in much wisdom is
And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
THE MAIN ISSUES INVOLVED
There is no doubt
that the greatest question regarding the
was whether it was really a "military necessity." Was it military
matters that motivated the decision-makers, or was it racial
discrimination and war hysteria?
There was no doubt in
the minds of most West Coast inhabitants, including those of Japanese
ancestry, that something HAD to be done. For the Japanese to remain
would have been risky from both a military and a social perspective.
Many local officials and business leaders declared they did not want
any Japanese living in
area. Even the Japanese American Citizens League requested so (see JACL letter here).
In light of top secret
concerns by US military leaders that the Japanese posed a great
threat to stability on the West Coast. Large networks of Japanese
organizations (which had been under surveillance by our intelligence
bureaus for many months prior to WWII) were active in
intelligence-gathering work. The
threat of a West Coast invasion by Japanese forces was very real
submarine incursions and attacks w/ catapult aircraft, Attu
bombs; also Defense
of the Americas) . Were
there an invasion, how many
resident Japanese would collaborate, willingly or unwillingly? Given
the network of Japanese organizations active on the
West Coast prior to Pearl Harbor, there was great fear among not only
military leaders and personnel, but also civilians -- could these
people of Japanese ancestry be trusted, and if so, whom?
With the promise of places of refuge planned for the Japanese, there
must have been
great relief that they at least had somewhere safe to live and work,
with meals and other necessities taken care of, and especially,
protected from vigilantes and irate Americans who wanted to get revenge
on the Japanese. Primarily, the reception hundreds and thousands of
West Coast refugees would receive from inland inhabitants would be the
greatest worry (see
at the beginning of TL06-1).
In any society there are those who would betray even their own family.
The US, then in a war against Japan, faced this very dilemma -- could
the resident Japanese be trusted or would they be a potential threat to
society? There were
Japanese living in the US who were classified immediately as "enemy
aliens" on December 8, 1941. Not only was their nationality a
but the fact that
many did not speak the English language well nor understand and follow
American customs and living habits made them "different" and hence
not accepted into society easily. The relocation centers had this
problem, and it was almost entirely through the English-speaking
Japanese that discussions with the WRA were conducted. The lack of
ability put the alien evacuees at a great disadvantage, compounded with
the fact that they were enemy aliens. (IA094
has good info by Hoover on the evacuation decision
|The evacuation of all Japanese from the West Coast
to the Interior of the U.S. was made necessary for reasons of military
security. As time was of the essence, there was no alternative to the
action taken... Despite the improvement in our military situation and
the restoration of the Pacific fleet, the capabilities of the enemy are
such as still to jeopardize the security of the West Coast.
evacuation of these people did not constitute a determination as to
their loyalty or disloyalty, nor did their assembly in the ten
Relocation Centers built by the Army, and now administered by WRA,
constitute the internment of these people. They are not internees or
prisoners of war. It was never the intention of the Government from the
beginning to confine all of them in these centers for the duration of
the war. It has always been, and still remains, the intention to assist
those whose loyalty have been definitely and fully examined and
established, to locate themselves as rapidly as feasible elsewhere than
on the West Coast, and to resume living under conditions as nearly
normal as possible, the same as all other residents of the United
States whose loyalties are not doubted. The fact of Japanese ancestry
alone is not a reason for continued confinement. That would be racial
It must be remembered that nearly 25,000
Japanese residents of the U.S., citizens and aliens, have resided
elsewhere than on the West Coast for many years, where they have
followed various occupations, living in harmony with their neighbors.
These have never been in Government Centers.
The question is often brought up, "Why were only the Japanese
camps?" Simply stated, other enemy nationals indeed were also
camps in the US during WWII -- Germans, Italians, Bulgarians, etc. (see
IA102 for INS
documents here on statistics; book
on American-Italian evacuation here). The primary difference
countries and Japan was that Germany or Italy did not attack US
territory and kill thousands of our people -- Japan did. There was also
no threat of attack on the East Coast from either German or Italian
naval forces. There was from the Japanese Navy which then ruled the
Pacific. Furthermore, the 1940
US Census shows that there were some 3 million
people of German and Italian ancestry living in the United States,
making any evacuation process logistically impossible. It should also
be noted that many of the recent arrivals of German immigrants to the
US were refugees fleeing Nazism.
was, therefore, the urgent necessity to deal with a group of foreigners
within the United
States who had suddenly become enemies of our nation. Unfortunately,
this included their American-born children, who could not be separated
from their parents, and therefore must inevitably share their fate.
For a better understanding on alien residents who became alien
enemies, and the constitutionality of the evacuation, read WRA
Final Report on Legal and Constitutional Phases of the WRA Program.
See also Memoranda on
Constitutional Power of the WRA to Detain Evacuees,
11 points in Opinion No. 3 on the "factual background against which the
action was taken."
|There was evidence
disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered
that the need for action was great, and time was short. We cannot -- by
availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight -- now say that
at that time these actions were unjustified.
Court's opinion in Korematsu
One of the most overlooked issues dealing with
evacuation was the intelligence we had on the resident Japanese prior
decision to evacuate. The US had been secretly reading all Japanese
electronic messages sent out and received on the West Coast and
had accumulated a wealth of information on the activities of the
Japanese throughout the US.
Not many people were given daily updates on this intelligence gathered
by the various agencies. Even WRA Director Myer was in the dark, and
his views and opinions
reflected this. It could not have been otherwise -- the military risk
too great to allow top secret information to be shared by many, and
even more, the source of this information. Had Myer
been privy to the decrypts, he no doubt would have held a much more
informed view regarding the reason the Japanese were evacuated from the
Much criticism is aimed at the leaders -- Roosevelt, Stimson, McCloy,
Bendetsen, and DeWitt -- the last of these receiving the major
blame for the decision to evacuate those of Japanese ancestry from the
West Coast. (See Excerpts from an
Interview with Karl R. Bendetsen where he summarizes the
for EO9066.) However, it is wise to remember exactly what was happening
at that time in the Pacific War where the Imperial Japanese Forces
ruled supreme, namely the situation on Bataan and
Corregidor, and especially in Singapore, which surrendered to Japanese
Forces on Feb. 15, 1942, just days before Roosevelt's Executive Order
9066. No doubt this massive surrender to Japanese
Imperialists played a very important role in influencing
decision-making on Capitol Hill. It is hard to conceive that the
decision to evacuate was the result of any single person, given the
magnitude of logistics and expense, not to mention the impact on human
lives (see Corps of Engineers estimates).
|It is difficult for people
who did not
live through that dreadful time
to reconstruct the terror and the anxiety felt by people along the
entire west coast. Disaster followed upon disaster after the attack on
Pearl Harbor. On that same day, December 7, 1941, Japanese forces
landed on the Malay Peninsula and began their drive toward
Singapore. Guam fell on December 10, Wake on December
23. On December 8 Japanese planes destroyed half the aircraft on the
airfields near Manila. As enemy troops closed in, General
MacArthur withdrew his forces from the Philippines and retired to
Australia. On Christmas day the British surrendered Hong Kong.
The Western World was scared stiff. The west coasts of the
United States, rich with naval bases, shipyards, oil fields, and
aircraft factories, seemed especially vulnerable to attack.
There was talk of evacuating not just the Japanese from the
west coast but everybody. Who knew what was going to happen next?
-- former Senator
S. I. Hayakawa
Japanese Imperial Expansionism
1869 - Colonization of Hokkaido
1879 - Colonization of Okinawa
1894 - Taiwan seized (won war with China 1894-1895)
1905 - Kwantung Province (North China) and South Sakhalin (SE
Russia) seized (won war with Russia 1904-1905)
1910 - Annexation of Korea
Japanese Military Conquests Prior to
Nov. 27 - Japanese fleets depart to attack east and
invade west Pacific
Dec. 7 - Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, Wake Island, Guam, Philippines, invades Siam, Malaya, Hong Kong
Dec. 8 - Japan takes Gilbert Islands
Dec. 10 - Japan takes Guam
Dec. 11 - Japan invades Burma
Dec. 16 - Japan invades Borneo
Dec. 22 - Japan invades Philippines
Dec. 23 - Japan invades Wake Island
Dec. 24 - Battle of Makassar Strait
Dec. 25 - Hong Kong surrenders
Dec. 31 - Japan occupies Manila
Jan. 11 - Japan invades Dutch East Indies
Feb. 15 - Singapore surrenders
Chronology of Events on Dec. 7-8, 1941
December 8, 1941 [Japan Time]:
0015 Grew sees TOGO, reads message to him, and asks for appointment to deliver it to the
0045 The Shanghai Bund occupied
0140 Kota Bharu [Malaya] shelled
0200 Komura asks to see Hull
0205 Japanese land at Kota Bahru
0300 Nomura asks for appointment meeting with Hull
0305 Japanese land at Singora and Patani (Siam)
0320-25 attack on Pearl Harbor
0405 Nomura arrives at Hull's office
0420 Nomura hands Hull the document terminating negotiations
0520 H.M.S. Peterel sunk
0530 Japanese troops invade Siam from French Indo-China
0610 air raid on Singapore
0700 Tokyo radio given first notice that hostilities have begun
0730 Grew calls on TOGO, who hands him copy of document handed by
Nomura to Hull, stating it was Emperor's answer to President's message
0800 Craigie see TOGO at his request and is handed a copy of the last-mentioned document
0805 Guam attacked
0900 Hong Kong attacked
1140 Japan announced her attack on Hong Kong
1140~1200 Imperial Rescript issued
1150 Japan announced her attack on Malaya
1300 Japan announced her air raid on Hawaii and others
1700 Japan announced her air raid on the Philippines
2100 Japan announced her air raid on airdromes in the Philippines and advance into Thailand
-- From IMTFE Proceedings, Exhibit #001
December 7, 1941 [US Time]:
Japanese attack on PEARL HARBOR and other positions in PACIFIC opens war between U.S. and AXIS Powers.
MIDWAY - Shelled by enemy surface forces estimated at 12 ships.
WAKE - Attacked by 24 VB(M) from MARSHALLS.
GUAM - Attacked by 30 planes from SAIPAN.
