U. S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
WAR RELOCATION AUTHORITY
Washington, D. C.
A Message to American Soldiers of Japanese Ancestry:
A lot of things have happened, to the world in general, and to Americans of Japanese ancestry in particular, since last December, when the War Department revoked the mass exclusion orders and WRA almost simultaneously announced plans for a program to resettle all eligible evacuees from the centers by the end of 1945. I want you to know some of the things which have been happening as far as the resettlement program is concerned. This letter is a kind of report to you on what has been done and what is still left to do.
The war in Europe ended last May. Since that time, some of the Nisei soldiers have been discharged on points. However, most of the Nisei soldiers, like other American soldiers, still have a job to do. While you are doing that job -- the most important one in the world today -- I want you to know that we are going to see that your families in the centers get every kind of help they need so that they can resettle successfully, even without your help, and so that you can come back to find them out of the barracks and in the kinds of places which you can call home.
Some of the folks in the centers have been talking about a "second evacuation". Before I go on any further, I want to say that there will be no second evacuation. The centers will be closed. But the present movement of people out of the centers is not a mass movement without individual choice like the evacuation of 1942; it is [a] gradual program of individual resettlement, on the general basis of individual choice, in which attention is given to the special problems of each family or single resettler.
Because we want to go on doing that kind of job, we announced on July 12 a program of gradual liquidation of the centers, under which the projects will be closed on successive dates over a period of two months -- from October 15 to December 15 -- instead of closing them all at once at the end of December. This schedule is as follows:
Granada, on or before October 15;
Central Utah and Minidoka on or before November 1;
Heart Mountain and Gila River on or before November 15;
Colorado River and Manzanar on or before December 1;
Rohwer, on or before December 15.
It was previously announced that Camps II and III at Poston and the Canal Camp at Gila River would be closed on October 1.
By staggering the center closings in this way, we can keep the resettlement movement going in a steady stream, and avoid the bottlenecks in transportation, location of housing, individual counseling, and the other types of assistance available to evacuee resettlers. We will be better able to continue giving the kind of individual assistance which we have been giving.
As this report is written, nearly 50,000 evacuees have already left the relocation centers to resettle in normal communities all over the United States. More than 6,000 have returned to the West Coast directly from the centers. It hasn't been an entirely easy matter to help this many people find homes and jobs, and get readjusted to normal life. But so far we have been able to solve every resettlement problem which has been presented to us, and I feel sure that we will continue to do so.
For the most part, your families will be self-supporting once they get started at a paying job outside the center. We are giving them all possible help in getting started at such a job. In addition, evacuee families which find themselves without funds can apply right at the center for resettlement grants to cover such expenses as the cost of a minimum amount of new furniture, or a first installment of rent. This is in addition to the $25 per person given to all needy resettlers by WRA to tide them over until the first pay checks start coming in.
The welfare workers at the relocation centers are giving special assistance to evacuee families who need special help, or who for any reason are unable to make their own plans. Many of these people will be able to stay with friends or relatives after leaving the centers. Many of your families will find this a good temporary solution, until you get back from military service. We will be glad to help them make such arrangements.
Families which are unable to make their own arrangements, and which because of age, number of dependents, illness or for other reasons are incapable of self-support, are having their problems referred to the proper public or private welfare agencies in the community where they plan to relocate so that they can find out -- where necessary, before resettling -- what kind of help they can get after relocation.
So far, acceptance of such cases by the state and county welfare agencies has been very good. The state boards of Oregon, Washington and California have all agreed to give persons of Japanese ancestry the same assistance available to other residents of their states. In Oregon and Washington, the county welfare programs are under the supervision of the state board. In California, the individual county boards have almost unanimously been willing to accept as dependents evacuees who were former local residents.
Of course, the families of men in service are all eligible for Army dependency allotments. Because of this fact, and all the facilities which are available for assistance, you can feel entirely confident that your families will all have some means of support when the centers close.
Other Resettlement Problems
The field offices of WRA, both on the West Coast and in the rest of the United States, are able to help evacuee resettlers in a wide variety of problems, ranging from the location of employment to contacts with sympathetic groups and individuals and legal advice. Our field offices on the West Coast are also prepared to help returning evacuees in repossession of their property, in accordance with OPA rulings on the filing of eviction notices. These field offices will remain open to continue this kind of assistance until March 1.
