Research Report prepared for
IC. Response to Various Military Orders, Curfew
The response of one JACL chapter to the various military orders was reported after the fact by an assistant Community Analyst while interned at Poston. Paul Higashi wrote about the Monterey Peninsula Japanese in the Community Analysis Section Report for Poston.
During the evacuation, this JACL chapter acquired a disputable reputation amongst the people. It is reported that the JACL leaders were the first to leave Monterey for inland districts, thus exposing the residents to turmoil. They were left without an influential body to iron out the difficulties that arose during those trying periods.69
Higashi's reference to the report that JACL leaders left for inland district would place this sometime during the voluntary evacuation period but prior to the freeze order, which then eliminated travel out of the restricted zones.
In another part of California we see that shortly after the March 11, 1942 establishment of the WCCA and the voluntary relocation period, the Imperial County Citizens Welfare Committee wrote to Attorney General Francis Biddle. In a letter dated March 17, 1942, Shigeo Imamura, Executive Chairman requested group evacuation on behalf of close to 1,600 Japanese residents, under the auspices of some organization like the JACL.
As a result of a recent survey taken by our offices, we find that out of the approximate 1600 Japanese residents both citizen and alien, the majority would like to evacuate in a group under some recognized organization such as the Japanese American Citizens League.70
For lack of a better place to discuss this topic, it will be addressed here. Both Michi Weglyn and Richard Drinnon refer to the suggestion by Nisei leaders to form a "suicide battalion," with family members serving as "hostages" to stave off the impending evacuation of Japanese-Americans. 71 72 The actual source of this suggestion was Mike Masaoka himself. In his "Final Report," written on April 22, 1944, Masaoka writes:
Two ideas which we seriously considered at that time illustrated to what extremes we Japanese Americans were willing to go to safeguard our homes and associations. One was to form a volunteer "suicide battalion" which would go anywhere to spearhead the most dangerous missions. To assure the skeptics that the members of the "suicide battalion" would remain loyal, if such guarantees were necessary to quell the objections of the professional agitators of the west, the families and friends of the volunteers would place themselves in the hands of the government as "hostages." When this idea was informally discussed with a high military official, we were informed that it was not the practice of the government to require "hostages" or to sponsor such "suicide battalions."73
Was this the genesis of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team? Michi Weglyn thought so.
Though Masaoka's brash proposal was summarily rejected at the time, it would be later reconsidered and implemented by the military, notwithstanding their initial insistence that America did not believe in the concept of hostages or of a segregated battalion-except, of course, for blacks.74
ID. The Decision to Cooperate with Evacuation
The issue of JACL's prior knowledge of evacuation and possible role in requesting such governmental action is not a new question. Like the other issues in this report, it has long been rumored that the JACL asked for the evacuation, that the organization knew about it in advance and either did nothing to prevent it or worked only for their own self-interest. Most recently, these rumors have seen new light through the writings of James M. Omura, wartime English editor of the Rocky Shimpo and longtime thorn in the side of JACL. In his multi-part essay on the autobiography, They Call Me Moses Masaoka and the JACL which appeared in the Vox Populi Column of the Rafu Shimpo in April 1989, Omura raises the issue of prior knowledge by the JACL of evacuation. For his support, Omura refers to a taped interview of Lee Murata. The relevant portions read roughly as follows:
That was when brother Mike came out, needed financial backing to combat the public . . . The time I'm referring to when Mike come out 1940, before the declaration of war, before Pearl Harbor, 1939, could've been spring '39[.] [W]e were warned from Mike that we should be thinking about possibilities, what could take place in the event of war . . . [C]onditions tense . . . [P]repare ourselves-with this mind of thinking, people in the area, the young people, we made a trip through the state, through the eastern part of the state, warning people: take care of belongings, get papers, whatever necessary, legal documents, in order to be looking for the worse-possibility of evacuation, possibility of being put into concentration camps[.] [L]imited to traveling, funds frozen, all those things brought out to our group at one time[.] Mike came out and warned us. Denver? I don't know. Don't know when he spoke to Denver group. [T]o our group in Lupton, he come out and forewarned us of the possibilities of outcome in event of war[.] [A]nd [a]s well as I could[,] try to explain it myself[.] I made the trip through Ft. Morgan Hills, Atwood, Cedrick Hills, of the results of the outcome of war, in the event of war . . . (inaudible) . . . This was before the war, before Pearl Harbor -- 1939, early 40 maybe, 'cause I make the trip late 40, early 41, 'cause I made the trip-they were through harvesting, maybe getting ready for spring[.] [D]on't remember anymore. These are the possibilities[,] and these are the something that JACL are concerned about. With that thinking, made the trip to inform about the possibilities.75
During the course of this interview, the interviewer, Joe Grant Masaoka tries to clarify with Murata whether in fact it was Joe Grant and not Mike Masaoka, and whether it was after Pearl Harbor that the described events took place. While Murata's response seems confused when it comes to placing the precise date and year, Murata was certain that it was Mike Masaoka, that he spoke before Pearl Harbor, that a concern over evacuation and camps was voiced and that, as a result, Murata himself went on a speaking tour to carry warnings eastward. The tape of Murata, of course, can be explained away as the reminiscences of a confused mind. However, while a listener could conclude that there was confusion on the dates, there was no confusion in the interview about Masaoka's message and presence.
