c. 1945

One of the most difficult problems which the War Relocation Authority faced was in its relations with other government agencies. Because of the nature of the job to be done by WRA and because of the tense emotional situation that existed particularly throughout 1942 and 1943 regarding people of Japanese ancestry, government administrators at all levels were generally cautious, to say the least, and in some cases actually antagonistic. In a few cases they were understanding and cooperative.

Both in the problems affecting the operation of the relocation centers and in the problems involved in the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry into normal communities, the government agencies -- Federal, State, and Local -- played a very important part. The War Department was concerned with policies affecting the movement of people and controlled the policy in the West Coast areas and certain other areas in the country. The Coast Guard and the Navy in their control of movements in shore areas and on ships also had regulatory authority that affected the program. All intelligence agencies of the National Government had some interest in the program. They were concerned with security information about the people involved and with the employment of people with special ability. Many agencies were concerned with employment, such as the United States Employment Service and the Civil Service Commission from the standpoint of rendering employment service, and others as potential employers themselves. Several agencies were involved in services which the WRA required; for example, the Quartermaster Corps of the United States Army which handled most of the purchases of food for the relocation centers. Numerous Federal, State, and Local agencies were responsible for law enforcement, issuing licenses, and similar services.

This report will attempt to set forth as briefly as possible some of the problems the War Relocation Authority faced in dealing with the many different government agencies. We have tried to group them under the general classifications indicated above.

Relationships on Questions of Broad Policy

The first general group to be discussed are those agencies concerned with general policies affecting the WRA and with regulations that had a bearing on the WRA program.

The War Department, under Executive Order 9066, had the authority and assumed the responsibility for the evacuation, establishing regulations relating to the evacuation and the movement of people in the Western Defense Command, as well as in other areas of the country. In line with this responsibility, this Department established rules and regulations that had a drastic effect upon the people under the general supervision of WRA; for example, no one could return to California or to certain areas of Washington, Oregon or Arizona without the specific permission of the Western Defense Command. This was true even in cases of emergency. In addition, the War Department was responsible for the guarding of the external boundaries of the relocation centers and thus was in position to control certain policies which drastically affected the program in the centers and particularly the relationship with the evacuees.

The Provost Marshal General's office was responsible for the safeguarding of war plants and military installations throughout the country. As a consequence, this branch of the War Department was in position to determine who should and who should not work in war plants and also to determine the definition of a "war plant" or "military installation".

Because the officers of the Western Defense Command were categorical in their handling of the evacuation and the rules relating to the evacuated zone, their action was generally arbitrary, particularly during the period of 1942 and 1943. In the guarding of the relocation centers, certain rules and regulations were established by General DeWitt which were opposed by the WRA; for example, the general order that all packages received through the mail or otherwise by evacuees in the California centers and in the evacuated zone in Arizona should be examined for contraband. In spite of our protest, this regulation was put into effect and maintained for many months before it was rescinded.

On matters affecting the engineering construction of the relocation centers, on matters relating to the physical plants which the Army provided, the War Department officials were generally cooperative. On matters relating to the movement of people of Japanese ancestry in and out of the evacuated zone, on matters affecting restraints of these people, they were generally arbitrary. Exceptions were made, but only on a minimum basis.

As we moved toward the time when the Exclusion Orders were to be lifted, most of our dealings were with Brigadier General William Wilbur, who was Assistant Chief of Staff, first to General Bonesteel, Commander of the Western Defense Command, and later to General H. C. Pratt. During this period, we argued strongly for a clean-out revocation order with no further responsibility to be maintained by the military, and to give the Justice Department responsibility for determining who should continue to be interned or excluded from the defense area. This was not agreeable to General Wilbur. Consequently, when the mass exclusion was revoked, the WDC continued to exclude thousands of individuals, thus affecting relocation drastically. Furthermore, on the basis of their records interpreted by WDC, and refusing to accept facts developed by WRA or by the Department of Justice, the WDC insisted on the detention of several hundred persons in relocated centers and at Tule Lake.

In a conference in Washington, in mid-November of 1944, the WRA insisted that such a program involving thousands of excludees would interfere drastically with the administration of the relocation centers and the completion of the relocation job, as planned. When the Attorney General questioned why this was true, it was explained that 8,000 or 10,000 excludees might tie up the relocation plans of as many as 20,000 to 30,000 persons or between one-third and one-fourth of the total population in the centers.

