The Lim Report – Part II-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

IIB. Relationship with War Relocation Authority and Other Governmental Agencies.


In a previous section dealing with the decision to cooperate with evacuation, a confidential Navy Intelligence Report from the Seattle area stated the following:

With the knowledge and approval of the United States military authorities in charge of the evacuation, the Seattle Japanese American Citizens League prepared, along military lines, an organization known as the “Evacuee Administration Headquarters,” that was to be in charge of the internal administration of the Puyallup Assembly Center, under the Caucasian staff of the Wartime Civil Control Administration.130

This ONI report was written after the fact. Another ONI document executed much earlier by Hartwell Davis, gives a more ominous description of the manner in which the internal administration was set up at Puyallup.

Attention is particularly invited to the military lines along which the Japanese staff . . . has been set up. This group organized in Seattle prior to the evacuation to the Puyallup Assembly Center for the expressed intention of controlling the inner operations of the camp, was appointed by the Emergency Defense Committee of the Seattle Chapter of the Japanese Americans Citizens League.131

There have been accusations and rumors that the JACL took on administrative roles in Assembly Centers and camps as a result of self-interest, rather than altruism. In Ruth McKee’s “History of the War Relocation Authority” she quotes Ken Nishimoto, a former WRA staffer and member of the 442ndInfantry Battalion in Italy as revealing that:

In the Assembly Period, the JACL members, because of their previous contacts with WCCA, were able to monopolize the more desirable jobs at the centers, and they had the name of being “more pro-administration than the administration.” In one instance, a JACL member at Puyallup was appointed by WCCA as representative of the residents of the camp. He was disliked by the community as a whole and would have been the last man in camp they would have chosen to represent them.132

Bill Hosokawa in JACL: In Quest of Justice admits as much that JACLers were prominent in the positions selected in Assembly administration.

The JACL Emergency Defense Committee in Seattle, with the encouragement of Army officers sent in to prepare for Evacuation, picked individuals to supervise operations in camp-to disseminate information, run recreation and education programs, look after sanitation, assign housing, police the kitchens, maintain internal order. Jimmie Sakamoto as Council Chairman made the appointments from those close to the JACL. It was not a democratic procedure, but the appointees were in place to ease the way through the inevitable maze of petty problems.133

In Frank Miyamoto’s account, we are told that a group in the University YMCA and YWCA began to organize in the Assembly Center at Puyallup. However,

. . . they never gained authority to organize in Puyallup Center and as a consequence it was the JACL which shortly took the rein on control. The fact that the JACL gained control was due largely to its close relationship with the Army, which when the time of evacuation approached went directly to James Sakamoto and the JACL to carry out evacuation. One may well understand the feelings which developed among the defeated group or groups against the JACL when it was learned that the latter organization had gained its authority through cooperation with the Army. . . . The general feeling expressed by one person who declared, “There’s no use belonging to any other group than the JACL; now they carry the whip hand and we might as well follow along.”134

Miyamoto relates a rumor to us about when the Army went to Sakamoto and asked him to organize the community to evacuate, he supposedly responded:

“Since the Army has come to me with a duty and responsibility of this task I feel that I should assume leadership in this matter.” Whatever the truth there may be in this rumor, Sakamoto assumed or was appointed to the leadership and he proceeded to organize for evacuation and the community in the Center by selecting leaders largely from his own group.135

Moreover, the manner of selection was not democratic.

By the nature of selection procedure here, selected to the staff were those known to this group, and no elective process was followed. . . . There was considerable feeling among certain Nisei leaders who failed to gain appointment or who received lesser positions than they felt they deserved that Sakamoto and his group had by self-appointment gained control of the Assembly Center.136

Hostile feelings were not just directed towards the selection of leaders but towards the assignment of living quarters as well.

Rumors developed to the effect that it was those who were “in” with the JACL leaders who were getting the choice of rooms. This talk was entirely unjustified but sufficient instances of JACL members who arrived late and given better quarters made these rumors seem correct.137

The close association and cooperation by JACL members with the WCCA was also evident in the opening of the Manzanar camp. In Michi Weglyn’s Years of Infamy we read that:

Preferential treatment was especially pronounced at Manzanar, where nearly a thousand volunteers, JACLers among them, had come early to assist the WCCA in opening camp. Bendetsen noted after a visit that “there seems to be thrown throughout the center an attitude of favoritism and politics,” and he referred to “politicians” who had come early “so that they might worm their way into the confidence of the center management.”138

Hosokawa confirms the presence of JACLers in the volunteers who assisted the WCCA at Manzanar.