PHILIPPINES - Attacked by planes from FORMOSA and PALAU. All U.S. aircraft virtually wiped out.
HONGKONG - Attacked by planes from CHINA and attacked by ships and troops.
SINGAPORE - Attacked by Japanese planes.
THAILAND - "Invaded" by Japs.
CHINA - Japanese intern U.S. nationals and Marines and British nationals at SHANGHAI and TIENTSIN.
U.S., GREAT BRITAIN, and NETHERLANDS declare war on Japan.
PRINCE OF WALES and REPULSE sunk by Jap. aircraft off MALAYA.
OCEAN and NAURU Islands bombed.
MAKIN and TARAWA, in GILBERTS, invaded.
Attacks continue on WAKE, GUAM, PHILIPPINES, HONGKONG, SINGAPORE.
--From US Navy Dept. Chronology
For more details, read Japan Assaulted More Than Pearl Harbor.
This was the worst week of the war. The nation took one great
trip-hammer blow after another—vast, numbing shocks.
It was a worse week for the U.S. than the fall of France; it was the
worst week of the Century. Such a week had not come to the U.S. since
the blackest days of the Civil War...
At week's end, Singapore fell. The Axis had broken through. The nation
now had only shreds of hope in the Far East...
Up & down the country editorial writers, living close to the
of their own communities, worried more about apathy than the collapse
of morale. They wrote with bold strokes: AMERICA CAN LOSE; THE WAR CAN
BE LOST; THIS SHOULD AWAKEN US.
TIME Magazine, Feb. 23, 1942
It is also important to consider that many of FDR's ideas were not
out, e.g. the bombing of Tokyo in 1940 (see Roosevelt's
Secret War by
Persico). There were many other leaders who were
time. Hence, DeWitt or FDR or Stimson were not individually responsible
for US Government policy or actions. Remember: It was the
Congress which enforced the exclusion orders (Public Law 503,
21, 1942). Our checks-and-balance system
worked then just as it works now. Much more can be said about Franklin
Roosevelt, who ranks among the greatest of our US Presidents,
the only President to have been elected to four terms in office
(1933-1945) -- an extraordinary man for extraordinary times.
For further background information, see On the Japanese Problem (1921) and also the Report on Japanese Activities (1942).
Japanese Expansion in 1923
Japanese Conquest 1939-1941
Pacific War Dec 1941 - Feb 1942
Pacific War March - May 1942
Axis Plans for World Conquest
The problem with dealing with incidents in the past is that we in more
modern days tend to base our ideas, opinions, and suppositions on our
own current conditions, without truly looking at the past with respect
to conditions and thinking at that time, putting ourselves into that
era's thought frame. It's easy to label past
mistreatment as discriminatory in light of what we have seen in our
days. Prejudice is very subjective -- what is normal for one person is
not for another. To say "all (ethnic group) are hard workers" would
on the whole be accepted without a complaint, but to state "all
(ethnic group) are sneaky" would elicit strong disapprovals. Why? Both
true for a certain number of the ethnic group; the latter is obviously
negative, and therefore repulsive to many. It is a matter
of qualification, much the same way a statement like "All Americans eat
must be qualified. Much of the prejudices directed against persons of
Japanese ancestry on the West Coast was due to years of Asian
immigration and along with those immigrants a culture which was most
foreign to the majority of ethnic-European Westerners. Policies were
formed that showed
to the general population that Asians were harming the existing culture
and therefore needed to be controlled by laws.
There is much mention made of anti-Japanese organizations, e.g. the
Native Sons of the Golden West, the American Legion, etc., and their
rhetoric to cleanse the
of this particular ethnic group. Unfortunately the impression was given
that all Americans wanted the Japanese out -- another myth that had to
addressed, and which Myer did (see TL42).
The bottom line is this: It was not the US Government which "forced"
the Japanese out of their homes and fields; it was first of all the
Japanese Imperialists who started the war that made Japanese nationals
in the US sudden enemies. Secondly, it was the American people, who
thought "their" America was too good a place for the likes of that
yellow race which couldn't be trusted, who were here first, who didn't
those who couldn't speak English or didn't act like Americans, who
stayed only among their own kind. Granted, State governors and other
top officials did not want the evacuees initially due to the war
fervor. However, many did change and asked ("begged" could be used
here) for evacuee labor due to the
demand for manpower in agriculture and other industries. Nevertheless,
discrimination and prejudice were still a part of American life, and
blame could not be laid at the feet of the Government. It is typical
even today to blame the Government for the faults of the people.
It is most interesting to note that it was the US military (which was
singled out as the main culprit for "forced removal") that employed a
great number of Japanese-Americans, and many of those were Kibei, who
were previously singled out as perhaps the most likely to be
pro-Japanese, and not
without good reason, per FBI reports, e.g. IA073, IA068). Yet a
number of these
same Kibei were sent to work in
intelligence in the Pacific during WWII (total of 3,000 Nisei in Army
Intelligence). In one report it is stated
that the Office of Military Intelligence "recruited a large number of
evacuees from the relocation centers for further training in language
schools." A most intriguing study would be to delve into this whole
area of Japanese-Americans in the service of the country. Much has been
written about the Nisei soldiers of the 100th and 442nd; much more
be written about Nisei civilians working in other branches of the US
It would be beneficial for anyone interested in the immigration
problems of today to read through these pages and see how the situation
was handled then with Japanese immigrants. Their policies and efforts
may have application today (e.g. see TL43).
Perhaps the greatest credit for acceptance of the Japanese into
American society after WWII can be placed with the Nisei and Sansei.
They lived with and endured the discrimination and prejudice, and
helped show the society around them how baseless their bias was. Scores
of their books are available for validating this.
As long as there are humans on earth, there will be wrongful
discrimination and racial prejudice, just as thievery, lying and
adultery will continue. All nations have a group of people they
discriminate against -- in fact, the Japanese themselves discriminate
against the Koreans and "burakumin,"
this problem has become
more open and admitted by many. Racism is
just as real today as it was in the first half of the 20th century.
Ironically, there was discrimination, jealousies and outright hatred
among the Japanese in the centers (see IA202 re
Tayama; also much on this in Soga).
were hated by the disloyal, the Issei and Nisei and Kibei disagreed
with each other on
many things, the hatred of inu ("dog" in Japanese;
informants), the intimidation of the Issei &
Kibei on those who wanted to join the armed service, etc. -- a taboo
subject today among not a few Nikkei.
|The most famous
quote attributed to DeWitt is "A Jap's a Jap. It makes no
whether the Jap is a citizen or not." (E.g. JACL Curriculum
Resource Guide.) The same quote is featured in the Smithsonian
Institution's exhibit... Neither the guide nor the exhibit offers a
citation for the quote -- because no such actual quote exists.
telephone conversation with Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy,
transcribed on Feb. 3, 1942, DeWitt said: "Out here, Mr. Secretary, a
Jap is a Jap to these people now" (emphasis added).
DeWitt was characterizing Californians' sentiments, not necessarily his
own -- though he repeats the phrase "A Jap's a Jap" later on in the
transcript while explaining to McCloy the security difficulties faced
by the troops. More than a year later, in public testimony before the
House Naval Affairs Committee, DeWitt stated that ethnic Japanese still
posed a threat to the West Coast and vital installations. "The
of the Japanese was, and is now -- if they are permitted to come back
-- espionage and sabotage. It makes no difference whether he is an
American citizen, he is still a Japanese. American citizenship does not
necessarily determine loyalty." When modern day ethnic
historians cite the "A Jap's a Jap" quote, the heavy-handed implication
is that DeWitt's use of the term "Jap" -- offensive now, but common in
his time -- makes him an unreconstructed racist. There are numerous
instances of Attorney General Francis Biddle, who opposed evacuation,
using the term "Jap."
From In Defense of Internment
by Michelle Malkin, pg. 337, note 42
After reading through the following pages, you will immediately be
struck at how much effort went into making the relocation centers as
comfortable as possible, within reason, of course, and bearing in mind
the restrictions of wartime shortages and rationing. From living
quarters to meals
to fire prevention to hospitals, much thought went into the planning
and activation of services for nearly every aspect of life at the
centers. That the
inhabitants were treated as prisoners, constantly under watch by armed
guards, is something written as well as photographic history will find
hard to prove.
Furthermore, there are no recorded cases of attempted escapes
at night, tunnels dug under the fences for such purposes, smuggling
weapons in and out of the centers, or even mob uprisings to
break out of their confines. The reason is simply because there were no
concentration-camp-like confining fences nor containment measures
employed at the centers --
the residents were able to freely leave the centers for farm labor,
athletic events and even walks and hikes out in the countryside. Barbed
wire with 45-degree top brackets (inward slant specifically for
stopping escapees) was used at Tule Lake for only the segregation area.
assorted quotes below for comments by those who were there.
There were internment camps for persons who were arrested for different
reasons. These were located in various areas around the US. The reasons
there were such as those involved in disruptive activity,
demonstrations at the centers, violence against other evacuees, etc.
(e.g. Manzanar and Poston). Bendetsen, who was directing the entire
program of evacuation and relocation, said, "Internment
was never intended. The
purpose was to resettle these persons east of the mountain ranges of
the Cascades and Sierra Nevada, away from the sea frontier and away
from the relatively open boundaries between Mexico and the states
Arizona and New Mexico." Myer has a piece on this here where he
three types of centers. See also Wikipedia
Therefore, it is quite puzzling as to why so many authors prefer to use
the terms "internment" and "internees" for those in relocation centers
rather than the terms "relocation" and "evacuees." Internment was
entirely different and internees were under entirely different
conditions, being run by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Internment meant there were enemy aliens held and the
possibility of their deportation. It is odd to think, if the centers
actuality internment camps, that the US Govt. intended to deport over
100,000 Nikkei (though there was the suggestion by some who were
anti-Japanese). Remember: The centers were run by a civilian
organization (WRA), the internment camps by the US Govt. (INS), and the
detention camps by the US Govt. (Army).
Granted, the term "concentration" does mean a group of people
concentrated in a single area. The question is: why use this term when
it was not used at the time? There is obviously an agenda on the part
of those who insist these were concentration camps to magnify the
suffering, deprivation and degradation the internees faced, to prove
just how wrong
the US Govt. was.
