Select Page

Wartime Internment

June 17, 1987 — Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Office, and Civil Service of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, US Senate, Washington DC

 

I am Grayce Kaneda Uyehara of West Chester, Pennsylvania. I serve as the Executive Director of the Japanese American Citizens League-Legislative Education Committee (JACL-LEC) in Washington, D.C. I spent time in the Stockton Assembly Center and the Rohwer Relocation Center in Arkansas.

I would like to take a moment to recognize with great sadness and a heavy heart that Minoru Yasui, who served as chairman of the LEC and earlier as chairman of the JACL National Redress Committee, is not here next to us at this hearing. Minoru Yasui died last November at the age of 70. He dedicated the last years of his life petitioning our government to redress the personal injustice to Japanese Americans. He was one of three who had the courage and conviction to test the constitutionality of Executive Order 9066 in 1942 and for his commitment to basic American values and principles went to prison, spending nine months in solitary confinement. The death of Yasui brings us to the inevitable truth.

Each passing day diminishes the list of less than 60,000 survivors from the 120,000 who lost their individual dignity and freedom in totally un-American relocation centers.

W.H. Auden wrote the words that express the need for redress; to acknowledge the injustice and to make amends:

We are left alone with our day, and the time is short
     And History to the defeated
May say Alas but cannot help or pardon.

We sincerely hope that Auden’s words will not be the epitaph to Executive Order 9066 which sent Japanese Americans to desolate, desert areas of the West and the swamps of Arkansas from 1942 to 1946. We also sincerely hope that the legislators who guard our freedoms will recognize that the rights of everyone are jeopardized unless each individual’s rights are protected.

In 1980, Congress established the Commission on wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians to review the facts and circumstances surrounding Executive Oder 9066, issued February 19, 1942, to assess the impact and effects of that Order, and to recommend appropriate remedies.

The December, 1982 report of the Commission, issued in February 1983, unanimously found that the exclusion and detention of approximately 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens were grave injustices. The action was not based on military necessity but rather because of race prejudice, war hysteria and lack of political leadership.

The injustice of the removal, incarceration and relocation of Japanese Americans is conceded by all responsible people and groups, including the U.S. Department of Justice.

On April 20, Solicitor General Charles Fried of the Department of Justice told the United States Supreme Court in United States v. Hohri, 86-510, that the evacuation and incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry were “frankly racist.” Fried argued that the decisions to exclude and incarcerate were not based upon a factual assessment of military data and intelligence reports, but on a political judgment at the “highest levels” that Japanese Americans as a group were inherently disloyal and untrustworthy. He characterized this pseudo-anthropological justification as “our shame” and openly acknowledged that the Japanese American internment was “our greatest departure” from the principles of freedom for which we were fighting in World War II.

Thousands of loyal Americans who wanted only to raise their families, enjoy the blessings of liberty and fight for their country were summarily imprisoned on the sole basis of national origin, race and ethnicity.

To regain our honor and rightful place in the American community, to take responsibility as citizens, and to ensure that the Constitution lives and works for all, we take as our mantle the people’s right to petition our government for redress.

The Magna Carta of 1215 was an inspiration behind the world’s most enduring document, the Constitution of the United States. The following words are apropos to redress, “No free man shall be taken, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers and by the law of the land.” “Due process of law” and “law of the land” by the end of the 14th century were interchangeable. This principle has been the essential reality of life in the United States since the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. Tragically, in 1942 Japanese Americans were, without due process, arbitrarily presumed to be disloyal, with the racist rationale most clearly formulated by General John DeWitt, Commanding General of the Western Defense Command:

In the war which we are now engaged racial affinities are not severed by migration. The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become “Americanized”, the racial strains are undiluted . . . The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confusing indication that such action will be taken.

General DeWitt’s understanding of the need to exclude Japanese Americans from the West Coast and to detain them in circumstances that shame what we have always fought for was fully backed not only by the Roosevelt administration, but by the Congress and the Supreme Court.

William Bradford Reynolds in his speech at Vanderbilt University on May 23, 1987, said:

Let us never forget that the Constitution is in its entirety the Supreme Law of the Land, and all the branches — the executive, legislative, and judicial — are subordinate to it.

Therefore we must all come to recognize in good conscience that the issue which needs to be addressed today is the appropriate remedies for the victims of this great injustice.

