Triumph for the Racists
"At the Discretion of the Appropriate Military Commander"
Most Californians were relieved when the President set his signature upon Executive Order No. 9066, but they were disappointed that the Japanese population failed to disappear over night. Before the announcement of the Executive Order was 24 hours old, the press was registering complaints about the delay in getting the Japanese out.
Representative John Tolan, of Oakland, California, Chairman of the House Select Committee on National Defense Migration, arrived with his committeemen in San Francisco to open hearings in that city on February 21. The purpose of the hearings was to explore the problems of evacuation of "enemy aliens and others from prohibited military zones." The Hearst press quoted Mr. Tolan as saying, on the first day of the hearings, that bombings in the coastal region were a "practical certainty."41-l California's Attorney General Earl Warren testified that the Japanese minority was concentrated about the points of greatest strategic importance; that the Japanese American citizens constituted the worst fifth column danger and should all be excluded from vital areas; he mentioned the approach of an "invisible deadline" when the Nisei fifth column--as yet pure of sabotage--would rise up and strike a shattering blow in conjunction with aerial attack from the Japanese enemy; he called attention to the fact that unsupervised migration of Japanese to the interior had already caused trouble, and recommended that a Federal agency should be put in charge to avoid exploitation of the Japanese.13-e
Richard Neustadt, Regional Director of both the Social Security Board and the Office of Defense, Health and Welfare Services, stated that of the 6,500 alien enemies facing eviction under Department of Justice orders who had called at his information offices to learn what they should do and what rights they had, only 140 had asked for financial assistance. He said:
"However, that small number is not to be taken as a measure of their need. Rather, it is to be taken as a measure of their pride and their desire to understand the reason for this order and their desire to be as cooperative with the Government as possible. In other words, we know of many cases who will need money, who have strained every resource to move out of the prohibited area, but they prefer to exhaust their own resources before asking for any aid of any kind."
He pointed out, too, that the Japanese residents were sacrificing their property and.that there had been "no provision for any custodianship of any kind."13-f
Mike Masaoka, national secretary and field executive of the Japanese American Citizens League testified at some length and made a statement on the attitude of his people toward evacuation. The first sentence of that statement has been quoted frequently to establish the willingness of the people to be evacuated, and the second sentence, which qualifies that willingness, has usually been deleted. Here is the full statement:
"If, in the judgment of military and Federal authorities, evacuation of Japanese residents from the West coast is a primary step toward assuring the safety of this Nation, we will have no hesitation in complying with the necessities implicit in that judgment. But, if, on the other hand, such evacuation is primarily a measure whose surface urgency cloaks the desires of political or other pressure groups who want us to leave merely from motives of self-interest, we feel that we have every right to protest and to demand equitable judgment on our merits as American citizens."
He made some recommendations for specific policies and procedures, among which was one "That, in view of the alarming developments in Tulare County and other communities against incoming Japanese evacuees all plans for voluntary evacuations be discouraged." He asked for the appointment of responsible, bonded property custodians, made a plea for "consideration and recognition of the Nisei's American citizenship status," and challenged the blanket accusation of disloyalty constantly being reiterated against this group which had a substantial representation in the armed forces of the United States.13-g
The testimony of Louis Goldblatt, secretary of the California State Industrial Union Council, affiliated with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, offered the most forceful and reasonable opposition to the whole idea of evacuation on a national or racial basis that the Committee was to hear:
"We [the Union Council] naturally go along and concur with all the re commendations that the Government deems necessary to safeguard this territory. We feel, however, that a good deal of this problem has gotten out of hand, Mr. Tolan, inasmuch as both the local and State authorities, instead of becoming bastions of defense of democracy and justice, joined the wolf pack when the cry came out 'Let's get the yellow menace.' As a matter of fact, we believe the present situation is a great victory for the yellow press and for the
fifth column that is operating in this country, which is attempting to convert this war from a war against the Axis Powers into a war against the 'yellow peril.' We believe there is a large element of that particular factor in this present situation.
"I am referring here particularly to the attack against the native-born Japanese, an attack which, as far as we can find out, was whipped up. There was a basis for it because there has always been a basis on the Pacific coast for suspicion, racial suspicion, which has been well fostered, well bred, particularly by the Hearst newspapers over a period of 20 to 25 years.
"Well, the result is that during this present situation local authorities simply ran out on the problem. We are happy to see the Federal Government step in and handle it. We are happy to see your committee here, because, frankly, to date we haven't seen either civic or State leadership that is competent to handle the problem or that has shown a great enough degree of impartiality to merit being even assigned the problem.
