Santa Cruz County History - Executive Order 9066 and the Residents of Santa Cruz County



Fear of Attack, Fear of Sabotage, Arrests
by Rechs Ann Pedersen

The United States was not at war with Japan when, on December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the U.S. Naval Fleet at Pearl Harbor. The day after, the United States declared war on Japan. During the first part of the War, the newspapers carried articles that reveal fears of external attack and internal sabotage. Those fears, along with naked racism against those of Japanese ancestry, are evident in the public calls for the evacuation of the West Coast and later used as reasons for opposing the return of the internees.

Fear of Attack

In the beginning of the War, the fear of attack was not without basis. Hawaii had just been attacked and other near attacks were reported. Authorities warned of possible danger.

December 9, 1941:

POPULACE CALM AS WATSONVILLE PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS AT 7:23 P.M.
'Hostile planes' approached the central California coast Monday night, resulting in blackouts which plunged Watsonville and other coast cites into sudden unexplained darkness..."This was an actual attack, " General Ryan said. "There were hostile planes off shore. Then they turned around. Two strong squadrons were picked up by detectors approaching the Golden Gate. They moved north to Eureka, then south toward Monterey." (Watsonville Morning Sun. December 9, 1941 p.1)

December 21, 1941:

JAP SUBMARINE SHELLS TANKER OFF MONTEREY BAY
The Japanese war came close to Santa Cruz yesterday when a submarine rose to the surface 20 miles off the southern tip of Monterey Bay, took eight shots with a deck gun at the 6700-ton tanker 'Agwiworld' and missed every shot... (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. December 21, 1941. p. 1 Full-Text )

December 23, 1941:

COASTAL WATERS COMBED FOR ENEMY SUBS
Four Attacks reported off California--U.S. defense forces Monday threw air, surface and undersea vessels into the search for enemy marauders who have approached as close as 20 miles to the California coastline in a series of daring submarine raids to shell and torpedo American coastal shipping. (Watsonville Morning Sun. December 23, 1941. p.1)

February 1, 1942:

BLIMP PATROL ALONG COAST OF CALIFORNIA
A blimp patrol was established over the central California coastline today, augmenting the alert watch of attack and bombing planes and surface craft." (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [M] February 1, 1942. p.1)

February 13, 1942:

BULLETIN
Santa Cruz will receive soon 16,896 gas masks, one for every citizen on the basis of the 1940 census figures... (Santa Cruz Sentinel. [E] February 13, 1942. p.1)

July 3, 1942:

STIMSON WARNS OF JAP "FACE-SAVING" RAIDS ON COAST
Los Angeles (UP)--Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson said Friday that the Japanese still may attempt "face saving" bombing raids on the west coast despite American naval victories in the Pacific. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. July 3, 1942. p.2)

July 6, 1942:

BEACH RESIDENTS URGED TO WATCH OUT FOR INVADERS
The executive committee of the state council of defense has issued a warning to all citizens, particularly those residing along or near the ocean, to be on the alert for enemy landing parties. Kenneth R. Hammaker, executive director to the council said,"...Despite the vigilance of our navy and coast guard patrol boats, it is possible for a submarine to come to the surface near our coast and land saboteurs." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian July 6, 1942. p.2)

Fear of Sabotage; Neighbors and Japanese Leaders Arrested

The Roberts Commission, which investigated the attack on Pearl Harbor, released its report on January 25, 1942. The report stated that the attack had been assisted by Japanese spies in Hawaii and advised preventative action on the mainland for the sake of national security. Although there was no sabotage or subversive activity in Santa Cruz County (or anywhere on the West Coast), residents did not know that at the time. Fears were fueled by reports of coastal attacks and enemy sightings in the newspaper; residents read that government authorities arrested individuals in the County, but were not given any follow up or explanations; and some individuals were predisposed to suspect axis aliens and all persons of Japanese ancestry of subversive activities.