General Wilbur then stated definitely that there would not be more than 5,000 excludees including those recommended for internment. This statement was reiterated in Under Secretary Fortas' office on the following day. But in spite of this commitment, the first excludee list presented to WRA by the Army included nearly 10,000 persons. While this list was gradually reduced after further processing and hearings, it was a major deterrent in the final relocation plans of several thousand people between January 2, 1945, and September 4, 1945, at which time the War Department finally retired from the scene and left the processing of possible subversive evacuees to the Department of Justice.

During this period of several months, it was evident that most of the actions by the War Department and the Western Defense Command regarding the evacuees were guided by General Wilbur and these actions were arbitrary and categorical in the extreme.

The story regarding the effects of the Provost Marshal General's rules and regulations relating to employment of people of Japanese ancestry in war plants is well documented in a series of letters addressed to the Secretary of War over the signature of Secretary Ickes. Suffice it to say here that the execution of the regulations varied, depending upon the interpretation of the local area corps officers; and thus by a combination of reviews required by the Provost Marshal General's office and by the Western Defense Command, Nisei were practically prohibited from working in war plants throughout the first several months of the war.

In the early part of the program, both the Navy and War Department insisted that people of Japanese ancestry could not enter the many colleges throughout the country where research work was being conducted.

In the case of merchant seamen, the Navy objected for many months to seamen of Japanese ancestry sailing on vessels out of any port, even on the East Coast. After much negotiation, however, it was finally agreed between the Navy, War Department, and Coast Guard, that the Coast Guard would be responsible for the screening of seamen of Japanese ancestry who wished to be employed in the Merchant Marine. While the rules and regulations established by the Coast Guard were rigid, they were uniformly applied, and within a short time many of the Nisei who were trained seamen were able to render service in the Merchant Marine.

Within the Department of Justice, WRA dealt with several divisions: Enemy Alien Control Unit, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Criminal Division, and the Civil Rights Division. The Enemy Alien Control Unit, under the general supervision of Edward Ennis, was most cooperative and understanding at all times and more particularly in 1942 and 1943. However, early in 1944, we had many differences of opinion with Herbert Wechsler, the Assistant Attorney General in charge of the War Division, and these differences of opinion continued throughout the period of Mr. Wechsler's tenure, which ended in August or September of 1945. There was strong disagreement over the procedure for handling hearings relating to renunciation of citizenship, the categorical detention of all people who had requested renunciation, and the possible deportation of all such people. There was also a definite difference of opinion on the WRA's plan to close the centers within a year after the exclusion orders were lifted. Most of these arguments are well documented in a series of memoranda to the Secretary of the Interior, and from the Secretary of the Interior or the Under Secretary to the Attorney General.

Our relationships with the Immigration and Naturalization Service were excellent throughout the entire period of our program. Hugo Carusi was most cooperative, as was Willard Kelly, in charge of the custodial program within the Service, and with whom much of our liaison was carried on. We had very little difficulty in working out a sound solution of any problem affecting the two programs.

Our contacts with the other two divisions were limited. The Criminal Division was concerned with court cases affecting evacuees. Rather continuous contact with the Civil Rights Division was required during the last two years of the program in the many cases where we felt civil rights were being violated in the exclusion zone.

We had close relations with the State Department in regard to the maintenance of regulations at the centers which might affect our obligations under the Geneva Convention agreements governing prisoners of war or wartime internees. Generally speaking, the representatives of the State Department were most cooperative and understanding. No serious differences were encountered in working out our negotiations with them or with either the Spanish Embassy or the Swiss Legation representing the interests of Japanese nationals in the United States.

The Alien Property Custodian and the Foreign Funds Control Unit handled the blocked accounts of enemy nationals relating to property and funds. Consequently, we had frequent contacts with both agencies. The relationship was excellent throughout and we encountered no difficulty. We found both agencies cooperative once they understood the facts regarding the many problems involved in the WRA program.

We had a close working relationship with the War Refugee Board because of its concern with the European refugees who were under our custody in Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York. This relationship is well documented in the final reports of the Authority in regard to the Refugee program.

