MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY
March 6, 1944
Subject: Considerations relating to the reopening of the evacuated areas of the West Coast to loyal and law-abiding citizens.
Dear Mr. Ickes:
The government's policy relating to the return of evacuees to California and the evacuated portions of Washington, Oregon, and Arizona is controlled by the War Department. The ultimate and satisfactory completion of the relocation job depends, in my judgment, upon reopening the evacuated zone at the earliest possible moment to the evacuees who remain in the nine relocation centers. Consequently, I recommend that negotiations be resumed with Secretary of War Stimson at an early date regarding revision of the present policy, so as to allow an orderly movement of eligible evacuees into the evacuated areas.
During the past year this matter has been discussed from time to time. Specific negotiations were carried on in writing at two different periods. Since this earlier correspondence provides background information essential for understanding the problem as it exists today I am attaching copies of it. On March 11, 1943, I wrote a confidential letter to Secretary Stimson summarizing the history and progress of the relocation program during its first year and outlining the problems then existent. I suggested three possible approaches to the problem, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of each, and recommending that definite steps be instituted to remove restrictions from loyal American citizens and law-abiding aliens. Other recommendations included reestablishing Selective Service for Japanese-Americans at the earliest possible date and allowing certain groups to return to the evacuated area after reasonable precautions were taken to sort out those likely to be disloyal. On March 18, 1943, I wrote to Assistant Secretary of War McCloy attaching a copy of my letter to Secretary Stimson. In this letter to Mr. McCloy I discussed the objectives of the segregation policy and indicated that the major objectives should be removal of restrictions from loyal citizens and law-abiding aliens and at the same time provision for the national security by arranging for proper disposition of those who were definitely pro-Japanese.
On May 10, 1943, Secretary Stimson replied to my letter of March 11, urging that a segregation program be instituted immediately and agreeing that if this were done perhaps some action might be taken before the end of the war in regard to my other recommendations. On June 8, 1943, I replied by reviewing the different recommendations made by Secretary Stimson in relation to the segregation program, outlined some of the problems resolved, and indicated that we were proceeding with such a program.
Early in October, 1943, I took up the matter further with Mr. McCloy, first in conversation and later in a letter on October 16. I outlined my belief that there was a need for joint planning and suggested that representatives of the War Department be designated to work with representatives of the War Relocation Authority to think through all the problems involved in removing or relaxing the exclusion orders, outline procedures, and define the responsibilities to be accepted by the War Department and by WRA, if and when the military situation should develop to the stage where the return of evacuees to the evacuated area seemed feasible.
Mr. McCloy sent a copy of my letter to General Emmons for comment. On November 19, 1943, Captain John Hall, of Mr. McCloy's office, sent me some excerpts from General Emmons' reply of November 10. General Emmons pointed out certain problems, indicated that the Army should not assume any responsibility for the public relations problem involved in the return of Japanese-Americans to the evacuated area, and suggested that the problem was purely civilian. He also indicated that WRA had requested the assignment of certain Army personnel to the Authority to work on the problem. On January 17, 1944, I again wrote Mr. McCloy, pointing out that there was a misunderstanding on the part of General Emmons, and again indicated that I felt that joint planning was essential but that we were not asking for a detail of Army personnel to WRA. I suggested joint effort in the planning as well as in the execution of suggested plans. I have had no further reply from Mr. McCloy.
Since my letter to Secretary Stimson was written on March 11, 1943, certain important steps have been taken. The combat team of Japanese-American volunteers at Camp Shelby has been organized and has practically completed its training. On January 21, 1944, the War Department announced that Selective Service procedures would again be applied to citizens of Japanese ancestry who were considered eligible by the War Department. In the meantime the major part of the segregation program has been completed. Approximately 17,000 people are now living at the Tule Lake segregation center. During the next 60 to 90 days all leave clearance hearings should be completed. The evacuation proclamation has been changed to allow Japanese-American soldiers in uniform to return to the West Coast on furlough. Certain individual cases have been considered and wives of Caucasians, in particular, have been allowed to return to the Coast.