We will first summarize the recommendations made by the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians as appropriate remedies.

(1) A joint resolution of congress, signed by the President, to acknowledge that a great injustice was done, and to offer the apologies of the nation;

(2) Review and offer of presidential pardons to all those individuals recommended by the Attorney General who were convicted of violations of military orders in connection with the evacuation, relocation and internment period;

(3) A directive to the executive agencies of the federal government to treat with liberality cases involving evacuees with respect to such matters as discharges from the armed forces of the U.S., Social Security coverage during the evacuation period, and similar matters;

(4) The creation of a trust fund, for educational humanitarian purposes, in the among of $1.5 billion; and

(5) The payment of $20,000 to each individual now living who underwent the evacuation during 1942-46. The individual payment is to be made from the $1.5 billion trust fund.

The first three remedial actions involve very few survivors or have no notable financial impact.  Consequently, there have been limited concerns raised about them.

In S. 1009 individual payments of $20,000 will e aid from a trust fund of $1.3 billion. These payments require examination so that Members of Congress will support this bill. The first question raised by some legislators is what precedent is created by the legislation? In our judgement, none. The exclusion and detention of Japanese Americans will not find parallel in America history — a subversion of the Constitution by administrative fiat. In short, there is no precedent created, because what happened was unprecedented. The second question is, what can Congress do to remedy the admission of the gross miscarriage of justice?

The JACL-LEC fully supports the remedies as found in S. 1009 as appropriate. Section 205 of the bill which addresses individual restitution states:

SEC. 205. RESTITUTION

(a) LOCATION OF ELIGIBLE INDIVIDUALS.

          (1)   The Attorney General, with the assistance of the Board, shall locate, using records already in the possession of the United States Government, each eligible individual and shall pay out of the Fund to each such individual the sum of $20,000. The Attorney General shall encourage each eligible individual to submit hir or her current address to the Department of Justice through a public awareness campaign.

          (2)   If an eligible individual refuses to accept any payment under this section, such amount shall remain in the Fund and no payment shall be made under this section to such individual at any future date.

(b) PREFERENCE TO OLDEST. — The Attorney General shall endeavor to make payment to eligible individuals who are living in the order of date of birth (with the oldest receiving full payment first), until all eligible individuals who are living have received payment in full.

(c) NONRESIDENTS. — In attempting to locate any eligible individual who resides outside the United States, the Attorney General may use any available facility or resources of any public or nonprofit organization.

(d) NO SET OFF FOR ADMINISTRATIVE COSTS. — No costs incurred by the Attorney General in carrying out this section shall be paid from the Fund or set off against, or otherwise deducted from, any payment under this section to any eligible individual.

(e) EXTINGUISHMENT OF CLAIMS. — The claims of an eligible individual against the United States shall be extinguished —

          (A)  on a date which is ten years after the date of enactment of this Act, or
          (B)  on the date by which the individual has received the total amount of payment under this Act, whichever first occurs.

It is recognized that no amount of money can adequately compensate the Japanese Americans for the wrongs done to them. Nevertheless, common law, the American people and the federal government itself have made it a bedrock of our legal and political system that, where governments have caused substantial injury through the deprivation of liberty or other fundamental rights, remedies should be available to the damaged or injured parties. Hence that fundamental proposition supports the rightness of monetary remedy.

Put another way, if not monetary compensation for the specifically aggrieved, what then would anyone propose as meaningful? Handwringing and expressions of regret, however sincere, will not do; and the victims, the American way, and the Constitution are shamed.

Four questions have been raised about the propriety of the monetary remedy and need to be answered:

  • Didn’t the Japanese-American Evacuation Claims Act pay for the losses suffered by the victims?
  • Wouldn’t a monetary remedy invite similar claims from other ethnic groups who were treated inhumanely and unjustly by our government?
  • Why should taxpayers today be held accountable for actions of our government 45 years ago?
  • Why a figure of $20,000 and how can that payment be justified?

    These questions will be addressed in order.

The Japanese Evacuation Claims Act of 1948. Congress passed this Act to provide the right to make claims against the government for damages to or loss of real or personal property which occurred as a consequence of the evacuation or exclusion. About 26,000 claims were made for a total claimed amount of $148 million. $37 million was awarded.

