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
IC. Response to Various Military Orders, Curfew
The response of one JACL chapter to the various military orders was reported after the fact by an assistant Community Analyst while interned at Poston. Paul Higashi wrote about the Monterey Peninsula Japanese in the Community Analysis Section Report for Poston.
In another part of California we see that shortly after the March 11, 1942 establishment of the WCCA and the voluntary relocation period, the Imperial County Citizens Welfare Committee wrote to Attorney General Francis Biddle. In a letter dated March 17, 1942, Shigeo Imamura, Executive Chairman requested group evacuation on behalf of close to 1,600 Japanese residents, under the auspices of some organization like the JACL.
For lack of a better place to discuss this topic, it will be addressed here. Both Michi Weglyn and Richard Drinnon refer to the suggestion by Nisei leaders to form a “suicide battalion,” with family members serving as “hostages” to stave off the impending evacuation of Japanese-Americans. 71 72The actual source of this suggestion was Mike Masaoka himself. In his “Final Report,” written on April 22, 1944, Masaoka writes:
The issue of JACL’s prior knowledge of evacuation and possible role in requesting such governmental action is not a new question. Like the other issues in this report, it has long been rumored that the JACL asked for the evacuation, that the organization knew about it in advance and either did nothing to prevent it or worked only for their own self-interest. Most recently, these rumors have seen new light through the writings of James M. Omura, wartime English editor of the Rocky Shimpo and longtime thorn in the side of JACL. In his multi-part essay on the autobiography, They Call Me Moses Masaokaand the JACL which appeared in the Vox Populi Column of the Rafu Shimpo in April 1989, Omura raises the issue of prior knowledge by the JACL of evacuation. For his support, Omura refers to a taped interview of Lee Murata. The relevant portions read roughly as follows:
This tape by itself would not amount to much in the way of support for Omura’s contentions. However, taken along with an even more puzzling document referred to by Omura in Part Three of his “Debunking JACL Fallacies,” one must pause to consider. On February 9, 1942, ten days prior to Roosevelt’s issuance of Executive Order 9066, Attorney General Francis Biddle wrote a memorandum to his assistant James Rowe. The heading read MEMORANDUM FOR ROWE. It states:
A further argument against this memo referring to the Maryknoll or Model City/Sakamoto proposal is the reference to the need for “refugee camps.” The Maryknoll proposal had a location in mind, outside of the city of St. Louis. Likewise, refugee camps seem inconsistent with the Model City proposal by Sakamoto in his Tolan Hearing testimony.
In order to examine the decision of the JACL to cooperate with evacuation, it would be helpful to examine the foundation laid for the general concept of cooperation by the organization. With such an understanding, the decision on cooperating with evacuation may be seen in its proper perspective.
On December 7, 1941, following the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor both the National Office of the JACL and National President Saburo Kido dispatched telegrams to President Roosevelt and other government officials. Both contain statements offering the organization’s cooperation.
In the immediate aftermath of Pearl Harbor, public opinion, or at least official public opinion, had not yet been roused and directed against Japanese-Americans. However, in the beginning months of 1942, as public opinion turned into public hysteria and fear, the call for evacuation of the citizen children, along with alien parents, arose.
On February 6, 1942, California Governor Culbert Olson has a meeting with members of the Japanese community he had summoned to the State Capitol himself. Among those present were Saburo Kido, National President; Mike Masaoka, National Secretary; Ken Matsumoto, National Vice-President; Walter Tsukamoto, past-President of the National JACL; Togo Tanaka, English Editor of the Rafu Shimpo and Publicity Chair of the National JACL. Among the others were members of other Japanese organizations and individuals from around the state.
At this meeting, the Governor made a statement to the effect that the Japanese-Americans, both national and citizens, should be prepared to move out of the area at any time. After he concluded his statements, he then wanted to hear “attitudes and willingness to cooperate.” One by one, those present gave their comments. Ken Matsumoto spoke to the effect that Japanese American citizens should be treated like any other citizens, with the Governor expressing dissatisfaction to such “reluctance.” Similarly, Saburo Kido also felt that Japanese-Americans should not be singled out and that their citizenship rights should be respected. The Governor was able to extract a vague commitment to cooperate from Walter Tsukamoto, although he too emphasized recognition for Japanese American citizenship rights. Mike Masaoka urged recognition for the distinction between American Citizens and enemy aliens as well as the need to have the “active cooperation” and “voluntary support” from those being moved. The remaining individuals basically reiterated the comments of the four previous speakers. After the meeting, there was the increasing fear that evacuation would come to pass. 79
In hearings held before the Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration, House of Representatives, 77th Congress, during the latter part of February through the beginning of March 1942, JACL representatives in San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles, appeared and testified on the issue of evacuation.
Mike Masaoka, as National Secretary and Field Executive of the JACL, submitted a prepared statement into the record of the Tolan Committee Hearings. The portion on Evacuation follows:
Thus in his statement, Masaoka agreed to cooperation on evacuation if it was deemed a military necessity. On the other hand, he did object to evacuation on the grounds that a discriminatory motive would be contrary to the rights of American citizens. Masaoka continued with recommendations on policy and procedure in the event of evacuation.
