U.S. Department of the Interior
WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY
Washington, D. C.
(The following letter was written by Mr. Dillon S. Myer, Director of the WRA, in answer to a letter from the Acting Chairman of the All Center Conference in regard to WRA's comments on the recommendations made by the All Center Conference on the resettlement program.)
July 14, 1945
Mr. S. Hideshima
All Center Conference
Central Utah Relocation Center
Dear Mr. Hideshima:
I am sorry to see, from your letter of June 18, that you believe that WRA is not giving the evacuee resettlers as much help as it could.
It is my belief, on the contrary, that we are doing everything we possibly can to help the evacuees get back to a normal, self-sustaining and independent status. Moreover, considerable progress has already been made toward this goal. About 48,000 evacuees have already left the centers to resettle in normal communities. During the four months since the Salt Lake City Conference, well over 7,000 persons resettled from the centers.
It is true, of course, that there are still many problems which have to be met by each relocating family and individual. Unfortunately, there is no way in which this agency or any other can simply wipe out the results of the evacuation as though it had never taken place. All we can do is to help the evacuees in bridging the gap between life in the relocation centers and normal life in outside communities. And there are definite limitations, because of our limited personnel and limited funds, on the amount of assistance we can make available. However, we have so far found a solution for every family relocation problem that has arisen, and we do not believe that any of these problems are unsolvable.
We are carrying on a planned program of resettlement which takes into consideration the many problems facing each evacuee resettler. Where the original evacuation took place suddenly, on a mass basis, without time or opportunity for individual preparation or individual choice, the present program of resettlement is one of individual readjustment on the basis of individual choice. The evacuees have been free to decide when to leave, where to resettle, and how to travel. We do not direct the evacuee's choice of occupation. We merely try to give the resettler every assistance within our power to enable him to make an intelligent choice on the basis of adequate knowledge and to carry out the plan of resettlement he has chosen.
The financial help available to evacuee resettlers is one example of this kind of assistance. It is not an indemnification for losses suffered during the evacuation; the whole question of indemnities is an entirely separate one which will have to be decided ultimately by the Congress. The relocation grants are not meant to offer long-term support, and even if the grants were doubled, many of the evacuees would still have to regain their pre-war status the slow way, by getting out of the center and getting to work at a paying job. Especially now when jobs are so plentiful, I am convinced that the assistance which is now available is sufficient to help the evacuees in doing just that.
Similarly, a great deal of progress has been made in solving the problem of finding housing. We are arranging for a WRA staff member in each large District office to devote full time to working with local housing agencies, exploring sources of additional housing, and advising local cooperating committees as to the help which they can provide. Hostels have been established in Los Angeles, Pasadena, Sacramento, San Jose, Oakland, Fresno, San Francisco, and San Mateo, and in thirteen cities in the East and Midwest. In Portland as in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and several other cities, arrangements have been made to open public housing projects to evacuees. A recent amendment to the Lanham Act making families of servicemen eligible for public housing in FPHA projects (except those limited to workers in specific industries) will make many evacuee families eligible for public housing. There is a very rapid turn-over in housing in most cities, and I am confident that with the many procedures which we have developed for finding housing, any evacuee family which can find a temporary place to stay -- in a hostel or elsewhere -- and will devote time to looking, can find a permanent place in course of time.
I am distinctly surprised and disappointed in the statement in your letter that the closing of the schools in the relocation centers "seems like an underhanded method employed to oust people from their respective centers." I can place no other construction upon this statement than that it is a charge of bad faith on the part of WRA. If this is true, I am convinced that the great majority of center residents do not share this view. Regardless of individual differences of opinion which many center residents may have with WRA, I feel sure that nearly all of them have always given us credit for being straightforward and for making an honest effort to help them in the solution of their problems. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that a charge of bad faith has been made against us by center residents. I earnestly hope that it will be the last.
Actually, there is no hidden or mysterious motive at all behind the closing of center schools. It is, on the contrary, a natural and inevitable result of the program of center liquidation. Since all the centers will be closed by December, it would be obviously impossible for WRA or anyone else to provide an adequate educational program for the few children still remaining in relocation centers next fall. Consequently, it must be made clear that there will be no schools. The sooner families can get their children out of the centers where they have already spent too many of their formative years, and into normal schools and communities where they can grow up like other Americans, the better it will be both for them and for the evacuee group as a whole.
I think it is worthy of notice that in the two months since Secretary Ickes' press statement condemning incidents of terrorism against evacuees on the West Coast, there has been only one "incident" against a returning evacuee. There has at this writing been none of any importance since May 24th. I consider this evidence of the fact that the race-baiters and terrorists are actually only a small minority of the people on the West Coast, who, as a result of the publicity given to their actions, and the resulting protests against this type of activity from newspapers and individuals all over the country, combined with the actions of police authorities, are coming to realize that their fight to scare the evacuees away from their West Coast homes is both a losing and an unpopular one.
Thousands of evacuees have returned, and there have been some thirty "incidents." They have been played up in the papers because they were dramatic. We have helped to publicize them because we believe that that is one of the best ways of preventing further incidents. I am entirely convinced that as the evacuees come back and settle down, and it becomes more and more evident that the small exclusionist groups have not succeeded in their campaigns to keep the Japanese Americans permanently evacuated, the agitation and terrorism which is now distinctly on the wane will cease entirely.
I want to repeat that the people of Japanese ancestry have more active friends than they ever had before. Americans all over the United States are aware of the outstanding achievements of American soldiers of Japanese descent in Europe and in the Pacific. Groups and individuals all over the country are doing what they can to help the evacuees find homes and jobs. I sincerely hope that the people still in the centers will do nothing to turn these friends away.
However, evacuee resettlers will still find that there is prejudice on the part of some people, a minority of Americans, against people of Japanese descent. This is not new. There was prejudice before the evacuation. And before the evacuation, the Japanese Americans seemed to have learned pretty well to take occasional prejudice in their stride. They will certainly never get rid of prejudice now by sitting in the centers and asking the government to support them indefinitely. Such a move would only intensify prejudice.
There can be no change in policy regarding center closing. They will be closed in accordance with plans announced more than six months ago. Anyone among the evacuee leaders who tries to convince center residents to the contrary is doing a distinct disservice to the residents.
We are doing and will continue to do everything we can to help the evacuees move forward to a future where they can be independent and respected. I believe that we have already made substantial progress toward that goal and that as more evacuees come forward for relocation assistance, they will find that their individual problems can and will be solved.
Since I note that your letter to me has been mimeographed for distribution, I am also having mimeographed copies made of this letter for distribution at relocation centers.
/S/ D. S. Myer
-- Table of Contents --