Elaboration documentation of losses was required and the processing of claims was costly. During the first two years, only 232 claims of the 26,000 were adjudicated. The payments on these claims averaged less than $500, yet it cost the government $1,400 to process each claim. In 1951, in a subsequent amendment, the claims could be settled for the lesser of $2,500 or 75 percent of their value, so that 22,000 who were in dire need of funds settled for a quick resolution. In 1956, with a small number of large claims remaining, the Act was again changed to allow the Attorney General to settle for up to $100,000 and to permit contested cases to go to the Court of Claims. Five cases took this route. The claimants needed financial resources to re-establish their lives. The ICF Inc. study placed the uncompensated losses at between $1.2 billion and $3.1 billion, and at a 3 percent interest rate adjusted for inflation, from $2.5 billion to $6.2 billion.

The Evacuating Claims Act was far from a fair settling of the accounts for the real losses suffered by the Japanese Americans. More importantly, it provided nothing for the deprivation of liberty which is at the center of the redress issue, and, in more easily measurable economic terms, the amount of loss not compensated would fully justify the total sum which would be expended if each survivor of the exclusion were given a payment of $20,000.

A few legislators have suggested the individual compensation should require a separate assessment of the damages sustained by each claimant. This plan is modeled after the Bivens case. On the surface this approach might seem to be more just. However, to make a separate calculation of damages and compensation for each victim would become a mammoth project 45 years later. To examine each evacuation and incarceration experience would add legal costs and more loss of time for those who suffered from the experience. With the variation in settlements, the victims’ sense of injustice will increase.

No one should have to be reminded that beyond the loss of liberty, there were other losses which greatly affected the future of each individual who spent time away from the mainstream of normal communities.

Over 30,000 evacuees were employed in the centers but jobs were not available for everyone who wanted to work. Those who worked were paid the following rates: $12 a month for unskilled, $16 for semiskilled and $19 for professionals which included physicians and teachers. Thus, families who had some savings utilized their funds to purchase personal needs. When the time came for individuals and families to relocate, they were given $25 each and train fare. Once out of camp, the Japanese Americans had to rebuild their financial and emotional lives from rock bottom. The first generation parents were by this time approaching 60 years of age; they were too old to learn new skills and had to work at low-paying unskilled jobs. Those with college educations had to accept menial positions. Those who had technical educations, in order to seek such employment with industries with government contracts, had to first receive Army and Navy clearance which delayed their entry into such employment. The reality is that most families never recouped from their financial losses.

There has been no compensation for damage to self-respect, for time lost, for advancement I jobs, for termination of education, for mental and physical suffering, and for the “stagnation of the human spirit that was occurring behind barbed wire,” as noted by the field director of the National Japanese Student Relocation Council.

Claims from Similarly Situated Groups. This is the Pandora’s box issue. The $20,000 payment to each individual is not to be made on an ethnic or race basis. The payments are to be made only to those individuals who were victims of the exclusion orders Executive Order 9066. This is an important point. No heirs are to receive payment. Precisely, because the original injustice was to treat everyone of Japanese descent on the basis of race without individual review or due process, it is important to remember that the principal remedy reverses this and provides compensation to those specific individuals who were victims of specific discrimination by the federal government. This answers the question whether S. 1009 would open up claims for descendants of slaves who have a clam for the long ago inhumane treatment of their ancestors.

When we look for cases of people alive today who were themselves directly injured by the federal government because of their race or ethnicity, the incarceration of Japanese Americans stands out as unprecedented.

We do not believe the monetary payment will open the way for similar claims because this bill clearly identifies the victims who were specifically and individually damaged to qualify for the symbolic compensation.

The payment will help future generations of Americans to remember that constitutional rights must never again be abrogated on the basis of race when this national undergoes stress. Yesterday, the Japanese Americans; today, perhaps, the Arab-Americans, and tomorrow, the victim can be any one of us unless this nation is held accountable for its action.

Payment by the Current Generation. Some 60,000 of the 120,000 victims of the mass incarceration are still alive today; therefore, the payment is not for ancient wrongs.