Shortly after the San Francisco Hearings were completed, hearings were held in Seattle and Portland, on February 26, 28, and March 2, 1942. James Sakamoto, founder and past-National President of the JACL, testified. He expressed opposition “to the idea of indiscriminate, en masse evacuation of all citizens and loyal aliens of Japanese extraction” and emphasized the desire of Japanese Americans to contribute to the war effort. However,
The Minutes of this emergency meeting of the National Board and Council in San Francisco reflect the final decisions made on cooperation with evacuation. The Board Minutes indicate that Mike Masaoka read a statement of the National Board on the policy of the JACL regarding evacuation which did not depart much from his statement to the Tolan Committee.
3. If it becomes necessary to remove citizens from these areas or regions, as designated by the military, we believe that all citizens should be treated alike and that no single block of citizens be singled out for special consideration or attention.
4. Even though our beliefs may not be recognized by the military and they should single out the American citizens of Japanese extraction, as they have done, for special attention, we believe that, as good American citizens, we ought to accept the word of those charged with the responsibility of national safety and that we should cooperate with them to the best of our abilities, trusting that our cooperation will inspire a reciprocal cooperation on the part of our government in the humane and reasonable treatment of our mutual problem.82
That last phrase in Point Four would be a theme throughout the comments expressed by JACL leaders in their meetings with government officials during this special meeting of the National Board and Council. Saburo Kido made a comment to that effect to Tom Clark,
After the statement of policy and resolutions for cooperation came expressions of what many since consider to be inappropriate sentiment, given the conditions facing Japanese Americans in the U.S. On March 8, 1942, Saburo Kido gave a special message to the assembled delegates of the Emergency National Council Meeting at JACL National Headquarters in San Francisco. In his closing remarks Kido told the delegates “let us keep our chins up,” “we are gladly cooperating,” “we have been grateful to our Federal government,” “we are glad that we can become wards of our government,” “when we leave our homes, let us leave with a smiling face and courageous mien.”86
Likewise, in Jimmie Sakamoto’s comments at the same meeting, he urged his fellow JACLers, “so now it is up to us to cooperate with the government loyally and cheerfully.”87
An examination of the situation in Seattle during evacuation led Frank Miyamoto to conclude that “it seemed to me, the JACL was far more efficient in administering the process of evacuation than in organizing against it.”88 Miyamoto documented the work of the JACL in operating as an intermediary between the Japanese and the U.S. Employment Service, in acting as a clearinghouse for evacuation sales, and most importantly in communicating information about evacuation from government agencies to the community. 89
Under the heading of Japanese American Citizens League, the report indicates the following:
However, it is quite clear from this excerpt what was the degree of cooperation offered by the Seattle JACL in response to evacuation and in their efforts to facilitate rather oppose it.
During the Special Emergency Meeting of the JACL held in San Francisco, Mike Masaoka makes a statement, which, if truly ascribable to him, is outrageous and shocking. In the Report on Conditions in Distant States a number of delegates report on the situation in the mid-west. Near the end of the session, Masaoka gives his report.
He recommends one of the three following methods:
1. Be put into Labor Concentration camps to be farmed out to large sugar beet combines as cheap laborers.
2. The Japanese internees be brought in for roadmaking.
3. The Japanese be branded and stamped and put under the supervision of the Federal government.92
(Author’s note: An interview was scheduled with Masaoka in October . It was hoped that such an interview would clarify this particular point, but his poor health prevented it.)
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
(69) Report No. 60, March 16, 1945, p. 3, Poston Report Officer, File J 1.85, JERS.
(70) Letter, Shigeo Imamura to Francis Biddle, March 11, 1942, Box 137, RG 210, NA.
(71) Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, William Morrow and Co., Inc., New York, 1976 (hereafter cited as Years).
(72) Richard Drinnon, Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1987.
(73) Masaoka, “Report.”
(74) Weglyn, Years.
ID. The Decision to Cooperate with Evacuation
(75) Interview of Lee Murata by Joe Grant Masaoka, (date if available), Buddhist Church lounge, Denver, Colorado, Tape 249, Box 394, Oral History Tape, Counter Number 536-600, JARP.
(76) Memorandum, Francis Biddle to James Rowe, 2/9/42, File A 7.01, JERS.
(77) JACL Press release, 12/7/41, JACL Archives.
(78) Bill Hosokawa, JACL: In Quest of Justice, pp. 130-1, William Morrow and Co., New York, 1982 (hereafter cited as JACL).
(79) Tanaka, “Journal.”
(80) Mike Masaoka, Tolan Committee Hearings, February 21 and 23, 1942, San Francisco, p. 11137.
(81) Ibid., p. 11451.
(82) JACL Minutes, Special Board, 1942.
(83) Ibid., p. 5.
(84) Ibid., pp. 22-23.
(85) Ibid., Resolutions, pp. 22-23.
(86) Ibid., Sixth Session, p. 1.
(87) Hosokawa, JACL, p. 158.
(88) Frank Miyamoto, “The Seattle JACL and Its Role in Evacuation,” p. 26, File 6.24, JERS.
(89) Ibid., pp. 24-25.
(90) Ibid., pp. 26-27.
(91) “Japanese Evacuation and Relocation in the Thirteenth Naval District (to March 10, 1943),” pp. 5-6, File “ONI,” Box 2, Entry 17, RG 210, NA.
(92) JACL Minutes, Special Board, 1942.
(93) Ibid., Introduction, p. 1.