What is overlooked is this clear fact: the evacuees were provided with
nearly every facility and service that a city would provide -- Federal
and local government; electricity, water and sewage, police, fire and
ambulance services, judicial, postal, banking, telephone, markets,
education and recreational centers, libraries, newspapers, and on and
were cities, not simply relocation centers, but cities, built in a
matter of weeks, an accomplishment deserving much commendation, all
paid for and supported by taxpayer funds.
For a very enlightening comparison, read the report on Raton Ranch,
Civilian Detention Station (IA124).
It would be a most interesting
drama to read how the "detainees" at this station and those in charge
of them developed lasting friendships, given the nature of the
A constant theme in most descriptions of the centers is that of being
treated as prisoners with barbed wire fences around the centers and
guard towers manned with machine guns and/or rifles. A quick perusal of
actual photographs of each camp surroundings will show a somewhat
contrary atmosphere. I thought this one was an especially poignant:
"Closing of the Jerome Relocation Center, Denson, Arkansas. Clara
Hasegawa and Tad Mijake take a last look at the Jerome Center from the
balcony of one of the camp's guard towers. The towers have not been
manned since segregation was completed during the latter part of 1943
and have been popular with the young folks as a place of rendezvous.
This young couple will take up their new residence at the Rohwer
For a full view of that tower, see
photo; another view of that
here; also the Topaz
tower; famous water
tower at Minidoka; Santa
Anita Park Assembly Center tower
with machine gun. More towers and plenty of barbed wire were at the
Tule Lake Segregation Center, needed for the evacuees who were
"troublemakers," and others, along with their families, that were
segregated there from other centers. See TL26
for more in-depth information on that center. Look at this photo of Tule Lake
placement of towers -- more appropriate for fire rather than people
control. Note also type of fence construction. Here is another photo of the high-security Tule
Segregation Camp, different from the original Tule Lake
There are many references to barbed wire in the following documents: IA073, TL06-6 (see photo
there), TL10, TL13, TL19, and TL32. Some centers
were initially set
up with fences around the perimeter, but
were of much different height and quality as those around concentration
camps. Signs were used at many of the centers, but photos of those are
even hard to come by. Note in this
the fence at Manzanar -- not typical at all, if this were
"concentration camp" intended to keep occupants in. See also this fence at the Topaz Center.
interesting photos taken at Heart Mountain show the fence and an excursion
outside the fence.
It is interesting to note that for the two
riots that occurred at centers, one at Manzanar and the other
at Poston, guards were called in only at Manzanar. Had they been
constantly watching the interior of the centers from their supposed
"towers with machine guns," they would have quelled the gathering at an
early stage with probably no violence ensuing.
In reality, fences and guard towers around the relocation centers is a
since there were 10's of 1,000's of evacuees laboring outside of the
centers in the numerous expansive farm fields. These had no barbed wire
fences or guard towers (nor armed guards for that matter). Furthermore,
the few search lights on these towers indicates that there was no need
to keep any of the occupants of the centers under surveillance, even at
night, a time during which breakouts and other clandestine activity
would normally be expected. The initial assembly centers were a
different story, of course, as well as the Tule Lake Segregation
Center, where vigilance was very important.
For a good comparison of what the situation was like for our POWs in
Japan, see my Fukuoka
POW website, especially the pages
showing what the US Recovery Team saw when they arrived right
the war. For an excellent comparison of civilians in internment under
the Imperial Japanese, see Lou Gopal's website, Victims
Circumstance - Santo Tomas Internment Camp. The
DVD is a must-view. Another very moving film is So
Very Far From Home about civilian internees in
China. Additional information on civilian
Japan can be found on my POW website, the main page being this table
Internment Camps in Japan. Also, read this excerpt from the Tokyo War Crimes Trials in which a Japanese POW tells of the kind treatment he received from the US military.
emphasize this last point
because the relocation centers were not
"concentration camps." The younger generation of Japanese
love to call them concentration camps. Unlike the Nazis, who made the
term "concentration camp" a symbol of the ultimate in man's inhumanity
to man, the WRA officials worked hard to release their internees, not
to be sent to gas chambers, but to freedom, to useful jobs on the
outside world and to get their B.A. at Oberlin College.
By 1945, there were almost 2,500 Nisei and Issei in Chicago, a city
that was most hospitable to Japanese, and I myself found relatives I
did not know existed. Other Midwest and Eastern cities acquired
Japanese populations they did not know before the war: Minneapolis,
Cleveland, Cincinnati, New York, Madison, Wis., Des Moines, St. Louis,
and so on. And those who remained in camp in most cases did
voluntarily. These were the older people, afraid of the
world, with the Nation still at war with Japan.
I point out these facts to emphasize the point that to call relocation
centers concentration camps, as is all too commonly done, is semantic
inflation of the most dishonest kind, an attempt to equate
actions of the U.S. Government with the genocidal actions of the Nazis
against the Jews during the Hitler regime. As an American I protest
this calumny against the Nation I am proud to have served as an
educator and even prouder to serve as a legislator.
Many refer to some of the centers as being in barren deserts. In
reality, all the centers had sufficient water supplied via lakes and
streams, and distributed via irrigation ditches. A quick look at the
maps and aerial photos of the
relocation areas is sufficient
to convince one that agriculture played a very important part in the
lives of the evacuees. For instance, Manzanar, often portrayed in
photos as stark and dusty, had a thousand apple and pear trees already
were cared for by the evacuees when they moved in, and these same trees
producing thousands of dollars worth of fruit. [PHOTO:
Yamaguchi (left), and Kinu Hirashima, both from Los Angeles, are
pictured as they stood under an apple tree at Manzanar." (Manzanar,
Center farms produced tens
of thousands of dollars of produce which was shipped to other
relocation centers. For instance, the Gila River center in Arizona
converted some 7,000 acres from alfalfa to vegetable crops -- hardly
what could be expected of a desert location. Tule Lake, incidentally,
with its fertile soil, produced 1,300 tons of vegetables in a single
harvest, 30% of which was for their own consumption, 60% for other
centers, and the remainder sold on the market. For further evidence of
this agricultural marvel, see these Crop,
Production charts. See also IA066 on
the prerequisites for choosing suitable locations for the relocation
Human nature enjoys pity, admiration for going through the worst --
"Oh that must have been awful for you. How terrible that you were
inhumanely!" There are quite a few books on the subject that depict a
variety of woeful experiences at the various centers. I take
excerpts, mostly the words of Issei, from Gesensway and Roseman, Beyond
Words (one chapter of which is entitled, "It was
Times of our Lives") to show the brighter and plausible reality of the
For more comments by a first-generation Japanese, see Through the Eyes of an Issei: The
Internment of Japanese in the United States during World War II,
a compilation of excerpts from Yasutaro Soga's memoirs, Life
Behind Barbed Wire.
I never volunteer to talk about evacuation unless somebody asks about
it. Not because of the experience, but because afterwards I felt it was
a real miserable time. Perhaps it benefited the Japanese Americans in
the sense that prior to the war they were concentrated in California,
and a lot of the Japanese wouldn't mingle. Because of the evacuation,
there was a chance for the Japanese Americans all over the United
States. Now you can go any place and find Nisei. That probably would
have never happened unless the relocation sent them out to the East and
Midwest. I think it was good in that respect. Maybe
done the same thing.
Some people are so bitter. I am, of course, so worried and anxious that
I was going to camp. So worried. But when I went to camp, I'm
happy, you know, because I can do my work and do what I like.
still make my art, I am feeling not so bitter. I'm artist, and I can do
my work any place, anywhere. Other people have quite a different
feeling; that's just my feeling.
So then we left camp for New York. A minister -- he was commissioned to
visit camp to camp -- when he came to visit my camp, he always came to
see me. And he said, "Mr. Sugimoto, where do you want to go? You want
to go back to California?" And I said, "No, I am artist. If I can, I
want New York." That's best, because New York not so much
discrimination. Before the war, we had so much discrimination. So
mostly, people go to New York or Chicago -- they're all spreading after
the war, all spreading.
The barrack itself was just tar paper on the outside. We had a pot
belly stove; Arkansas did get pretty cold. The inside was just bare
wood walls and there were cots, just like army cots. The floor was just
bare. I remember air coming through the bottom. But I have to give the
Issei and the Japanese people a lot of credit because they did
something with it. Even these dull-looking black tar paper covered
barracks became attractive after a time. They put gardens in front of
them and all that. Rohwer was in a wooded area and it was quite nice. So
it wasn't as bad as people might think and still it
wasn't as good.
My constant and repeated reference to that fence is perhaps unfair
because it seems to leave so little room for all the happy
went on and continued to go on within the relocation camps.
happened in spite of and not because of it.
A lot of people wanted to go back to Japan, and I told them, "Don't go
back. Japan has hard times now -- America bomb; everything flat." You
got to use your head. "Don't go back. You'll want to come back to
America again." But at that time, you can't come back. People would
say, "Japan's better, Japan win," like that, you know. I say, "No, I
don't think so" They say, "You're terrible; you're pro-American" "No,
I'm not pro-American. Japan now has big battleships and strong army,
but Japan has no oil, no rubber. Maybe keep up for a while, but they
can't go on. So I don't think so." But "Mr. Mikami's pro-American,"
they say So I got to keep my mouth shut. I don't say anything. Just
painting, no meetings. I'm instructor of art, that's enough. So
nice time in the camp -- quiet.
When the school first opened, they didn't have teachers, no books. So
just go to class to hear somebody talk, that's about it. I had my heart
set on going to college, but once I got in the camp I gave up studying
totally. It's so hot and so crowded, we all went outside to sleep. We'd
talk, just talk all night long -- about girls, sports, boys, the army.
Next day, you had a hard time getting up. So for us kids,
eat, and play, that's all. Every now and then have a dance party. So it
wasn't that bad for us.
Sports were real important. We'd get up and play basketball, baseball.
I was on the basketball team and I helped coach football. I remember we
had to buy our own baseball and basketballs from Sears, and our own
uniforms and set up our own league. We had championship playoffs. It's
funny, but I think sports were one of the key factors that
from going astray, or feeling dissatisfied in camp. If it
those athletic leagues, I think there would have been more dissension.