As I look ahead there seem to be now to be, as there were a year ago, three practicable plans of action available. In my letter of March 11, 1943, I discussed these as plans A, B, and C. Plan A would continue the program as it now stands with no revision in policy regarding return to the West Coast. Plan B would open the West Coast for the return of all evacuees who have not been denied leave clearance by the War Relocation Authority. Plan C would provide for the return of certain special groups of evacuees including (1) soldiers of the first World War who became American citizens by a special act of Congress because of their service in the Army, (2) wives and children and perhaps other family members of Japanese-American soldiers now in the armed forces, (3) evacuees who have been passed upon by the War Department as eligible for war plant work, and (4) perhaps other selected categories. A year ago I recommended that plan C be adopted with the suggestion that we move toward plan B as fast as the military situation would allow. I now feel that enough progress has been made in the segregation program and that the military situation has so changed that plan B should be adopted without delay.
Adoption of plan B would require development of a careful, detailed program for return to the Coast of all eligible evacuees who wished to return. If the plan were adopted I would then recommend that within a reasonable time after the excluded area was opened the residents of Tule Lake should be transferred to the custody of the Department of Justice. The War Relocation Authority could then devote full time to liquidation of the relocation centers. This would involved assisting all eligible evacuees either to return to the Coast or to relocate elsewhere. With the exclusion orders revoked the government would be justified in doing what it cannot now do, force all eligible evacuees to relocate. If plan B could be made effective by July 1, 1944, WRA can be liquidated by July 1, 1945.
I should like to discuss this matter with you in more detail since there are many questions not covered in this memorandum and the accompanying file. Naturally, this is a subject that must be thoroughly thought through before it is given any public notice. It is the type of program to which the antagonists of WRA would seriously object. That is one of the good reasons I think it should be considered seriously.
D. S. Myer
MEMORANDUM FOR THE SECRETARY
March 9, 1944
Dear Mr. Ickes:
Government policy requiring the continued exclusion of persons of Japanese ancestry from the evacuated areas of the Pacific Coast is controlled by the War Department. The policy should be revised. An announcement should be made by the War Department not later than July 1, 1944, that the evacuated areas have been opened to all evacuees who have not been denied leave clearance by the War Relocation Authority. Development of careful plans to meet the problems involved in such a change of policy and to provide for the orderly movement of eligible evacuees who wish to return to the exclusion zone should be initiated immediately. To assure that adequate attention is given to all phases of this problem these plans should be made jointly by the Department of the Interior, the War Department, and the Department of Justice. Areas of responsibility to be assumed by each agency should be clearly outlined.
If this program is carried out the War Relocation Authority should devote its energies during the fiscal year 1945 to the task of liquidating relocation centers. This would mean that the relocation program during the year would be greatly expanded and accelerated throughout the country.
Important reasons why these recommendations should be put into effect are:
1. Since the danger of West Coast invasion has decreased to the vanishing point, continued exclusion can no longer be justified on grounds of military necessity.
5. Opening the evacuated zone will help to encourage relocation not only in the West Coast area but throughout the country generally. The reasons are largely psychological. Once the discrimination involved in exclusion is removed, many evacuees will feel more confident to leave the centers and resume private life in normal communities.Sincerely,
(signed D. S. Myer)
APR 29 1944
MEMORANDUM to the Secretary
This is in response to your memorandum of April 20, requesting a summary of the highlights of the final report by General John L. DeWitt, covering the evacuation of persons of Japanese descent from the West Coast.
The report is published in book form, occupying more than 600 pages of text, photographic illustrations, maps, graphs, and charts. It covers considerable detail virtually every step of the decisions leading to evacuation, organization for carrying out the evacuation program, and operation of temporary assembly centers which housed the evacuated people until they could be established in relocation centers under jurisdiction of the War Relocation Authority.
Particularly pertinent to consideration of the memoranda from the Federal Communications Commission is the review of reasons for the evacuation. The report recounts the apprehension of some 2,000 enemy aliens within the Western Defense Command immediately after Pearl Harbor; later, the proclamations designating certain items in the hands of enemy aliens as contraband; and the establishment of prohibited zones around vital installations, from which enemy aliens were barred.
The report reviews discussions and exchanges of memoranda between the War Department and the Department of Justice relating to establishment of prohibited zones, right of search and seizure, and wholesale evacuation. In brief, the Department of Justice is said to have refused to raid without warrants property occupied by citizens, even if aliens also resided there; this was regarded by the Army as hampering the necessary security measures. On the matter of wholesale evacuation, which would include American citizens of Japanese ancestry as well as aliens, the Attorney General pointed out in a memorandum that "this would have to be done as a military necessity in these particular areas. Such activities, therefore, should in my opinion be taken by the War Department and not by the Department of Justice."
The Commanding General Western Defense Command finally determined that mass evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry was necessary to the military security of the West Coast.