This tape by itself would not amount to much in the way of support for Omura's contentions. However, taken along with an even more puzzling document referred to by Omura in Part Three of his "Debunking JACL Fallacies," one must pause to consider. On February 9, 1942, ten days prior to Roosevelt's issuance of Executive Order 9066, Attorney General Francis Biddle wrote a memorandum to his assistant James Rowe. The heading read MEMORANDUM FOR ROWE. It states:
Please note the attached memorandum from Mr. Hoover to the effect that the Japanese-American Citizens' League want us to evacuate its members and alien parents. I think we should begin exploring with Mr. McNutt the possibility of having some refugee camps for the Japs, which we will need.76
The file did not contain a copy of the accompanying memo from Hoover. Without the Hoover memo, it would be unwise to jump to any conclusions based on this memorandum. It is possible that that the memo refers to a number of voluntary relocation proposals which were being offered for consideration, such as the Maryknoll Church proposal of relocating some Japanese Americans to an area outside of St. Louis. James Sakamoto had proposed a Model City Relocation plan at the Tolan Committee hearings. However, the language is plain about JACL requesting evacuation. Likewise the date places any such request well before Executive Order 9066, and well before the Tolan Committee Hearings in the West Coast.
A further argument against this memo referring to the Maryknoll or Model City/Sakamoto proposal is the reference to the need for "refugee camps." The Maryknoll proposal had a location in mind, outside of the city of St. Louis. Likewise, refugee camps seem inconsistent with the Model City proposal by Sakamoto in his Tolan Hearing testimony.
In order to examine the decision of the JACL to cooperate with evacuation, it would be helpful to examine the foundation laid for the general concept of cooperation by the organization. With such an understanding, the decision on cooperating with evacuation may be seen in its proper perspective.
On December 7, 1941, following the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor both the National Office of the JACL and National President Saburo Kido dispatched telegrams to President Roosevelt and other government officials. Both contain statements offering the organization's cooperation.
We pledge our services unreservedly to the officials and authorities of our country . . . . The National Headquarters of the League has been collaborating with the officials in the National defense program and is now re-urging members . . . to cooperate in every way with the civic and federal authorities.77
. . . IN THIS SOLEMN HOUR, WE PLEDGE OUR FULLEST COOPERATION TO YOU, MR. PRESIDENT, AND TO OUR COUNTRY . . . WE ARE READY AND PREPARED TO EXPEND EVERY EFFORT TO REPEL THIS INVASION TOGETHER WITH OUR FELLOW AMERICANS.78
In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, public opinion, or at least official public opinion, had not yet been roused and directed against Japanese-Americans. However, in the beginning months of 1942, as public opinion turned into public hysteria and fear, the call for evacuation of the citizen children, along with alien parents, arose.
On February 6, 1942, California Governor Culbert Olson has a meeting with members of the Japanese community he had summoned to the State Capitol himself. Among those present were Saburo Kido, National President; Mike Masaoka, National Secretary; Ken Matsumoto, National Vice-President; Walter Tsukamoto, past-President of the National JACL; Togo Tanaka, English Editor of the Rafu Shimpo and Publicity Chair of the National JACL. Among the others were members of other Japanese organizations and individuals from around the state.
At this meeting, the Governor made a statement to the effect that the Japanese-Americans, both national and citizens, should be prepared to move out of the area at any time. After he concluded his statements, he then wanted to hear "attitudes and willingness to cooperate." One by one, those present gave their comments. Ken Matsumoto spoke to the effect that Japanese American citizens should be treated like any other citizens, with the Governor expressing dissatisfaction to such "reluctance." Similarly, Saburo Kido also felt that Japanese-Americans should not be singled out and that their citizenship rights should be respected. The Governor was able to extract a vague commitment to cooperate from Walter Tsukamoto, although he too emphasized recognition for Japanese American citizenship rights. Mike Masaoka urged recognition for the distinction between American Citizens and enemy aliens as well as the need to have the "active cooperation" and "voluntary support" from those being moved. The remaining individuals basically reiterated the comments of the four previous speakers. After the meeting, there was the increasing fear that evacuation would come to pass. 79
In hearings held before the Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration, House of Representatives, 77th Congress, during the latter part of February through the beginning of March 1942, JACL representatives in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, appeared and testified on the issue of evacuation.
