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

Release of the Evacuees
by Rechs Ann Pedersen

It will be decidedly interesting to hear what the supreme court has to say about this. On first thought, it strikes the average American that it would be unconstitutional to move a citizen from his property and uproot him from his business and surroundings and confine him to certain premises against his wishes, without any trial or opportunity to be heard in the matter. That is a highhanded manner of treating any American citizen, in ordinary times. But our constitution grants the president extraordinary powers in time of war. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian April 6, 1943 p. 6.

Washington (UP)...President Roosevelt Wednesday had expressed the belief that Japanese-Americans, who are American citizens, cannot be locked up in concentration camps indefinitely. ...The president, noting that he was talking about Japanese-American citizens, said the danger had finished in most cases but that as a matter of practical fact about 25 per cent of the evacuees had replaced themselves in other parts of the country. He said there is a feeling among lawyers that under the constitution these people cannot be kept locked up in concentration camps because American citizens have certain privileges.This feeling, the president said, was activated to a great extent by the wonderful record of Japanese-American soldiers in Italy.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. November 22, 1944, p. 1.Full-Text)

From the start of the internment, internees could leave the camps for the purposes of either continuing their collection education or to harvest crops.1 When Dillon Myer took over as Director of the War Relocation Authority in 1942, he made resettlement a priority. During 1943 and 1944, there were changing requirements for leaving the camps, but one unchanging requirement was proving loyalty. Loyal internees, as determined by the government, were eligible for leave. Disloyal ones were segregated and sent to the camp at Tule Lake. For an excellent explanation, see Personal Justice Denied.2 Internees were released from camps to relocate to places outside the West Coast and in some cases, back to the West Coast.

July 7, 1943:

Washington (UP)--The War Relocation Authority is preparing to segregate in a single community Japanese evacuees considered hostile to the United States and to release loyal evacuees for jobs that aid the war effort...[WRA Director Dillon S. Myer] said WRA since last July has released 10,000 evacuees to take permanent places in normal communities. An additional 6,000 have been granted temporary leave to work on farms. "in all these months," he said, "not one case of disloyal activity on the part of these people has been reported from any reliable source." (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. July 16, 1943. p.1)

Washington (UP) -- Director Dillon S. Myer of the War Relocation authority said Wednesday his agency is without authority to intern American citizens of Japanese ancestry for more than brief periods unless they are charged with being disloyal of subversive. Myer, for the second consecutive day, defended before a Dies subcommittee the relocation authority's program of releasing loyal Japanese.(Watsonville Register Pajaronian, July 7, 1943. p.1 Full-Text)

November 20, 1944:

Washington (UP)--The War Relocation Authority reported today that Japanese American civilians evacuated from the west coast have been relocated in every state except South Carolina....Illinois topping the list, having 8,085 evacuees, the majority living in Chicago. Other states reported as having more than 500 evacuees are: Colorado with 3,352; Ohio, 2,599; Utah, 2,146; Michigan, 2,121; Idaho, 1,639; Minnesota, 1,396; New York, 1,289; Washington, 914; Missouri, 650; and New Jersey, 555...The report disclosed that 2,146 Americans of Japanese ancestry left relocation centers to join the U.S. Army...(Santa Cruz Sentinel-News [E]. November 20, 1944. p.2)

November 22, 1944:

...Under present War Department policies, he [Rep. John Z. Anderson (R-Calif.)] explained, Japanese evacuees are allowed this privilege where mixed marriages are involved or where some member of the family is in military service, if loyalty to this county is proven. (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. November 22, 1944. [M] p.1)

Court Cases

Japanese Americans challenged the detainment and evacuation in court. The legal issues are very important to the internment and to the rights of all citizens then and in the future. Could a society with a constitution establishing our rights to liberty and equal protection under the law, allow our government to deny those rights to any group of citizens based on race? Because this project focuses on the local events, it is beyond its scope to discuss in detail the issues here or to mention all the court cases here. More information on these issues is available in the books listed in the bibliography.

The U.S. Supreme Court Decision

On December 18, 1944, the United States Supreme Court rendered decisions in two cases relating to the evacuation. "The Supreme Court ruled today that the Army's removal of Japanese-Americans from the west coast early in 1942 was constitutional at the time it was carried out, but that citizens must be permitted to return to their homes when their loyalty to this country is established.." (Santa Cruz Sentinel-News. December 18, 1944. [E] p.1)

December 19, 1944:

The court, in a unanimous verdict written by Justice William O. Douglas, ruled Monday that Miss Mitsuye Endo, of Sacramento, who had been found "loyal", should be given an unconditional release from Camp Topaz in Utah.

Douglas said that loyalty is a matter of heart and mind - not of race, creed or color - and held that the authority to detain or grant a citizen a conditional release on espionage or sabotage grounds "is exhausted when his loyalty is conceded." At the same time, the tribunal ruled 6 to 3 that the evacuation program under which the army removed 112,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coast in 1942 was a constitutional use of the war powers granted by congress. Justice Hugo L. Black, in writing the majority opinion, pointed out that the court's ruling affirmed the exclusion only as "a military necessity." The program had been challenged by Fred Toyosaburo Korematsu, San Leandro, Calif., now in Camp Topaz and under a five-year probationary sentence for failing to report for evacuation. (Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. December 19, 1944 p.1.)

Lifting of the Exclusion Order

One day before the Supreme Court decision, December 17, 1944, the Western Defense Command issued Public Proclamation No. 21. It officially revoked the mass exclusion order, effective January 2, 1945. Exclusion orders on particular individuals were revoked in Public Proclamation No. 24 in September 1945.

December 22, 1944:

Washington (UP) - Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes boasted Friday that the executive branch "beat the supreme court by approximately 24 hours" in revoking blanket orders excluding persons of Japanese ancestry from the west coast. Asked at a press conference why the ban was lifted at this time, he replied: "It was time to issue the order, the Japanese had demonstrated that they were entitled to their full rights as citizens." The court had before it two cases on the exclusion issue, and on Monday ruled that loyal citizens of Japanese descent could not be further detained after their loyalty had been established.(Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. December 22, 1944. p. 2.)


  1. United States Commission on Wartime Relocation. Personal Justice Denied. Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and University of Washington Pr., 1997. p. 180
  2. "Loyalty: Leave and Segregation." Ibid. pp. 185--212.

Additional Information:

>>Continue with: Return of the Evacuees.

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