n February of 1942, President Roosevelt issued an executive order that forced 120,000 Japanese Americans from their homes, businesses, and communities out of fear that they could be acting as spies for Japan. These people, who, of course, were not spies for Japan, were sent to “relocation centers” surrounded by barbed wire and patrolled by armed guards. In some cases they were detained until March 1946, some 6 months after Japan surrendered to the allies. This off-the-Mall memorial honors those men, women and children, as well as those Japanese Americans who served in the U.S. military (some 33,000) during World War II.

It wasn’t until the 1980s that this misguided policy was publicly acknowledged by the U.S. government. “Here we admit a wrong. Here we affirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law,” the inscription by the memorial pool reads, a quote by President Reagan as he signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which officially apologized for the forced internment of Japanese Americans.