Research Report prepared for
IIE. Position and Action on Resisters and the WRA Segregation Process
The policies and positions taken by the JACL relative to the draft resisters at Heart Mountain were clearly and plainly spelled out in correspondence, bulletins, memoranda, and in the editorials of the Pacific Citizen.
One document in which JACL's position was concisely put forth is a copy of a letter from Saburo Kido, dated April 3, 1944. On page two is a short paragraph dealing with the Heart Mountain Resisters.
The group at Heart Mountain definitely should be charged with sedition, especially the leaders. The FBI has been studying the situation in the centers and we were asked to loan them copies of the Rocky Shimpo.244
In Bulletin #9, dated April 11, 1944, from JACL in Salt Lake City, National President Saburo Kido introduced copies of letters sent to Kiyoshi Okamoto of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and a Jack Nakagawa of Littleton, Colorado. We are told that "both letters were sent by Mr. Roger N. Baldwin, National Director of the American Civil Liberties Union."245 Both letters inform their respective recipients of the moral strength and legal weakness of their refusal to accept the military draft.
The men who have refused to accept military draft are within their rights, but they of course must take the consequences. They doubtless have a strong moral case, but no legal case at all.246
This particular Bulletin and the refusal of Roger Baldwin to represent any of the draft resisters has led three historians to question the role of the JACL in this refusal of legal assistance.
What had occurred was that Kiyoshi Okamoto, head of the Fair Play Committee, had written to the ACLU for legal assistance in challenging the constitutionality of drafting internees. National Director of the ACLU, Roger Baldwin, responded in a letter which was reprinted by the JACL in the aforementioned Bulletin #9 by Saburo Kido and which Baldwin had released to the press.
Thus the question which has been raised by Richard Drinnon, Douglas Nelson, and Roger Daniels is why Baldwin made the letter public and what the JACL's role was in this action?
Douglas Nelson in his Heart Mountain: The History of an American Concentration Camp, (Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, 1976) pp. 153-154, indicated that there was evidence which implied that Baldwin's action had been at the request of the JACL's Salt Lake City headquarters.
Likewise, Roger Daniels writes,
what caused Baldwin to release his letter publicly is not clear, but a letter from Project Director Robertson to Dillon Myer implies that the JACL's Salt Lake City headquarters may have requested him to do so.247
The evidence to which all three authors point to is a letter dated April 17, 1944 from Guy Robertson, Project Director of Heart Mountain Relocation Project to Dillon Myer, Director of the WRA. The first two paragraphs from the letter follow below:
In our lead story this week, we carried a letter written by Roger Baldwin, National Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and directed to Kiyoshi Oakamoto, former leader of the Fair Play Committee within this center.
The letter, mimeographed and released by the Salt Lake City Headquarters of the Japanese American Citizens League with the approval of the New York office of the ACLU, is the strongest documentary evidence that has come to our hands to support our contention that draft resistance is not only ill advised but unsupported legally as a means towards securing full citizenship rights for Japanese Americans.248
We can determine from this letter that at the least, the ACLU and JACL worked in concert on the release of the Baldwin-to-Okamoto letter to the public. Nor were their joint efforts just in the logistics of releasing the matter to the public, but they undoubtedly shared in what both organizations must have anticipated as the impact upon the resistance movement and the Fair Play Committee [of] Heart Mountain.
[T]he major spokesman for civil liberties in the United States had supported the JACL line, whose adherents were jubilant: ACLU TAKES ISSUE WITH OKAMOTO was the Sentinel headline.249
Whether JACL had any hand in the content of the letter is not revealed by the Robertson-Myer letter. In Richard Drinnon's view, referring to the "ACLU-JACL-WRA axis,"
[e]vidence abounds that close working relationships kept the national line taut. Myer rode in tandem with Masaoka, as we have seen, and also shared information and documents with Baldwin. On August 31, 1943, for instance, he sent Baldwin the "confidential" case history of Roku M.,250 the former chief of the warehouse at the Heart Mountain Hospital and currently an inmate of Leupp. In turn Baldwin shared data and views with Myer and the JACL Secretary-see, for example, his memorandum "for Ernest Besig, A. L. Wirin, Mike Masaoka," April 19, 1943 CHS 3580.
The next significant JACL document is one entitled VISIT TO CHEYENNE COUNTY JAIL WITH JAPANESE AMERICAN DRAFT DELINQUENTS. The interviewers were Min Yasui, who identified himself as an attorney, and Joe Grant Masaoka, JACL Regional Representative. The purposes of the trip, according to the first page of this five-page document, were two-fold.
