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

Full Text Newspaper ArticleWatsonville Register-Pajaronian. May 26, 1942. p. 7


(Editor's Note: This is the first of a series of three short articles which summarize what has happened to the Japanese in the United States since the war began, where they are now and what they are doing, and plans for their future. Until now, this story has never been put together, and many things in it have not been heretofore published. The story has been checked for accuracy by Army authorities.)

Part I


Before the war, "Little Tokyo," U.S.A., was a loosely-knit community of 127,000 men, women and children of Japanese descent. Of this population - more than the population of Spokane, Washington - seven-eighths, or 112,000 were in the far western states. Most of these were concentrated on the Pacific Coast. California alone was the home of 93,919.

When Japan attacked America, one of the first things the United States had to consider was the question:

"What shall we do with Japanese aliens to prevent possible espionage and sabotage?"

Growing out of this question was the even more difficult problem as to what attitude the people of the United States should take toward the two-thirds of all Japanese in America who were actually American citizens.

For a time, while defense industries, refineries, bridges and other danger areas were guarded against surprise attack, the government grappled with the job of finding a permanent solution to the issue.

There were all sorts of complications. Many of the Japanese, especially those of American birth, were loyal to the United States. But their fathers and mothers were aliens. It was to be expected that a considerable number of these would be tied to Japan by bonds of race and nationality.

Security Must Come First

How was Uncle Sam to separate into groups all those gradations of loyalty and patriotic interest, and know that he was figuring correctly?

Also, with the emotions of the American people rising in understandable anger over Japan's conduct, wasn't there a danger that Japanese in America - even though many of them were loyal citizens - would find themselves not merely boycotted, but physically injured, as our war temperature went up?

There was thus the problem of security for the country and the other problem of security for those of Japanese blood who were living within our borders.

Through the first two or three months after war was declared the Department of Justice, especially through the FBI, held the situation under control while plans for dispositiion of the problem were being formulated. Many suggestions were proposed - mostly based on the hope that Japanese aliens could be segregated from American-born Japanese for handling according to the circumstances.

But it came to be realized that this was not practicable. Many Japanese realized it too, and during the period when the Government encouraged a voluntary migration from vulnerable coast areas, 6,000 Japanese moved inland.

What was needed, however, was a plan that would take care of the entire 112,000 Japanese racials in the western states. This, too, was recognized by many loyal Japanese and they, in turn, did what they could to convey that fact to their friends and relatives.

The only workable program, both in the interest of the country and its Japanese was for a controlled migration into specifically assigned areas, that migration to be carried out under democratic principles and followed by a program that would enable the Japanese to work to live as nearly normal lives as conditions would permit, and to contribute their skills and time to ward the common welfare.

The President Acts

The President of the United States has the power, on grounds of military necessity, to exclude anyone, whether alien or citizen, from any area which he considers may be in jeopardy. On February 19 he conferred this power upon the Secretary of War with authority to carry out an evacuation program.

Under this authorization the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, headed by Lieutenant General J. L. DeWitt, proceeded with a program which involves the most extensive human migration in the history of the country - greater by several thousand than the great Oklahoma land rush of 1889.

This program not only had to deal with 112,000 human beings but with thousands of homes, farms, places of business, jobs, important crops, automobiles, and all the other properties and personal problems that would be part of the lives of 112,000 industrious people.

It involved the protection, on the one hand, of 112,000 Japanese, including the aged and the little children, and on the other hand it involved the security of 130,000,000 of Uncle Sam's own nephews and nieces throughout the United States.

General DeWitt declared, on March 19th, that the evacuation process must be carried out with the "least inconvenience, property sacrifice, or family dislocation compatible with the national security."

But relocation necessarily meant dislocation. The job was to do it in the American way.

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