Saturday, March 18, 2006

More "Anecdotal evidence" from another historical experience

Got this response from a native Oregonian (a person, not the paper!)

I enjoy getting this type of correspondence at BainbridgeHistorians because some day these people won't be around to share their experiences...

Sure it's "anecdotal evidence" but that didn't stop the former mayor of Gresham, Oregon from being dragged through the mud 42 years after he was dead and buried....

Per the policy I have shortened the names provided for privacy.

"I grew up in a rural neighborhood north of Salem, Oregon. We lived about a mile west of the SP railroad tracks connecting San Diego and Seattle.

A neighbor, Ron ** (now deceased) told me that just after Pearl Harbor an Army officer came to his house. There was a small Japanese farming village nearby at an area called Lake Labish.

The officer said that they had picked up radio signals from the Lake Labish area soon after trains passed through but the Army did not have the staff to investigate.

He asked if Mr. ** could help observe the Japanese village. Mr. ** told me that he got some of the other men in the area, all men who I remember well as a youth, and they sat at night in the woods over looking the village.

He said that when a train went by an elderly Japanese man went to a well, pulled up a package and returned to his cabin. They reported the incident to the Army.

A few weeks later the Army officer reported to Mr. ** that the Army found that the package hidden in the well was a shortwave radio. The old Japanese man must have been reporting the directions of train, how many cars, passanger or freight, etc. to a submarine off the coast.

I grew up in the farming neighborhood until 1960 when I went into the service but remained unaware of a Japanese village in the Lake Labish area.

It was not an area that I did much exploring in so I cannot confirm that it ever existed. The story intrigued me because Mr. ** was known as a leader, and for his integrity, in our small neighborhood. He was respected by everyone."

UPDATE: Indeed there was an ethnic Japanese farming community at Lake Labish. Although this link isn't entirely historically accurate they mention the community. Perhaps they will include the story of the radio in the well on their site.


At March 20, 2006 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The McCloy Memo: A New Look at Japanese American Internment

By Greg Robinson

The removal and confinement of some 120,000 American citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific Coast during 1942, popularly (if inaccurately) known as the Japanese American internment, remains a powerful event in the nation’s consciousness. In the decades since the war, historians have exhaustively documented the primary role of anti-Japanese prejudice and war hysteria by West Coast Army officers and civilians in bringing about the issuing of Executive Order 9066, which authorized removal.


Yet in recent times a small group of internment revisionists led by journalist Michelle Malkin, ignoring this evidence, have loudly argued that mass removal was a justified and positive example of ethnic profiling. The keystone of their argument is that a few White House and War Department authorities, notably Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, made the decision to confine West Coast Japanese Americans based on their reading of the MAGIC Intercepts, top-secret Japanese diplomatic messages decoded by American cryptographers. The MAGIC cables, these revisionists claim, provided clear evidence of mass espionage by aliens and American citizens during the prewar period. Although the revisionists’ evidence is predominantly old and discredited, in the current mood of insecurity and wartime nationalism they have attracted significant attention.

A few years ago, I was at the Library of Congress researching my book By Order of the President, about Franklin Roosevelt’s role in the wartime removal. I discovered some documents in the papers of Robert Patterson, the then-Undersecretary of War. Among them was a file copy of a memorandum, dated July 23, 1942, that John McCloy sent Patterson in response to inquiries about the feeding of Japanese American “internees.” McCloy noted that since 70 percet of those in the camps were citizens, and most were women and children, the government should provide them sufficient food. This was neither novel nor relevant to my project, so I filed the document without thinking. Recently, I was surprised to discover that the memo also included a handwritten postscript. There, McCloy admitted that military security was not a primary factor in triggering the removal of West Coast Japanese Americans:


These people are not 'internees': They are under no suspicion for the most part and were moved largely because we felt we could not control our own white citizens in California.

Since the revisionists credit McCloy as the chief decision-maker on removal, his admission fatally discredits their argument about national security. (They cannot escape this reality by claiming that McCloy was protecting the secrecy of MAGIC—Patterson probably was aware of MAGIC, and in any case the spectacle of McCloy lying to his superior officer, who supported removal, to preserve secrecy enters the realm of the ludicrous).

For more thoughtful students of history, the postscript raises questions of interpretation. For one thing, McCloy's explanation about "protective custody" does not square with the evidence —Army officers seem not to have ever discussed removing Japanese Americans to protect them, and it is certain that if protection had been the goal Japanese Americans would have faced very different conditions following removal. Conversely, how do we account for the evidence that War Department leaders genuinely feared Japanese subversion during early 1942? Or the fact that McCloy continued, then and in later years, to defend the government’s actions as based on military security—even manipulating evidence before the Supreme Court to bolster the government’s case against legal challenge?


