Unpublished photos of the internment of U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry during World War II were found in the National Archives.
Dorothea Lange took the photos, but they were forgotten in the archives — they did not show the view that the government wanted to be shown, some speculate, and so were not widely disseminated.
The pictures are being published for the first time, in Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (W. W. Norton).
Lange, who died in 1965, showed families who had abandoned their homes and property. Because they couldn’t bring their belongings with them, they were often forced to sell them to speculators at reduced prices. In harrowing images that uncomfortably echo the Nazi round-ups of Jews in Europe, Lange’s photographs document long, weaving lines of well-dressed people, numbered tags around their necks, patiently waiting to be processed and sent to unknown destinations.
“There is no way to really know how much they lost,” Mr. Okihiro said in an interview, but he cited a 1983 study commissioned by a Congressional committee estimating that, adjusted for inflation and interest, internees had lost $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion in property and entitlements. Mr. Okihiro writes that one man, Ichiro Shimoda, was so distraught he tried to commit suicide by biting off his own tongue. When that failed, he tried to asphyxiate himself. Finally he climbed a camp fence, and a guard shot him to death.
Another man, Kokubo Takara, died after being forced to stand in line in the rain as a disciplinary measure at Sand Island in Hawaii. At assembly points in Hawaii, Mr. Okihiro writes, some detainees were forced to strip naked and had their body cavities searched.
Upon arrival at the assembly centers — including the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, Calif., a former racetrack — the internees passed through two lines of soldiers with bayonets trained on them. Lange was not allowed to photograph the soldiers, but she did manage some stark images of the horse stalls where the families lived, pictures that are included in the book.