Relationships on Employment

The second most important group of agencies having effect upon the program of the Authority were those concerned with the recruitment of war service employees. In the spring of 1942, we worked out an eminently satisfactory program with the Civil Service Commission, which placed virtually no special restrictions on the employment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were relocated from the relocation centers. Immediately following the attack of the investigators of the Dies Committee in the latter part of May 1943, however, the Civil Service Commission, without consulting us, changed the rules and regulations in such a manner as to require special investigation of every person of Japanese ancestry in advance of actual employment by a government agency. This greatly handicapped our relocation program and discriminated against American citizens of Japanese ancestry.

In our efforts to cooperate with the United States Employment Service, we gained the general support of the officials of that agency in Washington regarding the employment of persons of Japanese ancestry in wartime production. In many of the communities throughout the country, the USES was most helpful. In other communities, its service was uncertain and in some areas it was completely ineffective. Because of the tremendous demand for agricultural workers, we worked very slowly with the Department of Agriculture and the State Extension Services in the placement of evacuees in seasonal employment on farms, particularly in the irrigated inter-mountain area. Generally speaking, however, we were able to maintain good relations with these agencies and thousands of evacuees were employed through their cooperation.

There was a wide variation in the attitudes of the different government agencies in respect to the employment of evacuees. Soon after Pearl Harbor, several intelligence agencies, including the Office of Strategic Services, the Federal Communications Commission, the Office of War Information, and Military Intelligence, began recruitment of persons of Japanese ancestry who had a good understanding of the Japanese language. The War Department recruited a large number of such persons, most of them Kibei, for intelligence work in the Pacific several months before they reopened the opportunity for Japanese-American boys to join the Army and long before they reinstituted Selective Service processes for persons of Japanese ancestry.

Four important federal departments were most adamant in their refusal to employ people of Japanese ancestry: the War Manpower Commission, the Department of Agriculture, the Navy, and the State Department. Many other Departments of the government did employ people of Japanese ancestry in various capacities, particularly as stenographers, clerks, as translators.

Intelligence Relationships

Because of the very nature of the program, it was essential that we work closely with all of the intelligence agencies of the government. Early in the program we requested the officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct the screening of evacuees in relocation centers. They indicated that they could not do so because of a shortage of personnel and very great wartime responsibilities. The FBI did, however, check its records and provide all information available in the cases of more than 70,000 people under our supervision. The Bureau also conducted investigations in relocation centers which we requested from time to time. In late 1943 and early 1944, J. Edgar Hoover, upon the request of the Director of the Authority, assigned one man, Mr. Myron Gurnea, to visit all of the centers to make a study of internal security problems and the handling of the internal security program. Mr. Gurnea did not limit himself to the request, but made a study of all phases of center activities and made recommendations accordingly. Some of them were helpful.

Early in the program, we experienced considerable difficulty in the relocation centers because FBI agents came into some of the centers and without revealing their mission, picked up evacuees and took them out, in some cases without even reporting whom they were taking. When this kind of activity was brought to the attention of the FBI Washington office, it was agreed that agents would not go into a center without notifying the project director and reporting their mission to him. Although the FBI officials were often helpful, we found them most sensitive to criticism, either direct or implied. Because of a rather strained relationship which arose between WRA and the liaison officer of the FBI, we relied less and less on that agency as the program progressed.

Our relationship with the Office of Naval Intelligence, on the whole, was excellent and helpful. We cooperated by providing all information requested and permitted its agents to come to the centers. The ONI, in turn, allowed us to see reports sent in from its field offices and upon request provided information regarding individuals, as did the FBI. The Office designated an active member of the Japanese American Joint Board which operated for several months under the supervision of the War Department.

The Office of Military Intelligence had much less information, generally speaking, regarding people of Japanese ancestry, than did the Naval Intelligence at the beginning of the program, and as a consequence, was not in position to be equally helpful. As has already been indicated, the Military Intelligence recruited a large number of evacuees from the relocation centers for further training in language schools. Our relations with Colonel Rasmussen, who was in charge of the language schools, and the members of his staff, were excellent and most helpful.

The Secret Service requested information regarding the evacuees in Washington, D. C., and in the surrounding areas of Virginia and Maryland. This information was regularly provided.