"So that, in addition to the fact that this entire alien natter is naturally one that belongs in the province of the Federal Government, it is particularly important at this time because, frankly, I think the only people who have shown a semblance of decency and honesty and forth-rightness in this whole situation are the second generation Japanese * * *
"What we are concerned with, Mr. Chairman, is this: That if this is to become the index of our dealings with the alien problem--in other words, that if we are not to deal only with aliens but also with the descendants of aliens-- then there is no limit to this problem and the program, and this vitally affects our unions. It affects the principles upon which we stand, affects the nature of our work, our entire job in the administration of contracts and everything else, because once this policy of making distinctions or determining espionage or sabotage along racial, national lines has begun there is no end * * *
"So that we can expect, I think, that if this campaign of isolating the Japanese is successful the next step will be for several incidents to occur which involve Germans or Italians; then the whole of the wolf pack will scream to the moon again and this time it will be 'Evacuate all
Italians, evacuate all Germans.' The principle will have been set; the pattern will have been cut as it has been by the Hearst press, by the rabid, hysterical elements."
Mr. Tolan, as chairman, interposed: "Suppose you were General DeWitt or the head of the Justice Department on the Pacific Coast and you had 120,000 Japanese. How would you determine the loyalty and disloyalty of these Japanese?" And Mr. Goldblatt replied: "In exactly the same way I would proceed to tell who was a loyal or disloyal Italian or German." To the question "Where would you get the information?" Mr. Goldblatt suggested that the FBI and other Government intelligence services kept pretty good files, and so did his own union, and that his union had been in the habit of turning over information on espionage and on the activities of the German Bund to the FBI. At this point Mr. Tolan said:
"We had our F.B.I, in Honolulu, yet they had probably the greatest, the most perfect system of espionage and sabotage ever in the history of war, native-born Japanese. On the only roadway to the shipping harbor there were hundreds and hundreds of automobiles clogging the street, don't you see? There they sought to distinguish the Japanese in Pearl Harbor from our American Japanese. Do you think there is a distinction yourself? Do you think we can trust them?"
Mr. Goldblatt answered:
"I think that the second generation of Japanese in this Nation should not be distinguished from the second generation of any other nationality * * *. Unless the F.B.I, or the military authorities have documents and facts to indicate differently.
* * * * * * * * * *
"Where is this to end, Mr. Tolan? Italians will.be the next to be evacuated, then the Germans. Why stop with the Germans? According to the present Federal order Hitler could stay in San Francisco in a prohibited area and one of German nationality would have to leave because Hitler is an Austrian. So it will extend to Austrians. It will go to Hungarians, to Bulgarians, to Finns, to Danes. There are countries, many of them, which have declared war on us. Where is the mark to be drawn?
"And, Mr. Tolan, if we follow such a procedure we can land in only one place. We will do a perfect job for those who want to sabotage the war effort. We will have the American
people at each other's throats. I know mining camps that are split right down the middle between nationalities, where you have a group of Poles at one end of the camp and a group of Germans at the other. You will have them fighting in the streets against each other. You have Italians in the mining camps alongside of Welshmen.
"Where is this going to wind up? This country is a nation made up of nationalities. The so-called American is only a product. He comes out of a crystal into which has been poured the peoples of all the world. We forget what was written on the Statue of Liberty. I have the words here. I would like to read them."
Mr. Tolan said: "I don't think you better. Did you ever intend to run for Congress?" Mr. Goldblatt said that he never had. Mr. Tolan commented: "I think you would make a very dangerous talker the way you are going here today. I think you are wonderful."15-h
The Tolan Committee hearings held up and down the West Coast between February 21 and March 12 of 1942 began and ended with the committeemen and the majority, if not all, of the witnesses believing that the injuries sustained during the Pearl Harbor attack were intensified by major sabotage committed by the Island Japanese.
The Japanese American Citizens League provided about the only leadership that emerged from the minority at this time. In 1942 it had a reported membership of 20,000, all citizens 18 years old or older, many of them recent members. The league was not actually representative of the Japanese minority, but its officials at this time appeared as the only spokesmen. These young leaders were articulate, well informed, and personable. They had a burden of staggering weight, in assuming.responsibility for staving off the evacuation. There was a last-minute attempt to organize a "Co-ordinated, Representative Nisei" group as the United Citizens League, at Los Angeles on the very night of the signing of Executive Order No. 9066. More than 1,500 Nisei and some of their parents met for this purpose at the Mary-Knoll Auditorium. JACL members and others who were not members, produce men, business and professional people were prepared to make a last ditch stand for recognition of their rights as American citizens. But any attempt this preponderately school-age group of citizens could make against the forces bearing down upon them at that particular time was predetermined to be as ineffective as a rabbit's effort to stay the course of a bulldozer.
