The Lim Report – Part I-B

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

IB. Response to Declaration of War with Japan

The most immediate reaction to the declaration of war with Japan that we see in the JACL archives is a notice or memo from National Headquarters to all member chapters. The notice, undated but with 12/7/41 penciled in the upper right-hand corner, acknowledged Japan’s attack upon the United States and that the “acid test” had arrived as far as loyalty to the country was concerned. It goes on to urge caution in personal conduct and to become involved in national defense. It also states:

The federal government and the laws of this country will give protection to our parents as long as they are law-abiding. Those who have been under suspicion may be apprehended temporarily until their status is clarified. But there is no fear of concentration camps for the Issei as a whole at this time.29It is unclear whether the National Headquarters was commenting in reaction to FBI pickups of Issei on the so-called ABC lists or if it had some prior indication that such temporary apprehensions might occur.


In three major cities on the West Coast, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle, we see JACL members forming defense committees within their local chapters or regional district councils. In Los Angeles, the Southern District Council of the JACL formed the Anti-Axis Committee. In Seattle and San Francisco, they were called Emergency Defense Councils.


The Anti-Axis Committee was formed on December 7, 1941 and had their first recorded meeting on December 8, 1941. The Minutes to the said meeting outline a purpose of pledging “the facilities of our entire organization and our individual services to our government in this great crisis” as well as “unequivocal repudiation of Japan” and “common objective of an American victory.”30 Its objectives were three-fold: “to cooperate with all national, state and local government agencies in their program in this emergency; coordinate citizen and alien activities; [and] get fair treatment for loyal Americans.31 The committee’s Executive Board members were made up of men many of whose names have appeared in other contexts, most notably as so-called or alleged FBI informants prior to and during camp. The chairman, at this point, was Fred Tayama. Executive Secretary was Kay Sugahara. The Board members were John Ando, Dr. T. G. Ishimaru, Frank Ishii, George Inagaki, Ken Matsumoto, Masao Satow and Togo Tanaka. Also present at this meeting, among assorted local government officials, was Lt. Commander Kenneth Ringle of the 11th Naval District.

The Minutes contain a statement which was aired on radio on December 7 at 11 p.m. by the Coordinating Committee for National Defense of the Southern District Council. It reads as follows:

We are all Americans pledged to the defense of the United States. Any disloyal act or word by any Japanese or American citizen of Japanese descent harms the United States. . . As Americans we now function as counterespionage. Any act or word prejudicial to the United States committed by any Japanese must be warned and reported to the FBI, Naval Intelligence, Sheriff’s Office, and local police. Any menace to the security of our country must be thoroughly and completely wiped out. [Signed, Joe Masaoka, Chairman, Coordinating Committee for National Defense.]32Later, the Southern District Council sent a telegram dated February 16, 1942, to Attorney General Francis Biddle[, which reads in part:]



A review of the Anti-Axis Committee’s literature and Minutes is quite illuminating. Both the Huntington Library and the JARP collection at UCLA’s University Research Library-Special Collections possess copies.

The Anti-Axis Committee’s Archives begin with a bulletin, titled “Japanese American Citizens League Anti-Axis Committee of the Southern District Council.” The Bulletin outlines the Committee’s purpose, objectives and program, which were previously cited in this chapter. The Bulletin contains a “statement by Chairman Fred Tayama” which reads as follows:

The United States is at war with the Axis. We shall do all in our power to help wipe out vicious totalitarian enemies. Every man is either friend or foe. We shall investigate and turn over to authorities all who by word or act consort with the enemies.34The bulletin ends with notification that copies would be sent to the FBI, Naval Intelligence, Army Intelligence, local and state elected officials, and veterans’ organizations.

The leaflet or bulletin was also printed into Japanese. An accompanying English translation of the Japanese text indicates that the leaflet was “widely distributed throughout the Japanese Community in December, 1941 following the outbreak of the Japanese-American War.”35 The Japanese version of the leaflet, unlike the English version, listed by name all 50 of the Anti-Axis Committee members. Included are such men as Ken Matsumoto, George Inagaki, Joe Masaoka, Togo Tanaka, Lyle Kurisaki, Kay Suagahara, Fred Tayama, and Kiyoshi Higashi.

