Research Report prepared for Presidential Select Committee on JACL Resolution #7
(aka “The Lim Report”)
submitted in 1990 by Deborah K. Lim
© 2002 by Deborah K. Lim
IE. Actions Initiated in the Community
THE KIBEI SURVEY
One of the actions instituted in the community by the JACL which drew a great deal of criticism was the Kibei survey. Following the assistance provided by the JACL in the registration of all alien Japanese required by the U.S. Government shortly after Pearl Harbor, the National Headquarters of the JACL was asked to conduct a survey of Kibei in each local chapter.94 Press release #81, dated February 13, 1942, indicates that the survey request must have gone out to each chapter sometime in the first two weeks of February. The purpose of the survey was two-fold, according to Bulletin #114. One was to provide the National Office with information on the Kibei; the second was to protect the Kibei, who were then the subjects of misinformation and innuendo.
The survey was to be conducted during the week of February 16-21, on forms provided by the National Headquarters, to be submitted in triplicate. Bulletin #114 stated that each individual chapter had discretion in the method utilized for the survey. While the Bulletin stressed the voluntary nature of the survey, chapters were warned that “those chapters who do not comply with this request will be reported to the authorities who requested the survey.” No indication was given of who these authorities were. Moreover, the Kibei who might have been uncooperative were to be reported to National office as well.
The form accompanying the Bulletin contained 23 questions of a rather basic nature. Identification information was requested, as was information on trips to Japan, religion, education and military experience in both the U.S. and Japan, hobbies and organizations. The survey ended with a question on dual citizenship and an attestation clause by the JACL chapter involved.
Subsequently, in Press Release #82, addressed “To all Kibei,” National Secretary Mike Masaoka confronted the issue of opposition by Kibei to the survey:
Some of you have expressed the idea that this is a trap to convict you of some heinous crime for having gone to Japan at some time in the past.95
Masaoka then proceeded to reiterate the purpose of the survey as being for the protection of Kibei to the extent that JACL could, with this information, prevent a case against the demand for Kibei internment. Then to encourage cooperation, Masaoka urged the following:
This survey is a purely voluntary one. If you have nothing to hide, it is better that you fill in the questionnaire. The mere fact that you may have visited Japan should not be used against you. For your own protection, it is better to register with your local JACL office immediately. If you do not register, certain inferences may be made against you-and it is to prevent the excuse for such inferences that the National JACL is sponsoring this voluntary survey . . . The degree of your cooperation on such matters as these may indicate the degree of your loyalty to the United States; therefore, in order to help protect your own welfare, please cooperate with the only organization which is prepared to help you fight your legitimate battles for you as American citizens.96
It is ironic that Masaoka offered as justification for the survey the need to combat unfounded rumors based purely on Kibei status, but himself indulged in the belief that cooperation and loyalty were linked.
In Bulletin #117, dated February 18, 1942, from the National Secretary, reiterated the issue of non-cooperation on the Kibei survey. Masaoka again stressed the need for specific facts about the Kibei “If the Kibei desire our aid in this hour of their greatest need, it behooves them to cooperate with us 100%.” Masaoka is also more firm in his conclusion that “the degree of your cooperation on this matter is the degree of your loyalty to the United States.”97
Masaoka admonished the chapters by saying the following:
They (the Kibei) must be educated to realize that they must cooperate on such matters as these, for assuming for the sake of argument that the government desired information on them, the officials could easily look into the passport records and draw their own conclusions. Is it not better for them that they themselves voluntarily make these reports and thereby prevent inferences against their good faith and intentions.98
Were this the case, what then was the purpose of the Kibei survey besides providing the National JACL with information and providing a symbolic show of loyalty? If government officials could obtain information through passport records why then did they ask the JACL to obtain such information in a much less direct manner? And perhaps much less reliable as well?
The next press release, #87, indicated an extension of the deadline was requested by many of the Kibei themselves to allow until February 28 to complete the forms. No archival records from the JACL reveal any numerical or percentage data on responses, nor if any compilation of the information was done.
LT. BROWN, OFFICE OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE
Some time following the Kibei survey, a memo was issued from the National Secretary to all Northern District Council Presidents and Executive Secretaries regarding a request by Lieutenant D. M. Brown of Naval Intelligence of San Francisco. Masaoka informed the recipients of the memo that they were being appointed by National Headquarters as co-chairmen, “of a committee of information to fill out the enclosed confidential personal reports.”99 Masaoka suggested that their committees be composed of the older American citizens of Japanese ancestry.