Mike Masaoka, as National Secretary and Field Executive of the JACL, submitted a prepared statement into the record of the Tolan Committee Hearings. The portion on Evacuation follows:
. . . with any policy of evacuation definitely arising from reasons of military necessity and national safety, we are in complete agreement. As American citizens, we cannot and should not take any other stand. But, also, as American citizens believing in the integrity of our citizenship[,] we feel that any evacuation enforced on grounds violating that integrity should be opposed.
If, in the judgment of military and Federal authorities, evacuation of Japanese residents from the West Coast is a primary step towards 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.80
Thus in his statement, Masaoka agreed to cooperation on evacuation if it was deemed a military necessity. On the other hand, he did object to evacuation on the grounds that a discriminatory motive would be contrary to the rights of American citizens. Masaoka continued with recommendations on policy and procedure in the event of evacuation.
Shortly after the San Francisco Hearings were completed, hearings were held in Seattle and Portland, on February 26, 28, and March 2, 1942. James Sakamoto, founder and past-National President of the JACL, testified. He expressed opposition "to the idea of indiscriminate, en masse evacuation of all citizens and loyal aliens of Japanese extraction" and emphasized the desire of Japanese Americans to contribute to the war effort. However,
If, finally, the decision is that Japanese must go, the committee is assured of the Japanese [American] Citizens League's complete cooperation in the evacuation movement. Loyalty demands that orders, no matter what, be obeyed, willingly and efficiently.81
Most notable in Sakamoto's comments on the issue of evacuation, was his proposal for a "model city" within the interior of the nation.
The Minutes of this emergency meeting of the National Board and Council in San Francisco reflect the final decisions made on cooperation with evacuation. The Board Minutes indicate that Mike Masaoka read a statement of the National Board on the policy of the JACL regarding evacuation which did not depart much from his statement to the Tolan Committee.
1. We are opposed to the principle of evacuation, unless it is ordered by the military as a national defense measure and is applied to all persons, citizens and aliens alike, indiscriminately and without reference to race, color or creed.
2. If the military authorities believe that national safety requires the removal of "enemy aliens" from any regions or areas, we believe that all "enemy aliens" from all countries with which the United States is now at war should be removed, and that no one group or nationality should be singled out for special attention.
3. If it becomes necessary to remove citizens from these areas or regions, as designated by the military, we believe that all citizens should be treated alike and that no single block of citizens be singled out for special consideration or attention.
4. Even though our beliefs may not be recognized by the military and they should single out the American citizens of Japanese extraction, as they have done, for special attention, we believe that, as good American citizens, we ought to accept the word of those charged with the responsibility of national safety and that we should cooperate with them to the best of our abilities, trusting that our cooperation will inspire a reciprocal cooperation on the part of our government in the humane and reasonable treatment of our mutual problem.82
That last phrase in Point Four would be a theme throughout the comments expressed by JACL leaders in their meetings with government officials during this special meeting of the National Board and Council. Saburo Kido made a comment to that effect to Tom Clark,
"It has been our premise that the more we cooperate with you gentlemen, the more in turn you will cooperate with us."83
James Sakamoto also made comments to the same effect that:
. .. the government is going to cooperate with us to the fullest extent possible, so now it is up to us to cooperate with the government agents. To you people gathered here now . . . you have a job to do, go back to your respective communities to get people working with the government in the evacuation order."84
The Special National Council Meeting approved five resolutions, one of the most important being, "a resolution on the evacuation of Nisei as a measure based on military necessity and not a reflection on their loyalty." The second key resolution was to the President and offered him "our sacred pledge that we will cooperate wholeheartedly in the evacuation program, and in any and all matters integral to the defense of our country."85
After the statement of policy and resolutions for cooperation came expressions of what many since consider to be inappropriate sentiment, given the conditions facing Japanese Americans in the U.S. On March 8, 1942, Saburo Kido gave a special message to the assembled delegates of the Emergency National Council Meeting at JACL National Headquarters in San Francisco. In his closing remarks Kido told the delegates "let us keep our chins up," "we are gladly cooperating," "we have been grateful to our Federal government," "we are glad that we can become wards of our government," "when we leave our homes, let us leave with a smiling face and courageous mien."86
Likewise, in Jimmie Sakamoto's comments at the same meeting, he urged his fellow JACLers, "so now it is up to us to cooperate with the government loyally and cheerfully."87
An examination of the situation in Seattle during evacuation led Frank Miyamoto to conclude that "it seemed to me, the JACL was far more efficient in administering the process of evacuation than in organizing against it."88 Miyamoto documented the work of the JACL in operating as an intermediary between the Japanese and the U.S. Employment Service, in acting as a clearinghouse for evacuation sales, and most importantly in communicating information about evacuation from government agencies to the community. 89
The weakness of the JACL in organizing against evacuation, however, may have had its basis in the general political stand which it took from December 7 on . . . If the JACL was weak in organizing against evacuation, it seems that this weakness arose from the stand the organization took . . . The Nisei were not in a position to condemn powerful governments in their action against weaker minorities. Out of this paradox, it seems, grew the attitude of cooperation with the Army that prevailed among the JACL leader[s] in Seattle throughout this period.90
Consistent with Miyamoto's "The Seattle JACL and its Role in Evacuation" is an assessment of the JACL by the District Intelligence Officer from the 13th Naval District in a confidential report entitled "Japanese Evacuation and Relocation, in the Thirteenth Naval District (to March 10, 1943)." The Thirteenth Naval District encompasses the greater Seattle area and Pacific Northwest.
