Saturday, March 11, 2006

Second half of Professor Murphey's piece

A Question Long-Since forgotten: Was Mere Relocation a Dangerously Indulgent Policy?

Many officials on the West Coast and in the western states wanted actual internment, not just relocation, for the duration of the war. Hindsight shows that this wasn't necessary. As it turned out the evacuation and relocation worked well to protect both the national security and the Japanese-Americans themselves. It's easy to lose sight of the fact today, though, that the decision not to intern was made at great risk. Experience during the war did demonstrate that there were a sizeable number of Japanese-Americans who militantly supported Japan. If they had conducted even one massive act of sabotage, would the risk have been worth it? How many lives, say, was the risk worth? 100? 1000? 10,000? Whose lives?

The Criticism of an Inference

After the war began, authorities anticipated acts of sabotage on the West Coast - but none occurred. Why? The critics of the evacuation argue that this is evidence that there were no disloyal persons of Japanese ancestry. A number of American officials at the time, however, including Earl Warren, drew diametrically the opposite inference: that there must be some who were willing to commit sabotage, but that for some reason they were being held back rather than being exposed. Warren and the others, including the columnist Walter Lippmann, considered it an ominous sign.

This inference was later ridiculed - in fact, called "vicious" and unprofessional - by the Congressional Commission on Wartime Relocation. Each reader should be able to decide for himself whether the reasoning was flawed (and, for those who agree with the critics who say that it was, whether it can appropriately be characterized as vicious).

A Critically Important Choice: Mass Evacuation or a Case-by-Case Loyalty Determination

The normal course of law in a legal system that respects individual rights looks at the guilt of individuals, providing each "due process." The critics of the evacuation invoke this as the basis for a bitter denunciation of American policy, since it treated the Japanese-Americans as a group. The critical view would follow almost naturally from a position that acknowledges virtually no need for protective measures in the emergency: If the threat were slight, it would hardly outweigh the important value to be given to due process.

We have already seen, however, that there was a vital need for immediate action. The critical view would also be reasonable if the American government had had an expeditious way to determine, by investigation and hearings, the loyalty of each person on an individual basis. But this was a virtual impossibility, given the cultural insularity of the Japanese-American community. (To make any practical sense, it presupposes that many of the Japanese-Americans would have come forward in hearings as witnesses against other Japanese-Americans; but we have seen the internal pressures, including murderous beatings, that the pro-Japan element could have brought to bear against it.)

When the war was within months of being over, Justice Murphy on the Supreme Court found it easy to embrace the contrary view, but in the first case to come before the Court he had said that "the military authorities could reasonably have concluded at the time that determinations as to the loyalty of individual ...persons of Japanese extraction on the West Coast could not be made without delay that might have had tragic consequences.

"Chief Justice Stone, writing for the Court, agreed, saying: "We cannot say that the war-making branches of the government did not have ground for believing that in a critical hour such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with."

Justice Jackson made a curious bifurcation reminiscent of Pontius Pilate's washing of his hands: that courts should continue even during wartime to hold to individual due process, but that they shouldn't interfere with the military if it found it necessary not to do so.

Why Wasn't the Same Done With the Hawaiian Japanese-Americans ?

The point is sometimes made that the evacuation from the West Coast was inconsistent with having left the Japanese-American population on Hawaii. The answer is that with the - declaration of martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in December 1941, Hawaii was placed under direct military control. It is said to have been "governed like a military camp for all its inhabitants." This was not done on the mainland.

Why Weren't Americans of German and Italian Extraction evacuated?

Another point of criticism asks why the Japanese-Americans evacuated but people of German and Italian ancestry were not. This has a double edge: it suggests that the evacuation really wasn't necessary; and it sugqests that the evacuation was racially motivated.

Senator Hayakawa, though, wrote "the answer is obvious. Germans and Italians, having come to America earlier than the Japanese and in far greater numbers, were already well-known to Americans in 1941." The same point was expressed in a letter that the city officials of Madera, California, wrote to then-attorney general Earl Warren in early 1941: "The general feeling about the Italians is that they are well assimilated, and we do not regard even the Italian aliens alien in fact... So Far as we know, there are no German aliens in this community." The distinction lies in the vast difference in assimilation. The Germans and Italians had long-since become mixed with the general population.

Whether the Exclusion Should Have Been Ended Sooner

In their late-1944 opinions, the Supreme Court justices were especially sensitive to whether the exclusion order should have been rescinded once the tide of military fortune shifted in favor of the United States. (The various concurring and dissenting opinions would, in fact, make an excellent case study in the vagaries of the liberal mind, since a certain ideological sentimentality became apparent once the improving war situation allowed it.)

As it was, the order was rescinded as of January 2, 1945, when there were still more than seven months of warfare remaining with Japan. The argument is that it is unconstitutional to constrain an American citizen even a day longer than necessity requires, and that as time went on many of the Japanese-Americans were clearly known to be loyal. If it is agreed, however, that a group evacuation and resettlement was justified, it becomes a neat matter of timing as to when, precisely, the program should have been abandoned.

