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

Debate over the Return of Persons of Japanese Ancestry
by Rechs Ann Pedersen

A Letter from Poston: Do you consider for a minute that we American citizens of Japanese ancestry are being treated fairly in being placed in a concentration camp, although it is not called a concentration camp by our government, but theoretically, it is?(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. April 26, 1943. p. 3 Full-Text)

"I personally feel that no Japs, I do not care what their sentiments may be, should be released from concentration camps, unless they be exchanged for Americans held in the Philippines or Japan." [Congressman J. Parnell Thomas, Republication from New Jersey and a Dies Committee member.] (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. May 14, 1943. p.1)

Shortly after the evacuation from the West Coast was completed, the debate began about whether the evacuees should be allowed to return. Up until the later part of the War, the majority of the opinions that appear in the local newspapers are against their return. Some are against their return until the end of the War and others against their return ever. Some groups and individuals even wanted all persons of Japanese ancestry stripped of their citizenship and deported. The reasons given for the opposition: threat of sabotage by the evacuees, possible retaliatory violence by other citizens because of war atrocities committed by the Japanese, and various other reasons based on racism.

January 13, 1943:

We learn, from our discussions with various persons, that local people are divided in their ideas about the problem. Some believe the Japanese should be allowed to return and take up their activities - largely agricultural pursuits - from where they left off. Others favor their return but with privileges lessened - in other words, merely as farm workers. A third group is vehemently opposed to their return at all. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. January 13, 1943. p. 4.Full-Text)

Government Officials

April 24, 1943:

By unanimous vote, supervisors of Santa Cruz county Friday afternoon approved a resolution protesting removal of evacuated Japanese from War Relocation centers unless under specific orders and direction of the United States army and also protesting inclusion of American-born Japanese into the U.S. army. The resolution was patterned after those recently adopted by Monterey and San Benito counties. In turn, those counties had patterned their resolutions on the one passed early in February here by the Pajaro Valley and Watsonville Defense council. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. April 24, 1943 p. 1.Full-Text)

Here are the six points of the resolutions adopted Friday afternoon by the Santa Cruz board of supervisors protesting releasing of Japanese from relocation centers and the inclusion of native born Japanese in the U.S. army ...(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. April 26, 1943 p. 4.Full-Text)

May 14, 1943:

Congressman Jack Anderson is doing an excellent job in focusing the attention of the house of representatives on the problem of west coast Japanese evacuees, judging from the May 5 Congressional Record account of his address to the house...[Mr. Anderson] told his colleagues that "I find that the vast majority of the citizens in my district are definitely opposed to the return of any Japanese to the Pacific coast states while the war is in progress." ... Mr. Anderson also rapped the army order permitting American born Japanese now in the US army to return to the coast on furloughs. He called the order an "utterly incomprehensible and contradictory policy for the war department to adopt" .... We are pleased to see our California congressmen "on their toes" in this matter of great importance to the Pacific coast. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. May 14, 1943. p. 6.)

June 21, 1943:

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)

January 19, 1945:

San Jose (Special) - Because of some misunderstanding in regard to Congressman John Z. (Jack) Anderson's attitude regarding Japanese evacuees, the representative from this district has issued the following statement to clarify his stand on the matter: ..."There are two primary reasons why I have consistently opposed the lifting of the exclusion order and the return of Japanese-Americans at this time. First, of course, is the question of security for citizens of Pacific coast states while the Pacific war continues, and second is the safety of the Japanese-Americans themselves.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. January 19, 1945. p. 4 Full-Text)

April 13, 1944:

Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes Thursday denounced "professional race mongers" who oppose release of loyal Japanese-Americans from relocation camps and said that people who deny them decent treatment "don't believe in the constitution of the United States."(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. April 13, 1944, p.1.)

November 4, 1944:

The intense eighth district congressional race was nearing its climax Saturday. Congressman Jack Anderson denied rumors that he favored return of evacuated Japanese to this section. Rep. Anderson said a "whispering campaign has started that after election I would seek to have Japanese returned to the coast. The charge is false and ridiculous." ...He also emphatically denied his opponent's accusation that he did not represent the "common man. This is a deliberate attempt to stir up class hatred." he said. "As far as I am concerned there are no class distinctions. I consider it my duty to represent all of my district, regardless of color, creed, occupation, race, possessions or political affiliations." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 4, 1944, p.1.)