On the day of the surprise bombing, the Watsonville Morning Sun carried a front page article,

FBI officials said their men were ready for an expected order to round up and intern all Japanese nationals and pro-Japanese suspects in the San Francisco bay area. Such an order, if it comes, might result in a roundup of the hundreds of Japanese nationals in the Pajaro Valley. Such an order has not been issued yet. (Watsonville Morning Sun. December 7, 1941. p. 1)

The FBI had more than 2000 Japanese Americans under surveillance prior to the outbreak of the war. These individuals were classified in three groups (A, B, or C) depending on how dangerous the FBI believed them to be. "Within the next forty-eight hours, the FBI arrested 1291 Japanese from the 'ABC' list as well as some German and Italian nationals. With this sweep, the FBI was convinced that all of the potential saboteurs were in custody and that no further action needed to be taken." 1 However, in Santa Cruz County arrests continued for some months and public expression of fear of sabotage continued for years.

February 10, 1942:

MONTEREY BAY ENEMY ALIENS RAIDED
FBI agents and police raided residences, stores and hotels occupied by enemy aliens in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties today, arrested at least 20 aliens, and seized quantities of contraband, including guns, ammunition, radios and binoculars." (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [E] February 10, 1942. p. 1.)

February 11, 1942:

FBI ARRESTS 20 JAPS IN MONTEREY BAY TERRITORY; STORE KEEPER IS TAKEN IN CUSTODY AT WATSONVILLE
Twenty Japanese were arrested, a truck-load of ammunition confiscated and quantities of other contraband seized Tuesday in an FBI raid on Japanese colonies in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties... (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [M] February 11, 1942 p. 1. Full-Text )

February 12, 1942:

MARTIAL LAW NEARER, ALIEN WORRY GROWS
Santa Cruz today faced the possibility of martial law to effectively protect the area from possible sabotage and fifth column activity. This county could be included in all state prohibited areas so affected. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News.February 12, 1942 [E] p.1.)

February 19, 1942:

SC MARTIAL LAW, RICH COMMENTS
Commenting on proposed martial law to evacuate Japanese citizens, Mayor Edwin L. Rich said Wednesday [the previous day of the article] ..."I do think the people on the whole would feel a lot safer with all Japanese out of the community. It might be a way of bolstering morale and waking the people up to the fact the situation is serious." (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [M] February 19, 1942. p. 1. Full-Text )

4TH JAP JAILED HERE; CAFE OPERATOR HELD WITH GUN HIDDEN IN KNIFE
A 62 year-old Japanese restaurant proprietor who has lived in Watsonville for 42 years was revealed Wednesday as the fourth local enemy alien to be arrested and held for possible internment. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 19, 1942. p.1.)

February 22, 1942:

JAPANESE NOT THE ONLY ENEMY ALIENS TO WATCH CLOSELY [Editorial]
And while the authorities have been bearing down hard on Japanese nationals, we must believe that they are not blind to the dangers from German and Italian nationals who are disloyal to this nation. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 22, 1942. p.4. Full-Text)

TWO SANTA CRUZ JAPANESE SEIZED IN ROUND-UP OF THOSE HELD POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS
As part of a coast-wide raid of "enemy aliens considered potentially dangerous" the FBI reached into Santa Cruz yesterday and took two Japanese into custody. The two men were Thomas Kadotani...head of the Santa Cruz Japanese association, and T. Kai..., a leading member of the group. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. February 22, 1942. p. 1)

February 23, 1942:

AT WATSONVILLE:
The FBI arrested 10 in Watsonville, all Japanese, over the week-end...The Watsonville arrests completed the roundup of the officers and directors of the association here, following earlier apprehension of Hatsusabura Yagi, president, a barber by trade...Those arrested during the week-end, listed as "potentially dangerous aliens," were picked up on presidential warrants. The Japanese taken in the first raid, which did not include Santa Cruz, were arrested on search warrants for premises, which contraband was apparently the prime motive for search. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [E] February 23, 1942. p. 1)

February 24, 1942:

SUB ATTACK SPURS ALIEN CLEAN-UP
...Growing demands Tuesday to clear even American-born Japanese from the Santa Cruz and other coastal areas developed from Monday night's submarine shelling of an oil refinery near Santa Barbara, as alien Japanese, as well as non-citizen Germans and Italians, moved from the horn-shaped strip of Santa Cruz county, surrounding the bay to permitted areas. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [E] February 24, 1942. p. 1)

March 4, 1942:

TWO ALIENS ARRESTED IN SANTA CRUZ RAID
Twelve FBI agents working the 15 local officers conducted a series of raids on alien residences here yesterday..a Japanese alien ..and an Italian alien. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News.[M] March 4, 1942. p. 1)

March 6, 1942:

WATSONVILLE JAPS ARRESTED IN NEW RAIDS BY FBI MEN
FBI agents in the most extensive raids in two weeks, struck again Friday in the Watsonville-Salinas district seizing members of secret Japanese military societies. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [E] March 4, 1942. p. 1)

March 10, 1942:

FBI SEIZED 4 MORE JAPS IN WEEKEND RAID [Watsonville] (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. [M] March 10, 1942. p. 1)

After the Evacuation

March 10, 1943:

2 GUNS FOUND IN EX-JAP HOME, NOT 'LARGE CACHE'
Rumors that a large cache of weapons left by evacuated Japanese had been located in the Pajaro valley were spiked here Tuesday night by the FBI. N.J.L. Pieper, special agent in charge of the San Francisco office of the FBI, said two loaded revolvers, a small box of ammunition and an eight-inch knife were found by local police and FBI agents in the former home of Harry M. Kimoto on San Juan road but no large cache of weapons had been uncovered. Kimoto is located now at the WRA camp at Poston, Ariz. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 10, 1943. p. 1)

June 3, 1943:

'LOYALTY OF JAP CAN'T BE DETERMINED ON MASS BASIS'
SACRAMENTO (UP) - The loyalty of a Japanese can't be determined on a mass basis and all law enforcement officers must be vigilant to detect Japanese espionage, Nat J.L. Pieper, special agent in charge of the San Francisco FBI office, late Wednesday told members of the Pacific Coast International Association of Law Enforcement Officials. ..."You can't judge Japanese on a mass basis, as all good or all bad, because you must resolve each case individually," Pieper said. "The Jap doesn't think as a white man does. He is tricky and superstitious. It requires painstaking questioning and investigation. And although the Japanese are away from the coast, we haven't stopped working on them. We are still looking for espionage because the Japanese will use innocent stooges wherever they can. Persons who befriended them before the war often are susceptible to giving information inadvertently under the Japanese 'stab-in-the-back' policy." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian June 3, 1943. p. 1)

June 21, 1943:

JAPS MUST BE WATCHED SAYS WARREN
Columbus, O. (UP) - The release of 150,000 Japanese now held at relocation centers may lead to widespread sabotage and a "second Pearl Harbor in California," Gov. Earl Warren of California said Monday. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian June 21, 1943 p. 1.Full Text

November 22, 1943:

JAP SUBVERSIVE GROUP HAD HEADQUARTERS HERE, CHARGE [Dies Committee]
Watsonville, at one time, was "central headquarters" of the Japanese Butoku-kai or "North American Imperial Way society," which was organized in 1929...The War Relocation authority has accepted the word of the Japanese that the Butoku-kai was merely a sports organization... Sworn statements were obtained from witnesses qualified to testify to the un-American activity of this Nisei organization. The purpose of the Butoku-kai in the United States was to train the Nisei in the military arts as practiced by the Japanese army...(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, November 22, 1943. p.1Full-Text)

Lt.-General DeWitt, head of the Army's Western Defense Command, stated in a report that the attacks on the West Coast were aided by signals from shore and implied that the signals were made by persons of Japanese ancestry.

January 23, 1944:

SHORE SIGNALS AIDED JAP ATTACK ALONG WEST COAST SAYS REPORT BY GEN. DEWITT
Washington--Signals from the shore aided the Japanese in attacks on the west coast early in the war, but after the evacuation of 110,442 Japanese from the area the signaling was "virtually eliminated."...For several weeks after Pearl Harbor, he reported, every ship leaving a west coast port was attacked by an enemy submarine. "This seemed conclusively to point to the existence of hostile shore-to-ship (submarine) communication". he said..."It is interesting to note that following the evacation, interception of specious or unidentified radio signals and shore-to-ship signal lights were virtualluy eliminated and attacks on outbound shippihg from west coast ports apprecably reduced." (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. January 23, 1944. p.2.)


Footnotes:

  1. Kitayama, Glen. "Japanese American Internment."Asian American Encyclopedia. v.3. pp. 719--721.

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