His conclusion was in part based upon the interception of unauthorized radio communications which had been identified as emanating from certain areas along the coast. Of further concern to him was the fact that for a period of several weeks following December 7th, substantially every ship leaving a West Coast port was attacked by an enemy submarine. This seemed conclusively to point to the existence of hostile shore-to-ship (submarine) communication. (Page 4.)
The Pacific Coast had become exposed to attack by enemy successes in the Pacific. The situation in the Pacific theatre had gravely deteriorated. There were hundreds of reports nightly of signal lights visible from the coast, and of intercepts of unidentified radio transmissions. Signaling was often observed at premises which could not be entered without a warrant because of mixed occupancy. The problem required immediate solution. It called for the application of measures not then in being. (Page 8.)
(Footnote) "It is interesting to note that following the evacuation, interception of suspicious or unidentified radio signals and shore-to-ship signal lights were virtually eliminated and attacks on outbound shipping from west coast ports appreciably reduced." (End of footnote. Page 8.)
Further the situation was fraught with danger to the Japanese population itself. The combination of spot raids revealing hidden caches of contraband, the attacks on coastwise shipping, the interception of illicit radio transmissions, the nightly observations of visual signal lamps from constantly changing locations and the success of the enemy offensive in the Pacific, had so aroused the public along the West Coast against the Japanese that it was ready to take matters into its own hands. Press and periodical reports of the public attitudes along the West Coast from December 7, 1941, to the initiation of controlled evacuation clearly reflected the intensity of feeling. Numerous incidents of violence involving Japanese and others occurred; many more were reported but were subsequently either unverified or were found to be cumulative. (Pages 8-9.)
It had become essential to provide means which would remove the potential menace to which the presence of this group under all the circumstances subjected the West Coast. It is pertinent now to examine the situation with which the military authorities were then confronted. (Page 9.)
Because of the ties of race, the intense feeling of filial piety and the strong bonds of common tradition, culture and customs, this population presented a tightly-knit racial group. It included in excess of 118,000 persons deployed along the Pacific Coast. Whether by design or by accident, virtually always their communities were adjacent to very vital shore installations, war plants, etc. While it was believed that some were loyal, it was known that many were not. To complicate the situation, no ready means existed for determining the loyal and disloyal with any degree of safety. It was necessary to face the realities -- a positive determination could not have been made.
It could not be established, of course, that the location of thousands of Japanese adjacent to strategic points verified the existence of some vast conspiracy to which all of them were parties. Some of them doubtless resided there through mere coincidence. It seemed equally beyond doubt, however, that the presence of others was not mere coincidence. It was difficult to explain the situation in Santa Barbara County, for example, by coincidence alone.
Throughout the Santa Maria Valley in that County, including the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe, every utility, air field, bridge, telephone and power line or other facility of importance was flanked by Japanese. They even surrounded the oil fields in this area. Only a few miles south, however, in the Santa Ynez Valley, lay an area equally as productive agriculturally as the Santa Maria Valley and with lands equally available for purchase and lease, but without any strategic installations whatever. There were no Japanese in the Santa Ynez Valley.
Similarly, along the coastal plain of Santa Barbara County from Gaviota south, the entire plain, though narrow, had been subject to intensive cultivation. Yet, the only Japanese in this area were located immediately adjacent to such widely separated points as the El Capitan Oil Field, Elwood Oil Field, Summerland Oil Field, Santa Barbara airport and Santa Barbara lighthouse and harbor entrance. There were no Japanese on the equally attractive lands between these points. In the north end of the county is a stretch of open beach ideally suited for landing purposes, extending for 18 or 20 miles, on which almost the only inhabitants were Japanese.
Such a distribution of the Japanese population appeared to manifest something more than coincidence. In any case, it was certainly evident that the Japanese population of the Pacific Coast was, as a whole, ideally situated with reference to points of strategic importance, to carry into execution a tremendous program of sabotage on a mass scale should any considerable number of them have been inclined to do so.
There were other very disturbing indications that the Commanding General could not ignore. He was forced to consider the character of the Japanese colony along the coast. While this is neither the place nor the time to record in detail significant pro-Japanese activities in the United States, it is pertinent to note some of these in passing. Research has established that there were over 124 separate Japanese organizations along the Pacific Coast engaged, in varying degrees, in common pro-Japanese purposes. This number does not include local branches of parent organizations, of which there were more than 310.