By interviewing the boys in the Cheyenne County Jail, it was hoped that some indication of the processes of thinking and the manner of organization behind the draft resistance could be gained, so as to be able to work the best procedures and the most practical programs to counteract such influences in the relocation centers. In addition thereto, if it were possible to persuade any of the boys at the Cheyenne County Jail to reconsider his stand, it was felt that such repudiation would have some effect upon the draft-resistance group in the centers, and tend to dissuade others from following the same course.251
Many authors, Peter Irons included, have noted with some irony the fact that Min Yasui attempted to dissuade these young draft resisters from taking a stand which was similar to his earlier challenge of the curfew restrictions. Yasui himself in this document attests to the similarity between his struggle and that of the draft resisters. In identifying himself in the document, Yasui states that he is,
a licensed attorney in the State of Oregon, who attempted to secure a Supreme Court declaration of citizenship rights of the Nisei, identical to that which these Nisei draft violators are now seeking . . .252
Regardless of this admitted identity in why Yasui had challenged curfew and why these resisters had challenged the draft, Min's purpose in this interview was to try to change their minds. Yasui
believed that a personal interview with these boys would reveal to them the legal fallacies of their thinking and attitudes. It was felt that a man who has had legal training and experiences in a county jail would have some effect upon the boys in the Cheyenne County Jail.253
At a recent forum on the Heart Mountain Draft Resisters, the irony of what Min Yasui was attempting to do did not go unaddressed.
It was all right for Min Yasui to challenge the government and to fight for his constitutional rights, but it was wrong for us to do so.254
Of particular note in the interview of the Heart Mountain Resisters is the content of a conversation between Yasui and Masaoka and Carl L. Sackett, the U.S. Attorney for Wyoming.
In talking to the U.S. Attorney, we pointed out that the actions of these boys was not a deliberate and intentional act of disloyalty, but rather an ineffectual and certainly ill-advised protest against the injustices and suspension of certain civil rights for the past two years suffered by those of Japanese ancestry.255
This is a remarkable statement in light of the earlier comments by Saburo Kido that these men should be charged with sedition and in view of the comments seen in the Pacific Citizen and Heart Mountain Sentinel editorials. Moreover, the conversation with Sackett took place prior to the commencement of any interviews with draft resisters. Nonetheless, it appeared clear from the interview document that neither Yasui nor Masaoka felt the draft resisters were disloyal or seditious. Not only that, but that the resisters were willing to serve in the military once their citizenship rights were restored. This is confirmed later in the text when six of the 17 resisters who were housed in the Cheyenne County Jail (out of a total of 59 who were scattered in six jails throughout Wyoming) were interviewed.
Unanimously, they admitted they were fighting to secure court action in order to clarify their citizenship rights and status. Apparently, they believe that this is the last resort by which they can hope to gain a restoration of suspended civil rights, such as the right to return to the Prohibited Areas on the West Coast. None of the boys have signed expatriation papers. They continue to express a willingness to enter the Army, if their concepts of equality of treatment and citizenship are fulfilled.256
In fact, the basic issues of loyalty and willingness to serve in the military had been confirmed earlier during the registration period at Heart Mountain. As Roger Daniels tells us:
As it turned out, almost all of the key leaders of what I have called the "left opposition" remained at Heart Mountain after segregation because they had either answered "Yes-Yes" to the crucial questions or had so qualified their answers that they were not "eligible" for segregation.257
A flyer distributed at a public forum co-sponsored by the PSWDC JACL and the Southern California Japanese American United Methodist Council also claimed that most [of] the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee draft resisters "answered 'yes' to both questions or had qualified their answers."258
All of this notwithstanding, two copies of the interview were furnished to the FBI's Denver Special Agent in Charge, who then transmitted the same to the Director of the FBI. This is documented by an FBI Office Memorandum Cover Memo, dated May 26, 1944. 259
What then is the significance of draft resistance by "loyal" Japanese Americans and JACL's response to same? Perhaps Roger Daniels can best sum it up.