And the young kids did hate to live with their parents in
quarters. No place to go, except to the grandstand with their
girlfriend or something. In the evening we'd often take a walk around
the racetrack for exercise.
Shoes all wore out because of the fine gravel. Pretty soon we wanted
shoes badly. They hadn't organized yet so we couldn't order them. So we
started making wooden shoes -- getas. They made them quite well. They'd
get boards, and old tire rubber, and they put it on the bottom so it
doesn't make too much noise and wear out. So I had one made too. I got
so that I liked them.
It was a conflict because the Isseis and the Niseis,
living close together. Before camp we only went around with the Niseis,
we didn't have much to do with the first generation. They were our
enemies in a way. Now, that's a funny thing to say, but we
them when we were teenagers. And yet we had to get to know
get along because we were living in the same barrack with just a little
paper in between. My neighbor wanted to paint, but he couldn't make the
color turquoise, so I helped him, and he helped me. I got to know him,
and I thought, well, he's not so bad. These oldsters -- we used to call
them oldsters -- they're human, they're nice.
For the kids it was great. We
didn't have to get home
because there were mess halls all over and we could just stop in with
Life in camp really wasn't that bad,
Arkansas. Once we
got there, the camp started its own farm, growing vegetables. Everybody
had a victory garden right by their barracks. And then they had a pork
farm also. And everybody had their own jobs -- some people were paid
sixteen dollars a month and others were paid nineteen dollars a month
-- which was kind of silly. But Sears, Roebuck did a tremendous
business! Yes, everybody had a Sears catalogue and ordered things.
Camp life wasn't too different
-- except I had time for
Oh, I enjoy drawing so much I go outside the camp sketching. First
three or four months we can't go out, but after a year or so, we can go
out all right. I did a lot of sketching outside the camp, I
And of course, Japanese love clubs. We were clubbed
to death in
camps: sewing clubs and poetry clubs and this and that. Right away, we
put together a writers' club, artists' club. Even an exercise club. I
could get up in the morning, and I could hear them exercising. The Japanese
are organizers, right away they are organizing.
We also put on
plays. We decided we might have dancing -- got all the musicians who
could play jazz or records. So we did have a lot of dances. We
that we are going to have dances and let the people have fun.
"A group of actors in a scene from a play depicting a legendary
incident of old Japan, as presented at an entertainment program at this
relocation center." (Heart Mountain, 09/19/1942)
One time, right in front of RKO Studios, one actor (says), "Your
people!" -- points like this at me -- "Pearl Harbor!" He looks
terrible, you see. My boss (reprimanded) him so he won't say anything
after that. And then (my boss) said, "Hey Tak, this is trouble. You
have to watch out. This kind of fellow is all over around there, so you
have to watch out." Every day they were so nice. Some people
so much, sympathize for us. And in the wartime, we don't get
I think. I hated the fact that I was born in Japan at that time, but
only at that time. The Japanese third generation talk lots about it
now. They say we were Americans so not supposed to (be interned). But
for us, it's very protective, see.
And finally I was released and went to Manzanar. We arrived at Manzanar
in the early morning, before sunrise. Beautiful. All pink. The
mountains around there were all pink. So beautiful. Yes, I
is such a nice place. I joined my wife, and daughter, and her
and granddaughter and stayed there three years. I worked so hard there.
Every day I enjoy. Usually when I worked in
studios I would
work eight hours. But every day at the camp, I worked ten hours. I
happy. I moved into a barrack in the very corner, Camp 35.
there. Just snakes, such a wild place! Only the lumber was laid down,
that's all. So we had to tarpaper and put waterlines in.
Really our life was not so miserable.
writing songs and
learning how to paint and studying and writing poems. It is not so
miserable a life. After the war is over, people thought it was a
miserable place. But it was better than Island people in
think, because we at least had plenty of food. Of course, not
food! Funny thing is that it was not such good food, but very few got
sick because of the food. You see, it's not gourmet stuff, but good
enough for health. And plenty of water. Japanese people make big baths
with cement, and we got in there together, not individually, but five
people, seven people, ten people all together. So very nice.
days, you know, we don't think about wartime. Sometime we forget. It
was so peaceful up there. It was very peaceful because the
people who made too much noise and trouble, they went to another camp
My nature doesn't like trouble. I am afraid, you see. I don't want to
see any blood. (During the revolt) about fifty people came to my
daughter's place to get her husband (Togo Tanaka, who had been
identified with the JACL). I was among them because I want to watch my
daughter and grandchild. I'm afraid they try to hurt my daughter. The
army came after that to protect them, and I took my grandchild to the
army car and she cried. So afraid, you see. I said, "Don't you cry,
Jeannie!" I scold like this, and she stopped crying. She understood --
only one year old. She stopped right away. "Please take this baby to
her family over there," I said. And they took her and moved them to the
army camp that night. So we are safe.
I didn't have any problem
because we had a twenty-acre
farm. We put
everything in the barn. The neighbor, Mr. Doyle, an Irishman, my father
knew for sixty years. Mr. Doyle took care of the whole place. In those
days (you heard), you know, "Kill the Jap! Kill the Jap!" But he took
care of it. He took care of the truck, the farm. He farmed it himself
with his kid. He rented the house. This is the reason you don't make a
friend with just anybody. You've got to know who you are, who he is.
In the meantime, on my wife's side -- they lived in Fresno -- the whole
house was burned down. They had somebody take care of the whole place;
there's no alternative. Somebody rented the house or whatever, and
burned the whole house down. It's a hard thing to say,
right or wrong to have to go to camp.
Already right after Pearl Harbor there were people carrying guns,
looking for the Japs. What good is it when you're shot? The Chinese
themselves went around wearing little badges that said, "I'm American
Chinese." I couldn't tell the difference between the Chinese, Koreans,
Japanese. I couldn't tell the difference. But they made the difference.
They put the badges on, I felt it's for safety. It's dangerous in those
days. The people were so panicked, confused. They didn't know what to
do. I thought it's better off just to go, it's for our own
family, my wife's family, nobody got shot. But people did. That's what
the government said, it's for our own protection. Also, there's nothing
you can do. It's the same sort of situation like when you're drafted
into the army. You just have to go.
Before the evacuation I was just trying to make something. I wanted to
do something. My father was a farmer. We had a twenty-acre farm. Get up
at five o'clock in the morning, plow the fields, work like that. I
decided I didn't want to farm. I decided to go to college. I went to
two years at Pomona College. But I hear about these people who go to
college, get a degree, and then can't get a job. The Japanese people
finally have the money to send their kids to college. But when you get
out of college in those days, there's no job because of what
prejudice. They will not hire Japanese. So we end up working
fruit markets or something like that. So I said, "The heck with that."
That's what happened. So I said, "I quit." I decided I was going to be
a real professional, and I went to art school.
I didn't start that war. ****! I didn't start the war. But what can I
do? They put us in the camp. You can't do anything
in the camp
-- no painting, no nothing. The thing is you have to make the best of
it in the camp. I wasn't carrying any chip on my shoulder
government or anything. No. It's the condition; you have to
it. My father and mother were in there for three years.
When the first evacuees came to the relocation camp -- they are from
Terminal Island, mostly from Los Angeles, and they move into Poston #1
-- these Arizonians, a truckload of men with shotguns, travel from
Parker to the camp. They're going to shoot them (the evacuees) all. So,
it's a good thing they had a MP; he stopped them.
The problems in the camps came from what they called
the camp they had a struggle between young and old. One of the young
people says, "The **** with it; I can't stay in this camp," and they
just take off. They volunteer for the army. But the old man Issei says,
"No, the government took us to the relocation camp like this. We're
going to go back to Japan." Oh, then they had a fight!
And it's not just the age gap, it's culture. There
cultures in the camp: the Nisei, and the Issei and Kibei. It's a hard
thing. I'm right in the middle. What can I do? And then, they have -- I
think it's the most important part of the whole camp situation -- the
government published pamphlets which asked two questions: "Are you
loyal to the United States?" and "Will you bear arms to fight for your
country?" Oh, this is the big issue. Oh, boy! Most people, Issei, say,
"Why should you say 'yes'? The government put us in the camp." But what
can the Nisei do? You can't go around speaking your views
because this Kibei will came out there in the middle of the night and
grab you and cut your hair off. He shaved the whole hair off
Nisei. Yes, I guess my wife was always worried about that. She said,
"Don't go out there in the middle of the night."
Dr. Leighton used to come up in his Navy uniform with the lieutenant
stripes on it to visit me at lunchtime. He sat next to me eating lunch.
All the people look at me and call me a dog. (The Issei and Kibei)
think that I'm supposed to be an agent or something because Dr.
Leighton was in a uniform and comes in and talks to me or something.
Then this guy, old timer, comes in and says, "How do you write your
last name?" He says, "When Japan conquers the whole United States, when
they're going to win the war, you'll be in the first ones going to be
In the meantime, this old man, making that kind of statement, what do
you think his son does? His son volunteers for the army -- went to
Italy. The Issei was up and down, crying. He's going around camp
apologizing to older people -- "Why did my son do a thing like that?"
Apologizing to other people. I said, "No, it's not wrong. He has his
own opinion. He has a right to live his own way." Oh when I saw
that.... We're in the same boat, that's what I'm trying to tell these
people. We're in the same boat. Why can't we work together? Oh,
One time, they had an incident. They had a big protest, something about
food. That was in Camp 1; I was in Camp 2. Camp 1 is early evacuees
from Terminal Island. They have a strong group of Isseis,
group in the middle, like I am; and a third group who don't care, never
get involved. They're fighting each other because one has the power or
wants it. They had a big strike. See this flag over here? These are
groups of Kibei -- pro-Japan. They're having a rally. Some people want
to elect me for the block manager. But I don't want to. It's not worth
it. I didn't want to be involved. So much political party fighting.
We go fishing in the Colorado River. I like fishing; I still do today.
