by Sumiko Kobayashi, October 2008
While the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on that fateful
day affected the lives of every American then living, it had special
consequences for Japanese Americans living on the west coast of
the United States.
On the day after
the attack the FBI and local police visited the homes and businesses
of Japanese families, looking for contraband items like guns, cameras,
short-wave radios, and took into custody community leaders: the
leaders of Kenjin-kai (mutual self-help societies), Buddhist priests,
and Japanese language teachers. It was literally the dreaded knock
on the door at night. One of those taken away from their families
was my father’s employer, a successful rose and carnation
grower in San Leandro, California. For a long time his family did
not know where he had been taken and when they would see him again.
Fortunately he had a young adult son who was able to carry on the
business until he leased the nursery and voluntarily evacuated his
family away from the west coast.
In the absence
of martial law Japanese were placed under a curfew, 8 pm to 6 am,
their assets were frozen, and travel beyond a radius of five miles
required written permission from a U.S. attorney.
In the 2-1/2
months after December 7 the Japanese communities waited apprehensively
as Japanese military successes in Asia fueled fears of an attack
on the mainland of the United States. Finally their uncertainty
was resolved when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive
Order 9066 (EO) on February 19, 1942, which gave the U.S. Army
blanket authority to move civilians out of the Western Defense Command.
The EO makes no mention of “Japanese” but everyone knew
it was intended to apply only to Japanese, aliens and “non-aliens”
(citizens) alike, while German and Italian aliens were given individual
hearings. Two arguments put forth for evacuation were that it was
not possible to tell the loyal from the disloyal, and that the Japanese
were removed for their own protection. The main argument given was
Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA) organized the removal
of all Japanese from Washington State, Oregon, California and the
southern third of Arizona. Infants to seniors, immigrant aliens
and American-born citizens alike, were taken to temporary assembly
at horse racing tracks hastily converted to living quarters, and
fairgrounds—existing facilities able to house and feed a large
number of people. Evacuees were assigned
a family number (example 21518) and instructed to bring with them
only what they could carry in their two hands. Everything else had
to be sold at distress prices or placed in government warehouses.
Pets had to be left behind. Families were picked up by the Army
at designated points and taken in buses guarded by soldiers armed
with rifles and fixed bayonets to assembly centers. The centers
were guarded by armed soldiers around the clock, and visitors had
to speak to their friends through a 15-foot high fence. Two-thirds
of the evacuees were American citizens. The average age of those
evacuated was 18.
the uncropped image
"Imprisoned Without Trial" exhibit at Medford Leas
included a framed Evacutation Notice. (This
photo is cropped.) Evacuation
Notices were posted on telephone poles and buildings. This
notice is dated May 3 and gives an evacuation deadline of
noon on May 9
While the Japanese
families were held in assembly centers, ten semi-permanent relocation
were being built on government-owned land; some were
on Indian reservations. They were in eastern California, Idaho,
Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona and Arkansas, each designed to
hold 8,000 to 10,000 individuals in barrack cities. After the initial
evacuation phase the job of running the detention centers was turned
over to a civilian agency, the War Relocation Authority (WRA).
One of the first
casualties of evacuation was individual and family privacy. Life
in the relocation centers was communal. In residential blocks 12
barracks surrounded a central mess hall and laundry/bathroom building.
The 12 barracks for sleeping were divided into apartments of different
sizes for different size families, one room to a family. Another
casualty was parental control over their children as young people
congregated in peer groups. Some young men went to more than one
mess hall to eat meals.
Each camp had
a hospital, high school, several elementary and nursery schools
and Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist churches. Each camp had a
Project Director with a Caucasian staff, who lived in their own
compound, but the bulk of running a “city” of 8,000
to 10,000 persons fell to the evacuees themselves.
The entire residential area was about one mile square surrounded
by barbed wire with guard towers at intervals with searchlights
pointed inward. These were manned around the clock by a small contingent
of soldiers with guns, who were housed in their own compound outside
the main camp area.
Within the confines
of the barbed wire residents attempted to duplicate the community
they had left behind. Besides performing the day-to-day tasks of
running the camp, the evacuees organized classes for arts and crafts,
poetry, and other hobbies, ran talent shows, held dances for the
young people, showed current movies in the recreation halls, and
organized baseball, football and basketball teams which later played
local high schools. Every camp had a mimeographed daily newsletter
and sometimes a literary magazine.
Click images to read text. If the larger image is still not
large enough, then click on it to get the full-size image.
sought to bring beauty to their bleak surroundings. These
images are from The
Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese Interment
Camps 1942-1946 by Delphine Hirasuna. "Gaman"
is Endurance, Perseverence, Patience. The Tule Lake and Topaz
camps were on ancient lake beds. The page on the left shows
jewelry and other artifacts that were fashioned from shells
picked up around the camps. Doll making was a traditional
craft practiced in the camps from materials at hand. The text
on these two pages gives detail on the materials used and
the construction of the jewelry and dolls
their Quaker values the Society of Friends was one of the few groups
that sought to help the evacuees. The American Friends Service Committee
send layettes to all the camps for mothers of newborns.
One of the mothers who received such a layette is Florence Ishida,
a Medford Leas resident in Assisted Living. Quaker individuals
like Herbert Nicholson were loved by evacuees for bringing in items
that evacuees could not obtain themselves, to demonstrate that some
Caucasians had faith in them.
As the tide of war turned in favor of the United States, the authorities
in Washington, D.C., and the camps, felt the individuals confined
behind barbed wire should be allowed to leave the camps and resume
a normal life so that a permanent dependent population would not
be created. One of the first groups to leave was college students.