Lieutenant General DeWitt had the authority of the executive order behind him and the power to designate military areas and the people he wanted out of those areas, but for a time he delayed action. There remained a few individuals and a few groups of people on the West
Coast who questioned the propriety of exiling United States citizens, whatever their color, from their homes without individual appraisal. It was possible that, in the event of a test case, the Supreme Court of the United States might question the constitutionality of mass exclusion orders directed against citizens. General DeWitt was urging quick passage of the bill to implement the executive order. It was March 21 before the bill became law and gave congressional approval to the executive order, and provided that "whoever shall enter, remain in, leave, or commit any act in any military area or military zone prescribed, under the authority of an Executive order of the President, by the Secretary of War, or by any military commander designated by the Secretary of War, contrary to the restrictions applicable to any such area or zone or contrary to the order of the Secretary of War or any such military commander, shall, if it appears that he knew or should have known of the existence and extent of the restrictions or order and that his act was in violation thereof, be guilty of misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be liable to a fine of not to exceed $5,000 or to imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, for each offense."31-m
Certain organizations of people of good will were arguing against the application of the expected evacuation order to the Nisei. The majority of the Nisei themselves could not believe that, in the final analysis, their citizenship would be disregarded. However, two events took place at precisely the right time to deaden the sound of voices championing the Nisei, and to make it unnecessary for General DeWitt to wait further on Congress, and on what was to be Public Law No. 503.
On Monday evening, February 23, 1942, after the second all-day session of the Tolan Committee, and while President Roosevelt was making a fireside chat over the national hook-up, some kind of seagoing craft fired some shells at a piece of the California Coast, about seven miles north of Santa Barbara. The area included an oil refinery. Minor damage was done to one pumping unit and derrick. No tanks were hit; no fires were started; and nobody was injured. The first of 15 shells Was fired at 7:10 p.m., Pacific war time, which would be 6:10 p.m. sun time; at that season dusk would have been well advanced by that hour. Nevertheless witnesses were not lacking to identify the craft, which was a mile offshore, as a Japanese submarine. One man declared that it was larger than any United States submarine he had ever seen. Witnesses also saw flares and signaling from shore and over the channel. The DeWitt final report describes the incident as follows:
"On February 23, 1942, a hostile submarine shelled Goleta, near Santa Barbara, California, in an attempt to destroy vital oil installations there. On the preceding day the shore battery in position at this point had been withdrawn to be replaced by another. On the succeeding day, when the shelling occurred, it was the only point along the
coast where an enemy submarine could have successfully surfaced and fired on a vital installation without coming within the range of coast defense guns."31-l
J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two years later commented on this incident in a memorandum addressed to the Attorney General and inspired by General DeWitt's final report:
"At approximately 7:10 p.m. on February 23, 1942, an attack was made on the Santa Barbara area by an unidentified vessel off the coast of California. Included in the area shelled was an oil refinery. The blackout in this area went into effect about one hour after the shelling had occurred and although there were reports of lights and flares in the vicinity, investigations were made with negative results. Subsequent to the shelling Army authorities had planes scouting for submarines all along the coast, and in connection with these searches the Army utilized numerous flares. There was no evidence of shore-to-ship signaling and no evidence of a landing in the area."44
None of the available official or newspaper accounts of the incident mentioned the examination of shell fragments, as was the case when an incendiary bomb dropped in the woods of Oregon on September 9, 1942, and when the fragments bore Japanese markings.
The effect of this incident was immediate and pronounced. Representative Alfred Elliott, of Tulare, California, shouted next day from the floor of the House: "We've got to move all the Japs in California into concentration camps, somewhere, some place, and do it damn quick * * * Don't kid yourselves and don't let someone tell you there are good Japs. Perhaps one out of a thousand * * *"38-y Representative Leland Ford, of Santa Monica, California, repeating rumors of signaling from the hills to ships offshore, declared to the House: "We've got to move Japs to areas where they can't do that kind of signaling," while Representative Rankin, of Mississippi, improvised in support of his West Coast fellows: "They're doing the same thing in Hawaii--signaling to their ships from the mountain tops."38-y Back in California the district attorney of Santa Barbara County made a personal appeal to General DeWitt for action.38-y The Veterans of Foreign Wars at Visalia, the county seat of Tulare County, demanded immediate removal of all Japanese, both alien and citizen, from the coast. Down in the southeastern corner of the State, the Riverside County Supervisors adopted a resolution on February 24, and forwarded it to General DeWitt, demanding immediate removal of the entire Japanese American minority and warning that farmers of the county might "take matters into their own hands" unless action was taken promptly by the Government.38-z
In the small hours of February 25, Los Angeles had a blackout with antiaircraft guns brought into use. Five deaths resulted from traffic accidents or heart attack and were laid to what the newspapers called the "raid." The War Department stated officially that the alarm was real; the Navy Department stated officially that it was a case of "jittery nerves."58-A whether the "Battle of Los Angeles" was or was not a genuine raid, was still unsettled in the fall of 1945. An Associated Press story reported from San Francisco under dateline of October 28, 1945:
"As many as five unidentified airplanes, either Japanese, civilian or commercial, were over southern California the night of February 24-25, 1942, during the 'Battle of Los Angeles,1 Fourth AAF headquarters disclosed today.
"Some three million people in the Los Angeles area shivered and trembled that night as antiaircraft fire ripped the skies and Army searchlights tracked unidentified airplanes over Beverly Hills through Long Beach and out to sea.