Under the heading of Japanese American Citizens League, the report indicates the following:
When it became certain that evacuation of the Japanese was inevitable, the local chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League seemingly cooperated wholeheartedly with the designated evacuation authorities, offering the services of their members as translators and interpreters and in Seattle, Washington, loaning their office at 517 Main Street together with clerical and stenographic staff, to the Provost Marshall and his staff and personnel of the Wartime Civil Control Authority. With the knowledge and approval of the United States military authorities in charge of the evacuation, the Seattle Japanese American Citizens League prepared, along military lines, an organization known as the "Evacuee Administration Headquarters," that was to be in charge of the internal administration of the Puyallup Assembly [Center], under the Caucasian staff of the Wartime Civil Control Administration.91
Since the rest of the report goes into the relationship between prominent JACL figures and the WCCA personnel at Puyallup, this avenue of examination will re-emerge in Section IIB, Relationship with War Relocation Authority and Other Governmental Agencies.
However, it is quite clear from this excerpt what was the degree of cooperation offered by the Seattle JACL in response to evacuation and in their efforts to facilitate rather oppose it.
During the Special Emergency Meeting of the JACL held in San Francisco, Mike Masaoka makes a statement, which, if truly ascribable to him, is outrageous and shocking. In the Report on Conditions in Distant States a number of delegates report on the situation in the mid-west. Near the end of the session, Masaoka gives his report.
Mr. Mike Masaoka, reported on condition
in Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado, and Montana.
At the Tolan hearing, to fifteen telegrams sent to governors, nine
answered. Eight were in the negative and one was qualified. This state
was Colorado. Colorado, Wyoming[,] Nebraska and Montana will take
Japanese, but the government must guarantee adequate protection.
Now then, who does the phrase "he recommends" refer to in that sentence? It could refer to Masaoka or to one of the governors of the four states mentioned. There are a number of plausible explanations to explain why it may appear that Masaoka suggested that Japanese be branded and stamped like cattle. It is possible that an error in transcribing the minutes occurred. Possibly it was one of the governors of the aforementioned states who suggested branding Japanese, which, if you think about the times, is highly plausible. However, there is one further matter to be considered. The Minutes of the March 8-10, 1942 meeting are not the original minutes. In fact, the Minutes were reprinted in 1971 in the Southern California JACL Office and contains an introduction by Mike Masaoka, dated December 31, 1970. His introduction states he had reviewed the Minutes recently.
"In reading again, after some 28 years, the official Minutes of the special emergency meeting held by the National JACL Board and National Council in San Francisco in early 1942 . . ."93
Thus, Masaoka had an opportunity to review the Minutes prior to their reprinting and had a chance to correct an[y] typographical or transcription errors.
(Author's note: An interview was scheduled with Masaoka in October . It was hoped that such an interview would clarify this particular point, but his poor health prevented it.)
IC. Response to Various Military Orders
Report No. 60, March 16, 1945, p. 3, Poston Report Officer, File J 1.85,
ID. The Decision to Cooperate with Evacuation
Interview of Lee Murata by Joe Grant Masaoka, (date if available),
Buddhist Church lounge, Denver, Colorado, Tape 249, Box 394, Oral History
Tape, Counter Number 536-600, JARP.
Updated: June 24, 2000