Local Groups

February 24, 1943:

The defense council stresses one point that no one can dispute - who knows for sure whether a Japanese, whether alien or American born, is loyal to the United States? Even the Japanese evacuees themselves have admitted they cannot tell! ...Americans have been known to "bend over backwards" many times in efforts to be tolerant but the events of Dec. 7, 1941, and subsequent activities of the "yellow aryans" have shown only one thing - the Japanese government is determined to conquer and humble the United States or commit national hari-kari in the attempt.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 24, 1943 p. 4.Full-Text)

Pajaro Valley and Watsonville Defense council, in special session Tuesday night, adopted a resolution protesting the War Relocation authority's proposed program of releasing Japanese evacuees from relocation centers and the plan to incorporate some 28,000 American-born Japanese into the United States army and copies of the resolution will be sent to President Roosevelt, Secretary of War Stimson, the WRA, congressmen and senators.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 24, 1943. p. 1.Full-Text)

Following is the resolution adopted Tuesday night by the Pajaro Valley and Watsonville Defense council: ...(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian February 24, 1943 p. 1.Full-Text)

June 15, 1943:

Salinas residents questioned in a chamber of commerce poll voted 802 to 1 against permitting "loyal Japanese to return to Pacific coast states during the war, it was announced Tuesday. The chamber said the votes represented a total of 12, 688 farmers, merchants, ministers, workers, professional men and women, labor union representatives and veterans and civic organizations. Ballots were cast on a delegation basis.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian June 15, 1943 p. 1.)

June 24, 1943:

To the Editor: May we extend the glad hand to the Salinas valley farmers, we surely feel proud of them. They are real citizens of the grand old USA and we are sure there is not one place over here that will vote for the return of the adherents of the Rising Sun. Our contempt goes to the one who voted yes - he is really a sorry object. His fellow men feel for him WE know. We sincerely hope all of the concentration camps will keep the Japanese penned up for the duration and then send them back to the ruins of Tokyo where they rightfully belong.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 24, 1943. p. 3.)

Other Local Groups Taking a Public Stand Opposing the Return of the Evacuees:

  • Lions Club (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 10, 1943. p. 5.)
  • Chamber of Commerce of the Pajaro Valley (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. August 13, 1943. p.6)
  • Pomona Grange (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. August 13, 1943. p.6)
  • Santa Cruz Farm Bureau (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 26, 1944, p.3)
  • Pajaro Valley Historical Association (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 17, 1944. p. 4)

Letters to the Editor:

In the Spring of 1943, the Register-Pajaronian asked its readers for their opinions on the "Japanese Problem." Responses were printed in the Reader's Referendum section of the paper. Here are some excerpts:

...If a man or woman wa born in Japan, regardless of whether citizenship papers have been taken out, he or she should be sent home to Japan at the end of World War II. [note: the law denied naturalization to persons born in Japan--ED.] Harry Fischer. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. February 17, 1943. p. 4.)

...I would like to ask this same man if he remembers when many a businessman in Watsonville would rather back a Japanese farmer than a white farmer....Remember there are Japanese born under the American flag and the pledge to that flag says "liberty and justice for all"...A Subscriber (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 2, 1943. p. 12.)

...Your denunciation of the Japanese as a race reads like Hitler's denunciation of the Jews as a whole. The kind of thing that happened in 1935 in Germany, when the Jews were deprived of their citizenship by decree could happen in the United States...but it could not happen without changing or violating our established constitutional rights...if such changes were made, the very foundation principles on which our nation has been established and maintained go with them. We would then be no better off than the nations now at war with us...Rev. Mack McCray, Jr. First Baptist Church, Watsonville. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 3, 1943. p. 6.)

...When it is all over pass a law to send every one back to Japan and allow no more here in our country. I spent many days in the bloody and muddy trenches in France in the first World War for the freedom of our country and the American people and not for barbarians and to those who think we are mistreating the Japs, let them, after the war, go back to Japan with the Japs. C.A. Enlow. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 5, 1943. p.3.)

...the evacuees have three square meals a day. That's more than our boys have at the front in the thick of the battle...H.J. Silva (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 6, 1943. p.6.)

...our coping with the Japanese doesn't come under the heading of democratic and Christian means, and if the Rev. will stand by and watch us storm our government representatives with telegrams, letters, and cards, he'll understand we're truly Americans, not destroying the principles and freedom of our great nation but building and restoring...A Subscriber (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 8, 1943. p.3.)

"One of your correspondents says that we are at war not with the Japanese empire but with the entire Japanese race. I beg to differ with the writer - we are not at war with the race - we are at war with the Japanese nation! ...Remember also that a man is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by satisfactory evidence... John L. McCarthy(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian March 9, 1943 p. 6 Full Text)

...for the duration let every Jap be held in concentration camps--this is war--if one is loyal, let him consider that as his part of the war effort...Mabel R. Curtis (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. March 9, 1943. p.2.)

Public Hearings

The California Senate held public hearings around the state to gather public opinion on the return of the evacuees. Even before it completed its hearings, the committee publicly announced its conclusion.