"'The blackout and antiaircraft firing In the Los Angeles area on the morning of February 25, 1942, were caused by the presence of one to five unidentified airplanes,' reported Lieut. Gen. John L. DeWitt, then commanding general of the Fourth Army and the Western Defense Command. He added it was M.3 belief that three planes appeared over Beverly Hills.
" * * * the officer said, 'My belief is that those three planes could have been launched from submarines somewhere close into shore under our detectors.'
"The officer said only 45 fighter planes were available for interception that night, and that if the unidentified aircraft preceded an attack 'we did not want to have our pursuit in the air, half out of gas when the attack came in * * *'
"Naval intelligence at Los Angeles advised the same evening an attack could be expected during the next 10 hours, following which the Pacific Coast from Monterey, Calif., to the Mexican border was on 'yellow alert,' indicating the enemy possibly was about 30 minutes away."45
On November 1, 1945, comment on that statement came from Tokyo in the form of an Associated Press story, which appeared in the Washington Evening Star under the caption: "JAP 'AIR RAID' OF LOS ANGELES IN '42 WAS MYTH," and continued:
"the battle of Los Angeles was a myth. The Japanese did not send planes over that city the night of February 24-25, 1942, a Japanese Navy spokesman told the Associated Press today.
"The question was put because the 4th Air Force at San Francisco Sunday said planes, possibly Japanese, were overhead that night.
"Captain Omae of the Japanese Navy said, however, that a plane was launched from a submarine and sent over the Southern Oregon Coast on February 9, 1942, 'to attack military installations, but the lone plane was unable to discover any.'
"Omae denied the Japanese had any plan to land troops on Hawaii or the United States.
"He is liaison officer from the Japanese Navy records section, which is reassembling destroyed information for General MacArthur."46
The unidentified planes remain unidentified.
With these two incidents, the outcry for immediate removal of all persons of Japanese race from the coast rose to a deafening roar. On March 1, General DeWitt informed the press:
"Military necessity is the sole yardstick by which the Army has selected the military areas from which the exclusion of certain groups will be required.
"Public clamor for evacuation from non-strategic areas and the insistence of local organizations and officials that evacuees not be moved into their communities cannot and will not be heeded, for considerations of national security must come first."42-q
Both the general and Representative Tolan--then conducting hearings at Seattle--were deluged with telegrams from officials of inland states, protesting the "dumping" of the West Coast's Japanese population in their States. Only Governor Carr, of Colorado, said bravely that he would try to cooperate, and General DeWitt wrote him a note of appreciation. The general said:
"The appropriate agencies of the Federal Government are engaged in far-reaching preparations to deal with the problem, and a study is in progress by these agencies
regarding the protection of property, the resettlement and relocation of those who are affected. "42-q
The general promised that an announcement of an evacuation program would shortly be forthcoming, and the next day, March 2, he issued Public Proclamation No. 1, designating Military Area No. 1, consisting of the western halves of Washington, Oregon and California, and the southern portion of Arizona; Military Area No. 2 was established as the remaining parts of the States named. The proclamation stated further:
"Any Japanese, German or Italian alien, or any person of Japanese ancestry now resident in Military Area No. 1 who changes his place of habitual residence is hereby required to obtain and execute a Change of Residence Notice at any United States Post Office. Nothing contained herein shall be construed to affect the existing regulations of the United States Attorney General which require aliens of enemy nationalities to obtain travel permits from United States Attorneys and to notify the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Commissioner of Immigration of any change in permanent address."
To the press the general said that enemy aliens would be excluded from Military Area No. 1 by future order, and soon; he promised that the Japanese, both alien and citizen, would be the first to go; and he advised aliens to move out with their families at once and voluntarily to "save themselves possible future trouble."42-r
Obediently a number of Japanese American families began moving from the coastal area, in cars, in trucks, seeking a refuge from the storm of hatred and fear which was ejecting them from California, and finding that the storm had preceded them across the state line.
The Case for the Government
Writing in 1945 of the wartime evacuation of Japanese Americans, Eugene V. Rostow, professor of law at Yale University and formerly with the State Department, called his article which appeared in the June issue of the Yale Law Journal, "The Japanese American Cases--A Disaster." He titled a popularized version of the article which appeared in Harpers a few months later, "Our Worst Wartime Mistake." His condemnation of the whole program was sweeping. He wrote:
"Our war-time treatment of Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent on the West Coast has been hasty, unnecessary and mistaken. The course of action which we undertook was in no way required or justified by the circumstances of the war. It was calculated to produce both individual injustice and deep-seated social maladjustments of a cumulative and sinister kind.