A group of educators, including the President of the University
of California at Berkeley, organized the National Japanese American
Student Relocation Council to move students out of the camps and
onto college campuses away from the west coast. John W. Nason, President
of Swarthmore College, was named President of the Council. The American
Friends Service Committee, headed by Clarence Pickett, was the working
arm of the program. Tom Bodine, a conscientious objector, was its
field director, who visited all the camps, interviewing prospective
students and urging them to take advantage of the opportunity. William
Marutani and Sumiko Kobayashi left the relocation centers for Dakota
Wesleyan College and Drew University with the assistance of the
Student Relocation Council.
as employment opportunities opened up. John Seabrook, the “Henry
Ford of Agriculture” pioneered the frozen food industry in
South Jersey. He had contracts with the armed forces to supply frozen
vegetables, but because of the draft, enlistments and war industries,
labor was in short supply. He sent recruiters to all the camps,
inviting them to work at Seabrook with a promise of employment and
housing. A scouting team from the Jerome Relocation Center visited
Seabrook and reported favorably on the offer. Soon a stream of evacuees
from all the centers arrived at the small town in rural New Jersey.
Many children graduated from Bridgeton High School and went on to
colleges and careers elsewhere. Ellen Nakamura and John Fuyuume
established the Seabrook Educational and Cultural Center in Upper
Deerfield, NJ, which tells the story of the multicultural, multi-ethnic
“global village” that existed for a time in the area.
story of Seabrook is told in the 70th anniversary edition of the
New Yorker magazine, February 20-27, 1995.
The Army, which had taken guns away from Japanese American soldiers
when the war began, went to the camps to recruit young men and women.
Reluctantly at first, the evacuees joined the 442nd Regimental Combat
Team, the all-Japanese unit that received the highest number of
decorations for a unit of its size in World War II. Others, especially
the Kibei, men born in the U.S. but who grew up in Japan, were recruited
for the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) to serve in the South
Pacific and later with the Occupation in post-war Japan. Residents
Minoru Endo and William Marutani were members of the MIS.
M. Marutani was interned at Tule Lake, CA and then relocated
to Dakota Wesleyan in South Dakota. He was a Philadelphia
Common Pleas Court Judge, Civil Rights Volunteer, and a member
Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.
His widow, Victoria Marutani is one of three Japanese-American
residents of Medford Leas who were not interned. Vicki was
a nurse in occupied Japan when she met Bill, who enlisted
the help of his Congressman to enable her to enter the U.S.,
opening the door for other US servicemen to marry Japanese
Medford Leas resident, the late Minoru Endo, was interned
at Topaz, UT and relocated to Minneapolis, MN. Endo was in
the Military Intelligence Service (MIS), an Instructor at
MIS, and served occupation duty in post-war Japan. He later
became Vice-President of Mikasa, Inc. His wife Ayako, a Medford
Leas resident now deceased, was also at Topaz . She relocated
to MIS Ft Snelling, MN.
The camps were
emptied and the camps closed in 1945.
Americans tried to restart their lives, putting the painful past
behind them. Many never told their children where they had spent
the war years. The children often learned of their families’
past when they learned about internment in school and asked their
parents about it. Growing up with the civil rights movement, the
younger generation led the way in demanding justice for the violation
of their parents’ constitutional rights.
The first of
the ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States known
as the Bill of Rights reads:
shall make no law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people
peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a
redress of grievances.”
At its national
convention in 1978 in Salt Lake City the Japanese American Citizens
League (JACL) committed to an effort to obtain “redress”
for the wrongful incarceration during World War II of all Japanese
Americans living in the western United States. Upon the recommendation
of Senator Daniel K. Inouye and other Japanese Americans in the
U.S. Congress, the route chosen was a Commission to investigate
the circumstances surrounding the events of evacuation and internment.
The late Judge William Marutani was the only Commission
member who had experienced the events being investigated.
The Commission determined that the evacuation and internment were
due to racial discrimination and war hysteria and led to legislation
introduced in Congress for an apology and compensation to Japanese
Americans. The ten-year lobbying effort, led by Japanese Americans
legislators in the Senate and House, was coordinated by
Medford Leas resident Grayce Uyehara, who spent part of
the week in Washington, D.C., volunteering her time.
The final touch
was administered by then Governor of New Jersey, Tom Kean,
who reminded a reluctant President Ronald Reagan of his own words,
that “blood spilled on the battlefield is all one color.”
Okamoto, Native of Philadelphia, and Friends, Company I, 442nd
Regimental Combat Team, France, 1945.
Courtesy of Allen Okamoto
jacket of The Politics of Inclusion, by New Jersey
Governor Tom Kean was included in the Medford Leas display.
The exhibit caption explained: "Governor
Kean played a pivotal role in passage of the Civil Liberties
Act of 1988, the Redress Law, when he reminded President Ronald
Reagan of Reagan's own words at a ceremony awarding a posthumous
medal to a fallen 442nd soldier: "Blood spilled on the
Battlefield is all one color." About
the 442nd Infantry Regiment
signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which offered the nation’s
apology for wrongful incarceration and authorized the payment of
$20,000 to each person who was forced to leave home pursuant to
Executive Order 9066, and who was living when President Reagan signed
the bill into law.
cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it
Santayana, Spanish American philosopher
Japanese Americal Memorial to Patriotism, D Street and New Jersey
Avenue, Washington.D.C.....National Japanese American
Memorial Foundation. Visit the