In the advance cadre sent to Manzanar to prepare the way for mass movement, members of JACL also were prominent.139

JACL Bulletin No. 1, dated 5/8/42, put a different “spin” on the involvement of JACLers in WCCA administration. Page two of the Bulletin reads:

JACL LEADERS ACTIVE IN RECEPTION & RESETTLEMENT CENTERS. Displaying the sense of civic responsibility which has made them active in JACL work, many JACL leaders are already at reception and assembly centers taking an active part in building a new life for the west coast Japanese. Among those at Manzanar are Kiyoshi Higashi, President of the San Pedro Chapter; Fred Tayama, Chairman of the Southern District Council, and others. At Santa Anita are Masao Satow, Shigemi Aratani, Kiyoshi Okura and others of the Los Angeles Chapter; Sam Fujita, Executive Secretary of the San Diego JACL, and many others. Howard Nomura, President of the Portland Chapter, is assistant director of the Portland Assembly Center. James Sakamoto, Past National President of the JACL, will have an official capacity at the Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington.140

What then was the consequence of having JACL members in charge of internal administration? According to a footnote in The Spoilage,

Resentment against the JACL had been widespread in Tule Lake since its inception, owing partly to the control JACL leaders had exercised in the Walerga and Puyallup Assembly Centers, from which Tuleans were recruited, and partly to the prominence they achieved in politics in the Tule Lake Center itself.141

Miyamoto also notes the distrust directed at JACL leaders in Puyallup Center.

As a consequence of disappointment of the people over the failure of their leadership to express resentment and rebellion that was latent among them, the tendency among the people was to view the JACL leaders with considerable distrust. The popular feeling was that the JACL Headquarters staff was a puppet organization of the WCCA who mixed with Caucasian administrators in order to gain special privileges for themselves while sick people were left to remain in unhealthy living conditions. Likewise in the matter of movement from one area to another, staff members had special privileges of passes by which to effect passage from area to area. But this freedom was looked upon with envy by the rest of the evacuees. It was said that because of special privileges granted to staff members the latter assumed an attitude of superiority that they scarcely deserved in the light of their inferior status in the community in Seattle.142


On March 18, 1942, Executive Order No. 9102 established the War Relocation Authority. Milton Eisenhower was appointed as director. 143 Shortly after his appointment, Eisenhower traveled to San Francisco. On or about March 25, 1942 after meeting with General DeWitt at the Presidio, Eisenhower met with Mike Masaoka, thus beginning the formal relationship between the WRA and the JACL. In Eisenhower’s own words:

I completed two other very important tasks during that first visit to San Francisco in late March. I met a group of Japanese-Americans and we established an advisory council to represent those who were affected by the President’s Executive Order. This was the wisest thing I did in that whole traumatic experience. The advisory council was headed by an attractive twenty-one year old Japanese-American, a Nisei, Mike Masaoka. He was secretary of the Japanese-American Citizens League, a graduate of the University of Utah, a man of great perception and heart. He was deeply respected by Japanese-Americans of all ages. After the establishment of the advisory council, I did not make a single major decision without conferring with this young man and, when necessary, with the advisory council.144

Mike Masaoka’s recollection is consistent with Eisenhower’s that such a meeting took place and on the degree of influence Masaoka wielded over the development of WRA policy.

Immediately upon his appointment, Mr. Eisenhower flew out to San Francisco and conferred with the national President and Secretary regarding the problems incident to his post. At that time, JACL submitted a long memorandum of recommendations and suggestions which I am certain influenced major WRA policy thereafter.145

The long memorandum to which Masaoka referred is the eighteen-page document which will be examined shortly.

Eisenhower’s meeting was not limited to Saburo Kido and Mike Masaoka. “At the invitation of the WRA, leaders of the JACL from all sections of the West met with Director Eisenhower in San Francisco and made a number of constructive recommendations.146 In these meetings, four main points were stressed to Eisenhower;

1. Restoration of Selective Service without reservation to all Japanese Americans;
2. Resettlement;
3. the President should issue a statement that the evacuation was not due to disloyalty;
4. there should be periodic meetings of representatives from of the centers with WRA officials to air out problems. 147

Immediately following the meeting of the advisory council with Milton Eisenhower, Mike Masaoka submitted a two-page letter in response to topics discussed during that meeting. Dated March 28, 1942, Masaoka submitted nine names, including his own, as persons who could aid Eisenhower. They included National President, Saburo Kido; Chairman of the Southern District Council, Fred Tayama; Secretary of the Japanese YMCA, Masao Satow; Past President, Dr. T. T. Yatabe; Executive Secretary of the Southern District Council, George Inagaki; Chairman, Northern District Council, Tom Iseri; National Treasurer, Hito Okada; and Agricultural Co-ordinator, Nobumitsu Takahashi. Masaoka suggested the following:

1. Act as a consulting and advisory committee to present their view points and whatever new problems may be called to their attention by those with whom they may come into contact.
2. Travel from community to community and cooperate with and aid your office in not only selling your various ideas and explaining the reasons for them but also in urging cooperation and maintaining morale.
3. Checking upon the various chapters to see they are carrying out their assigned tasks.
4. Doing everything possible for those involved but actively cooperating with your office in the movement.
5. Doing everything and anything which your office may call upon us to do.