"All in all, the internment of the West Coast Japanese is the worst blow our liberties have sustained in many years. Over one hundred thousand men, women and children have been imprisoned, some seventy thousand of them citizens of the United States, without indictment or the proffer of charges, pending inquiry into their 'loyalty.' They were taken into custody as a military measure on the ground that espionage and sabotage were especially to be feared from persons of Japanese blood. They were removed from the West Coast area because the military thought it would take too long to conduct individual loyalty investigations on the ground. They were arrested in an area where the courts were open, and freely functioning. They were held under prison conditions in uncomfortable camps, far from their homes, and for lengthy periods--several years in many cases. If found 'disloyal' in administrative proceedings they were confined indefinitely, although no statute makes 'disloyalty' a crime; it would be difficult indeed for a statute to do under a Constitution which has been interpreted to minimize imprisonment for political opinions, both by defining the crime of treason in extremely rigid and explicit terms, and by limiting convictions for sedition and like offenses * * *"
Setting forth the evacuation as a triumph for the West Coast racists and pressure groups, he said further that the racists "were lucky in their general, for General DeWitt amply proved himself to be one of them in opinion and values. As events happened, he became the
chief policy maker in the situation, and he has caused more damage even than General Burnside in 1863, whose blunderings with Vallandigham, the Ohio Copperhead, were the previous high in American military officiousness.47
It is not the purpose of this chapter to challenge the essential soundness of Mr. Hostow's criticism, but to indicate that he had the advantage of hindsight -when he made it. By 1945, when Mr. Rostow wrote his article, factual knowledge had replaced the misinformation and legends about the group that had been evacuated; the unknown and therefore easily misrepresented minority had become familiar to most localities of the United States, and to the fighting men on every battlefront of the war; by that time the Nisei of the 442nd Battalion had built up an enviable record in Italy and in France, proving to a war-minded America that they were not without devotion to the land of their birth.
In the dark and fear-ridden days of early 1942, the situation was very different. The West Coast was under threat of attack by an enemy that had given some reason for the belief that it could be everywhere at once. That enemy was rushing from triumph to triumph in the Pacific; our fleet had been crippled by the attack at Pearl Harbor; the West Coast was a strategic area. The people who were racially akin to the enemy were known to the vast majority of other Americans only in terms of a subtle propaganda invented by genuine racists and political or economic opportunists of the West Coast. War-generated fear, uncertainty, hatred and suspicion made it easy for people in High and low places to identify this unknown group on the West Coast with the enemy across the sea.
The Commanding General of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army was held accountable for the defense of the West Coast. With a war in progress, with national security at stake, civilians, including the Chief Executive of the United States, were not in a position to question the responsible military commander's judgment on matters of military necessity in his area. The chance a civilian administration would run in time of war, if it opposed the measures dictated by its military experts, of bringing disaster to the country is a chance that a civilian administration understandably prefers not to take. When the recommendations of General DeWitt for mass exclusion of the Japanese from the West Coast were before the Administration in Washington, certain beliefs were entertained there and elsewhere, beliefs that on the face of the matter justified the removal of the group from the West Coast.
At the time when the executive order was issued and for nearly two months longer, official Washington and the nation at large were convinced that the resident Japanese of Hawaii had aided and abetted the enemy on December 7, had by their activities increased the heavy losses in human life and in vital war equipment. The hysterical
believed that all persons of Japanese descent were treacherous, sly, dangerous and prepared to sell out the United States to their ancestral country at the first opportunity. The more thoughtful people, who avoided the racist approach, perceived that the group was indeed concentrated around the harbors, airfields and other vital points on the coast--and were not informed of the harmless reason for such distribution--and granted that the group of 112,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry unquestionably contained an unidentified and not easily identifiable number of individuals who, in the event of invasion, constituted a potential hazard to national security.
The military commander of the coastal area which held the concentration of Japanese Americans said that exclusion of the group was a military necessity, and as early as January 5, he was basing his conviction that their presence constituted a real hazard on charges that they were signaling to ships at sea, communicating with the enemy by radio, and behaving in a way calculated to make the course of an invading enemy smooth. In time of national emergency, and in the absence of concrete proof that the fears of the responsible general were based on fantasy or misinformation, it was logical to accept his judgment. That is what was done in the early part of 1942.
The common belief in that nonexistent sabotage performed by Hawaiian Island Japanese, held at a time when the West Coast was threatened with attack, was the pivot upon which the evacuation rotated. By the time that affidavits of Federal intelligence officers and Island authorities reached the Tolan Committee and established the fact that there had been no sabotage by Island Japanese on December 7 or since, the evacuation was well underway. The West Coast Japanese, their citizen children, and their grandchildren, were being rushed into hastily improvised assembly centers set up on fairgrounds and race tracks to live in former stables or tar paper barracks while they, awaited further dislocation.
The Tolan Committee, in its Fourth Interim Report, issued in May of 1942, published the Hawaiian affidavits which cleared the Japanese in Hawaii of charges of sabotage, but the rumors persisted, and the official denials were never given the space and placing in the press that were accorded the rumors.