Moreover, there are members of the “previous generation” alive today who participated I the decision-making process of 1942 and who have testified at these hearings. Then too, the question of whether the current generation is responsible for actions of the previous one is a moral one. Accordingly, it is not unjust or unfair to ask the current generation to pay for the mistakes of the past. Our nation, in the final analysis, consists of “We, the People”. This nation then has collective responsibility for the decisions of the past and present. For example, in recognition of the ancient damages which resulted from slavery the federal government passed laws to open up opportunities and to enforce the civil rights of those whose ancestor had been denied equal opportunities. The current generation has a responsibility to pay into the Social Security program to meet payments which have been obligated for the past generation of workers. Other ongoing programs of the federal government assume he same set of moral and legal obligations between past, present and future.

We can also cite the action taken by the Federal Republic of Germany where the payments continue to this day to indemnify the few survivors of Nazi Holocaust. There is no comparison between the systematic extermination of human beings, mostly Jews, to the incarceration of Japanese Americans I the United States; but both groups lost their freedom and went into confinement solely on the basis of race or ancestry. More than 40 years after the atrocities, the West German government makes restitution through Individual payment to the survivors and group payments to the state of Israel.

JACL-LEC recognizes the special sensitivity and support of the American Jews to the Japanese American community’s effort to seek redress from Congress. Both groups realize the ugly spectre of racism can only be held in abeyance by vigilance on the part of all of us who realize that no one knows who the next victims might be.

The present generation, if it takes the rights and responsibility of American citizenship seriously, should see that the damage to the democratic constitutional system is fully restored. By making good a wrong done to one group, future generations will be deterred from making the same mistakes.

Finally, Why $20,000? The Commission rejected alternative remedies such as setting up another claims commission to process separate calculation of damages and compensation for each victim. This conclusion was reached in recognition of the passage of time, and most importantly, that o monetary compensation plan “can fully compensate, or indeed, make the group whole again”.

The symbolic individual payment of $20,000 to each surviving victim is like the story of Humpty-Dumpty. The individuals who suffered the damages from evacuation and incarceration have been broken from the tragedy of 1942, which can only be felt and understood by those who went through the shame and degradation of false imprisonment. The payment is not to repair what cannot be repaired but to make amends.

Hence, forty-five years later, the victims should not again be placed in the position of having to document their individual losses as suggested by some. The Evacuation Claims Act of 1948 clearly documents the unfairness and impossibility of that task. It is time that Congress finds the simplest method to rectify a most grievous mistake committed against people who were loyal American citizens.

Besides the impossibility of ascertaining exact damages, the $20,000 payment acknowledges in a meaningful form the unjust deprivation of liberty and the accompanying psychological and physical pain, the stigma of being branded as disloyal to an America fighting for her life, the lost hopes and the missed opportunities, and the continuing burden of self-doubt and self-hate. None of these is easily quantifiable into dollars and cents, but they are no less real and must be addressed by Congress meaningfully.

We must recognize the fact that the survivors cannot be made whole again, nor will the mammoth nature of separately calculating damages and compensation for each victim permit justice be done while the remaining survivors are still alive. Hence, JACL-LEC agrees with the Commission recommendations that the flat sum payment of $20,000 to each survivor, though arbitrary, will symbolize that this nation can recognize and rectify the mistake of imprisoning 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens. Without this symbolic action, there is no remedy.

We cannot continue to appeal this issue in Congress or in the courts for long. The survivors will not live to collect even the symbolic payment. Whatever happens, we must not be victimized further because of the forces of bigotry that assert Japanese Americans suffered no more than any other group during wartime. Some people continue to condemn Japanese Americans for the attack on Pearl Harbor or for other problems which attend our current relationship with Japan. For these people, our question is “How long before Japanese Americans become fellow Americans?” To those who seem not to understand the simple language of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, we can only say we take our citizenship seriously, will not retreat, and will not allow false patriots to victimize us again. We are Americans.

To further support the $20,000 individual payment, we cite the following examples:

The War Claims Act of 1948. This Act compensated each civilian American citizen sixty dollars for each month the individual was held by the Imperial Japanese government during World War II. The coverage of this Act was later extended to those civilians captured in Korea, paid sixty dollars a month, an din Vietnam, compensated at $150 per month. Like the Japanese Americans in the United States, these Americans suffered a loss of bodily freedom. The difference is that Japanese Americans lost their freedom through the action of their country.