One of the most serious problems in helping all eligible evacuees to resettle by the announced dates for center closing is the problem of finding housing for those who do not have their own homes to which to return. Housing is a pretty big problem for anyone who tries to move to a big city in the United States today, and the shortage is particularly acute in some of the big West Coast cities where many people of Japanese ancestry lived before evacuation. However, the evacuee resettlers are not having to solve this problem unaided, and with past experience as a measure of future possibilities, we are quite confident that all the resettlers can find decent places to live. These places may not be exactly what the evacuee families would pick out if they had complete freedom of choice. Many millions of displaced war workers are now living in homes which they would not have chosen if there had been other and better housing available. But they will at least be better than living in a center.
We are arranging to have a WRA staff member in each large field office devote full time to looking for additional sources of housing, working with local representatives of public housing agencies and with the many volunteer groups of interested private citizens which are helping to solve the problem of housing for evacuee resettlers. We have been working in close cooperation with the National Housing Agency and with the Real Estate Division of the U. S. Army Engineers Corps, which frequently has surplus housing facilities at its disposal. The evacuee resettlers who own their own homes on the West Coast are also able to help in solving this problem, by sharing their homes with other evacuees.
In a big city there is a constant turn-over of people moving in or out, so that a person on the spot and willing to spend time in looking can practically always find a suitable place in course of time. The many evacuee hostels which have been set up serve a useful purpose in this connection by giving evacuee families a place to stay temporarily while they look for more permanent quarters. In many cases, WRA has loaned surplus equipment to hostels, which are operated by private groups on a non-profit basis in seven cities on the West Coast and twelve in the East and Midwest. The fact that in Los Angeles, resettlers coming to one hostel had to stay only an average of six and a half days shows that housing can be found, even in a crowded city.
In Portland, as in a number of cities East of the Rockies, evacuees are being accepted in public housing projects. A recent amendment to the Lanham Act, making families of servicemen eligible for public housing in FPHA projects -- except for those specifically allocated to workers in certain industries -- on the same basis as war workers, will make many other resettlers eligible for public housing.
West Coast Sentiment
There was a time, a few months ago, when organized terrorism against evacuees returning to the West Coast stood out as a problem. I do not believe that it is a problem any longer. Incidents of terrorism against returnees have practically ceased since the end of May, when Secretary Ickes' statement of condemnation took effect, and we do not expect any serious trouble in the future. Just recently, a women who tried unsuccessfully to incite a group of Filipinos to burn the home of some evacuees who had returned to Walnut Grove, near Fresno, was immediately apprehended and given a 90-day jail sentence. Those incidents which did occur were publicized by WRA, and following Secretary Ickes' statement, received nation-wide condemnation from newspaper editors, radio commentators, organized groups, and individuals. These facts, as well as a recent trip which I took through the San Joaquin Valley, where most of the "incidents" took place, have convinced me that the pattern of terrorism and lawlessness has been broken.
There are still occasional boycotts against persons of Japanese ancestry. However, so far none of them seem to be more than temporary localized situations, and [n]one of them seem to be very effective. We are working in cooperation with the Anti-Trust Division of the Department of Justice and with the Department of Agriculture in breaking down those boycotts which do exist.
In general, it is my belief that none of these forms of organized opposition can stand up very long when more evacuees return to their homes. The experiences of the past three years have clearly demonstrated that although anti-Japanese sentiment is at first brought to the surface and even intensified when people of Japanese ancestry come to live in a community where prejudice exists, it is finally destroyed only by having the evacuees come in, settle down, and become part of the community. This very thing is now happening on the West Coast. I am entirely convinced that as more and more evacuees return to their farms and businesses, and again become part of their old communities, the exclusionist groups will see that they are fighting a losing and unpopular battle in their efforts to scare the evacuees away, and the organized opposition which is now so definitely on the wane will cease entirely.
In many respects, the people of Japanese ancestry in this country are now in a better position than they ever were before evacuation, for all over the United States, including the West Coast, have been organized groups of private individuals actively aiding their resettlement and supporting their rights as Americans. No small part of this trend is due to your own efforts. By making your outstanding record as fighters against fascism abroad, you, the American soldiers of Japanese descent, have done more than WRA or any other group could ever do to win for yourselves and your families an honored place in America. All over the United States, people have heard of your achievements -- in the newspapers, in magazines, on the radio, from their own sons overseas. By carrying on the fight overseas, you have, in some ways, done even more than you could do at home to help your families make the readjustment to normal life.
(signed D. S. Myer)
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