Once the wheels of the evacuation got rolling, it was to take time, reeducation of the public and positive demonstration of the loyalty of the evacuees to change the course of the vehicle. The Government-sanctioned exclusion from the West Coast of the Japanese American* minority as a measure of military necessity appeared to the public at large as an official endorsement of the racists' contentions regarding that minority. There was no strong official interpretation of the evacuation enunciated by the President or the Secretary of War
or the Attorney General to prevent the general public from interpreting the evacuation order as a blanket charge of disloyalty for the affected group. All that was said officially was that it was in the interests of military necessity that the evacuation had been ordered.
C. B. Munson, in the last portion of his report to the Washington administration on the Japanese situation on the West Coast and in Hawaii, with the assistance of the intelligence officers who had been working closely with him, drew up some suggestions and recommendations, as of December 20, 1941. First of all he recommended that the Nisei "should be encouraged by a statement from high government authority," defining his underscored "high" as "President or Vice President, or at least almost as high," so that public attitude toward them would be "outlined."39-c Secondly he stressed the fact that "their offers of assistance should be accepted through such agencies as: 1, Civilian Defense; 2, Red Cross; 3, U.S.O., etc., etc." He spelled out the matter of "assistance" further:
"This assistance should not be merely monetary, nor should it even be limited to physical voluntary work in segregated Nisei units. The Nisei should work with and among white persons, and (be) made to feel he is welcome on a basis of equality."39-c
Before dark of the day of Japan's attack upon Pearl Harbor, the Japanese American Citizens League from its headquarters in San Francisco issued an official statement condemning the Japanese government and pledging loyalty to the United States. The statement was widely publicized over the radio and in the press of the nation. Had the appropriate "high" authority countered with a declaration of the Government's faith in the loyalty of the Nisei, there is reason to believe that the West Coast racists and superpatriots would at least have had harder going to achieve their objective of mass exclusion. Similarly, once the evacuation had been ordered, an administrative definition of the evacuation might have dispelled some of the confusion that was rampant in 1942.
During the early months of the war, the War Department had no clear-cut policy on the use of Nisei in the armed forces. At the outbreak of war there were about 5,000 Nisei already in the Army, either as volunteers or as subjects of Selective Service. Individual commanding officers devised their own policies for dealing with these men. Some officers retained them; some discharged them with blue cards and no explanation--the blue card signifying that the discharge was neither quite honorable nor quite dishonorable; a few officers became hysterical on December 7 and gathered up any Nisei in their units and put them in the guardhouse. General DeWitt said before the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Naval Affairs: "At one time we had a great many
Japanese in military units on the west coast. They were all at my request transferred out by the War Department to other organizations."48
For some time there was no consistency in the treatment of the Nisei who sought to volunteer or those whose numbers came up in the draft. Generally speaking, the local Selective Service Boards of the West Coast rejected them, classifying them as 4-F or 4-C. However, a few of the boards processed the Nisei without prejudice. Some commanding officers refused to accept the Nisei who had passed the local board and had reported for duty. The War Department prohibited further induction of anyone of Japanese descent after March 31, "Except as may be specifically authorized in exceptional cases." Exceptions proved to be bilingual Nisei and Kibei who could qualify as language instructors and interpreters for Military Intelligence. It was not until September 14, 1942, that Selective Service regulations were adopted, implementing the ruling of the War Department and providing for the classification in Class 4-C of any registrant of Japanese ancestry, a class reserved for those considered unsuitable for service because of race or ancestry.49 There was to be a long and spirited campaign before the privilege of fighting for their country was restored to the Nisei.
The Red Cross, while allowing the evacuees to participate in a monetary sense in the Red Cross program, steadfastly refused to allow the center residents to roll bandages or knit for the armed forces, even going so far as to deny members of the Junior Red Cross units at centers their right to fill game kits for the soldiers, and not allowing center Red Cross organizations to be called "chapters"--they were called "units" to differentiate between Japanese American branches of the organization and others.
The USO granted full participation from the first.
The first evidence made public that the evacuation might have been determined by other than objective considerations was provided by the .man who ordered the mass exclusion, General DeWitt himself, in testimony before the Subcommittee of the House Committee on Naval Affairs on April 13, 1943. Asked by the Chairman if he had any problem that he wanted to leave with the Congressmen, General DeWitt replied:
"I haven't any except one--that is the development of a false sentiment on the part of certain individuals and some organizations to get the Japanese back on the west coast. I don't want any of them here. They are a dangerous element. There is no way to determine their loyalty. The west coast contains too many vital installations essential to the defense of the country to allow any Japanese on this coast. There is a feeling developing, I think, in certain sections of the country
that the Japanese should be allowed to return. I am opposing it with every proper means at my disposal."48
Asked if he based his "determined stand on experience as a result of sabotage or racial history or what," the general replied:
"I first of all base it on my responsibility. I have the mission of defending this coast and securing vital installations. The danger 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.
