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

Full Text Newspaper ArticleWatsonville Register-Pajaronian. June 14, 1943. p. 3


Los Angeles (UP) - Japanese evacuees at the Poston, Ariz., relocation center have armed themselves with every available weapon and may have been responsible for a Santa Fe train wreck near the camp, a witness testified at a Dies subcommittee hearing.

"They have taken hundreds of pieces of steel and pipe," Norris James, former press and intelligence officer at the relocation center, said. "It is only natural to suppose they have been concealed somewhere in the camp."

James Steedman, investigator for the Dies Committee, read a report of the passenger train wreck at Earp, Cal., 18 miles from the camp, caused by burning of a trestle over a dry wash. An engine and several cars plunged into the gully, killing the engineer and fireman and injuring several others.

Steedman said Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and others had probed the wreck and had concluded the trestle burning was a definite act of sabotage but that no arrests had been made.

"Japanese at the center were in the habit of going to the Colorado River to swim and could easily have crossed to the California bank from Arizona by way of sand bars," Steedman quoted from the unnamed investigator's report.

"Do you think the Japs might have been involved in the wreck?" Steedman asked James.

"It would have been entirely possible," the witness replied. "It is true that the evacuees had the run of that country."

Steedman then pointed out that several similar cases of burned trestles had occurred in Imperial county before the Japanese were evacuated.

Without giving the reason why Japanese had armed themselves with clubs and pieces of pipe as weapons, James cited an instance when a subforeman at the camp, named Steele, exceeded the 10-mile-an-hour speed limit that had been fixed by Japanese under a self-government plan.

"A Japanese policeman halted Steele's car and told him he was under arrest," Steedman added, quoting from a report of the affair.

"The policeman then jumped in the car and Steele hit him on the arm with a tool. The Jap yelled and immediately the car was surrounded by 20 or 30 Japs armed with short pieces of pipe, clubs, etc.

"They attempted to remove Steele forcibly from the car and in the process broke the windshield of the car and did other damage to it. Steele was unhurt. Several guards rushed in and rescued him with rifles."

James said that version was correct.

James said in many instances telephone service from the camp to the outside world had been disrupted for long periods of time. He pointed out that Indians living along the Colorado River might have been responsible for cutting the wires.

"The Indians didn't want the Japanese on their land," he asserted. "There is hard feeling on both sides. In other words, the dislike is mutual."

James said he believed the majority of the Japanese evacuees would be pleased if the "roughneck" element could be moved out of the camp. Such segregation had been recommended by Wayne Head, director at the camp, but nothing had come of it, James said.

"All that is needed to bring it about is for someone in Washington to push a pen?" asked Congressman Karl Mundt.

"That is so," the witness answered.

James said that Miss Nell Findley, former social service worker at the camp appointed by the Indian Service and now in Hawaii, had been nominal head of the police force at the camp for several months. The law enforcement agency was a part of the community welfare service, he added.

Copyrighted by the Watsonville Register-Pajaronian. Reproduced by permission.