On page two of this letter, Masaoka wrote that

We are prepared to serve without pay and title, provided that we are able to move freely about in order that we might be able to render the greatest possible service. . . . Trusting that these names will be approved for travel exemptions and that we will be able to cooperate with you in these troubled days, we remain . . . Japanese American Citizens League.149

This letter is significant for a number of reasons. It appears that the advisory council idea was Masaoka’s or the JACL’s. Also there has been speculation that certain JACL leaders were on the WRA payroll. This letter would substantiate an interest and willingness on the part of the JACL for such an arrangement. In fact, the willingness to serve was so great that pay and title could be bartered for freedom of movement.

The letter also commits the leadership of the JACL to a course of cooperation and subservience to the WRA. Point Two of the letter is particularly disturbing in that the JACL leadership would be representing the WRA viewpoint and urging conformity with it, rather than representing their constituency to the WRA. While they would be serving as consultants to the WRA, they would be “selling” the WRA ideas to the Japanese American community. Point Four is consistent with the assessment that the JACL was better in administering evacuation than opposing it. Point Five is a blanket commitment to Eisenhower and the WRA at a fairly early point in time; certainly too early to know what many of its policies would be and how the camps would be structured. This commitment is reminiscent of the JACL’s pledge of cooperation to President Roosevelt. One wonders, having made such a commitment, how effective JACL leaders would be later when a difference in point of view or priorities arose.


Proceeding chronologically, the next document of major significance in the relationship between the WRA and the JACL is the eighteen-page letter sent by Masaoka to Eisenhower, dated April 6, 1942. This is the “long memorandum of recommendations and suggestions” which Masaoka later felt “influenced major WRA policy thereafter.”150 Before launching into the recommendations and suggestions, Masaoka begins with background information for Eisenhower. 151

He takes considerable pains to distinguish for Eisenhower the U.S. citizens among the Japanese population to be interned from their parents, the “enemy aliens,” and warns against treating both groups the same. He also notes the difference in age between the two generations and the fact that a majority of the population are from urban areas, so they shouldn’t be treated as farmers. The Japanese have been model citizens and this should be maintained in camp. Masaoka stresses the importance of education while in camp. Moreover, the Japanese are more American than anything else and should be treated accordingly. Lastly, he says that there is no national organization aside from the JACL, and that both generations “have greater confidence in our league than they have in any other organization or group or leaders, regardless of their nationality or affiliation.152

Masaoka again sounds the recurring theme of the JACL that the organization did not contest the military orders for evacuation “because we believe that cooperation on our part will mean a reciprocal cooperation on the part of the government.”153

In discussing general policies, Masaoka writes that the projects should focus on five points:

1) to create “Better Americans in a Greater America”;
2) to maintain high and healthy morale among the evacuees;
3) to train them to cope with the difficult problems of adjustment and rehabilitation after the war;
4) to permit them to actually and actively participate in the war effort of our nation; and
5) to develop a community spirit of cooperative action and service to others before self

These five points are quite innocuous in content. However, Masaoka proceeds to state that there should be as much interaction with “white” Americans as possible.

We do not relish the thought of “Little Tokyos” springing up in these resettlement projects, for by doing so we are only perpetuating the very things which we hope to eliminate: those mannerisms and thoughts which mark us apart, aside from our physical characteristics. We hope for a one hundred per cent American community.155

Thus Masaoka expresses the desire that assimilation would occur during the evacuation period to the point where only the physical differences between white and Japanese Americans would remain.

The letter goes on to advocate in favor of service in the armed forces regardless of whether one is in camp or not, and regardless of whether one volunteers or is drafted. 156 The importance of education is again stressed. Masaoka emphatically opposes any Japanese language schools and encourages Americanization.

Special stress should be laid on the enunciation and pronunciation of words so that awkward and “oriental” sounds will be eliminated.157

The remaining topics discussed are religion, sports and recreation, publications and radios, health and medical facilities, Japanese professional and specially-trained people, business and industry, agriculture, labor and wages, citizenship recognition, organization, private projects, induction or assembly centers, and finally semi-permanent resettlement projects.

