- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 3, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Fred Korematsu, who unsuccessfully fought Japanese American internment camps during World War II before finally winning in court nearly four decades later, died March 30 of respiratory illness, his attorney said. He was 86.

Mr. Korematsu died at his daughter’s home in Larkspur, Calif., attorney Dale Minami said.

Mr. Korematsu became a symbol of civil rights for challenging the World War II internment orders that sent 120,000 Japanese Americans to government camps. His conviction for opposing the internment was finally overturned in U.S. District Court in 1983.

Mr. Korematsu helped win a national apology and reparations for internment camp survivors and their families in 1988.

He was honored by President Clinton in 1998 with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr. Korematsu, the son of Japanese immigrants, was born in Oakland. He was living there in 1942, a 23-year-old welder, when military officials ordered all Japanese Americans on the West Coast — including U.S. citizens like Mr. Korematsu — to report for transportation to remote camps.

Nearly all complied, including Mr. Korematsu’s family and friends, who urged him to go along. He refused.

He was arrested, convicted of violating the order and sent to an internment camp in Utah. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Mr. Korematsu’s conviction in December 1944, agreeing with the government that it was justified by the need to combat sabotage and espionage.

?There was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some [Japanese Americans], the military authorities considered that the need for action was great, and the time was short,? Justice Hugo Black wrote in the 6-3 ruling.

Current legal scholars almost universally regard the ruling as one of the worst in the court’s history.

But it was not repudiated until the early 1980s, when Asian-American lawyers and civil rights advocates unearthed new evidence that undermined the internment order.

For almost 40 years, Mr. Korematsu did not talk about his experiences and even his daughter, Karen, had to learn about it in a college textbook.

In recent years, Mr. Korematsu remained active in civil rights issues, speaking out against parts of the Patriot Act that he felt violated the rights of Arab Americans.

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