Service Agencies of the Federal Government

During the entire existence of the relocation centers, we had an excellent working relationship with the Quartermaster Corps of the Army which procured most of the items of food needed by WRA, as well as medical equipment and supplies. The service of the Quartermaster Corps constitutes a happy chapter in the relationships of WRA with other Government agencies.

Early in 1943, we developed a working agreement with the National Youth Administration, which was approved by the Director of the NYA, for the training of a large number of young persons in NYA training centers preliminary to job placement outside the centers. This program was agreed to and established in March of 1943 and had just gotten well under way when the campaign of the investigators of the Dies Committee started. With the appearance of front-page newspaper items in the Washington Star during the last two or three days of May, 1943, which charged the WRA with releasing saboteurs and espionage agents willy-nilly, the Director of the NYA, without regard to prior commitments and without consulting with WRA, ordered his regional offices to abandon all training activity that involved persons of Japanese ancestry. This decision was a severe disappointment to the evacuees who had accepted the program in good faith and also to staff members of the WRA who had helped to promote the program. We were, of course, unable to secure a reversal of the decision.

Throughout the program, we had close working relations with the Office of Indian Affairs and with the Bureau of Reclamation. Three of the relocation centers were on lands belonging to the Bureau of Reclamation and two of the centers were located within the bounds of Indian reservations. The Office of Indian Affairs served as the agent of the WRA in the administration of the Poston center throughout the first year and a half of the program. The relation with these two agencies was generally excellent. While there were a number of differences of opinion with the Office of Indian Affairs, which are well documented in the correspondence of the Authority, there were no significant differences between the Bureau of Reclamation and the WRA.

We had excellent relations with the Bureau of Budget, owing partly to the fact that the Director of the Bureau was responsible for selecting both Directors of WRA and, during the first two years of the Authority while it was an independent agency, kept closely in touch with its program and policies. The excellent relationship was due also to the fact that Mr. Dodd and Mr. Greenwood, and other members of the Budget committee who handled the estimates, were helpful and understanding  and went to great lengths to inform themselves about the problems involved. These men made several trips to the relocation centers, and held numerous conferences with the Director and other key officials of the Authority from time to time.

Relationship with State and Local Agencies

During the early part of the program, the governors of the western states, with the exception of Governor Ralph Carr of Colorado, were strongly opposed to the resettlement of persons of Japanese ancestry in their individual states. Most of these governors, however, reversed their positions within six months, because of pressure of the farm people for evacuee seasonal labor. Individual governors who continued to be adamant about relocation in their states included the Governor of Arkansas and the Governor of Arizona. But outside of the public statements and an occasional protest to members of Congress, we had very little difficulty with state governments generally.

It was necessary to maintain contact with state and local law enforcement officers in areas where evacuees were relocated in order to secure their cooperation in enforcing the laws equally and without discrimination. Generally speaking, we encountered little antagonism with local officials and secured support from the majority of them. There were cases, particularly in many counties on the West Coast, where there was very little effective activity when people were returning early in 1945, but more recently nearly all of these officials have been most active in the enforcement of the law. Certain Boards of Supervisors on the West Coast and in other parts of the country, passed resolutions which appeared to us to be un-American in their content, and certain other state and local agencies responsible for issuing special licenses have discriminated against the evacuees by establishing requirements which were impossible to fulfill or by refusing to grant licenses to aliens. Generally speaking, Federal, State, and local officials were probably more sensitive to what they thought were political pressures against the evacuees than many people in private industry. This, perhaps, was to be expected. On the other hand, there were many public officials who were most courageous and most helpful in trying to eliminate the restrictions and discriminations against the people of Japanese ancestry.  It was the tendency of most government agencies to adopt the attitude that they had no responsibility for the evacuees and when a problem fell in the general field of their responsibility to turn it over to the WRA for solution, even though they were charged in the Executive Order establishing the Authority with the responsibility of assisting in the program. This attitude was very general throughout the first two years of the program.

As we moved toward the end of the program, we readily secured the assistance of many agencies -- Federal, State, and local -- partly because of the exceptionally fine record made by the American citizens of Japanese ancestry in the armed forces and partly because of better understanding by the public of the problems involved.

War Relocation Authority

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