A lot of Japanese people like fishing. It's the only place
relax -- fishing or something like that in the Colorado. Walked four
miles through all the mesquite wood and the rattlesnakes. And
-- this is very important -- this representative from California named
(John M.) Costello, he's on what they call in those days the Dies
Committee. He comes to the camp; it was his order to see what goes on
there, I suppose. Well, he finds a piece of Wonderbread bag on the
riverbank where we were fishing. So you use a little bread for bait,
that's it. This Costello made a report. He said that Japanese were
waiting for a submarine coming up the Colorado River! I don't think
it's funny; it's crazy! Even today I think why didn't they put the
Italians and the Germans in the camps? But the point is the
the population is Italians and Germans and you can't do that to the
population. Because we are a minority...
"During the noon hour, evacuee farm workers fish for
carp in a nearby slough." (Tule Lake, 09/08/1942)
Some say we shouldn't be in relocation camps. We are American citizens.
I don't feel like that. The conditions we were in with
war and this
and that.... You can't carry a chip on your shoulder. It's
mean it's wrong in the black and white, what you write on the piece of
paper. Unconstitutional. But when you talk about how you feel about it,
I really don't know. It's something else. I really don't know.
It must be kept in mind that nearly all of the American citizens in the
relocation centers were under 35 years of age, with the largest group
being between 10 and 25. About 35% of the entire population were NOT
American citizens, and comprised the majority of the parents of those
who WERE American citizens, and the majority of those young people were
under 20 years of age. In other words, the youth (Nisei and Sansei)
outnumbered their elders (Issei), the majority of the
evacuees being young people. No doubt the idea that U.S. citizens were
or "interned" conjures up negative connotations, making it sound as if
they were POWs.
In reality, they were children of alien parents, and naturally, the
great majority of them could not be separated from their parents.
(There were 110,000 Nikkei who were affected by EO9066 and under the
WRA -- 38,000 Issei (over half from southern Japan) and 72,000 Nisei.
Of those Nisei, 41,000 were 19 yrs. of age and under.)
So just who were these evacuees? Mostly young people, who were mostly
American citizens. It is therefore interesting to note the number of
recent books written about life at the centers are by those who were
youth at the time, some just toddlers. How they viewed the centers
naturally would be considerably
different from how their parents saw the situation.
Due to the large number of young citizens, they naturally were eligible
for positions in the government of the centers, to the chagrin of the
elders, who were non-Americans. This added even more unrest among the
classes of people at the centers. Much could be written about the
cultural clashes between the two generations, why the parents didn't
move somewhere else when they could have, and so on.
Here are some statistics on the number of children who were also
registered with the Japanese Govt., hence having dual citizenship:
45 PERCENT OF CHILDREN REGISTERED
AS JAPANESE SUBJECTS
Out of 39,310 births of children of Japanese ancestry registered at the Japanese consulate since 1925, 17,825 registered to become Japanese subjects
, taking advantage of dual citizenship.
The record by years follows:
1925 - males, 744; females, 648; total, 1,392.
In 1926 - males, 1,842; females, 1,751; total, 3,593.
In 1927 - males, 1,530; females, 1,465; total, 2,995.
In 1928 - males, 1,582; females, 1,443; total, 3,025.
In 1929 - males, 889; females, 835; total, 1,724.
In 1930 - males, 681; females, 644; total, 1,325.
In 1931 - males, 611; females, 575; total, 1,188.
In 1932 - males, 490; females, 492: total, 982.
In 1933 - males, 449; females, 403; total, 825.
In 1934 - males, 407; females, 371; total, 778.
Grand total, 17,825.
Since 1929 the public schools at the primary grades insist that all
children who enter the elementary grade shall show a birth certificate.
This, it is said, has had a far-reaching effect on parents in reducing
registration of their children with the Japanese consulate.
From 1925 until 1934, 5,676 American citizens of Japanese ancestry have
been expatriated from Japan. The year-by-year figures are:
In 1925, 402 males; 85 females; total 487.
In 1926, 430 males; 108 females; total, 538.
In 1927, 285 males; 51 females; total, 336.
In 1928, 234 males; 32 females; total, 266.
In 1929, 205 males; 19 females; total, 226.
In 1930, males, 218; females, 18; total, 236.
In 1931, males, 261; females, 29; total, 290.
In 1932, males, 902; females, 346; total, 1,248.
In 1933, males, 1,204; females, 323; total, 1,527.
In 1934, males, 484; females, 133; total, 614.
Grand total, males, 4,624; females, 1,144; both males and females, 5,768.
It will be recalled that there was much agitation in 1932 and 1933
against dual citizenship, and the large increase in expatriation during
the years, as shown by the tables, is believed to have resulted from
-- Investigation of Un-American Propaganda, Appendix VI,
Report on Japanese Activities, p. 2000 (1942)
|"To encourage the proudest Japanese national
which has ever existed, to fulfill the fundamental principle behind the
wholesome mobilization of the Japanese people,
to strengthen the powers of resistance against the many hindrances
which are to be faced in the future, and to realize this permanent
peace in the Far East which will bring happiness and security to the
Asiatic people and make firm the foundation of our mother
the Great Japanese Empire, as the proudest nation in the world.
We who are unable to accomplish our important objective as soldiers on
the battle front must adopt the special method of the
Long-Term-Donation policy and in this way assist in financing the war
with the utmost effort on the part of both the first and
generation Japanese and whoever is a descendant of the Japanese race.
Now is the time to awaken the Japanese national spirit in each and
everyone who has the blood of the Japanese race in him. We
appeal to the Japanese in Gardena Valley to rise up at this time."
--- From purpose of the
Military Service Association," Gardena, Calif. Branch;
January 15, 1942 (see IA060
YES-YES, NO-NO -- THE QUESTIONNAIRE
Another issue raised is a Selective
Service questionnaire comprised of
a total of 28
questions, the last two becoming most controversial in that they asked
all evacuees 17 years of age and over about their loyalty and
the United States and to Japan. The sole purpose of the questionnaire,
part of a Selective Service registration process, was fundamentally to
determine who was
loyal to the US and who was pro-Japanese. Having this information, the
WRA would then know who could be released from the centers for
induction into the military, and also who to segregate (15,000 were
moved to Tule Lake using the questionnaire results). Another similar
but more in-depth questionnaire was for leave clearance to go to work
on war-related industrial
projects or simply for relocating out of the centers (see related TL05 and Leave
Clearance Interview Questions.)
The initial wording
for Question #28 caused confusion for some (Tule Lake),
and so it was
re-worded and labeled #28-A:
"Will you swear
unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully
defend the United States from any or
all attacks by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of
allegiance or obedience to the
Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power or
It can be clearly seen the intent of the questionnaire: to determine
who would be loyal to the U.S. in the event of a Imperial Japanese
military invasion of the West Coast, and who would be considered a
possible collaborator. Wartime vigilance required extra precaution,
especially in view of the fact that Japan had the most powerful Navy in
the Pacific, and indeed controlled for the most part the whole Pacific
region, and the potential for attack and invasion was quite real, even
though diminished after the Coral Sea and Midway battles. (See IA012 for more
#28-A: "Will you swear to
abide by the laws of the United
no action which would in any way interfere with the war effort of the
The big unknown was trust -- who among the Nikkei in the US could
they trust? As in any society, it only takes a few troublemakers to
cause laws to be made which affect everybody. In the same way, the
Nikkei who were engaged in espionage and other clandestine activities
put a black mark on the whole population of those of Japanese descent.
The situation in the centers was changing -- Nisei were being more and
more influenced by the Issei and Kibei (see IA031). Easily
minds of youth were most susceptible to the constant talk of the
elders, now that they were together daily and learning more of the old
ways of Japan and its language. The need for determining just which
side of the fence the Nisei were on was great, and the questionnaire
was one way to find out. (See info on loyalty in IA106.)
It may be mentioned here that one of the things many bring out is the
fact that no Nikkei was ever convicted of espionage or sabotage. (Using
the same reasoning, equally ridiculous, one can also say that no Nikkei
was found innocent of espionage or sabotage.) The
real issue is that there were thousands of Japanese who were placed
into detention and internment camps for their alleged involvement in
subversive operations, but none of them were brought to
trial -- for obvious reasons of security, as the incriminating evidence
was still top secret then. See FBI
reports of those under investigation and info on their activities on
the West Coast; also MAGIC
decrypts; also see IA021
(esp. re Tachibana Case),
IA059, IA024, IA040, IA211a and IA235 for FBI
& ONI reports; also G-2
Bulletin on Japanese Espionage. For actual cases against
Japanese Americans, see Kawakita;
also other surprising info in Nakahara
as well as in this
collection on Nisei in the Emperor's service.
Further research can be found on fifth-column activity in
Japanese-resident countries in SE Asia, e.g. the Philippines and Malay.
Japanese diplomatic and military codes had been broken in secret during
1941. This intelligence named MAGIC conclusively established
the clear military necessity for President Roosevelt's act. It
revealed the existence on the Pacific coast of massive espionage nests
utilizing Japanese residents, citizens and noncitizens.
-- Karl Bendetsen
The Japanese Government probably had their hopes on the Nisei in the
event that war broke out between the two countries -- the Issei would
not be of much help in espionage work since they would be placed under
immediate watch as enemy aliens. They were greatly disappointed to have
hopes dashed by the quick arrest of suspected Japanese and the
evacuation of all the rest. The extent to which the Japanese were
evacuated in the US bears greatly on the extent to which the Imperial
Govt. of Japan were able to utilize intelligence gathering and
surveillance in the US. We had broken many
of their codes, and they had not done the same with ours, fortunately.
We guarded that secret well. Had we dealt with the Nikkei in the US any
other way would have revealed too much info which we had derived from
broken coded messages. This could very well be the reason many of the
military leaders in the US became scapegoats and took the blame rather
than reveal their true sources of intelligence.
The results of this questionnaire are most interesting, in view of all
the uproar: of all those who registered for the questionnaire (3,000
did not), nearly 97% of the Issei, 74% of the male Nisei, and
of the female Nisei answered "Yes" to Question #28 (TL-21). See below for
more thoughts on
Japan was closely watching
the internment, evacuation and relocation of
the Issei (also called hojin, Japanese nationals; another term commonly utilized was doho, fellow countrymen or compatriots, e.g. nihonjin doho, kaigai doho or zaibei doho; yamato minzoku was another term)
and Nisei in the US, and no doubt affected their policy
toward treatment of Allied POWs and civilian internees
in Japan -- see TL21,
TL23, TL32 Japanese Diet quote, TL33
several places, and also these books on the Gripsholm
Passages by Corbett and Japanese-American Civilian Prisoner Exchanges by Elleman. There may
have been a great
turn of events in how Japan treated our POWs in their hundreds of camps
some of the media organizations in the US not spewed
anti-Japanese rhetoric so vehemently. This may be another interesting
study in this whole complex issue -- the effect of the
US media portrayal of the evacuation and relocation program on the
Japanese Imperial Government (see TL26).
