but it does the job.

  • Tough-o-Meter

    (8) Snow Line

    This one is a tough read. Yeah, it's short, but, wow, is it dense.

    Eleven sentences are stretched over five paragraphs, and some of those sentences are more than 100 words long. FDR was a wordy guy (just check out all of those fireside chats), but this is impressive even for him.

    E.O. 9066 is also challenging because it's written using very official language—just check out that sentence that's all numbers. It's a legal order, after all. It's supposed to be a little bit complicated.

    But a lot of the bulk is attributable to repetition. For example, variations of the phrase, "the Secretary of War, and the Military Commanders" shows up multiple times. So does, "I hereby further authorize and direct." Try thinking of these phrases as more of a trick for presenting important information. Don't get too caught up in how haughty and formal they sound.

  • Shout-Outs

    In-Text References

    Military, Political, and Governmental References

    • President of the United States (Yes, FDR gives a shout-out to…himself.) (2, 6, 12)
    • Secretary of war (referring to Henry L. Stimson) (4, 6, 7, 9, 10)
    • Section 4, Act of April 20, 1918, 40 Stat. 533, as amended by the Act of November 30, 1940, 54 Stat. 1220 (5)
    • Act of August 21, 1941, 55 Stat. 655 (U.S.C., Title 50, Sec. 104) (5)
    • Military commanders (under the secretary of war) (6, 7, 9, 10)
    • Attorney general (referring to Robert H. Jackson) (8, 11)
    • Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, 2527 (8, 11)
    • U.S. declaration of war on Japan (8, 11)
    • Federal troops/agencies (9, 10)
    • Executive departments of the U.S. federal government (10)
    • Executive Order 8972 (11)
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation (11)
    • Department of Justice (11)
    • The White House (13)

    References to This Text

    Historical and Political References

    Court Cases

  • Trivia

    In the WRA relocation camps, schools were set up for children and adults alike. Educational programs included classes in the English language and classes on American culture. Their purpose? To further "Americanize" prisoners, a vast majority of whom were already American citizens. (Source)

    In a troublesome twist of history, most of the WRA relocation camps were built on Native American reservation lands, creating a double displacement of ethnic and cultural populations by the U.S. government. (Source)

    FDR loved those executive orders. He was such a big fan that he enacted 3,721—more than any other president in U.S. history. The fact that he had four terms to rack up the number probably helped, but still, that's pretty impressive. (Source)

    On the flip side, William Henry Harrison was about as uninterested in issuing executive orders as FDR was about pumping them out. During his term in office, he didn't pen a single one...although he also died a month after his inauguration. (Source)

    Mistakenly, some people thought Japanese Americans complacently accepted their imprisonment, but the reality was quite the opposite. By and large, the imprisoned obeyed the regulations created because of E.O. 9066 to express their loyalty to the United States. It is often stated that the Japanese philosophy of "shikata ga nai," which translates to "it cannot be helped," actually did help Japanese Americans endure their imprisonment. (Source)

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