What stands out in these topics are the suggestions of cooperatives, farming, credit unions, self-government by citizens only, and resettlement. These are suggestions which the WRA later implemented. Interestingly, the document advocated against “Hearing or Determining Boards or Commissions,” in essence loyalty boards. 158 The Buddhist faith would be permitted so long as church people did not engage in other spheres of activity.” 159 Many of Masaoka’s recommendations were eventually adopted by the WRA, though by no means all of them.


The next document, which illuminates the relationship between the JACL and the War Relocation Authority, is a rather curious letter, dated June 6, 1942. The document was addressed to Milton Eisenhower, and actually more closely resembles a memorandum rather than a letter. The heading reads “FOR: MR. EISENHOWER” with no address following his name. The document’s contents attempt to define a Kibei for Eisenhower’s benefit, who was still head of the WRA, but would soon step down on June 17, 1942. This particular memorandum is important for a number of reasons, having to do with its contents as well as who it was written by and the letter itself.

In examining the content, we see three basic scenarios laid out to determine who exactly should be considered a Kibei. For instance, we are told,

. . . in the case of families, if the husband is Kibei and the wife Nisei, the family should be considered Kibei, and if the husband is Nisei and the wife Kibei, the family should be considered Nisei. Inasmuch as the parents sent the child to Japan in most cases, the parents should be held suspect, regardless of the number of other children which they may not have sent to Japan. In all cases, they may appeal their status. If the child under question is 16 years of age or more, he is entitled to elect whether he chooses to be placed in the same classification as his parents or not, provided that his parents are declared suspect. If the child is under 16, he assumes the status of his parents, but on becoming of age may have the privilege of election.160

The subsequent text explains the procedure a “suspect” may undergo to appeal a determination that they are Kibei, and therefore impliedly disloyal. The content is consistent with the file in which it was found at the Archives, that being loyalty boards. The document ends with a single sentence which reads “Incidentally, we are in unanimous agreement as to the principles of segregation.161 Three signatures follow: Mike Masaoka, Ken Matsumoto, and George Inagaki. All three were prominent National leaders of the JACL. Which brings us to the issue of the letter itself. The document was written on War Relocation Authority letterhead. We have three prominent JACL leaders making policy recommendations on who should be considered Kibei to Milton Eisenhower on WRA letterhead.

Let us digress momentarily for some additional background information. Bill Hosokawa relates the fact that during this time “Masaoka and Inagaki were working tirelessly, traveling from Washington to Philadelphia, to New York, and back again for a series of conferences with WRA officials, American Friends Service Committee, the ACLU” and others.162 “Accompanied on occasion by Ken Matsumoto, Masaoka and Inagaki called on Eisenhower to exchange views. Eisenhower welcomed all the input he could get to help cope with the responsibilities that had been thrust upon him.163

Thus, on one of the occasions when Masaoka and Inagaki were with Ken Matsumoto, they gave Eisenhower their thoughts and recommendations on how Kibei and Nisei should be separated or segregated. However, the use of WRA letterhead is puzzling. One obvious response is that there is no significance to the use of it. These three men just happened to use whatever supplies were readily available.

On the other hand, we can also draw a contrary inference, and conclude that the use of WRA letterhead and the memorandum format indicates that Masaoka, Matsumoto, and Inagaki were in the employ of the WRA. This would be consistent with the March 28, 1942 letter to Eisenhower from Masaoka, in which the National Secretary offered the services of JACL’s leadership to serve Mr. Eisenhower.

Confirmation that at least two of the three were indeed WRA employees comes in a May 23, 1942 memorandum written by Commander Kenneth D. Ringle of the U.S. Navy. The memo is addressed to Commander Wharton regarding “duty with War Relocation Authority.” Ringle’s duty with the WRA was “an assignment to prepare answers to various questions on policy regarding the handling of Japanese.” Ringle goes on to write,

While in that office yesterday, I met Mike Masaoka and George Inagaki, both Nisei leaders with whom I am well acquainted and whom I previously put in touch with Mr. Eisenhower. These two men are serving as liason and contact men officially with the War Relocation Authority.164

This letter, written by Commander Ringle along with the March 28, 1942 letter and the WRA letterhead document, taken together, forces us to conclude that Masaoka and Inagaki were WRA employees acting as consultants on important issues such as how to handle the Kibei and segregation. Not only that, but if the March 28, 1942 letter is any indication, they were selling these same ideas and urging cooperation among the Japanese American community.

We must ask what kind of influence did such documents and recommendations have on Eisenhower and the development of the segregation policy. We know from Ringle’s memo that he thought so highly of Masaoka and Inagaki that he thought, “it would be a good idea for a few of the officers interested in this question to meet the men during their stay.” In fact, we see in a Memorandum of Understanding Between the War Department, “the Department of Justice and the War Relocation Authority Relating to Procedures for Separating Potentially Dangerous Evacuees from the Remainder” a great deal of similarity between the JACL suggestions and what was proposed in the draft MOU.