This account of the "loyal" Japanese American resistance-what I have called the "left opposition"-is highly significant. It calls into question the stereotype of the Japanese American victim of oppression during World War II who met his fate with stoic resignation and responded only with superpatriotism. This stereotype, like most, has some basis in reality. Many Japanese Americans, conforming to the JACL line, honestly felt that the only way they could ever win a place for themselves in America was by being better Americans than most. Whether or not this kind of passive submission is the proper way for free men to respond to injustice and racism is, of course, a matter of opinion. But it is important to note that not all "loyal" Japanese Americans submitted; the resistance of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee and of other individuals and groups in the other camps, has been almost totally ignored and in some instances deliberately suppressed by chroniclers of the Japanese Americans. The JACL-WRA view has dominated the writing of the evacuation's postwar history, thereby nicely illustrating E. H. Carr's dictum that history is written by the winners. The authors of these works have in some cases been ignorant of the nature and scope of the "left opposition"; others, more knowledgeable, have either consciously underplayed it or suppressed it completely, hoping thereby, in their view at least, to manage and improve the image of an oppressed people. There are those, however, who will find more heroism in resistance than in patient resignation.260
The first editorial discussion of the Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee in the Pacific Citizen was in Saburo Kido's column "Timely Topics" in the Saturday, March 25, 1944 issue, p. 6. The title was "HEART MOUNTAIN FAIR PLAY GROUP," and it read:
Any person who incites or encourages any citizen to evade the draft is assuming a grave responsibility. It is needless to say the offense constitutes sedition. One must remember that one of the most serious offenses a person can commit is to become a "draft dodger." A nation will not easily forgive or quickly forget anyone who refuses to serve when his country calls in a national emergency. It will be a tragic mistake to have young men who are 18 or thereabouts to become stigmatized as "draft dodgers" for the rest of their lives.261
Again in a subsequent column, Saburo Kido wrote
. . . no one will be sympathetic or condone 'draft dodging.' This is one of the worst crimes that any citizen can commit.
In the same issue, Bill Hosokawa in his "From the Frying Pan" column, subtitled "Periodic Patriots in Relocation Centers", stated:
At first glance it would seem that the committees that have sprung up in the various relocation centers are all motivated by a sincere desire to seek a showdown, once and for all, as to the legal status of the nisei. Undoubtedly many of the individuals behind these committees are sincere, and their loyalty is beyond question.
But there are others who can be identified only periodical patriots, individuals who protest their Americanism and demand their rights as citizens only when they are confronted with the task of fulfilling the responsibilities of that citizenship.262
Larry Tajiri wrote an editorial called "The Bitter Harvest":
This act of defiance by 41 young men is the result of a combination of circumstances, misguided leadership and information, and strong pressures and influences. Its effect may be that of negating the victory of loyal Japanese Americans in winning the reinstitution of selective service, and may retard the eventual full restoration to Japanese Americans of the privileges of freedom which are the birthright of every American. By their action these young men, and those who prompted their action, have injured the cause of loyal Japanese everywhere.263
Lauren Kessler, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Oregon recently published a study of camp newspapers. Kessler concluded that "the journalistic product that emerged reflected the fettered freedoms of internees, not the realities of internment."264 Kessler examined the Heart Mountain Sentinel and found it "the most professionally produced and edited paper."265 The Sentinel was edited by Bill Hosokawa.
The paper devoted considerable space to stories about Japanese American war heroes, the successes of relocated camp inmates and news of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) a national accommodationist organization in which Hosokawa was active.266
In assessing whether the Sentinel maintained editorial independence, Kessler wrote that Hosokawa was "echoing accommodationist ideology," and avoided controversial issues. "When the newspaper did recognize controversial issues, it invariably took the side of the administration."267
Nowhere was this more the case than when the issue of draft resistance arose.
But perhaps the best examples of where the Sentinel's sympathies lay was its ongoing editorial rebuttal of Heart Mountain's draft resistance movement. The paper heralded the reclassification and drafting of Nisei as "a great news" early in 1944, mirroring the accommodationist line that being allowed to join the military was an unbeatable opportunity for Japanese Americans to prove their loyalty. . . . The Sentinel called the draft resister variously "stubborn and intensely bitter," "deluded youths," and "warp-minded members" who made "wild-eyed statements" and "lacked both physical and moral courage."268
One editorial in particular captured the type of feelings brought out by the draft and opposition to it by the Fair Play Committee at Heart Mountain. It was published on March 18, 1944, and was titled "Provocateurs." The most strongly worded portions are reproduced below.