A chronlogy of log for Monday, December 8, 1941 indicates that courtesy calls were paid to Mayor Fletcher Bowron, U.S. Attorney William Fleet Palmer, and U.S. Postmaster Mary Briggs. The ensuing notation reads: “Anti-Axis Committee authorized to control daily vernaculars by authority of U.S. Attorney and U.S. Post Office.36

The notation for Thursday, December 11, 1941 reads that “Lt. Commander K. D. Ringle (at closed meeting) before representatives of the Agriculture Dept., Treasury Dept., and officials of the wholesale market, endorsed JACL leadership and express full confidence in them.” According to the Minutes, this resulted in restoration of normal operations at the Market. The next significant action took place on Monday, December 15, 1941, when the “[p]ublic relations committee represented by Fred Tayama, Kay Sugahara, Masao Satow and Ken Matsumoto met FBI Chief Hood and offered our services. Special vigilance committee will be formed by Lyle Kurisaki to cooperate with FBI throughout Southland.37

On Tuesday, December 16, 1941, at 8:00 p.m., the log indicates a meeting of the LA County Council of the American Legion. Fred Tayama spoke on behalf of the Anti-Axis Committee. Points three and four of the summary of Tayama’s remarks before some 2,000 Legionaires gives an insight into the frame of mind of the Committee members:

3. Keynote of the duration of this war must be constant vigilance against any subversive or subterfuge activity among issei and nisei to defeat our greatest opportunity to prove our stand.4. The Japanese American Citizens League has complete control of our community and has earned the right to lead the community affairs. Recognition of our loyalty by governmental officials in this area is unprecedented [sic] in present emergency.38

The next Anti-Axis document is a directory of membership with the areas of responsibility highlighted. There was an Executive Board, led by Chairman Fred Tayama, Executive Secretary Kay Sugahara, and Coordinator Masao Satow. There were a number of committees such as the “control of the vernacular press Committee,” headed by Dr. T. G. Ishimaru. This Committee’s duties were “to keep close check in the vernacular newspapers to see that all the content of the newspapers are entirely in accord with the spirit of national defense.” This committee derived its powers from the U.S. Attorney William Fleet Palmer and Postmaster Mary Briggs. The Intelligence Committee, which did not identify a chairman, was “to investigate all cases where loyalty to America is questioned. This committee is working in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” There was also a Family Welfare Committee. We shall read later in Togo Tanaka’s words that intelligence work preempted much of the welfare activity.

The Anti-Axis Committee Archives also include actual Minutes of meetings. From the Minutes of December 12, 1941 meeting, we read that under the heading of Kibei:

Lyle Kurisaki, Robbin Kaneko, Masao Igasaki and Ken Matsumoto meet with the Kibei representatives Ted Okamoto and Akira Itami. The members reported that the Kibei were very confused and skeptical and were quite undecided about the present situation. Chairman Fred Tayama will call a general meeting of all Kibei for the purpose of explaining that in this critical time we are to stand together and if not the names will have to be turned over to the Federal Authorities.39The report of the Intelligence Committee indicated that Lyle Kurisaki was the Chairman and that the committee would “look into matters that have any casts of suspicion.40

That the Anti-Axis Committee was involved in working with Intelligence Agencies is clear from its own minutes. That this intelligence activity characterized and “worked to minimize, if not eliminate, the welfare activities of the Committee,” was the assessment of Togo Tanaka. And finally, that the Anti-Axis Committee, and hence, intelligence activity was the only active expression of the JACL in Los Angeles is admitted in the December 13, 1941 Minutes:

The Anti-Axis Committee being in this emergency the only active unit of the Japanese American Citizens League, we are temporarily absorbing the entire expense of the Los Angeles and Southern District Council Office.41


What the eventual impact of the formation and actions of the Anti-Axis Committee [was] might best be understood through the eyes of JACL’s unofficial historian, Togo Tanaka:

The other influence which produced a clash of opinion within the JACL leadership and worked to minimize, if not eliminate, the “welfare” activities of the organization found expression in the formation of new committees which would report to federal and other authorities “acts and utterances of disloyalty” on the part of members of the Japanese community. This influence tended to vociferously denounce [the] Issei as a group unworthy of American trust. The example of Southern California JACL behavior appears to have been an extreme case but is illustrative.42According to Tanaka, during the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and with the appearances of committees the JACL’s Anti-Axis, the impact of one man in particular would be felt strongly in the Los Angeles area. The outbreak of war would mark the return and ascension of one Tokutaro Nishimura Slocum, more commonly known as Tokie Slocum. 43 In fact, Tanaka would imply that he personally had felt Slocum’s impact in a way which temporarily place him behind bars.

On December 8, he [Slocum] had reclaimed a throne position in the disorganized structures of Japanese community activity by sitting in the council sessions of the newly organized Anti-Axis Committee and purging it of his “enemies.” The Committee originally had come into existence the evening of December 7 under the auspices of the Rafu Shimpo. Both the publisher and English Editor [Tanaka] of that publication, unfriendly to Slocum before the war, on December 8 were in protective custody, arrested by the FBI.44While Tanaka would be released by the authorities, he continued to suspect Slocum was his accuser. One must wonder about the legitimacy of others who were likewise unfriendly to Slocum and found themselves among the jailed after Pearl Harbor. This experience undoubtedly colored Tanaka’s perspective on the issue of Japanese American “intelligence work.”

Slocum was the logical choice of the group to direct the activities which he described as “intelligence” work in the Japanese community. Members of the Anti-Axis Committee were charged with the task assigned by Slocum of turning in written reports about “disloyal and subversive” acts. The JACL had become an instrument of spying within the Japanese community. Meetings were held at which Army and Navy Intelligence officers invited the support of the group; question most frequently raised by the JACL leaders attending was, “How can we know what is suspicious?” And the answer usually given was “When a man has been living and spending beyond his means, something may be fishy.” American Legion and V.F.W. officials spoke to the Anti-Axis Committee, on occasion denouncing the Issei and especially the Central Japanese Association, and close contacts were maintained with the FBI.45All of this is not to say that there was anything to “spy” on. Slocum himself would complain that no names were being turned in by the group. 46 As a matter of fact, the Committee’s lack of success can be corroborated by another, equally unpopular member of the group, Ken Matsumoto. In his report of activities for the National Board in March of 1942, Matsumoto summarized the month of December 1941 as follows:

Participated in the formation of the Anti-Axis Committee of the Southern District Council JACL. Almost from the outset the position of the Vice-President as a member of the Committee, was a most precarious and unpopular one . . . The almost immediate downfall of the Anti-Axis Committee may be pointed to the inability of the local leadership gathered for the purpose to appreciate the significance of far reaching objectives particularly in these times.47Regardless of its effectiveness, the consequences of the Slocum-led Anti-Axis Committee actions, the participation in its activities by high level JACL Southern District Council and local chapter personnel and the fact that the Anti-Axis Committee used the office formerly used by the LA JACL chapter,

earned for the known Nisei leadership of the community the reputation of being “inu” [stool pigeon] in the months preceding mass evacuation orders.”48Tanaka also wrote in his Documentary Reports at Manzanar that

The only newspaper publicity which the JACL received at this time-in the metropolitan press-dealt with the spy detection activities of the Anti-Axis Committee. This had the effect of confirming in the minds of the Japanese-both Issei & Nisei-that the JACL was witchhunting among its own people.49Tanaka also kept a journal of events from December 2, 1941 to April 3, 1942. The entry for 1/9/42 reads as follows:

Conversation in the Nakamura barber shop on East First Street between San Pedro and Los Angeles Streets this noon seemed typical of growing Issei resentment against the Anti-Axis Committee and the JACL which it represents. There is already considerable suspicion that the Anti-Axis Committee is an “inu” (dog) organization; there is, it seems to me, tremendous growing resentment against unfair “finger pointing” resulting in the arrest and detention of men whose families [sic] insist are completely innocent and will be exonerated.50It did not help matters that Tokie Slocum would repeatedly proclaim in public gatherings and meetings and to any who would listen:

. . . on December 7 night, I went over the top again, leading my buddies of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Intelligence to arrest the Central Japanese Association leaders . . . was personally responsible for the arrest of the Central Japanese Association members who are today in the safekeeping of the FBI.51Slocum would make these statements before the family members of those arrested in the CJA and would continue to, well into his camp experience at Manzanar. The “inu” label would follow Slocum and those JACL around him into the relocation centers. According to Tanaka, actions such as Slocum’s and other vociferous members of the Anti-Axis Committee

discredited the JACL as a force for community leadership among both Issei and Nisei. By a twist of irony, many JACL leaders were Nisei whose parents had been rounded up in the FBI raids, and the aggressive, vocal utterances of Slocum and others emphasizing the “vital importance of anti-espionage work” fell for the most part on deaf, if not resentful ears, even within JACL ranks.52In his sharply critical article entitled, “The Nisei Assume Power: The JACL, 1941-1942,” author Paul Spickard informs us that one of the early actions of the Anti-Axis Committee was to send

“Fred Tayama to a meeting of Kibei who had begun to form an organization less enthusiastically patriotic than the JACL. Tayama demanded that the Kibei cooperate with the JACL or he would turn their names over to the FBI. The Kibei had little choice but to acquiesce.”53We will see that Tayama eventually would participate in turning over the entire Kibei membership list in any event.

Peter Irons also chronicles the formation and activities of the Anti-Axis Committee in Justice at War. In fact, Irons characterizes its activities as “formal collaboration with the FBI soon after Pearl Harbor.”

Two weeks later, a Committee delegation met with Richard Hood, who directed the FBI’s Los Angeles Office. Hood chided his visitors for their earlier reluctance to “furnish any specific derogatory information concerning any organization or individual.” . . . . Members of the Anti-Axis Committee admitted the truth of this reproof but assured Hood that “they were willing to inform on all individuals who appeared to be a danger to this country.”Over the next month the Committee met frequently with Hood and his staff and furnished the FBI with detailed information. In a report to J. Edgar Hoover on January 20, 1942, Hood listed a dozen “ardent supporters of the Japanese cause” fingered by the Anti-Axis Committee. This list included Kaoru Akashi, director of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Los Angeles. “A presidential warrant has been requested for the apprehension of this individual,” Hood noted to Hoover. Committee members also turned over to Hood the membership list of the Kibei Division of the Los Angeles JACL and the names of “pro-Japanese” Kibei leaders. JACL leaders joined the Anti-Axis Committee in providing information to the FBI, and “expressed no objection” to Hood’s intention to share this material with other intelligence agencies.54

Irons, as have many other authors, attributed Fred Tayama’s beating at Manzanar as the “heavy price for his role as a government informer.” 55

Review of [a] Hood-to-Hoover memo confirms that

1) there was a December 19, 1941 meeting between the LA field office of the FBI and the Anti-Axis Committee;
2) the prior reluctance to inform on the part of individuals underwent a change of heart as a result of Pearl Harbor;
3) frequent conferences were held between the FBI and Anti-Axis Committee;
4) members of the Committee had provided information which led to the arrest of several individuals;
5) members of the JACL felt that the Kibei were the most dangerous group;
6) accordingly, the membership lists of the Kibei Division for Los Angeles and San Pedro were turned over;
7) more names were turned over;
8) the various intelligence agencies could share Anti-Axis’s information. 56
Contrast these assessments of the Anti-Axis Committee with that of National Vice-President Ken Matsumoto’s recap before the National Board of the JACL: “ . . . our entire efforts were devoted to intelligence work and some public relations.57


James Sakamoto, one of the founders of the JACL and National President of the organization from 1936-1938, was one of its leaders in the Pacific Northwest. It was Sakamoto who, soon after Pearl Harbor, formed the Emergency Defense Council of what was then called the Seattle Progressive Citizens’ League. This was the Seattle Chapter of the JACL with its earlier moniker. 58

With this Council, a special committee was formed “to cooperate with the F.B.I.” to report “subversive activities in the Community.” Sakamoto notified the FBI that the Emergency Defense Council was prepared to “co-operate in any way with your office” and “to do our share in the prosecution of the war to a victorious end.59This is confirmed by another account of what occurred in Seattle after Pearl Harbor.