(k) Where the male head of the family shall be classified as potentially dangerous under the procedures to be established pursuant to this Memorandum, such classification shall apply also to his wife and to all dependents residing with him in his household, except that his wife and any of his dependents who shall be 16 years of age or over shall be given the option . . . of declaring their preference to be separated from the male head of family . . .

(l) Where the male head of family shall not be classified as potentially dangerous under the procedures as to be established pursuant to this Memorandum, his wife and all of his dependents under the age of 16 living with him in his household shall likewise not be classified as potentially dangerous, regardless of the classification that would otherwise apply . . .165

Both documents select the age of 16 as an age of self-determination. Both documents also permit an appeal where the applicant submits five (5) names to vouch and provide information for him or her. Attached to the MOU is a note which reads: “For M.S.E. Dear Milton-This is a draft of the memo on Comm. Ringle’s suggestion re: separation of potentially dangerous evacuees. The memos you gave me are also attached. P.M.G June 8.166 The P.M.G. most likely is Philip M. Glick, Solicitor of the War Relocation Authority. The National Archives file in which those documents were found had the WRA letterhead document immediately following the War Dept./DOJ/WRA MOU. Thus Glick was returning memos which Eisenhower had shown him earlier, along with a draft policy on segregation. The Masaoka/Matsumoto/Inagaki memo is the earliest JACL position on segregation and undoubtedly influenced national policy on this issue.

This is confirmed by by a WRA source. In a section entitled SEGREGATION-Development of the Policy, Ruth McKee acknowledges two of the earliest suggestions on segregation from Lt. Commander K. D. Ringle and Mike Masaoka.

No policy shaped by WRA has received such painstaking attention and deliberative scrutiny as that of segregation. . . The first suggestions were offered in May, 1942, by Lieutenant Commander K. D. Ringle, a Naval Intelligence Officer detailed to WRA in its early months to assist in developing a program.167

Ringle’s plan was ultimately rejected because it focussed entirely in the whole Kibei population. McKee goes on to discuss Masaoka’s proposal.

In a letter of June 6, 1942, Mike Masaoka, Executive Secretary of the JACL, wrote to Director Eisenhower recommending segregation of a specific group of Kibei . . .168


The supplement to the Minutes of the above-references meeting held in Salt Lake City in November of 1942 by the JACL contain two references to the WRA. In Supplement No. 18 of the Minutes, under the topic of Resettlement, there are “three battle front” referred to, these being the home, government, and public relations. Under the government, we read, “Action on this front requires unceasing operations. Among major activities might be listed: Collaboration with the WRA . . . “169 Perhaps collaboration was not meant in the pejorative sense, but merely that JACL would work with the WRA on the issue of resettlement.

Later in Supplement No. 25, on the issue of relocation, we see the reference “JACL will act as consultant, resource, and liaison with local committees, WRA, Manpower Commission, Social Service Agencies.170


In the words of author Michi Weglyn, the House Un-American Activities Committee of Congress, headed by Congressman Martin Dies, with a sub-committee headed by John M. Costello, was “the most unbridled campaign aimed at discrediting not only the evacuees but also their allegedly ‘soft-on-Japs’ keepers.” The main contention of Costello in the hearings, which began on June 8, 1943 [in Los Angeles], was that “the JACL-dictated WRA was overfeeding, overpampering, and overreleasing” Japanese Americans into inland communities. 171 The committee’s chief investigator was Robert E. Stripling. His “strategy was to depict JACL as a dangerous, un-American organization, and then to show that JACL through Masaoka wielded undue influence over WRA.”172 The headlines announced that confidential WRA policy directives were in the files of the JACL’s Washington Office and of Masaoka’s presence and participation in top level WRA meetings. 173 That the Costello Committee’s contention was thoroughly discredited is undisputed by all authors and chroniclers of Japanese American history.

However, the testimony of Dillon Myer and Mike Masaoka, as well as others, does provide additional insights into the WRA-JACL relationship as well as into other JACL-related issues.