"You needn't worry about the Italians at all except in certain cases. Also, the same for the Germans except in individual cases. But we must worry about the Japanese all the time until he is wiped off the map. Sabotage and espionage will make problems as long as he is allowed in this area--problems which I don't want to have to worry about.48-a
It will be remembered that the general displayed his worry over illicit signaling and radio transmission on the part of Pacific coast Japanese in a memorandum addressed to James Rowe, Jr., of the Department of Justice, on January 5, 1942. In his final report on the evacuation, published in the latter half of 1943, the general repeated charges of illicit signaling and radio transmission against the Japanese population of the coast.
The Chief of the Federal Communication Commission's Radio Intelligence Division had reported a conference with General DeWitt and his staff, on January 9, 1942. In the course of this conference, the procedures of radio intelligence were explained to the general, and he was informed that there had been no illegitimate radio transmission or signaling from Japanese or other coastal residents.50
More than two years later, asked to comment on statements contained in the DeWitt final report, the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission wrote the following letter to Attorney General Francis Biddle, dated April 4, 1944:
"This is in reply to your letter of February 26, 1944 with reference to Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt's Final Report on Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, which was recently made public by the War Department.
"You state that you are interested in the accuracy of General DeWitt's account, in the first two chapters of the Report, of the events leading to his decision that military necessity required the evacuation, and you note that prevention of signaling by persons, presumably of Japanese descent, on shore to enemy surface vessels or submarines off the coast apparently was a very considerable part of the problem with which General DeWitt was concerned during the period between December 1941 and July 1, 1942, when the evacuation was substantially complete. You direct attention particularly to his reference to hundreds of reports of such signaling by means of signal lights and unlawful radio transmitters and state that investigation by the Department of Justice of great numbers of rumors concerning signal lights and radio transmitters proved them, without exception, to be baseless.
"You inquire, first, whether during the period from December 1941 to July 1, 1942, the Commission was engaged on the West Coast in monitoring and identifying signals reported to be from unlawful transmitters and in locating any such transmitters; and, if so, the number of reports received by the Commission during this period of unlawful or unidentified signals, with a detailed breakdown of the results of its investigations:
"Throughout this period on the West Coast as elsewhere throughout the United States and its territories, the Commission's Radio Intelligence Division was engaged in a comprehensive 24-hour surveillance of the entire radio spectrum to guard against any unlawful radio activity.
"Within the area on the West Coast from which the Japanese were subsequently evacuated, the Commission's Radio Intelligence Division had in operation two Primary Monitoring Stations, located at Portland, Oregon,-and San Pedro, California, and Secondary Monitoring Stations, located at Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Areata, California; Larkspur, California; Fresno, California; Los Angeles, California; San Diego, California; Yuma, Arizona, and Tucson, Arizona. During the period here involved, the Secondary Station at Larkspur, California, was moved to San Leandro, California, and was expanded to a Primary Monitoring Station; and the Secondary Station at Yuma, Arizona, was moved to Salinas, California. The Commission had additional stations at other places within the Western Defense Command.
"At all stations, there were special receivers and recorders for intercepting and recording signals throughout the entire radio spectrum. The Primary Monitoring Stations were equipped with extensive antenna arrays and Adcock high-frequency direction-finding apparatus for taking bearings upon sky-wave signals received from all over the world. They were tied in with other Primary Monitoring Stations on the continent as well as in Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, which together constituted a nation-wide direction-finding system for immediate coordinated action in taking bearings upon and establishing the fix of any suspected transmitter and for exchanging other information relative to identity of radio stations. At the Secondary Monitoring Stations were mobile units, equipped with loop direction finders, for going into the field and quickly locating an unidentified transmitter by taking bearings within its ground-wave range. Other devices enabled investigators to determine the exact house or even room in which a transmitter was located.
"Soon after December 7, 1941, at the request of General DeWitt, the monitoring facilities described above were supplemented by patrols of mobile direction-finding intercept units along the West Coast from Canada to Mexico. These patrols were instituted for the particular purpose of detecting any radio transmissions from shore to ships off the coast.
"In the early months of the war, the Commission's field offices and stations on the West Coast were deluged with calls, particularly from the Army and Navy, reporting suspicious radio signaling and requesting the identification of radio signals. In hundreds upon hundreds of cases, identification of the signal was made by Radio Intelligence Division personnel merely by listening to it right at the monitoring station. In no case was the transmission other than legitimate.
"In the case of 760 reports of unidentified or unlawful radio signals within the evacuated area during the period in question, which could not be heard or identified by listening at the monitoring station, a field investigation was conducted by mobile direction-finding units. In 641 of the cases it was found that no radio signaling at all was involved. Of the 119 cases remaining, 116 were found to involve lawful transmissions by following stations:
United States Army Stations - 21 United States Navy Stations - 8 Local Police Stations - 12 United States and Foreign Commercial Licensed Stations - 65 Japanese Stations in Japanese Territory - 10 116
"The final 3 were found to involve the very short-range transmissions of the ordinary commercial type phonograph oscillator used in playing recordings for home amusement.