Since the announcement of reinstitution of selective service for nisei, Heart Mountain, as has other centers, been infected by a new type of provocateur, who lacking both moral and physical courage is doing his utmost to discredit honest and straight-forward persons of Japanese ancestry. These Janus-faced individuals are using the same tactics that have been employed on other occasions. While their bulletins profess loyalty and plead good citizenship, they proceed rat-like with stealthy approach to intimidate and even threaten with bodily harm those who oppose them.269
This particular editorial also used such language as slow-witted, warped-minded, wild-eyed, foolhardy, whimpering weaklings, carpings of a small, vicious group to describe the draft resisters and Fair Play Committee members at Heart Mountain. 270
The July 1, 1944 editorial, which was written in response to the trial of 63 Heart Mountain Resisters, read as follows:
Loyal Japanese Americans as a whole condemn the Fair Play Committee and the action of the 63 defendants as being as serious an attack on the integrity of all nisei as the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.271
. . . in avoiding certain issues and toeing the accommodationist line on others, the Sentinel published material that must have been pleasing to camp officials. For this reason, Hosokawa and Haruo Imura, who took over the editorship in 1944, undoubtedly experienced the freedom to publish what they wished.272
Indeed, Kessler is not the only author who characterized the editorials of the Heart Mountain Sentinel as "accommodationist." Roger Daniels also wrote that
the Sentinel, now under the editorship of Haruo Imura, . . . (was) still following the JACL line . . .273
According to WRA statistics, as of September 2, 1944, the number of young men from the camps who refused to report for induction were 91. There were 55 from Colorado River or Poston, and 33 from Minidoka. The total number of those who refused to report for physical examination was 164. Broken down by camp, the numbers follow:
Central Utah (Topaz) 4
A later table, in Weekly Report 41, for June 9, 1945 had a total of 157 who refused induction, 177 who refused to report for physicals. Out of 310 who were then arrested, 144 had been convicted, 97 in the process of being tried, 28 release, and 27 awaiting trial. 274
The JACL was apparently concerned enough about the resistance at other camps to send Min Yasui to report on a meeting held at Granada-Amache on April 6, 1944. Yasui prepared a five-page report on a discussion which took place between Hugh McBeth, a black civil rights attorney from Los Angeles and the family members of the young men who were incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution at Engelwood, Colorado for violation of Selective Service regulations. On the document was handwriting which read "Saburo Kido," "Strictly Personal," and "Min Yasui requests that this be kept under wraps, Joe." 275 The content of the report is irrelevant to this study, since it is mostly a tirade on the question of race as it relates to the war and the United States.
A JACL inter-office correspondence dated June 29, 1944, reporting on activities between May 17, 1944 and June 24, 1944, began with the heading, "Amache Draft Situation Reported Getting Worse." The report also had news on the attorney for the "Amache Draft Delinquents." Based upon the discussion in the document, it seems there were some 14 "draft delinquents" who were going to trial. They had dismissed their individual attorneys and obtained the services of Samuel D. Menin, the same attorney who represented the Heart Mountain Resisters. No indication of policy was set forth, other than a concern that the previously appointed attorneys might serve the men better than Menin. 276
Two documents which do offer the position of the JACL are a March 20th, 1944 letter to Frank Yamasaki and a March 30th, 1944 letter to Chaplain Yamada, both written by Saburo Kido, with copies sent to Dillon S. Myer. The relevant excerpts are set forth below.
Although we are in fully [sic] accord with all the principles set forth by your committee, we firmly believe that the Nisei must prove their loyalty by service first. We must be realistic in meeting this crucial test. If the Nisei produce a mass of "draft dodgers", and that will be the brand which will be attached to anyone who refuses to comply with the law, regardless of the reasons advanced, the fight for the restoration of any rights suspended will be that much [more] difficult. Even the action of two at the Minidoka Relocation Center and the five at the Granada Relocation Center have had unfavorable repercussions. A draft dodger will not be easily forgiven or quickly forgotten by the nation. . . . Every "draft dodger" is going to betray these staunch, loyal friends who have suffered humiliation, insults and threats besides los(s)es in business in some instances. In one sense, the Nisei have come to pity and feel sorry for their plight to such a degree that their thinking is becoming self-centered.277
The excerpt from the letter to Chaplain Yamada:
When the 442nd Combat Team was organized, the JACL supported it. . . The JACL was blamed as the "busybody" instrumental in having such a thing brought about when the draft was reinstituted for the Nisei. We do not claim credit for this restoration of the Nisei to serve their country. . . We have fought any agitation which would influence the Nisei to violate the draft laws.278
A letter of acknowledgment by Dillon Myer to Saburo Kido dated April 19, 1944 states
it seems to me that the position of the JACL is clearly set forth in these two letters.279
The earliest statement of JACL policy on the issue of segregation is the June 6, 1942 memorandum on War Relocation Authority letterhead, signed by Masaoka, Matsumoto, and Inagaki, discussed in the section of this study dealing with the WRA. The relevant portion reads, "Incidentally, we are in unanimous agreement as to the principle of segregation."280 This is corroborated by the diary entry of Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy, for Thursday, June 11, at 11:06.
