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The Library of Congress and Flickr want your help identifying Japanese Americans imprisoned during WWII

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Shizuko Ina (middle) was recently identified by the Library of Congress in this image from 1942. Ina was imprisoned in the United States from 1942-1946.

World War II was a horrific experience for many people around the world. On American soil, Pearl Harbor was far from the only tragedy. Following the Japanese attack on Hawaii, over a hundred thousand Americans of Japanese ancestry became the victims of national security fears. President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 resulted in the internment of Japanese Americans in established restricted zones and internment camps from 1942 to 1946. A total of 10 camps imprisoned an estimated 120,000 Japanese Americans, approximately two-thirds of whom were American citizens, for the duration of the war.

Many prisoners remain unidentified, and the Library of Congress wants the public’s help to learn more about the people who fell victim to rampant fear-mongering in the 1940s. Flickr is also joining the mission, asking people to look through an album of photographs captured before and during Japanese American internment. Survivors and descendants are encouraged to provide names of unidentified subjects and, ideally, offer additional context and history to be preserved in the Library of Congress’s expansive catalog.

One such prisoner was unidentified for 80 years. However, the Library of Congress was able to connect with her daughter and grandson. Shizuko Ina is now identified in the catalog record for her photo (leading image) and additional context and history has been added. The image, captured by famous photographer Dorothea Lange, shows Ina standing at Kinmon Hall in San Francisco on April 25, 1942, waiting to be assigned a ‘family number’ before being imprisoned with her husband, Itaru Ina. The Ina family was moved to a concentration camp in Topaz, Utah, before being moved to Tule Lake Segregation Center in Northern California. The family was separated in 1945 and then reunited at a camp in Texas in 1946. This additional information was provided by Shizuko Ina’s daughter, Satsuki, Ina, in February 2020.

Fear and war can bring out the worst in people. It’s important that countries, including the United States, not brush over the ugly parts of their past. Even if it felt justifiable to some at the time, the internment of American citizens was little more than rampant racism and abuse of power. The clock cannot be turned back, but we can expand our understanding of those affected by the forced incarceration and ensure that the victims are not forgotten.

If you or anyone you know may be able to help, please send them to this gallery. There are 30 photos in need of similar treatment, context and history. The entire collection of 127 images can be viewed at the Library of Congress.


Images courtesy of the Library of Congress and Flickr.


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