"There were no radio signals reported to the Commission which could not be identified, or which were unlawful. Like the Department of Justice, the Commission knows of no evidence of any illicit radio signaling in this area during the period in question.
"You also ask the extent to which General DeWitt or his subordinates were informed of the operations of the Commission's Radio Intelligence Division. The General and his staff were kept continuously informed of the Commission's work, both through occasional conferences and day-to-day liaison. In the earlier part of the war, there was constant contact by telephone between Radio Intelligence Division stations and Army and Navy posts along the West Coast for the purpose of furnishing these agencies with bearings and other information pertaining to radio signals. And as the result of a request of General DeWitt in January 1942, the Commission established a Radio Intelligence Center in San. Francisco for coordinating radio intelligence information collected by the Army, Navy and the Commission. This Center was tied in by teletypewriter circuit with the Primary Monitoring Stations on the Vest Coast, as well as with other Primary stations on the Continent through headquarters in Washington. As a result, it was an integral part of the Commission's nation-wide direction-finding system described above. As a part of the plan for coordinating activities, Army and Navy personnel maintained a liaison attendance at this Center. Both these services, moreover, had a direct telephone circuit from the Center to their headquarters.
"You direct attention, further, to the statement In General DeWitt's Report that following the evacuation, Interception of suspicious or unidentified radio signals and shore-to-ship signal lights was virtually eliminated. You state it
was the experience of the Department of Justice that, although no unlawful radio signaling or any unlawful shore-to-ship signaling with lights was discovered, a great number of reports of such activity were received, and that these did not diminish in number following the evacuation. It is likewise the Commission's experience that reports of unlawful radio signaling along the West Coast-- which in-each case were unfounded--were not affected by the evacuation. In fact, throughout the year 1942, the number of reports of unlawful radio operation requiring investigation by mobile units which were received in the States along the West Coast varied in close parallel with the number of such reports received throughout the whole country.
"Finally, you refer to General DeWitt's memorandum of January 5, 1942 to James H. Rowe, Jr., Assistant to the Attorney General, set out in the Report, in which concern is expressed over the action to be taken in a case where there should be strong evidence of shore-to-submarine radio communication, but the unlawful radio transmitter could not be located within an area more precise than a city block, or even a general area such as Monterey County.
"You note that the memorandum suggested that available means were inadequate to locate and seize any such radio transmitter, but state that if your understanding that equipment was available for locating such a transmitter is correct, the problem with which General DeWitt was concerned would not arise in practice. Your understanding is correct. As noted above, equipment developed by the Commission's engineers was on and after December 7, 1941 in the hands of its personnel on the West Coast, which enabled them easily to locate the individual house and even the exact room containing the concealed transmitter."51
The information, thus gradually acquired, was regarded as confidential; no public official refutation of the charges made against the Japanese Americans was offered. There was a war in progress.
By March 2, 1942, when General DeWitt issued Public Proclamation No. 1, it had become apparent to him that voluntary evacuation would not dispose of the entire West Coast Japanese population in any reasonable length of time or without disorder. Problems of property disposal, finance, employment and acceptance in other areas were constituting a block to this voluntary movement. The minor movements of Japanese aliens from prohibited "spots" in February had resulted for the most
part in bewildered individuals or families simply moving in with relatives or camping in the back yards of friends in other sections of the same town or city. Some families had moved as far as the interior valleys of California--to the dismay of many of the citizenry in those regions; very few had been able to migrate east of the State line. It was plain that a controlled evacuation would have to be inaugurated for the tens of thousands of people who could not plan or finance their own evacuation, and that provision would have to be made for the maintenance of a substantial part of the Japanese population for an indefinite period, until their resettlement eastward could be accomplished in orderly fashion.
Up to this point the Western Defense Command's sole concern in the matter had been with the physical evacuation, with clearing the designated military area of the Japanese residents. It was not considered feasible or proper that the military should assume responsibility for the future welfare of thousands of families or that it should administer an extensive resettlement program. The Department of Justice was unwilling to take on such responsibilities. Discussions between representatives of the Department of Justice, the War Department and the Bureau of the Budget ended in a decision to create a special civilian war agency to assume jurisdiction over the evacuated population.
What was most important of all in this stage of planning, the President requested the Director of the Bureau of the Budget to find him a man to head the new agency who was without political ambitions, a man of humanitarian principles with a grasp of the social implications of the evacuation, with administrative ability, and with skill to direct the extremely delicate program in public relations posited by the controversial nature of the issue of evacuation. The qualifications required by the President in the director of an unprecedented program were a determining factor in setting the key of the agency's future policy.
At this time and for some time to come the voice of the racists was dominating public sentiment toward the Japanese Americans, and it was clamoring for arbitrary detention of the entire minority for the duration of the war and deportation of the entire group to Japan at the close of the war. Had the President requested a different sort of director to head the new war agency, it is obvious that the evacuation story "must have had a much grimmer ending than it has had.
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