“The idea is to have each of these committees go through the Japanese directories name by name and to furnish their pooled information regarding each individual listed therein residing in that region.”100
The attached report form consisted of 25 questions, beginning with basic personal data, organizations active in or affiliated with, travel, military service, and hobbies. The next few questions ask about friends and acquaintances, relatives and approximate economic status. Question 19 asks if the person is “living better tha[n] he should[,] considering his occupation and other signs.” The next group of questions ask about religion, education and family size. Question 23 asks for the person’s political sympathies and asks to elaborate on “attitudes of loyalty” and says, “rumors, too, should be included, but they should be noted as rumors. Reasons for this section is to attempt to establish their true feelings.” The questionnaire closes with an assessment of general public opinion of the person and a personal evaluation of same. The persons reporting were to disclose their names and addresses at the end, but were informed that the information was strictly confidential and that their names would not be divulged.
After these reports were sent out, another memo, undated, was issued, again to Northern California Chapter Presidents and Secretaries, expressing the National Secretary’s feelings about the response to Lt. Brown’s confidential, personal reports.
This office has received rather disgusting information from a number of chapters to the effect that they would not cooperate wholeheartedly with this project. May I say that it is this type of attitude on our part which makes the position of the Japanese American so questionable in this hour of crisis . . . They need this type of information to protect our groups, and unless we can furnish this information immediately, we may not be able to stem the tide of hysteria which demands that all of us, nationals and citizens alike, be moved out of this area for the duration . . . The information asked for is not one which can be called “spying” or “informing.” You are merely asked to do what every other patriotic American may also be asked to do: Ferret out the bad in order to protect the rest of the community.101
It is arguable that every other patriotic American was necessarily being asked to go through the phone book and assess whether individuals were living beyond their means and to provide rumors regarding person’s political attitudes. The “living beyond their means” questions would be one to haunt those Japanese living in rural areas of California who were, against all odds and poor land, able to eke out a living and the[n] be accused of receiving funds from Japan for espionage because they had survived, much to the envy and dismay of their white peers. 102
In any event, JACL cooperation with Lt. Brown’s project does go considerably beyond the bounds set forth in the so-called official position of the JACL, set forth by Masaoka in his Final Report. This is not just “furnishing them (FBI, ONI, MID) with all the information which we might have had at our disposal regarding the suspects the agencies questioned us about.”103 Certainly in the eyes of those in the community, and[,] indeed, those listed in the aforementioned Japanese directories, such actions as commenting on whether a person was living beyond their means, what rumors about their political affiliations were circulating and how the general public regarded the person did more closely approximate a witchhunt.
Lastly, it would appear from the tenor of the memos that Masaoka or at least the National Organization committed itself to performing the reports for Lt. Brown prior to obtaining any commitment or agreement from individual chapters.
“EXPLOITATION OF DISTRESS”
With the removal of Issei community leaders and heads of households immediately following December 7, 1941, came the vulnerability of Issei wives and family. Did Japanese American citizens, in particular the JACL exploit the these aliens? Was there cheating going on? According to Togo Tanaka
“[T]here is a considerable body of evidence, not all of it reliable, to indicate that it was not rare for Nisei individuals to take advantage of the Issei businessman[‘s] or farmer’s weakened position and attempt literally to expropriate the latter’s holdings.”104
Tanaka speaks specifically of the situation in the Imperial Valley of California. Given the fact that the position of Issei farmers was already tenuous due to the prohibitions against property ownership and certain leaseholds in the Alien Land Law, detention by the FBI directly resulted in great monetary losses.
In one instance, an Issei farmer was taken from his family and his home in the first week of the war. He had 80 acres of carrots ready for harvest, reportedly worth $15,000 at the prevailing market price. Under the California alien land law regulations restricting Issei operation of leaseholds, the farm was legally under the operation of a Nisei. Under the circumstances, the Issei had no redress if the Nisei chose to pocket the $15,000. In this particular case, the temptation reportedly overcame the Nisei: the Issei internee’s wife and children went penniless.105
These recollections were based upon notes of a personal interview Tanaka did with Lyle Kurisaki in December of 1944. Kurisaki was one of the founders of the JACL chapter in Brawley, located in the Imperial Valley. According to Kurisaki:
I personally knew of 20-30 Nisei who cheated the poor wives of Issei internees. And I put the pressure on a lot of them and told them that the JACL wouldn’t stand for any such monkey business. I wouldn’t, anyway. Trouble was, some of the JACL members were crooked, too.106
It would appear then that any exploitation perpetrated in the Imperial Valley was the result of individuals who happened to have been JACL members, at least in the Imperial Valley.
Rumors of exploitation again arise but in an unexpected context when Reports Officer Brown at Manzanar writes about the JACL. Quoting a Nisei he writes:
The Nisei felt that after the assets of the aliens were frozen that here was their opportunity to further themselves economically, and there was a tendency to shove the older folks out of business.