Dillon Myer testified before the Dies Committee beginning on July 7, 1943. His testimony of July 7, 1943 was that “he met in conference with either Masaoka or Kanazawa once a week for about a year.174 The purpose of these visits, according to Myer, was to learn of news for the Pacific Citizennewspaper. Myer also received information from the JACL. “Witness stated that about two weeks ago, he requested copies of Masaoka’s reports to the National Headquarters from the Salt Lake City Office of JACL, and that he read most of Masaoka’s reports.175 Myer responded to the question of whether JACL was given confidential WRA directives by stating,

JACL received WRA administrative instructions and directives just as anyone else who requested them. He stated that the words, “For Use of WRA Staff Only” on the directives did not imply, in any way, that the directives and instructions were confidential. He stated they were merely memorandums to supply information on WRA policy to the WRA field staff.176

Myer also testified that he and Masaoka discussed policy. “He admitted that he discussed policy with Masaoka on a number of occasions. He stated, however, that he had not discussed all major policies with Masaoka before adoption.”177 Why then did Masaoka’s reports to National Headquarters such as the one dated September 19, 1942 read as follows?

Myer put this up to me. Myer deals with us like he deals with his own staff. We have discussed every major policy with him before its adoption. Do not reveal any confidential material, and allow all matter of policy to be announced first by WRA. Congressmen would jump down their respective throats (WRA) if they knew the part we play in forming WRA policy. Do not reveal any confidential material as we are fortunate to obtain these directives.178

In fact, this attitude is supported by another JACLer. George Inagaki, in his report to the National Staff, January 18, 1943, wrote the following:

Confidential Matters:
WRA being so good about letting JACL in on important confidential matters, am deathly afraid that I might let something out or they might leak out elsewhere unintentionally. Ben Yoshioka was surprised at the confidence Holland had in us. . . Mike has done a helluva good job with the WRA. John Thomas expressed same thought. JACL must live up to it

The reason given for this is, according to Myer’s testimony, “Masaoka was often expansive in his reports and was given to exaggerations. He took credit for policies formulated by others.”180 In fact, the major by-product of the Dies Committee was the discrediting of Mike Masaoka.

When Masaoka was called to testify, beginning on July 3, 1943, he began with a chronology of his employment history. We are told that,

subject was appointed National Secretary of JACL by the National Board of JACL and resided in San Francisco at the time of evacuation. Witness was not evacuated and refused to state the reason therefor. Witness stated that he worked on the evacuation and volunteered information to Naval Intelligence. In May 1942, he came to the Eastern Headquarters of JACL in Washington, D.C.181

The information volunteered to Naval Intelligence may very well be the “personal, confidential reports to Lt. Brown,” which Masaoka urged JACL to undertake.

Masaoka also testified that he exaggerated the membership of the JACL:

Witness stated that at the time of evacuation JACL had 20,000 members, but that since evacuation this membership has fallen off to 5,000. Witness admitted that in May and June, 1943, JACL claimed a much larger membership and accredited this to the fact that in March 1942, JACL decided to freeze its membership even though members had not paid their dues. Witness admitted the JACL publicly has claimed a membership of 20,000 and has reported this fact to Dillon Myer and the WRA. Doctor Matthews, Committee Investigator, produced a list of the membership of JACL taken from JACL records and a count of the members listed showed 1,800 regular members and 600 associate members. Witness stated that the list of 20,000 members is either in San Francisco [or] has been lost. Witness stated that JACL misrepresented and exaggerated its membership because it is the only group in a position to represent Japanese Americans in the United States.182

This testimony is remarkable for a number of reasons. Within the context of the relationship between the WRA and JACL, Masaoka is guilty of misleading Myer, the WRA, and the government in general. Masaoka wanted the JACL and himself to be the voice of Japanese Americans, even if the numbers did not support such a position. One also detects an ends justifies the means attitude in Masaoka’s justification that the JACL was the only group in a position to represent Japanese Americans in the U.S. As a result, Masaoka “padded” the membership figures considerably. If JACL had only 1,800 regular members and 600 associated members out of an internee population of approximately 110,000-120,000, exactly whose voice were they?

Moreover, the Committee questioned Masaoka on a statement in his September 19, 1942 report to National Headquarters which read, “we must increase our membership. Make everyone automatic members if necessary. Our membership does not cooperate with us.”183 His reply was, “that was not effected. He stated that when he referred to non-cooperativeness of the membership, he was thinking of the militant minorities of the JACL.184 One wonders at the audacity of a plan to make everyone who was Japanese American a member of the JACL ostensibly for the purpose of being able to make representations to the government.