May Day Demonstrations in Washington, D.C., 1972. The courts have also addressed both constitutional violations and false imprisonment claims in individual or in class action setting, where appropriate. In Dellums v. Powell, 556 F. 2d 167 (D.C. Cir 1977), the case which grew out of the mass arrests of demonstrators at the May Day demonstrations in Washington, D.C. 1972, the trial court awarded damages for false imprisonment on a schedule with $120 for 12 hours or less and $1800 for 48 to 72 hours of detention.

Hostage Relief Act and Anti-Terrorism Act. Individual payments are to be made to those hostages held captive as a result of terrorism throughout the world. Of the 52 Americans held hostage in Iran for 444 days, all but one were U.S. Government employees. Congress voted each of these 51 a special bonus of $50 per day for that period of captivity which comes to $22,200.

Perhaps a few words about the $20,000 individual payments should be made.

The “eligible individuals” are the living individuals who, during the evacuation, relocation, and internment period were United States citizens or permanent resident aliens and confined, held in custody, relocated or otherwise deprived of liberty or property as a result of Executive Order 9066 or any other Executive order, or any other Presidential proclamation, etc. respecting the exclusion, relocation, or detention of individuals solely on the basis of Japanese ancestry.

The JACL believes the eligible individuals are all members of the affected class alive when the bill becomes law. The renunciants whose citizenship were restored are to be included.

These individuals can be identified through the War Relocation Authority records in the National Archives. Further, JACL can help in locating these people by getting relevant information out to the Japanese American community through our organization’s paper, PACIFIC CITIZEN, and through ethnic newspapers throughout the nation.

THE JACL agrees with the order of payments. To assist the Governmental Affairs Committee with the information about the possible surviving population for 1987, I asked Richard T. Tani of Chicago, a Fellow of the Society of Actuaries, with 16 years experience to review the War Relocation Authority statistics for the 120,313 evacuated Americans of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens and project the number who are living in 1987. The figures are based on the white population of U.S. The Japanese are not identified as a separate group in actuary figures.

Not only the War Relocation Authority report, but those individuals who have completed research on Japanese Americans, are concluding that the incarceration may have affected the death rate upwards, particularly that of the older second generation population, those with citizenship, who carried the heavy family responsibilities during the incarceration, relocation and re-establishment of the families back into the communities.

The count for 1987 is close to 60,000. Some 1,200 are projected to die by the end of the year and the death figures will increase in the next few years since this group made up the largest number at evacuation — the 15 to 24 year old group.

The War Relocation Authority Report: The Evacuated People — A Qualitative Description in Section V., Age Composition of the Population wrote: 

The evacuated people who entered WRA centers were made up of two distinct and unusual groups: (1) the aliens who came into the country as young people in the quarter century ending in 1924, a group that, in the last 20 years since immigration was stopped, has been diminishing in size and aging util their median age was 52 years; and (2) their American-born children (or second generation), including several thousand grandchildren (or third generation), who were born here during the last quarter century — a group that had few in the middle span of life and no aged and whose median age was 18½ years.

The actuarial figures are broken down to five year increments based on the WRA population report, Table 37. For the phase-in plan, it will simply be a matter of computing the numbers to be paid each year, starting with the oldest first. The estimates on the survivors with the five year grouping is attached at the end of this statement.

We next look at Section 206, Civil Liberties Trust Fund. This section addresses the remedy for damages to the Japanese American communities and to the nation as a whole. 

S. 1009 provides for the establishment of a Board of Directors to administer the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, authorizing disbursements for:

     (1)   research and public educational activities relating to evacuation;

     (2)   comparative studies of similar civil liberties abuses as to the effect upon particular groups by racial prejudice in governmental action in times of national stress;

     (3)   preparation and distribution of findings to publishers, educators and libraries;

     (4)   general welfare of the ethnic Japanese American community in the United States, with due regard to the effects of exclusion and detention upon descendants of individuals who were evacuated, detained and relocated; and

     (5)   reasonable administrative expenses of the Board.

The evacuation, detention and relocation had a profound effect on the individuals who lost their freedom and devastated the Japanese American communities. To those who advocate that the breaking up of the communities and accepting that destruction was a positive step believe Japanese Americans to be different from other ethnic groups who make up the mosaic which adds to the greatness and beauty of America. Are the Irish asked to stop the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day? We are a pluralistic nation and we derive our strength from that fact.

