Published: 18th March 2022
What happened on March 18: Japanese internment of WWII and the world's biggest art heist
A shameful period in US history, the Japanese internment camps were a relic of racism and war hysteria during the 1940s
The Japanese internment is often seen as one of the most regrettable aspects of the United States' participation in World War II. It was on this date in 1942 that US President Franklin D Roosevelt cleared the creation of the War Relocation Authority via Executive Order 9102. This was the body that was tasked with forcing more than 1,20,000 Japanese American citizens into concentration camps across the country. Roosevelt's directions came after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii on December 7, 1941, officially leading the US to join World War II as part of the Allied forces.
The decision stemmed from what was arguably war hysteria. After the Pearl Harbour attack, public opinion in the US turned against Japanese Americans who were suspected of disloyalty to the States and of offering espionage to Japan. Under the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, the US termed people of Japanese, German and Italian descent as 'enemy aliens' and thousands of people were accordingly incarcerated.
The frames have stayed empty
An art heist like no other. On this date back in 1990, 13 paintings were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston by two men dressed as police officers. The theft was carried out over an hour after the perpetrators tied up the guards. They proceeded to steal paintings worth $500 million by noted artists such as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Manet. The case remains unsolved, with the paintings lost, and no arrests have been made to date. And, of course, the sensation it created helped it find a spot in public memory and movies, documentaries and allusions to the theft on various popular shows have cropped up over the years. In fact, as recently as April 2021, Netflix released an original documentary on the theft titled, This Is a Robbery: The World's Biggest Art Heist. Well, the paintings may never be found, but at least you know what you're watching tonight.