An Emergency Defense Council was created within the JACL, its purpose being to cooperate closely with the Seattle Civilian Defense Control Offices. . . . An important branch of the Emergency Council was its “intelligence corp” [sic] that was to cooperate directly under the supervision of the FBI, and it was an openly stated fact that Clarence Arai was the chief of this bureau.60A week after Sakamoto established the Council at a regular meeting of the Seattle Progressive Citizens’ League, Sakamoto, as chairman of the Emergency Defense Council, addressed the members present. He “spoke on the progress of the Defense Council and urged each member to volunteer his support in any way possible to prove his loyalty to America.”61 He then introduced the various chairmen of working committees within the Council:

Mrs. Clarence Arai Red Cross
George Ishihara Civilian Defense
Takeo Nogaki Federal Bureau of Investigation
Ichiro Motosaka U.S. Defense Bonds and Stamps
Toshio Hoshida Fiscal Agent
Bill Hosokawa Secretary of the Council and Publicity

Did the Emergency Defense Council conduct its activities similarly to those of the Anti-Axis Committee? Sakamoto’s subsequent testimony before the Tolan Committee in February of 1942 gives some indications that they did.

I know definitely that our organization, both locally and nationally, has, let us say, “turned in” people whom we thought should be checked into. . . . We have been working chiefly among the Japanese, and we have repeatedly stated at our meetings that it is our loyal duty to ferret our those who are disloyal, because our interest must be for American first, and secondly for ourselves.62The Emrgency Defense Council did turn over individuals according to WRA records also. Ruth McKee’s “History of the WRA” states that:

On December 12, under the leadership of the JACL in Seattle (the place of the League’s origin, in 1930) the Emergency Defense Council was organized. This group formed a civilian protection corps, a Red Cross Corps, a National Defense Stamp Campaign Corps, and an intelligence unit. This Council was active from the day of its organization, and the intelligence unit worked closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the round-up of subversives. In other coastal cities, the JACL collaborated with the FBI, ONI, and MIS.63One further item of note on the Emergency Defense Council is found in a statement signed by James Sakamoto and forwarded to the Secretary of State by William Hosokawa on January 23, 1942. The cover letter by Hosokawa is on Emergency Defense Council letterhead and lists Hosokawa as Secretary. Since Sakamoto had gone blind some years back, we must assume that the lion’s share of the paperwork by the Council was performed by Hosokawa under Sakamoto’s direction. However, returning to Sakamoto’s statement, he proclaims:

We are actively cooperating now with the authorities to uncover all subversive activity in our midst, and if need be we are ready to stand as protective custodians over our parent generation to guard against danger to the United States arising from their midst.64Thus, in addition to their informing duties, the Defense Council offered to be trustees and custodians of the Issei. This manifests a considerable commitment to the U.S. at the possible expense of the parent generation.


The Imperial County Citizens Welfare Committee, sponsored by the Brawley Chapter of the JACL was an organization along the same lines as the Anti-Axis Committee and the Emergency Defense Council. Their stated purposes, objectives, and programs are similar to that of the Anti-Axis Committee. “We shall investigate and turn over to authorities all who by word or act consort with the enemies.”65 It is interesting to note that the Executive Secretary of the Committee was Kay Nishimura, who later will be a key figure in the Poston incident. Additionally, Lyle Kurisaki was a member of the advisory board of the Committee. He, too, was caught up in the events at Poston.

