FRED KOREMATSU Biography - Activists, Revolutionaries and other freedom fighters


Biography » activists revolutionaries and other freedom fighters » fred korematsu


Name: Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu                                                               
Born: 30 January 1919                                                                         
Died: 30 March 2005                                                                           
Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu (January 30, 1919 - March 30, 2005) was one of                     
the many Japanese-American citizens living on the West Coast during World War II.             
Shortly after the Imperial Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor, President                     
Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, authorizing the Secretary of               
War to require all Japanese-Americans in "Military Area No. 1" (the West Coast "exclusion     
zone") to report to the Internment Camps.                                                     
Fred Korematsu was born in 1919 to Japanese parents living in Oakland,                       
California. He worked in his family's flower nursery growing up.                             
When General John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Area, ordered                   
Japanese-American citizens to report to Assembly Centers as prelude to being                 
removed to the camps, Mr. Korematsu refused and went into hiding. He changed his             
name and claimed to be of Spanish and Hawaiian heritage. He was captured on May               
30, 1942, and was tried and convicted in federal court. He appealed to the U.S.               
Court of Appeals. They upheld the original verdict. He appealed again and                     
brought his case to the United States Supreme Court. On December 18, 1944, in a               
6-3 decision, authored by Justice Black, the Court held that compulsory                       
exclusion, though constitutionally suspect, is justified during circumstances of             
"emergency and peril".                                                                       
However, the Court also decided Ex parte Endo in December of 1944, granting                   
Mitsuye Endo her liberty from the camps because the Department of Justice and                 
War Relocation Authority conceded that Endo was a "loyal and law-abiding citizen"             
and that no authority existed for detaining loyal citizens longer than necessary             
to separate the loyal from the disloyal. Endo's case did not address the                     
question of whether the initial detention itself was constitutional, as did                   
Korematsu's case.                                                                             
In 1980, President Jimmy Carter appointed a special commission to investigate                 
the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. The commission                     
concluded that the decisions to remove those of Japanese ancestry to prison                   
camps occurred because of "race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of                     
political leadership". In 1988, Congress apologized and granted personal                     
compensation of $20,000 to each surviving prisoner.                                           
In the early 1980s, while researching a book on internment cases, lawyer Peter               
Irons came across evidence that Charles Fahy, the Solicitor General of the                   
United States who argued Korematsu v. United States before the Supreme Court,                 
had deliberately suppressed reports from the FBI and military intelligence which             
concluded that Japanese-American citizens posed no security risk. Along with a               
team of lawyers headed by Dale Minami, Irons filed a writ of coram nobis with                 
the federal courts, seeking to overturn Korematsu's conviction. On November 10,               
1983, Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of U.S. District Court in San Francisco formally               
vacated the conviction.                                                                       
Under the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct (promulgated in 1983 as a                   
result of the Watergate scandal), a prosecutor's deliberate suppression of                   
exonerating evidence is grounds for disbarment. Fahy's actions are often                     
mentioned in legal ethics textbooks as an example of why the modern rule is                   
From 2001 until his death, Korematsu served on the Constitution Project's                     
bipartisan Liberty and Security Committee. Discussing racial profiling in                     
2004, he warned, "No one should ever be locked away simply because they share                 
the same race, ethnicity, or religion as a spy or terrorist. If that principle               
was not learned from the internment of Japanese Americans, then these are very               
dangerous times for our democracy."                                                           
Fred Korematsu died of respiratory failure at his daughter's home in Marin                   
County, California on March 30, 2005.