June 19, 1943:

Turlock (UP) - A resolution expressing "unalterable opposition" to return of Japanese to California during the war was adopted by the state senate interim committee investigating all phases of the Japanese situation when it concluded its session here. The committee, which meets in Merced Saturday, adopted the resolution before hearings were completed because the preponderance of evidence already submitted showed residents of California were strongly opposed to resettlement. Copies were sent to D.S. Meyer, national director of the War Relocation Authority, and all members of the legislature. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 19, 1943 p. 6.

On July 7 and 8, 1943, the committee held hearings in Watsonville.

June 29, 1943:

The California state senate interim subcommittee on the Japanese problem has accepted an invitation from the Chamber of Commerce of the Pajaro Valley and will hold a hearing here on Wednesday afternoon, July 7, at 2 o'clock. ...(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 29, 1943. p.1.)

July 8, 1943:

Out of the mass of testimony presented at the state senate interim committee hearing in Watsonville Wednesday afternoon appeared one definite fact -- the majority of Santa Cruz county residents do not want the Japanese evacuees back during or after the war...(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. July 8, 1943 p.1.Full-Text)

July 9, 1943:

While there are some here who sincerely believe that Japanese can return after the war and take up where they left off, the great majority of Monterey bay region residents do not want them back -- for many reasons.

This should be apparent to anyone who heard testimony given at the state senate interim committee hearing here whether due to "racial prejudice," "war hysteria," "fear of trouble or race riots," or plain "dislike and distrust," they are bound to make themselves felt when the state legislature garners together all the facts, figures and opinions presented at the hearing throughout the length and breadth of California.

We think Santa Cruz county's own senator, Ray Judah, summed the majority opinion up well when he declared that "we got along with the Japanese before the war but then we suddenly discovered that we cannot associate idealism with that race."(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. July 9, 1943 p.1.)

Debate and Protests

Throughout 1944, the debate continued over the release and return of the evacuees. Among the strong voices opposing their return, are other voices defending their rights.

September 27, 1944:

California's military servicemen and women, particularly those who are fighting the Japs in the South Pacific, should have a voice in deciding the issue of permitting Japanese to resettle in California, it was declared here Tuesday afternoon by Lt.-Gov. Fred Houser, republican candidate for United States senator. Houser, campaigning in Santa Cruz county as a part of his state-wide tour, ... met with groups in Santa Cruz and Watsonville. "Neither Harold Ickes nor any other bureau chief in Washington should flaunt Japs in the face of Californians during the war, nor permit their return over the objections of the people of this state who know the Japs so well," Houser declared. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. September 27, 1944.)

October 10, 1944:

Attorneys-generals of California, Oregon and Washington Monday joined in a brief filed with the supreme court asking that restrictions against Japanese-American citizens in Pacific coastal areas be removed "as soon as national security permits." The brief was filed in the case of Fred T. Korematau. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. October 10, 1944, p. 3.Full-Text

November 15, 1944:

- Under the Constitution, American-born Japanese cannot legally be prevented from returning to California once the military prohibition against their residence here is lifted. But the problem is not simply one of law codes, and any attempt to solve it by legalistic means alone must surely fail....The story of the Japanese in California before the war is that of a large concentrated minority, unassimilable and acquisitive. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 15, 1944, p.4.Full-Text)

November 20, 1944:

LOS ANGELES (UP) - Roger Baldwin, American Civil Liberties union national director, predicted Monday army orders evacuating Japanese-Americans from the west coast soon would be lifted either by the U.S. supreme court or by the army itself. ...He declared the exclusion order was not based on military necessity but was the "unfortunate result of the ancient prejudice of such groups as the Associated Farmers ... and certain labor unions which resented the competing cheap labor of the Japanese." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 20, 1944. p. 5.Full-Text)

It was announced in December 1944 that the exclusion order would be revoked the following month. Nevertheless, the public debate continued.

December 22, 1944:

MONTEREY OFFICERS PLEDGE COOPERATION ON JAPS' RETURN ... Meanwhile in Hollister, Assemblyman Jake Leonard expressed a thought reportedly held by many in the district when he said: "Whether or not the Japanese come back depends upon the attitude of the local people. If we do not want him, we can refuse to sell or rent him land; we can refuse to employ him or to deal with him. The responsibility lies not with the Jap but with us. Except under the war powers act there is no way we can legally keep him out except by refusing to deal with him."(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. December 22, 1944. p 2.)

DISAGREES ON JAPANESE ISSUE. To the Editor: Your insipid and practically anti-democratic editorial in Tuesday evenings paper (regarding return of Japanese) is a sickening display of shoddy thinking to the mind of at least one soldier who has now served his country for over three years....Those of the status quo school, you come too close to this group to be very helpful, are in for a rude shock if they think the American soldier doesn't know what he is fighting for. We are fighting for equal rights for all races and groups; opportunity for all, not those hereditarily fortunate.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. December 22, 1944.)

Additional Information:

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