To lay to rest the self-hate and the denial of who we are, Japanese Americans must end the unproductive and self destructive behavior of believing that we must be 110 percent Americans.

Harry H.L. Kitano in his article “The Effects of Evacuation”, page 154, of Japanese Americans — from Relocation to Redress wrote

The most damaging consequence of living under inequality is the internalization of second-class citizenship and acceptance of the role descriptions of the dominant society. Individuals and groups believing in their own inferiority are apt to behave accordingly, even when the external environment changes.

I see Kitano’s analysis as a study on whatever division have within our own community and the inability of some of our own people to fight for what is rightfully theirs — to ask the government to pay for the damages they suffered — rather than to let other speak for us or to accept their historical analysis of what we experienced. The basic racism which these individuals continue to express shows the need for the educational programs.

Just as the individuals who suffered the degradation of false imprisonment cannot be made whole again, the Japanese American community of old cannot be recreated. This too, is a reality which must be accepted.

Nonetheless, the communities are part of the Japanese American identity and, like all the other ethnic communities throughout the United States, not only enrich the lives of the individuals who make up the communities, but do make a contribution to the United States in many ways. The communities and the cultural events and celebrations help us to remember that America is a nation of immigrants, and each group has contributed to the greatness of America. 

The Civil Liberties Public Education Fund will help with the restoration, to a degree, of the communities through programs which will meet the needs of those individuals who returned to the West Coast or who established new communities elsewhere. 

Programs to help the surviving Issei and the older Nisei, the individuals who had the most difficulty reestablishing themselves after the years of incarceration, should be on the priority list. Senior centers which have meal programs and recreational programs that specifically meet the needs of theses people will help the elderly so they will not be spending their last years in isolation and coping with their changed status.

The second consideration besides the Japanese American communities is the significant contribution educational projects can make to inform the American citizenry of the Japanese American experience. There is need for further research about Japanese Americans and the impact oof incarceration, the contributions made to this nation by the Japanese Americans, and the concept of a pluralistic society where the differences are valued as part of the individual’s contribution. At all levels of our educational system, books and curriculum on Japanese Americans need to be added to emphatically bring to the consciousness of all Americans that we are a part of America. Such educational projects will help to prevent the repetition of the mistake which injured the Japanese Americans. Far too many Americans are ignorant of the events which transpired with Executive Order 9066 in 1942. The blackest chapter in our American history, when the Constitution was abrogated on the basis of race, must become part of our American education.

Therefore, JACL continues to support Section 206 as an appropriate remedy to restore the communities and to educate all American about the Japanese American experience. We believe, from our own experience, that truth and knowledge form the basis for informed decisions. The continuing hostility and opposition that we have heard in the past few years as we seek to redress our grievances through the passage of the bills exemplifies the lack of education about the Japanese Americans.

Congress clearly directed the Commission to inquire into the facts and circumstances of the relocation and detention because a fuller understanding of the facts would be valuable to both Congress and the American people. The remedies presented in Section 206 are consistent with the purpose of recommending appropriate remedies which acknowledge to some degree the wrongs inflicted during the war upon the ethnic Japanese.

Contemporaneous events document the responsibility we have to continue the public education activities about the Japanese American experience.

On October 1, the exhibit, entitled “A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution”, will open at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History and will run for five years. This exhibition marks the 200thanniversary of the Constitution, but even before there has been a viewing, it has stirred controversy and criticism. The prime purpose of the exhibit seems to be to raise the question of how in this nation with a Constitution which spells out in clear language the right to individual freedom, 120,000 Japanese Americans lost their freedom without the guaranteed due process.

Last month the former Senator S. I. Hayakawa (R-CA), former National Security Agency official, David D. Lowman, and former Chief of Army Intelligence in Hawaii, Edgar C. Doleman sent a copy of their “Dear Editor” letter to the 535 members of Congress and to the print, broadcast media, and wire services. Doleman and Lowman reside in Honolulu, Hawaii. Attached were photocopies of wartime photographs purportedly showing pro-Japanese activities and a commentary by Lowman, entitled “Payoff is shameful sellout” that appeared in the May 12 edition of the San Diego Union.

