Study Guide

Henry Lewis Stimson in Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation

By Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Henry Lewis Stimson

Not-So-Humble Beginnings

Henry L. Stimson had one of the most illustrious and varied political careers in U.S. history. And no, we're not being overblown here. This guy's resume was nuts.

A native New Yorker born to a renowned surgeon, Stimson spent most of his childhood in boarding school, where he became extremely well educated. A super smarty-pants, he later excelled as a student at both Yale College and Harvard Law School, establishing a pattern of success and drive that continued throughout his life.

Friends in High Places

Stimson was big buds with FDR's fifth cousin, Theodore Roosevelt...who also happened to be the 26th president of the United States. (So convenient.)

At the beginning of Teddy's second term, in 1906, he handed Stimson an appointment as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. A minor but influential position, it marked the first of a bunch of prestigious jobs.

Under the administration of President William Howard Taft several years later, Stimson became secretary of war for the first time. Holding the position for only two years, he left the president's Cabinet in 1913 with the arrival of Woodrow Wilson and became involved in the military with the onslaught of World War I.

After the war, he returned to politics as a public official in Nicaragua and the Philippines during their respective conflicts of national independence, and then he found himself again in the president's Cabinet. Though there was less sunbathing there, it didn't matter much because he was basking in the glory of his appointment as secretary of state under Herbert Hoover.

Hoover got the boot from the White House in 1933, taking Stimson with him, but when World War II quite literally exploded onto the scene, Stimson was back in the saddle as secretary of war for a second go-round.

Of Two Minds

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, there were a lot of people advising FDR on what to do about the "problem" of the Japanese American citizenry, but as secretary of war, Stimson was his number-one consultant.

Trouble was, even Stimson was unsure of how to proceed.

At first, he was against the idea of mass evacuations and internment, but over time, he came to support the plan and ultimately convinced FDR to announce E.O. 9066. Backed by the authority of the order, Stimson was able to grant permission to pro-exclusionary politicians and military commanders, which allowed them to proceed with evacuation plans.

Interestingly, Stimson remained skeptical of the order from a legal point of view…but held racist attitudes toward Japanese Americans that overshadowed this concern. (Wow. Racism overshadowing reason? That's the first time we've heard of that happening!)

Perhaps, then, it's fitting that Stimson personally oversaw the Manhattan Project—the top-secret plan to develop the atomic bombs that were eventually dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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