Research and co-ordination of information had made possible the identification of more than 100 parent fascistic or militaristic organizations in Japan which have had some relation, either direct or indirect, with Japanese organizations or individuals in the United States. Many of the former were parent organizations of subsidiary or branch organizations in the United States and in that capacity directed organizational and functional activities. There was definite information that the great majority of activities followed a line of control from the Japanese government, through key individuals and associations to the Japanese residents of the United States. (Pages 9-10.)
It is apparent from the memoranda from the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission that he is convinced that there was no illicit transmission of radio signals on the West Coast, and that the evidence concerning such radio signals, which contributed to the decision to evacuate, was spurious.
It is true that in numerous areas of southern California there were Japanese living near points vital to the American war effort. But with few exceptions the Japanese were settled there long before the installations were made which now are so vital. It is only natural that, once the decision to evacuate was made, all possible evidence would be mustered to justify the act. Coincidental situations are in some instances now being highlighted to strengthen such justification.
I should like to point out another element not touched upon in the report which may have contributed to the decision to evacuate all persons of Japanese descent. The Intelligence branch of the Western Defense Command had not been particularly active in conducting investigations of the activities of Japanese in the West Coast area. More information was available in the Office of Naval Intelligence and in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Arrests of Japanese aliens immediately after Pearl Harbor were based largely on intelligence records of these two agencies, especially O.N.I. The Commanding General of the Western Defense Command has responsibility for defending the West Coast, but had not had direct supervision of intelligence work among West Coast Japanese. His confidence in the thoroughness of the clean-up operations immediately following the outbreak of war was something less than complete.
The memoranda from Mr. Fly to Attorney General Biddle, we understand, were prepared as a result of the efforts of the Department of Justice to prepare a defense of government action in connection with the Korematsu case scheduled to come before the Supreme Court in the near future, to test the legality of evacuation. I am glad to have had the opportunity to see the memoranda, which are returned herewith.
(signed D. S. Myer)
MAY 10 1944
MEMORANDUM to the Secretary
SUBJECT: Revocation of military orders excluding Japanese Americans from Pacific Coast areas
This memorandum contains recommendations of the War Relocation Authority as to the steps which should be taken in announcing and effectuating the revocation of the Pacific Coast military orders affecting Japanese Americans.
1. On May 20, 1944, we propose that the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command issue an order having the effect of revoking previous orders excluding persons of Japanese descent, such revocation to be effective as to all persons of Japanese descent who have not been denied leave clearance by the War Relocation Authority. The revocation should have the effect of opening all of the present exclusion areas in the States of Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona and Alaska, except possibly limited strategic industrial and military installations around which public movement is already restricted.
2. On the date of the revocation order is effective, we suggest that the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command hold a meeting of the leading publishers, business, labor and agricultural leaders, college presidents, and key political figures in the affected states, for the purpose of announcing the change in policy and calling upon such leaders for assistance and support.
3. Simultaneously, we propose that the Secretary of War call a meeting of the Pacific Coast congressional delegation in Washington for the purpose of making a similar announcement.
4. On Monday, May 22, we propose that the Attorney General issue a statement setting forth the legal effect of revocation of the exclusion orders, describing that portion of the Japanese American population which would then be free to enter the coastal area, and calling attention to these classes of persons of Japanese descent who will remain in custody either at Tule Lake Center or in internment camps. If reaction to the announcements made on May 20 appears to require it, the Attorney General should also make appropriate reference in his statement to the importance of protecting civil rights and to the attitude of the Federal government toward protection of such rights.
5. Also on Monday, May 22, we propose that the Secretary of the Interior issue a statement outlining the effect of revocation on the program of the War Relocation Authority, calling attention to the fact that, as a result, the Authority is to be liquidated during fiscal year 1945, that the Tule Lake Center is to be transferred to the Department of Justice on July 1, 1944, and that emphasis throughout the remainder of the work of the War Relocation Authority will be upon relocation of all loyal evacuees, either by return to their homes in the coastal area, or by resettlement elsewhere.
6. Immediately following revocation of the exclusion orders, we suggest that the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command formally notify the Governors of the four affected states in writing and call upon them for cooperation.
Cooperation of the War Department and the Federal Security Agency in the two extremely important respects mentioned below appears to be essential to the successful conduct of a relocation program by the War Relocation Authority after announcement of revocation of the exclusion orders and to an orderly liquidation of the Authority.