The Roosevelt administration did not wait until the end of the war, but simply took longer than the critics assert it should have. We have seen that beginning in early 1944 "certificates of exemptions were granted to some to return to the West Coast. What is important, though, is to remind ourselves that the country was very largely occupied with other tasks. It shouldn't be necessary to recite the vastly complicated preoccupations that held Americans' attention in 1944 and 1945. Meanwhile, the relocation of many of the Japanese-Americans to eastern and mid-western communities was going on apace. While it is technically arguable that the exclusion order should have been rescinded earlier, the failure to do so seems understandable.

Was the Relocation a Product of 'Racism'?

Much public opinion on the West Coast had long been hostile to Japanese and other Asian immigration. Organized labor was for many years prominent among its opponents. And there is no question but that public opinion was inflamed against the Japanese during World War II, especially right after Pearl Harbor. This feeling was most intense on the West Coast, for a very specific reason: the National Guard units from eleven western states were fighting in the Philippines, where they were tortured and starved by their Japanese captors. Their families and friends felt passionately about it. Throughout the war, one of the motivating factors in the policy of evacuation and resettlement was to protect the Japanese-Americans from public anger. It is easy today to say that anger 'Racist,' but we have reason to be suspicious of attitudes taken under much more comfortable circumstances forty and even fifty years after the fact. To argue that the anger was vicious has, itself, a certain vicious quality about it. The point to keep in mind is that there were ample reasons for the evacuation that had nothing to do with racism.

Justice Black wrote level-headedly about this in 1944: "To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military danger which were present, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military area because of hostility to him or his race ... He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese Empire...."

Justice Stone discussed whether there are occasions when national origin can be considered in making policy: "Because racial discriminations are in most circumstances irrelevant and therefore prohibited, it by no means follows that, in dealing with the perils of war, Congress and the Executive are wholly precluded from taking into account those facts and circumstances which are relevant ... and which may in fact place citizens of one ancestry in a different category from others."

The Aftermath

The U. S. Supreme Court had the matter before it in three cases: Hirabayashi v.. United States, 32O U.S. 81 (1943); Korematsu v. United States, 323 U.S. 214 (1944); and Ex Parte Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944).

In the course of this discussion I have had occasion to quote much of the thinking expressed there. Hearings were held by the House of Representative's "Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration" (the "Tolan Committee") in February and March of 1942. In 1948, Congress passed the "Japanese American Evacuation Claims Act" under which approximately $38 million was paid to evacuees for property losses (though extensive measures had been taken by the Army and the War Relocation Authority to store and safeguard their property during the war).

Critics later argued that additional money should have been paid for loss of earnings and for intangible damages such as "stigma" and "psychological impact." In the late 1960s, a movement called "the redress movement" got underway. Reflecting the importunities of that movement, President Gerald Ford in 1976 issued a proclamation saying "we know now what we should have known then: not only was [the] evacuation wrong, but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans."

In 1980, Congress created the "Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians." It issued its report, entitled "Personal Justice Denied," on February 22, 1983. John J. McCloy later wrote that "the manner and the atmosphere in which the hearings were held was outrageous and a disgrace." He said that "I have been before this Congress many times in hearings, but I have never been subjected to the indignities that I was at the hearings of the Relocation Commission. Every time I tried to say anything in favor of the United States or in favor of the President of the United States, there were hisses and boos and stomping of feet."

David F. Trask, the chief historian for the U.S. Army Center of Military History, sees the Report as virtually an advocacy brief "to present the case against the Government in the most favorable light ... Facts and arguments that might tend to support a contrary conclusion are either excluded or rejected." We have seen how it totally overlooked the existence of MAGIC, the decoded Japanese dispatches, which is a key to understanding why the Roosevelt administration took the action it did. In 1988, hearings were held by the House Subcommittee on Administrative Law and Governmental Relations. In 1988, Congress passed the "Japanese Money Bill" under which more than $2O,000 was paid, with an apology, to more than 60,000 of evacuees. As a part of this, in October 1990 checks for $20,000 each were sent to 490 former evacuees who had returned to Japan and are citizens there.

The Long-Term Effect on the Japanese-Americans

Though it has nothing to do with the merits of the evacuation, it is worth mentioning as a concluding note that the long-term effects on the Nisei and succeeding generations have almost certainly been favorable. Senator Hayakawa wrote that "as one talks with Nisei today, one gets the impression that the wartime relocation, despite the injustices and economic losses suffered, was perhaps the best thing that could have happened to the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. As many say, the relocation forced them out of their segregated existence to discover the rest of America ... The relocation thus resulted in the Americanization of the Japanese in one generation after immigration - a record for non-English-speaking immigrants of any color.


The circumstances during World War II were much more complicated that those who would damn the United States as having "viciously set up concentration camps for the Japanese-Americans" ever admit. My study of the subject has persuaded me that Americans have nothing to be ashamed about this episode, even though it is regrettable that such a thing should ever have to happen.


At March 20, 2006 6:09 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.


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