Interestingly, there was a request by the State Department that a Nisei
accused of espionage NOT be prosecuted "until the agreement entered
into between this Government and the
Japanese government for the reciprocal repatriation of nationals
has been carried out" (see IA040).
Had there been no unrest at the centers, many US
civilians in Japan could have potentially returned on repatriation
problem would have been, though, whether Japan would have really agreed
to more civilian exchanges as they were stepping
up their use of Allied POW labor. But if the ill behavior of
those individuals in the relocation centers did in fact influence the
Govt.'s hard-line attitude, much blame can be laid
at the feet of those instigators. The question can be asked, however --
Did the Japanese Govt.
actually want any of her hojin nationals returned?
Most of the Issei wanted
to stay in
the US anyway (see TL48).
Also consider: To have
allowed the evacuees to relocate
too early, or to certain areas, may have led to acts of violence
them by the anti-Japanese faction,
which certainly would have then influenced the Imperial Japanese to
our POWs. One must realize that these type of things were constantly
taken into consideration
by our leaders -- not only concerning the welfare of the evacuees but
POWs in Japan.
On the whole, it could very well be said that the evacuation of the
Nikkei from the Western Defense Command designated military areas
resulted in their
preservation from harm, danger, loss of possessions, and even possibly,
loss of their lives. Had they remained in their homes, they would have
constant targets of harassment due to war reports on Imperial Japanese
victories and the cruel treatment of American POWs (see section here in TL04).
They had already been subject to increasing immigration and other
assorted restrictions through the preceding decades, so to the
non-Japanese in their communities it would be considered normal to
impose even greater restrictions, such as jailings, or even worse,
Those very neighbors could even have eventually set up
their own internment camps to deal with their enemy alien neighbors,
knows how much more dire their conditions would have been. In view
of the war-time American feelings towards Japan and her people, the
centers were indeed
refuges from harm and danger, for which all those who lived there
should be thankful. A good example of how the Nikkei were protected from mob violence, see this report on the Raton Ranch camp where they were "very happy" and "wished to remain" at this "small country community."
Furthermore, having just come out of the Great
Depression during which thousands lost their farms, their jobs, and
many of their possessions, the Nikkei were suddenly given a new
lifestyle which was comparatively worry-free -- no need to be concerned
about a job, food, shelter and medical attention for the entire family.
It was a life quite advantageous in many ways, no doubt a subject of
envy by outsiders, and something again for which the Nikkei can
|...to provide for
area who are excluded therefrom,
such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be
necessary... including the furnishing of medical aid,
hospitalization, food, clothing, transportation, use of land, shelter,
and other supplies, equipment, utilities, facilities, and services.
The evacuees at the centers were not just on the welfare roll or on the
taking end of things. One of the greatest benefits America received at
home during WWII through the Nikkei was
their agricultural labors. As stated earlier, they not only produced
great quantities of food, but, due to manpower shortages throughout the
US during the
war, they worked on farms to help harvest crops which would have been
left to rot otherwise, e.g. the sugar-beet crop, which later helped
somewhat to ease sugar rationing (see first part of TL21). There are many
in which the relocatees worked and helped America win the war (see WRA
short films, A
Challenge to Democracy (1944), Japanese
The very ones who did not want the Japanese living in their
neighborhood were the very ones who ended up supporting them in the
relocation centers, all paid by their taxes. Myer realized this in
many of his reports, commenting on the burden the care of over 100,000
people places on US taxpayers (see TL21,
TL22, TL23, TL27
Letter to Truman, and TL34).
therefore felt the relocation
program should be carried out to completion by allowing all residents
to return to normal living conditions outside the centers. In this, he
was most successful.
In closing, I present these major points to consider:
Japan's unprovoked sneak attack on a US territory
was the primary
cause of the entire evacuation program, whereby it brought into
existence a state of war between Japan and the United States,
and hence, citizens of both nations becoming enemies.
One of the remarkable things during my research has been my discovery
-- somewhat sad, though quite understandable -- that Nisei for the most
part had and still have trouble with
the Japanese language -- sad in that they have lost touch with their
heritage; understandable in that they prove the power of the American
culture. My anticipations of the Nisei, and Sansei for that
matter, is unfair, of course -- my father couldn't speak Norwegian, and
neither can I, though his father emigrated from Norway; I have,
sadly, little interest in that country's culture or traditions.
Undoubtedly it is because I have spent so much time in Japan and
learned to speak, read and write the language and absorbed as much
culture as I could. And that is precisely the reason I view with
wonderment so many Japanese in the US who have so little attachment to
that land where I, in many ways, grew up.
2. The Imperial Japanese Naval Forces ruled a third of the world,
including the Pacific Region.
3. The West Coast was a target for a Japanese invasion.
4. Japanese of non-American citizenship on the West Coast were suddenly
enemies. Their children born in the US were unfortunately included due
5. Language and cultural barriers prevented mutual understanding. Great
distrust and malice toward the Japanese became more and more evident
6. The US military was very much afraid of Imperial Japan westward
expansionism; the US public was even more so. Remember... Welles' "War
of the Worlds" broadcast was only 3 years earlier and had resulted in
7. Anti-American activities by Japanese organizations on the West Coast
8. Japan's cruel and atrocious treatment of Allied POWs and interned
14,000 civilians alone at outbreak of war) was becoming more and more
known to the US.
9. The planning of the mass evacuation and relocation was not a spur of
the moment decision nor the work of only a few men. The manpower
numbers and cost involved was immense, requiring approval from many
committees and involving much personnel and tax-payer funding. If
there were a more practical and cost-efficient program, and a more just
program, it would have been chosen. Furthermore, no one could have
understood the reasoning and thought processes of the President,
Secretary of State, and other military planners of the program, for
were not recorded in any manner, nor perhaps even discussed with anyone.
10. Many evacuees themselves feared relocation due to their perception
of and actual experience with animosity outside the centers. To remain
in the centers guaranteed
11. Most every Nikkei complied with the military proclamations and
regulations regarding evacuation, center policy, the leave program, and
closure of the centers.
12, No one in the relocation centers tried to escape.
I regret that I could not get to all the volumes of materials available
on this whole subject <chuckle>. Perhaps a greater regret
I do not have 10 more lives that would give me the time to accomplish
such a task.
The problem with all of this research is that so much is subjective,
naturally. My own research is indeed so. In the quest for objectivity,
I venture to say that one must interview every single person involved
with an event in history. But alas, in the end, one is left with a
thousand different subjective accounts! For all accounts hang upon one
extremely vital nail -- truthfulness.
Reading through the material, I was often struck by how much Myer
cared for all Nikkei -- Issei, Nisei, and Kibei. He tried his best to
fair, and I do believe they all had no greater friend than the man who
was put in charge of them. That's why he was given a special citation
by the Japanese American Citizens League on May 22, 1946. What a very
different story would have
emerged had they have had commandants similar to what American
war and civilian internees had in Japan. Myer was in many respects the
man greatly responsible for their preservation, a man to whom they will
Perhaps the whole period of evacuation and relocation resulted in
firmer US policies during war -- what to do with those aliens who
enemy nationals, and, even more so, what to do with their children who
have US citizenship.
Suppose we were to be suddenly attacked by Iran, and they destroyed the
greater part of our forces in neighboring Iraq, whereby our President
then declared that a state of war exists between the two countries. Do
round up all Iranians in the US? If we didn't, there would be immense
problems arising. But if we did, do we round up only alien Iranians?
What do we do then with American-Iranian children?
Must we first give all enemy aliens a fair trial to prove they are not
a threat to America? How? And in what space of time?
It seems there is too much emphasis on the brotherhood of all races in
the US, that no matter what country you are from, you have an oasis
here, freedom to enjoy liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without
regard to the danger of first loyalties and cultural ties. We have seen
this only recently in 9/11. We are vulnerable to attack by those in our
Was evacuation of people of Japanese ancestry, therefore, wrong of the
US? Did the Govt. engage in
illegal actions in dealing with these people, who happened to be from
the very nation that deliberately attacked American Forces on Hawaii?
Was it right or wrong? We may forever be proving either side of the
argument. But one thing we cannot escape is that it did indeed happen.
There is no changing that. No amount of apology and monetary
compensation can ever change that fact. The same can be said about all
of WWII -- the POWs, the bombings, the psychological scars, the
There are those, like myself, who see God's sovereign hand in all
events, and who
harbor no ill-will or vindictive spirit against their fellow man.
"Vengeance is Mine, saith the Lord, I will repay..." -- these words are
no less true
today than when they were first spoken.
God is the Supreme Lawgiver, and the Supreme Lawyer -- His judgment is
always right, and always just. Our sense of right and wrong, of justice
and injustice, is finite -- we cannot know all there is to know. Those
who recognize that God, Who alone has all knowledge, is perfectly right
in all He does will be able to view history with all its complexities
with a fuller understanding. It is my hope that this foundational truth
will be well established in the minds of all those who seek to better
understand this brief moment in the history of these two countries,
Japan and the United States.
|What took place after December 7, 1941, was an amalgamation of
nationalism and racism, which culminated in a complete polarization
between things Japanese and things American in each warring state. The
conflation of the national and the racial in the American public
discourse deprived Japanese immigrants of access to the ruling
ideology. In the intersections of nationalizing racism and racializing
nationalism, the universality of exclusionist politics prevailed
against the Japanese, enabling white racism to function as a
super-American nationalism that drastically shrank the boundaries of
nationality and resulted in the total repudiation of the Issei and
Nisei on the West Coast. Hence came Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt's
casual suspension of Japanese American citizenship rights: "The
Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third
generation Japanese born on the United States soil, possessed of United
States citizenship, have become 'Americanized,' their racial strains
are undiluted." On February 19, 1942, just a week after this "final
recommendation," President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the removal
of nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans from the Pacific Coast states and
parts of Arizona. Although Yale law professor Eugene Rostow later
characterized this episode as "our worst wartime mistake," it was not a mistake at all.