The War Department should take full public responsibility for protecting the right of loyal evacuees to return to the evacuated area if they wish to do so. We feel strongly that if the War Department will support the return of the evacuees by formal public announcement, by the assignment of a picked group of especially competent and well-informed officers to work in the coastal area with local committees interested in handling the return of the evacuees in an orderly and democratic manner and with the War Relocation Authority, and by seeing that all officers concerned with contacts with the civilian population are properly oriented toward the problem involved in the return of evacuees, revocation of the orders will have no serious adverse effect in the coastal area.
It is probable that a substantial number of evacuees, having been taken away from normal sources of livelihood, having been maintained for two years or more at a subsistence level, and being faced now with the necessity of making a fresh start on their own responsibilities, will be unable and unwilling, because of age, illness, family responsibility, etc., to leave the centers, even to return to their former places of residence, unless they are given reasonable assurance of public assistance through welfare channels if they need it. Some will have to leave the centers under a definite immediate public assistance arrangement. Public assistance in these cases should be provided through appropriate state agencies under the direction and with the assistance of the Federal Security Agency. Liquidation of the War Relocation Authority will be difficult at best, but it will be impossible without a public assistance program handled by the Federal Security Agency.
We are in process of preparing a comprehensive outline of the program proposed in this memorandum, together with drafts of all proposed announcements, orders, letters, etc. We are prepared to present a detailed plan not only for a revision of the War Relocation Authority program, but for the action to be taken by the cooperating agencies whose responsibilities have been touched upon in this outline, and by other agencies, such as the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, Farm Security Administration, and other organizations which should play a part in relocating and reestablishing the evacuee population.
(signed D. S. Myer)
WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY
JUN 2 1944
MEMORANDUM to the Under-Secretary
Attached is a memorandum from Leland Barrows which carries implications which are quite disturbing. The fact that the Japanese American Section of the Provost Marshal General's office is being moved for reasons that are not fully clear is alarming because of the possible effect of such a move on the job we have to do.
The Western Defense Command and the Provost Marshal General's office apparently intend to begin re-opening the evacuated area to small groups of evacuees, and apparently intend to determine who shall be permitted to go back, by setting up a brand-new system of passing on the loyalties of the evacuees.
The War Relocation Authority, on the basis of 1-1/2 years experience, has already completed the screening of the evacuees. We have already determined which evacuees should be detained, and have transferred most of them to the Tule Lake Segregation Center. All of the rest of the evacuees have been found to represent no danger to internal security. They should be free to relocate anywhere; and when it is determined that military conditions no longer require continued exclusion from the West Coast, all of them should be eligible to return to the Coast if they choose.
If the Provost Marshal General's office should set up this new screening system, word of it will inevitably get out. In fact, as soon as some newspapers begin to attack the Western Defense Command for permitting some evacuees to return, the WDC will certainly defend itself by pointing to its screening system and insisting that only those evacuees found by them to be "safe" are being permitted to return. Inevitably this will cast a cloud on all the thousands of evacuees whom WRA has found to be loyal and safe, but whom the Western Defense Command has either not yet cleared for return to the West Coast or has denied permission to return.
This could easily stop our relocation program in its tracks. If the Western Defense Command should regard as dangerous on the West Coast people whom we have declared eligible for relocation, why shouldn't all other communities regard them as equally dangerous. In addition, I am afraid most of the evacuees will decide to remain in the relocation centers until the Provost Marshal General's office determines whether or not they can return to the West Coast. Judging by our experiences the new clearance process of the Western Defense Command will take a year or two to complete. On top of all this, I should think it is inevitable that the evacuees in our relocation centers would suffer from new resentment and frustration at the idea of being checked and screened and cleared all over again when they know that is a process which WRA has been putting them through during the last two years.
I can see no excuse whatever for the Army, which has been participating closely in our leave clearance procedures, to set up a brand-new system of its own at this time for the purpose of "selective return" to the West Coast. Furthermore, if any such "exemptee" program is to be established it should be publicized -- otherwise we will take the criticism and in my judgment reap little or no benefit.
As you know, I am convinced that the urgent need at present is the lifting of the restrictions on the West Coast. This should permit the return of all evacuees whom WRA has cleared. I can see some point in setting up numerical quotas for return to the West Coast, in the immediate period while we are waiting for the lifting of the Exclusion Orders, but the numerical quotas should, at least, permit return in the order in which applications are received -- and certainly not on the basis of a brand-new system of loyalty clearance to be set up and administered by the Provost Marshal General's office.
I would suggest that you inquire of Mr. McCloy regarding the plans and reasons for them and request that we have an opportunity to present our point of view before moving ahead.
(signed D. S. Myer)
-- Table of Contents --