Mr. Matsuoka [sic], Mr. Inigaki [sic] -- conference Mr. Eisenhower present, they wanted segregation system set up in camps. We are disinclined to do it. Very agreeable interview.281
The next discussion appears in an exchange of correspondence between Dillon Myer of the WRA and Mike Masaoka. In a confidential letter, dated December 24, 1942, Myer replies to Masaoka, by air mail, to a
wire of yesterday concerning the removal of disloyal evacuees. As you must know the problem of segregation is probably the most complex of many complex problems developing out of the evacuation.282
Apparently, Masaoka considered the issue urgent enough to send a telegram to Myer. In his letter, Myer proceeds to outline the difficulties and dangers of formulating a segregation program. He closes by asking Masaoka to submit a statement to Myer's committee on the subject. 283
Masaoka responds in a letter dated January 14, 1943, via air mail, special delivery, out of Salt Lake City Headquarters. The cover letter indicates that the "enclosed report is one which combines our thinking as well as our recommendations."284 The statement is a "collaboration of certain of our key people in the centers."285 Titled, "Confidential Statement," the five-page document discusses the problem of "segregating 'loyal to America' Japanese from those who are 'loyal to Japan.'" After outlining the difficulties in segregation and indicating that the bulk of both Issei and Nisei are at least passively loyal to the U.S., Masaoka emphasizes:
Notwithstanding these difficulties, it seems imperative to us that immediate action should be taken in every center to "pull out" those who are constantly agitating against the this government or its representatives, or fomenting dissension and violence. The people in the center must be convinced beyond all doubt that the government means to protect the loyal and to enforce law and order at all times and for all persons.286
The reference in a later paragraph to the "agitation in Manzanar and Poston" leads to the conclusion that Masaoka's original telegram was in response to the uprisings there during November and December of 1942, as well as to the threats against JACL leaders there.
This is the approach offered by Masaoka.
Immediate action should be taken whereby, without warning or hearing, known agitators and troublemakers are moved out of the relocation centers and placed in special camps of their own. . . . We believe that, should they be forewarned of their approaching segregation, they would either create a militant sentiment against their removal or organize to resist it. Too, if hearings are provided, they might raise the cry that they were unjustly accused and tried, that they were "framed," etc. In order to avoid such arrangements and charges, we suggest that the WRA, upon completion of their investigation, should segregate, summarily all those whom they feel are dangerous to internal security.287
Masaoka lists those who are troublemakers: single men without vested interests in the U.S., those released from Justice camps, professional gamblers, pro-Japan Kibei, bachelors who lost everything in evacuation, members of the Toyo Club and Black Dragon Society. 288
A further concern is that "practically every person who has been 'beaten up' in the centers is a member of our Japanese American Citizens League."289
What role did the JACL envision for itself in the segregation process?
Most of our chapter leaders have signified their willingness to name those whom they consider inimical to center welfare, if their own names are not revealed. The names which they might submit could be checked with others who are reliable and are not members of the JACL in order to insure against possible prejudices simply because of organizational differences.290
Masaoka proposed a four-step process.
1) the immediate apprehension and removal
of known troublemakers,
Thus, JACL had been an early and consistent advocate for segregation, though it was not until disturbances at Poston and Manzanar, as well as the beatings of JACL leaders, that specific measures were offered to the WRA. In the months after this confidential statement was submitted to Myer, we are told how the registration process also impacted upon the question of segregation.
After the registration of February 1943, increasing pressure was brought to bear on the administration of the WRA by the Army, the Japanese American Citizens League, and all project directors to segregate those who had refused to answer the questionnaire or who had answered the "loyalty" questions in the negative.292
Masaoka's "Final Report" also addressed this issue in the following manner.
The National President [Saburo Kido], in fact, welcomed the attack upon his person as the beginning of a campaign to cleanse and purge the relocation centers of undesirables and trouble makers. JACL demanded a segregation program whereby those professing disloyalty, causing continual trouble, or expounding un-American doctrines be taken out of the relocation centers and placed in a special camp reserved for their kind.293
We assume that answering NO to question 27 and 28 of the Application for Leave Clearance was a profession of disloyalty according to Masaoka.
PART II: INTERNMENT PERIOD (1942-1945)
IIE. Position and Action on Resisters and the WRA Segregation Program
Letter, Saburo Kido to (?), 4/3/44, JACL Archives.
Updated: June 24, 2000