There are no simple answers to these questions. Yet the note -- especially in the intimacy of a handwritten afterword--testifies powerfully to McCloy's bitterness against the Californians who had forced Washington to take extreme action. Perhaps it is not too much to say that McCloy’s memo reveals remorse--a realization that he had been misled about the Japanese threat. So why did he not publicly reveal the truth about removal? As a patriot and a military loyalist, McCloy believed in defending the White House and War Department at all costs. To confess that the Army had acted in response to popular prejudice would discredit the war effort and stain the reputations of America’s leaders. Yet McCloy’s postscript may help explain why that normally supercautious man twice went out on a limb during mid-1942 to support Japanese Americans. McCloy and Hawaiian Defense Commanding General Delos Emmons together thwarted President Roosevelt’s orders for mass confinement of Japanese Hawaiians. Meanwhile, McCloy overrode Army opposition to Nisei soldiers, and brokered the creation of the famous 442 nd Regimental Combat Team. The possibility that these actions represented a concealed form of contrition lends them special poignancy.

Mr. Robinson, assistant professor of history at the University of Quebec at Montreal, is the author of By Order of the President: FDR and the Internment of Japanese Americans.This article originated at Cliopatria.History News Network September 13, 2005. Posted at Japan Focus on September 22, 2005.

At March 20, 2006 11:42 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

It's funny how Robinson didn't find any value for the memo until recently. He never provided a satisfactory reason for why this memo all of a sudden became so important.

Michelle Malkin blogs on it here.

I'll provide commentary when time permits.

P.S. We're not the historical revisionists, Greg. You are...

At March 20, 2006 11:47 AM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

I also want to thank the poster who refers to me as a racist and hater of all Japanese Americans.

I'll tell the poster the quest for historical accuracy is a slander against no person.

At any rate, I receive so few responses at this blog it is gratifying to know at least one person has the passion to log on go through word verfication and call me a racist and hater.

It beats being ignored entirely, doesn't it....:)

At March 20, 2006 2:17 PM, Blogger Friends of Historical Accuracy said...

Here's a link to the little we debate we had with the so called "experts" over at HNN.

It was pretty funny.

Bill Hopwood is a naval veteran of the era and is still as sharp as a tack!

Here's what he had to say on Robinson't piece.

Professor Robinson's most recent commentary with regard to the controversy over the McCloy memo raises some additional questions.

In Bruce Ramsey's column in the Seattle Times which brought the matter of the McCloy memo to light, it was said that "Robinson found the letter while researching his book, "By Order of the President" which was published in 2001. Mr. Robinson, however, claims here that the document was "recently discovered." Which was it?

Please correct me if I'm wrong but if the document really came to Mr. Robinson's attention four or five years ago while researching for his book, why can't I find it mentioned in the book? Nor do I find mention of UnderSecWar Patterson, whose name does not appear in the index. If not considered worth mentioning in the book, why is it considered such a "bomshell" now?

Indeed, the memo would not seem to be of much importance at all when viewed in the context of other comments by Mr. McCloy concerning the reasons for the Japanese evacuation. Historians Conn, Engelman, and Fairchild, for instance, note in "Guarding the United States and Its Outposts--Chapter V," that only several months after the memo in question, McCloy wrote another memo which indicated that the attitude of the local population was least in importance and behind military considerations in the evacuation decision.

That memo, on 16 November 1942, addressed to the Commanding General, Eastern Defense Command, Hugh Drum, said: "As you know, the Japanese were removed from the West Coast, first because of the proximity of the West Coast to the Japanese theater of operations and, second, because of the very large number of Japanese concentrated in that area, and thirdly, because of the fear that direct action might be taken against the Japanese as a result of the rather antagonistic attitude of the local population."

Furthermore, SecWar Stimson who was at least as much an architect of the evacuation decision as Mr. McCloy, later wrote in his memoir written in 1947 "...the War Department ordered the evacuation of more than 100,000 persons of Japanese origin from strategic areas on the west coast (because)Japanese raids...seemed not only possible but probable...and it was quite impossible to be sure that the raiders would not receive important help from individuals of Japanese origin."

Years later (1984)in Congressional testimoney Mr. McCloy said: "It was a fact that (the Pearl Harbor) attack was supplemented by information giving (top officials) clear knowledge of the existence of subversive Japanese agencies designed to operate in this country...The information...was available through "MAGIC," a system by which we were able to read intercepted Japanese coded messages before and during a large part of the war...the knowledge obtained by "MAGIC," more than supplied all the information needed to justify fully President Roosevelt's action."

Finally, I'm curious as to the source of Mr. Robinson's contention that the evacuees were not to be considered "internees" for legal reasons in order to avoid Geneva Convention feeding requirements. That seems far fetched to me. The War Relocation Authority definition of the difference between "evacuees" and "internees" is clear and makes more sense: "A sharp distinction should be drawn at all times between residents of relocation centers--even the aliens--and prisoners of war or civilian internees. The aliens residing at relocation centers have been found guilty of no crime...They have simply been evacuated as a group, in the interest of military security, from specific military areas....CIVILIAN INTERNEES ARE ALIENS OF ENEMY NATIONALITY-- JAPANESE, GERMAN, OR ITALIAN--WHO HAVE BEEN APPREHENDED BY THE FBI AND FOUND GUILTY BY ENEMY ALIEN CONTROL BOARDS OF ACTS OR INTENTIONS AGAINST THE NATIONAL SECURITY..." (Emphasis added). They are confined in internment camps...and not quartered at relocation centers.


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