At this time[,] Toku Slocumb [sic], as chairman of the Anti-Axis Committee publicized the fact that the JACL would help aliens in filing the proper forms, permits, etc. It is a common rumor that when applicants arrived they were sent by the JACL office secretary to the offices of the Pacific Service Bureau, which was headed by Higashi and Slocumb [sic]. There the Japanese paid various sums for services rendered; in some cases as much as $25.00. It has been said, various Anti-Axis Committee members were suspected of reporting people to the FBI at $25.00 a head and some have openly bragged about such duplicity in camp.107
Robert Brown, Manzanar’s Reports Officer, again reiterates this charge of exploitation in his oral history, taken by Dr. Arthur Hansen, at California State University at Fullerton on August 23, 1974. Brown was told the rumor of a $50.00 fee for travel orders for Issei by a Oka Murata, secretary to the doctor in the hospital.
JACL [was] “out to run a racket on the older Japanese before the evacuation order and that they helped put the finger on older aliens to get their business.” Told of a fifty dollar “fee” deal for filling out travel orders for the older men who could not write English.108
Togo Tanaka likewise acknowledged the charge of exploitation by the Pacific Service Bureau for travel orders.
In the months between Pearl Harbor and April 1942 when evacuation was half under way, two stories about Tayama began to make the rounds. One was that his Pacific Service Bureau was making exorbitant profits from high charges for services which could be obtained free by walking several blocks to the Federal Building. These services included the filing of alien travel permits (then being required by the Dept. of Justice), transfer of business licenses, and the like. Another version of the story was that Tayama, through his connection with the JACL and the Anti-Axis Committee, instructed secretaries of these organizations to send individuals who went to these offices to send them upstairs to the Service Bureau office. It was charged that the JACL was rendering these services for free, that the Service Bureau charge a fee anywhere from three dollars to twenty dollars. Tayama did not deny that some individuals were referred to the Service Bureau by the JACL, but these only when the League was unable to help them. He said no exorbitant charges were made, that all his clients were not only satisfied but many very grateful; he denied any unethical practices and said that charges that he was exploiting aliens distress were outright distortions.109
Another source also relates similar charges.
The JACL set up before the outbreak of war a subsidiary organization known as the Anti Axis Committee. Its chairman was Tokie Slocum . . . This group, once war was declared, publicized the fact that the JACL would help aliens in filing the proper forms and permits. Some of those who sought aid reported that they were sent by the JACL Office Secretary to the offices of the Pacific Service Bureau which was headed by Slocum and a Japanese American named Higashi; there the aliens paid varying sums for services rendered, in some instances as much as $25.110
Granted what Tanaka and McKee provide is documentation of stories and rumors which circulated about exploitation. However, these stories share some factual specificity with each other as to particular people, agencies and sums of money involved. Also, the fact that the National Headquarters saw the need to warn of fraud and JACL impostors, lending additional credence to these rumors.
It has been brought to the attention of the National Office that there are persons purporting to represent the Citizens League who are going around collecting funds from the community. Any activity of the JACL is well publicized and the identity of such persons should be familiar.111
As in the instances in Imperial Valley, any exploitation appeared to have been the result of corrupt individuals who may have been coincidentally been affiliated with JACL. The problem for both the JACL and those exploited was the inability to differentiate between the individual and the organization the individual represented.
AAC Anti-Axis Committee
CWRIC Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians
DIO District Intelligence Officer
DNI Director, Naval Intelligence
JACL Japanese American Citizens League
JACL Archives Japanese American Citizens League Archives, San Francisco
JARP Japanese American Research Project, Special Collection, University Research
Library, University of California, Los Angeles
JERS Japanese Evacuation and Resettlement Study, Bancroft Library, University of
Merritt Collection Merritt Collection, #122, Special Collection, University Research
Library, University of California, Los Angeles
NA National Archives, Washington, D.C.
ND Naval District
NDC Northern District Council
ONI Office of Naval Intelligence
RG Record Group
SDC Southern District Council
WRA War Relocation Authority
IC. Response to Various Military Orders
IE. Actions Initiated in the Community
(94) JACL Bulletin #114, (date?), JACL Archives.
(95) JACL Press Release #82, JACL Archives.
(97) JACL Bulletin #117, 2/18/42, JACL Archives.
(99) JACL Memo, Mike Masaoka to all Northern District chapter presidents and executive secretaries,
re: Lt. Brown’s Request, undated, JACL Archives.
(101) JACL Memo, Masaoka to Northern California District chapters, undated, JACL archives.
(102) Masaoka, “Report,” p. 62.
(103) Ibid., p.48.
(104) Tanaka, “History,” p. 40.
(105) Ibid. pp. 40-41.
(106) Ibid. p. 41.
(107) Center Staff Reports, p. 1, Correspondence, Manzanar, File 0 7.50, JERS.
(108) O.H. 1375, p. 42, JAOHP, California State University, Fullerton.
(109) Tanaka, “Report,” p. 9.
(110) McKee, “History,” pp. 146-47.
(111) _________, January 23 or 24, 1942, JACL Archives.