Whether Nishimura ever “turned over” anyone to the authorities is mentioned in passing in an Army Intelligence G-2 report:

The same source mentioned above also cited the incident when Kay Ishimura [sic], said to be a former FBI informant from El Centro, was beaten up.66Lyle Kurisaki was likewise beaten up at the Poston Camp. An Office of Naval Intelligence Report quotes from a letter of a confidential informant inside that camp. “Kay was attacked but was not hurt. . . . Several days later, Lyle Kurisaki was attacked in his apartment.” The Naval Intelligence Officer then writes:

The person referred to as “Kay” in line three of the above-quoted letter, is known to be Kay Nishimura, who supplied valuable information to the United States Naval Intelligence and Federal Bureau of Investigation representatives at El Centro, California, and who cooperated with those representatives in the translation of Japanese documents and papers. Lyle Kurisaki referred to in line six of the above-quoted letter, is known to be Lyle Kurisaki who furnished valuable information to the representatives of the United States Naval Intelligence and Federal Bureau of Investigation at El Centro, California.67The valuable information which Nishimura and Kurisaki provided the ONI and FBI was undoubtedly through the Imperial County Citizens Welfare Committee. The Committee had offices in Brawley and El Centro according to their letterhead. These intelligence reports confirm that the Committee carried out Point three of its stated program to “turn over to authorities all who by word or act consort with the enemies.”68

End Notes

Abbreviations used:

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
California, Berkeley
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

IB. Response to Declaration of War with Japan

(29) Notice, 12/7/41, JACL Archives.
(30) Minutes, AAC, 12/8/41, p. 3, JACL Archives.
(31) Ibid.
(32) Ibid.
(33) Telegram, JACL SDC to Attorney General Francis Biddle, 2/16/42, U.S. Dept. of Justice, Alien Enemy Control Unit Records, Section 3, 2/14/42 – 2/16/42.
(34) Bulletin, “Japanese American Citizens League Anti-Axis Committee of the Southern District Council,” AAC, JARP
(35) Japanese translation of bulletin, “Japanese American Citizens League Anti-Axis Committee of the Southern District Council,” AAC, JARP.
(36) Chronological log of events, AAC, Box 310, JARP.
(37) Ibid.
(38) Ibid.
(39) Minutes, AAC, 12/12/41, AAC, Box 310, JARP.
(40) Ibid.
(41) Ibid.
(42) Tanaka, “History,” p. 32.
(43) Ibid.
(44) Ibid., p. 34.
(45) Ibid. p. 35.
(46) Ibid.
(47) JACL Minutes, Special Board, 1942.
(48) Tanaka, “History,” p. 35.
(49) Tanaka, “Report,” p. 9.
(50) Togo Tanaka, “Journal,” File A 17.07, JERS.
(51) Ibid., p. 3.
(52) Tanaka, “History,” p. 36.
(53) Paul Spickard, “The Nisei Assume Power: The JACL, 1941-42,” Pacific Historical Review, 52:2, May 1983, p. 159.
(54) Peter Irons, Justice at War, Oxford University Press, 1983, pp. 79-80.
(55) Ibid., p. 80.
(56) Memorandum, “Japanese Activities in Los Angeles,” Richard B. Hood to J. Edgar Hoover, 01/20/42, File 8705a-8999, Numerical File 7933-9213, Box 8, CWRIC, RG220, NA.
(57) JACL Minutes, Special Board, 1942.
(58) Ichioka, “Study,” pp. 54, 74.
(59) Ibid. p. 74.
(60) Miyamoto, “The Seattle JACL and Its Role in Evacuation,” File 6.24, p. 10, JERS.
(61) Minutes, Seattle Progressive Citizens’ League, 12/19/41, p. 1, JACL Archives.
(62) Ichioka, “Study,” p. 74.
(63) Ruth McKee, “History of War Relocation Authority, Pearl Harbor to June 30, 1944,” p. 30, Box 3, Entry 3, RG 210, NA (hereafter cited as “History”).
(64) Letter, Sakamoto to U.S. Secretary of State, File 5386a-87, RG 220, NA.
(65) _________, ________, Box 137, RG 210, NA.
(66) File 323.3, Box 12, Entry 1, Record Group 338, National Archives.
(67) Investigative Report, Naval Intelligence, 12/7/42, File Number 26892-26899, RG 220, NA.
(68) “April to June 1942,” File #1, Subject Files 21.012, Box 137, Entry 16, RG 210, NA

The history and literature of Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

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