In response to the claim that JACL was receiving confidential material from the WRA, Masaoka’s response was that

he was merely exaggerating and “like to shoot the bull.” He admitted that JACL received directives possibly before the public would be permitted to receive them.185

According to the Library of Congress’ Legislative Reference Service Summary of the same testimony, Masaoka

admitted a tendency to exaggerate and a strong desire to put his organization in as good a light as possible. He also agreed that he sometimes used big names to impress his own national organization. He had written of meeting Mrs. Roosevelt, Chief Justice Stone, Mr. Stimson, Mr. Knox, Mr. Biddle and others, but on questioning revealed that although he had met the first two, his contacts with the others had been indirect.186

He was again confronted with the following statement,

We are unable to obtain additional gasoline from WRA since an investigation might reveal that a Japanese pressure group is dictating their policies.187

Masaoka’s response was,

that JACL did not dictate the policy of WRA, but admitted that JACL “like to feel that they had influence with WRA.”188

The remainder of Masaoka’s time before the Committee was spent with the Committee confronting him with statements and Masaoka backing down from these statements. He did close his testimony by endorsing the need for segregation, but that it “should not be based entirely on answers to question 28 on the War Department questionnaire. Some considerations should be given the reasons for these answers.189

Another person who testified before the Dies Committee was Eastern Representative of the JACL, Joe Kanazawa. The Committee questioned Kanazawa on the content of a letter received from a Karl Konda of the Manzanar Center. The letter read:

It is difficult to hold on to democracy here at Manzanar. Issei and Kibei are pro-Japanese, and propaganda is Nisei. Nisei sabotage their own people under the JACL banner. Issei and Kibei outnumber Nisei by two to one.190

Kanazawa explained the letter and “stated that JACL has had bad leaders who have sabotaged their own people. He admitted that he knew of such a leader.191 The Library of Congress Legislative Reference Service Summary of the Committee added this to the letter from Manzanar:

I saw a clique of rapacious Nisei riding down their parents and under the JACL banner sabotage their own people and even their fellow nisei . . . This was the type of man who ripped his fellow Japanese up the back with one hand and waved the flag with the other.192

Kanazawa’s response was that he “admitted that among the JACL members there were probably some who fitted the above description.193

Kanazawa’s testimony also concluded with his statement “that JACL has advocated segregation of loyal from disloyal Japanese-Americans for some time.194

The result of the Committee’s work was Senate Resolution 166, passed on July 6, 1943, which was a call for segregating the disloyal out of camp and ultimately into Tule Lake. 195


On December 7, 1944, Saburo Kido wrote to Dillon Myer, requesting an increase in the number of copies of the Pacific Citizen, which had been limited due to a quota on newsprint. The request was based upon Kido’s[, assertion that “inasmuch as we believe that the Pacific Citizen is a great contribution to the war effort in that it is serving the persons of Japanese ancestry and their friends.” He then asked Myer to “contact Mr. Hanson and give your impression of the Pacific Citizen and our value to the government and to the war effort.196 On the upper right hand corner of the letter is the notation, “1-2-45 Talked to Tajiri on phone DSM.” Attached in the file and appended to the letter is a notepaper which reads, “D. S. Myer I think a discreet call to Hansen might be in order. The PC, after all, has been a pretty valuable organ for the program. T.197

Based upon the notation on the letter that Myer spoke to Tajiri on the phone, it is likely that the notepaper was written by Larry Tajiri, editor of the Pacific Citizen. He worked out of the Salt Lake City Office where Saburo Kido’s letter originated. It is noteworthy to see that JACL was hoping to trade the support and cooperation provided through its organ, the Pacific Citizen, for an additional 1,000 copies. One also wonders for what “program” Tajiri thought the Pacific Citizen was a valuable organ.


After the end of the war, Mike Masaoka, as National Secretary of the JACL, wrote to M. M. Tozier, who was at one time, Acting Chief, Reports and Public Relations for the War Relocation Authority. The letter is addressed to “Toze” and asks for “a commendation of the Japanese American Citizens League in your reports for the way we have cooperated with the WRA and have supported pretty generally its program.198 This letter stands as a concise summary of the WRA-JACL relationship during internment, characterized by cooperation and support to the government from the JACL.


At the JACL Special National Conference during November 17-24, 1942, Colonel Kie Rasmussen requested and obtained the assistance of the JACL in recruiting for the Military Intelligence Language School at Camp Savage.

Mr. M. Masaoka: How can we help you? You wish this group to return to the centers and urge their qualified persons to enlist. Is that right?

Col. Rasmussen: Yes.199

The six-page minutes of the meeting with Rasmussen were found in JACL Archives, stamped Confidential, Not for Release or Publication.

One other reference to the military was found in JACL inter-office correspondence from Joe Grant Masaoka to the National Secretary and Headquarters for the period covering 4/29/43 to 5/15/43. On the top of the page, we read:

According to reliable sources, including letters from Nisei soldiers stationed there, all Nisei not sent out of camp in special assignment were confined to their barracks on the occasion of President Roosevelt’s recent visit there.