The Japanese American incarceration signified a historical moment when
the cultural, racial, and national Otherness of the Asian was most
lucidly articulated, most undisputed, and most resolutely dealt with by
the American citizenry and state.
-- Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (2005)
COMMENTS ON THE NEWS
A continuing blog of my comments on news articles.
Emails & Letters, Pro &
It has been said that no other WWII subject has been covered as much as
the Japanese evacuation and relocation in the U.S.; one cannot fail to
within the last 20 years, much has been
written which is critical of the U.S. Government's decisions and
policies regarding the whole episode.
After you read through these pages I have assembled, I would be most
interested in your thoughts, the new insights you have gained,
your criticisms, and your solutions. If you had been there, what
have done with the people of Japanese ancestry? How would you
handled the bigotry, the intelligence presented to you, the pressures
of a war on two fronts, the needs of the entire American populace in
general, including those of Japanese, German and Italian ancestry?
I will post your responses, if you wish, with privacy to name and
honored. Please let me know where you are coming
from -- are
you pro, con, a
little of both, or undecided. How much have you read on the issue? A
lot of people read a book or see a movie and then form concrete
opinions. Fill me in on your background, your motivation, and be as
clear & concise as you can in your comments and/or questions.
I would like especially to throw out a challenge to the critics to come
up with a better plan as to what should
have been done with these 35,000 Japanese enemy aliens in the US, and
their US-citizen children, and the remaining adult single Nisei.
Should these families have been split up, with alien parents in
internment and children in centers, and the US Govt. paying for both?
Or let the children remain in their homes? Or do nothing at all with
all of them? In other words, what could the US have done differently?
As you formulate your ideas, please remember this: Try to put yourself
into that time frame, that period in history, without regard to the
hindsight afforded us now, without all the modern
conveniences and technologies that we have today, under much different
living conditions than we have now, and a different mindset towards
With only a simple search on the Internet, one will quickly find a
number of links to educational pages regarding the story of Japanese
evacuation and relocation. I submit this page with a similar motive and
the hope of promoting a more complete knowledge of the events of those
years in American history. Students are welcome to use these pages,
which I have personally transcribed, for whatever use they may see fit
in order to further their
I challenge you to read through all of these documents,
every one of them, as there are comments and various points contained
that are pieces of the larger puzzle, bits of information that fills in
the blanks. Fitting these pieces all
together and standing back to look at the picture will, I trust, be
I would highly recommend to developers of curricula on
Japanese-American studies that lesson material include selections from
these webpages. Students will be challenged by the variety of topics
covered, and perhaps be forced to view assumptions from new angles.
Be sure to check out the questions I have put together for use in curriculum.
I have assembled here an assortment of thoughts which I developed while
working on the various documents. I hope they will be a
springboard to provoke more thought and study into this subject of
- There were
several exclusion proclamations issued
by Attorney General Biddle, even prior to E.O. 9066:
- January 29, 1942 - San Francisco and Los Angeles
declared as prohibited areas to all alien enemies
31, 1942 - 69 additional areas in California
designated as prohibited
- February 2,
1942 - 15 additional areas in California
designated as prohibited
- February 4, 1942 - 7
areas in Washington and 24 areas
in Oregon designated as prohibited; entire coastline of California from
Oregon border to 50 miles north of L.A. designated as restricted area
- February 7, 1942 - 18 areas in Arizona designated
- E. O. 9066 merely authorized the
and military commanders to determine both military areas and who should
be excluded from those areas, and those individuals could even include
U.S. citizens -- if deemed necessary, every single person in those
areas. However, it did not order any evacuation at all.
following were the exclusion orders, over a month later:
- Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1,
1942 - Bainbridge Island, Washington
Exclusion Orders No. 2 and No. 3, March
30, 1942 - Areas near Terminal Island in southern
vicinity of Los Angeles
Exclusion Orders No. 4 and No. 5, April
1, 1942 - San Diego County, California; San Francisco waterfront
- Civilian Exclusion Order No. 6,
April 7, 1942 -
Los Angeles County, California
Exclusion Orders No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9,
April 20, 1942 - Additional areas in Los Angeles County: Santa Monica,
West L.A., San Fernando Valley
- Was the whole evacuation and
relocation program a waste
time and money? If so, the Corps of Engineers in their budget
pre-assessments would have decided it was so and gone another route.
But they did not. There must have been good reasons for continuing
with the program even though the costs and
logistics were huge. Along this line, the question must be asked: was
the whole war then a waste of time and money?
- Many of us do not realize just how many Japanese
organizations -- business, cultural, and religious -- were here in the
prior to WWII, nor the potential danger they would have posed to
security had they continued during the war. The documents on the Tokyo
Club, or the Japanese
Central Association (discussed in IA094),
shed some light
enormity of these networks within the US. Furthermore, the monetary and
social support contributed to these many organizations by the Japanese
community on the West Coast was quite considerable and not to be
overlooked. A comparison of how much support came from US-resident
enemy alien German and Italian nationals for their own countries would
be an enlightening study.
Nikkei-owned businesses in Seattle and Portland, 1941
Defense Migration, Portland and Seattle Hearings, Problems of
Evacuation of Enemy Aliens and Others from Prohibited Military Zones
- What must have been in the thoughts of those men,
and other top secret intelligence, who were
of racism and prejudice against the Japanese people in the US? What
integrity they held in the face of that onslaught! They did not waver
an inch and kept the secret without any hint of its existence. Not
until nearly 40 years later were these secrets made known, and it is
great respect we remember those men -- British, Australians, Americans
-- who labored, and suffered greatly,
keep those secrets with which they were entrusted perfectly safe, not
only during the war, but until the day they died.
- Language unity is
of great importance in any
glue which binds together a people. There is a great need for our
Government to stress the
importance of English language study for immigrants, to promote English
language for all commerce, industry and services. Had the early
Japanese immigrants learned English to begin with and got a good hold
on that language, what a different situation it may have been on the
West Coast (see TL43).
- Dillon Myer often
mentioned that he wanted all the people
at the centers to return to normal living
conditions. In fact, he urged the revocation of the
as early as April 1944.
and the Internment
mentions other books
in the early 1900's dealing with the Japanese threat and the emphasis
on racism. What would be
interesting to probe is
the influence of Darwin's theory of evolution -- subtitled
of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life" (viz. the white races
hence supreme) -- on race issues vis-a-vis the Japanese.
- What exactly was it that made the Japanese race
Americans in the decades preceding the war? Was it the language
barrier? Cultural insularism? The fact that
they had just been liberated from 250 years of isolation and did not
know how to deal with other nationalities? Was it communication
problems, and the tendency to stay in groups rather than
gregariousness? These problems are evident today with immigrants --
do not speak English well or do not socialize with the general
community, conducting themselves in a manner or custom not known to the
general public, to the
consternation of onlookers. The Japanese nation is known for its
"groupism." That is a part of their culture, and for that concept to
exist in a nation that stresses individualism would cause a tremendous
amount of friction. Therefore the assimilation issue
(see TL20; also
Tayama's comments in IA201:
Issei had endeavored at all
maintain the traditions of Japan in the United States."). Perhaps they
were just too tradition-minded, and so neighbors thought them to be
more foreign than American. Situations with immigrants today are very
similar, and it will always be so with anyone living in a foreign land.
ye therefore the
for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
- There are many verses in the Bible regarding foreigners,
"strangers" (a search
here shows 198 references for "stranger" in the Bible), and
if they were to live among the Israelites, they were
to abide by all the laws, manners and customs of the Jewish nation.
Conversely, the Israelites were
commanded not to oppress them, but to love them as their own selves.
Much blame can be placed on Americans for their "vexing" of immigrant
Hence, the legal battle of the Japanese-American's should really have
been directed at
the general American public rather than the US Govt. It should also
have included a major
claim for compensation against the Japanese Govt. for its lack of
- About prejudice:
Consider these two statements --
"Japanese are hard workers," and "Japanese are sneaky." Most would
say the 2nd statement shows prejudice, but the 1st statement is equally
so. Both need qualification -- just exactly who are
about. It is interesting to note that the Apostle
Paul considered the common saying to be true, that the inhabitants of
the island of Crete
bellies," i.e. they were slothful and intemperate (Titus
1:12, 13). There are, therefore, truths, even though on the surface
appear to be
- Living standards in the centers --
today's standards, were indeed austere, bleak and
undesirable. However, it could very well be said the
living quarters were indeed better than what the Issei may have had
previously in Japan, or indeed what they had just moved from, given
the large families and low income levels. Photos are available showing
the different living standards back then in post-depression-era U.S.A.
-- for many, however, the depression was not over and the centers
provided a raise in their standard of living. One can find in
many areas in Japan even today housing conditions which by our
cramped and of inferior quality. The danger lies in using today's
standards to judge standards of the 1930's and 40's. This is a force,
almost like gravity -- unseen yet very active -- that historians must
come to grips with else they will be sucked into the vortex of false
assumptions. It would be similar to living on the moon -- all your ways
of doing things would have to change drastically due to a whole new
environment; your actions and reactions will change.