Note to Joe Kanazawa: Could you please bring this to the attention of the War Department and prevent a recurrence? This has been a matter of much griping among Nisei and circulation of this incident is current within the centers.200

This is a reference to an incident where Japanese American soldiers were kept out of the President’s view by being confined to their barracks. The implication was that the Commandant didn’t want Nisei to be seen in uniform, that Nisei soldiers weren’t worthy to wear their service uniforms. The Fort Riley incident is one of a number of incidents involving Nisei soldiers. However, the JACL memo requesting a stop to such actions is the only reference in JACL documents which was found. Many of the incidents dealing with Nisei soldiers have come under the heading of military resisters, a topic which was not addressed in this study.

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

IIB. Relationship with War Relocation Authority and Other Governmental Agenices

(130) “Japanese Evacuation and Relocation in the Thirteenth Naval District (to March 10, 1943),” pp.
5-6, File “Office of Naval Intelligence,” Box 2, Entry 17, RG 210, NA.
(131) Memorandum, DIO, 13th ND, to DNI, 6/15/42, Box 2, Entry 17, RG 210, NA.
(132) McKee, “History,” p. 58.
(133) Hosokawa, JACL, p. 172-173.
(134) Miyamoto, “The Seattle JACL,” p. 30.
(135) Ibid., pp 30-31.
(136) Ibid. p. 33.
(137) Ibid. p. 33.
(138) Weglyn, Years, p. 300.
(139) Hosokawa, JACL, p. 173.
(140) Bulletin #1, 5/8/42, JACL Archives.
(141) Thomas, Dorothy S., Nishimoto, Richard, The Spoilage, p. 73n, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1969.
(142) Miyamoto, “The Seattle JACL,” pp. 44-45.
(143) Jacobus tenBroek, Edward Barnhart, Floyd Matson, Prejudice, War and the Constitution, p. 122
(hereafter cited as Jacobus et al., Prejudice).
(144) Milton Eisenhower, The President Is Calling, p. 117.
(145) Masaoka, “Report,” p. 81.
(146) Ibid., p. 83.
(147) Ibid. p. 84.
(148) Letter from Mike Masaoka to Milton Eisenhower, 3/28/42, JACL Archives.
(149) Ibid.
(150) Masaoka, “Report,” p. 81.
(151) Letter, Mike Masaoka to Milton Eisenhower, 4/6/42, JACL Archives.
(152) Ibid. pp. 1-3.
(153) Ibid., p. 4.
(154) Ibid.
(155) Ibid.
(156) Ibid., p. 5.
(157) Ibid., p. 7.
(158) Ibid. p. 14.
(159) Ibid. p. 8.
(160) Memorandum, Mike Masaoka, Ken Matsumoto, and George Inagaki to Milton Eisenhower, 6/6/42, “Loyalty Boards,” Box 379, Entry 16, RG 210, NA.
(161) Ibid.
(162) Hosokawa, JACL, p. 188.
(163) Ibid.
(164) Memorandum, K. D. Ringle to Commander Wharton, 5/23/42, JACL Archives.
(165) Memorandum of Understanding, 6/8/42, pp. 3-4, File 39.050, Box 286, Entry 16, RG 210, NA.
(166) Ibid.
(167) McKee, “History,” p. 198.
(168) Ibid.
(169) Supplements, Minutes, Special Conference, 1942.
(170) Ibid.
(171) Ibid., p. 152.
(172) Hosokawa, JACL, p. 225.
(173) Ibid.
(174) “Testimony Taken Before Dies Committee,” 7/9/43, Folder: Dies Committee Testimonies, Box
1719, Entry 480, RG 389, NA.
(175) Ibid.
(176) Ibid.
(177) Ibid.
(178) Ibid.
(179) Report to National Staff, 1/18/43, JACL Archives.
(180) “Testimony Taken Before Dies Committee.”
(181) Ibid.
(182) Ibid.
(183) Ibid.
(184) Ibid.
(185) Ibid.
(186) Costello Sub-committee, July 5, 1943, G-754, File T 1.03, JERS.
(187) Herzig file.
(188) Ibid.
(189) Ibid.
(190) Ibid.
(191) Ibid.
(192) Costello Sub-committee Un-American Activities, July 3, 1943, G-753, File T 1.03, JERS.
(193) Ibid.
(194) Jack Herzig.
(195) Weglyn, Years, p. 154.
(196) File 71.505-JACL, Box 471, Entry 16, RG 210, NA.
(197) Ibid.
(198) JACL, File 71.505, Box 471, Entry 16, RG 210, NA.
(199) Minutes, JACL Special Conference, 1942.
(200) Inter-office correspondence, Joe Grant Masaoka to National Secretary and Headquarters, 4/29/43-5/15/43, JACL Archives.

The history and literature of Japanese American resistance to wartime incarceration

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