- Speaking of photographs,
there are some who feel the images taken by famous photographers such
as Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams were staged, that is, the persons
photographed at the assembly and relocation centers were only smiling
for the photographer, instead of showing what they percieve as the
"true situation," i.e. grim, horrific, and hopeless. One has only to
spend a short time looking through the hundreds of images online taken
by a variety of photographers then (media and otherwise) to see the
unreasonableness of such an assumption. I found these photographs here
to be quite representative -- it is very hard to believe all the people
in the photos were suffering from their "grim circumstances" as they
attended and partook in dances, plays, festivals, sporting events, and
- If the epithet were true, that the centers were
there surely would have been escape attempts. Yet there are no reports
of fences cut or
tunnels dug. Also, where is evidence of mass protests and refusals
after EO9066 and subsequent proclamations if
there were indeed a "forced removal"? The truth of
will reveal that the evacuees were eager to live in a place free from
of attack, retaliation, discrimination, prejudice, mockery -- a
a very willing people, and therefore the whole process went virtually
without a hitch. Furthermore, regarding "forced removal," the leave
resettlement program began in July 1942, and later in October, allowed
even aliens to be eligible for indefinite leave. Within a year, over
15,000 had left on seasonal or indefinite leave -- no one "forced" to
do anything here. On Oct. 1, 1942, indefinite leave was allowed, so
anyone who was evacuated would only have had to live at a center for
months or so; had that person left prior to EO 9102, there would have
been no relocation center life for them at all! Consider this:"By June
5, when the movement of evacuees from
their homes in Military Area No. 1 into assembly centers was
evacuees could have
moved anytime to other locations
in the US by
June 5, 1942. Perhaps they didn't want to due to the fact many
mid-western states did not
- One theme for
further research is the idea that the centers
dependency on the social care they received, and so
many to leave their comfortable living standards when they were allowed
(see TL56). Some
leave, spoiled by the very program they had perhaps once disdained. See
centers -- some 44,000 people
who could have left the centers were still residing there in June 1945;
nearly 25,000 had already left in the year leading up to that time,
which means almost 2/3 of the evacuees preferred living in the centers
in that final year. The relocation program was in many ways a welfare
state, not so much helping those who could
not help themselves to survive (as in Hawaiian evacuees; see TL06-3),
many could have chosen not to work at all, and yet would still have
been taken care of. It is impressive just how much assistance there was
available, even for relocation purposes (see TL47 as well as
statistical charts in other WRA publications, e.g. The
Evacuated People). Consider also: It may not be
readily admitted but the centers provided an oasis from
all anti-Japanese sentiment, not only from harassment but from the
that their goods would not have been marketable due to boycotts against
Japanese-produced fruits and vegetables and other products. Could there
have even been a worse scenario, such as retaliation after Americans
heard of Japan's atrocities against our
soldiers in the Philippines and elsewhere? (Interestingly, MacArthur recommended the opposite,
that Japanese nationals in the U.S. be the "lever under the threat of
reciprocal retaliatory measures" and force "applied mercilessly" if
necessary. Obviously, this was never carried out, in spite of the fact
that Allied civilians in the Philippines were treated mercilessly.)
- "Detention" is another word that
Generally speaking, that people
were detained at centers can be said, much the same way employees are
detained at the workplace -- they can't leave without
certain repercussions, hence their liberty is inhibited, though of
course with their full understanding, whether willing or unwilling.
Same with marriage, staying at home rather than going out somewhere you
want to really go. But that the evacuees were in prison-like detention
at the centers (not the separate internment or detention camps, mind
you) without any
escape is hardly an adequate description, else there would have been
mass revolts and escapes during the months and years they were at the
usage of "detention" in WRA report IA175.
- Much can be written in praise of the
evacuee labor in
agriculture. In TL32
is a very
good quote re Idaho workers'
help. This has correlation
today with migrant workers -- without their work
in the fields tons would be lost; the economics of migrant labor is
enormous, probably overriding controversial issues such as illegal
immigration and dollars sent to the home countries.
- On the "incarceration of American
citizens" -- The
last population census in the U.S. prior to WWII was taken in 1940. It
showed there were 126,947 people of Japanese
ancestry in the continental US (Hawaii and other US territories, by the
way, had 158,000). Now, if
roughly 110,000 of these nearly 127,000 were in the centers, where were
the remaining 17,000?
would be an interesting study to see what became of them -- in my Dedication I
mentioned a few; some
5,000 moved out of the West Coast military areas (never lived
in relocation centers); around
8,000 were interned by the INS.
But the rest?
Per 1940 Census, ethnic Japanese:
Total in US = 126,947 (foreign born 47,305)
Total on West Coast = 112,353 (CA = 93,717; OR = 4,071; WA = 14,565)
Total in other states = 14,594
of the 110,000 in the centers, 72,000 were U.S. citizens, and among
those there were about 41,000 19
yrs. of age and
under -- children, average age 16, who still lived with their parents.
So, since these children could not be separated from their families,
basically the whole issue of "incarcerating American
citizens" dealt with approx. 31,000
people. Now of those, some 13,000 joined the armed services. Then there
were around 10,000 (including Issei) who were out working on farms or
seasonal and indefinite leaves, another 15,000 or so
first year, and there
were about 6,000 Nisei who went to
colleges and universities, many spending very little time in the
would leave how many then left at the centers who were not minors? Not
many at all. And each month the number of those living in centers was
getting smaller due to relocating in other non-military zoned areas of
the US. Considering these numbers, it answers the assertion
"American citizens spent the entire war in concentration camps."
|A battalion of
U.S.-born Japs is fighting well in
the front line in Italy; another 2,500 Japanese-Americans are elsewhere
in the U.S. Army; hundreds serve in Military Intelligence in the South
Pacific; 20,000, cleared by FBI, now live in the Midwest & East.
magazine, Dec. 20, 1943
Mr. Hitoshi Fukui of Los Angeles and the Heart Mountain Relocation
Center now leases and operates a small downtown hotel in Cleveland. An
Issei (born in Japan), Mr. Fukui is a veteran of World War I, and the
result of this and his high standing in his community, was granted
American citizenship. His wife Chieko is a Nisei (born in the United
States). The Fukuis have two children, a daughter and a son, Soichi,
who is a student at Oberlin College. "We believe it is a
stay in the centers. It is bad for our people to be bitter. They should
come out and begin to live again."
-- Cleveland, Ohio. 1/?/44
(The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)
- Issei prevented from
becoming naturalized -- I am
still looking for statistical information that would show just how many
Issei were naturalized when they were permitted to, and how many simply
did not want to. I have heard that there were not that many who chose
naturalization prior to the anti-naturalization
law of 1924 (see
interesting chronology here). If so, the concept
concept that even Dillon
Myer believed, see TL62)
Issei would have chosen to become naturalized if
had been given the chance, thereby they would be protected by the US
Constitution, does not have much that force at all. Other ethnic groups
did not avail themselves of the naturalization laws, apparently due to
the stringent language requirements. I have read also that the Japanese
Govt. did not allow her hojin to become citizens of
the United States, but this point needs verification.
- Loyalty and registration --
The key word is
"faithful," and the idea of not betraying your own country, especially
the problem of betraying one's trust. There is nothing wrong with
trying to find out if someone is really true to their word. Can you
trust that person? How do you know you can? In companies the #1 threat
of theft comes from employees,
not outsiders. In the same way, the threat the ethnic Japanese
the US was not something that was to be taken lightly. The unfortunate
thing was that it encompassed their children who were US citizens by
birth. It had nothing
to do with discrimination, just as in a company it does not -- the
issue was with human nature. Therefore a registration process was
necessary to determine just how faithful a person claimed to be. The
same oath is administered to any person who wants to become a US
citizen. Read this from the official US Govt. page on naturalization:
of Allegiance to the United States –
The oath you take to become a
citizen. When you take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, you
are promising to give up your allegiance to other countries and to
support and defend the United States, the Constitution, and our laws.
You must be able to take and understand the Oath of Allegiance in order
to become a naturalized citizen.
Remember, the whole purpose of the registration process was to enable
the evacuees to leave the centers. Question #28 was
question that would help determine who could leave. If I were asked
either version of #28 (see here
or the above official version, I would not hesitate at all to give an
answer in the affirmative. In fact, the majority of registrants did
indeed answer "Yes" to the question. See TL21
for more. Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that there were
Issei, Nisei, and Kibei who were under investigation for subversive
activities in the US, and it was their connections with the extensive
networks of Japanese organizations that impacted nearly the whole of
the ethnic Japanese in the US, due largely to the fact that the Issei,
who were primarily under surveillance as "enemy aliens" and represented
30% of the ethnic population, had families which made up the other 70%,
who were not under surveillance but yet were involved only because of
their family connections. There is reference to a sad situation where
even the Imperial Japanese did not feel the Nisei who went to Japan
could be trusted. This may explain why the extra effort by those
educated in the
US to display their patriotism by being extra harsh on Allied POWs over
whom they were interpreters and guards.
"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and
abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate,
state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a
subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and
laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and
domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that
I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the
law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of
the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of
national importance under civilian direction when required by the law;
and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation
or purpose of evasion; so help me God."
| As the best possible evidence of their loyalty to this country... Japanese and alien Italians and Germans who may be required to move should continue their farming operations. -- Western Defense Command HQ Press Release re advice to enemy aliens and Japanese-American citizens, March 6, 1942
- From TL04:
overwhelming fear of the evacuees
-- the one which
most deeply influenced their efforts toward adjustment -- was their
anxiety about the post-war future. Younger evacuees in particular were
frequently heard asking questions such as : 'Where shall we go from
here after the war?' 'How shall we earn a living?' 'What will be the
long-time effect of life here upon our character, and how will we be
affected in our future adjustments?'" I would say the future of these
youth turned out well, very
successful for many; compare with the civilian internees who returned
from Japan after the war.
|You are about to read an
a young Japanese who arrived in the United States as a student on the
eve of the Pacific War, and stayed there throughout and beyond the war
years. This preface is intended to forewarn contemporary American
readers about something they will not find here, whose absence they may
The missing element is racial discrimination
protagonist. If you expect these memoirs to be made up of a litany of
outbursts of grief and fury by a victim of prejudice, you will be
Yet you cannot be blamed if such are your expectations. The setting
seems to have been perfect; In the first place I was a Japanese, a
foreigner in America. In addition, I was officially an enemy
because of the unusual circumstances in which I found myself. The Pearl
Harbor attack exposed Japan and Japanese people to violent opprobrium:
They were characterized in the press as treacherous, cunning,
untrustworthy, barbaric, bestial, sadistic, and so on, almost ad
infinitum. Americans today  over fifty years of age perhaps
remember the intense anti-Japanese sentiment that enveloped continental
America at that time. By today's standards, it would seem, I was doubly
qualified to be a target of hatred. Yet such was not the case.
The fact is that I spent seven delightful and fruitful years
America including the war years, and found myself among friends
wherever I went.
Questions to Ask - a little questionnaire for all those concerned with the issues