Since this “Dear Editor” letter was distributed to all the members of Congress, we cannot ignore the distortion of facts and the skewed statistical data. Those of us who suffered the pain and indignity of false accusations and removal from our homes 45 years ago are reading the same kind of untruths which anti-Asia organizations and the press such as the Hearst newspapers used against the Japanese Americans to stir up the war hysteria.

My statements are from the document “The Evacuated People: A Quantitative Description.” This report is from a series prepared by the U.S. War Relocation, initially under Director Milton Eisenhower and later Dillon S. Myer. I cite figures from this report since the opposition does not accept the report of this Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

The letter states “not 120,000” but 112,000 residents of Japanese ancestry were evacuated from the West Coast. The WRA report says 120,312 persons of Japanese descent came under the custody of the WR, which adds 5,981 births in the camps, 1,118 Hawaiian Islanders, 219 voluntary and 1,275 institutions people, some of whom eventually went into the camps and those who remained institutionalized were under the WRA custody. The initial group that went into the assembly centers and Department of Justice internment camps and seasonal workers who went out to harvest crops from the WCCA assembly centers add up to 112,000 people, but the number who spent time in camps comes out to 120,000.

Instead of “over 40 percent were enemy aliens,” the correct number is less than 35 percent.

A more informed statistical analysis of the statement that camps “had the highest live-birth rate and lowest death rate in wartime U.S.A. . .  (the average age of Americas of Japanese ancestry being 15.6 years) reads quite differently in the WRA report. I have fully discussed the make-up of the camp population earlier.

A comparison of the age-sex composition of the total U.S. on July 1, 1942 with the WRA center population as of Jan. 1, 1943 sharply defines the peculiar (emphasis mine) age distribution of the evacuated people.

By looking at the bulge in the 10 to 30 years group, which is much larger than the same age group in the general U.S. population, the birth rate would be higher. The families with little children were the last to leave, while the families with older children resettled first, and additional distortion.

The WRA vital statistics report stated that “birth and death rates for a particular population are used primarily for comparison with similar rates for other population groups. However, comparing birth and death rates for WRA centers over a period of time is subject to many limitations because of the aforementioned “peculiarities” (emphasis mine).

The statement that “hundreds of residents of Japanese ancestry . . . unaffected by E.O. 9066 asked for and were granted permission to enter and reside in the camps for the duration of the war” is incorrect. 219 individuals came into the camps who were not under the order. They were soldiers who enlisted before the war but were subsequently discharged form the Army base and individuals who had left their families and settled in places outside the West Coast, but who could not find appropriate jobs or colleges and came to the camps to rejoin their families.

Another major distortion was the statement on military service and the number of volunteers from the camp evacuated people. Under these circumstances, I do not believe that any other group of people would initially jump at the opportunity to volunteer for the service. The 1,208 volunteers was the start. The WRA report states that between November 1940 and December 1945, some 25,778 Japanese Americans were inducted into the armed forces; 13,428 were from the mainland and 12,250 from Hawaii.

General Joseph Stilwell said of the Nisei soldiers:

They bought an awful hunk of American with their blood . . . you’re damn right those Nisei boys have a place in the American heart, now and forever. We cannot allow a single injustice to be done to the Nisei without defeating the purposes for which we fought.
 
Stilwell’s response represents fairness and what this nation is all about rather than the distortions made by Hayakawa, Lowman and Doleman.

We have different sources for statements attributed to Lt. Commander Kenneth D. Ringle of the Office of Naval Intelligence when he is quoted in this letter with the statement that “25 percent of all Americans of Japanese ancestry (are) of doubtful loyalty.” In Justice at War, Peter Irons quotes from “Report on Japanese Question (Jan. 26, 1942,) File ASW 14311, RG 107, NA) as follows:

Ringle summarized his assessment of the loyalty of the Japanese American population in these words: “In short, the entire “Japanese problem” has been  magnified out of its true proportion, largely because of the physical characteristics of the people [and] should be handled on the basis of the individual, regardless of citizenship, and not on a racial basis.”
 
Ringle specifically proposed, in both WRA memorandum and the Harper’s article that followed this report, that residents of internment camps be accorded individual hearings “for the express purpose of deciding, on the basis of logic and reason ad in view of the circumstances in each case, whether or not the individual is to be considered in the class of the potentially dangerous.”

The most appropriate words and recognition case from President Truman when he gave the Presidential Unit Citation to the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team in 1946:

You fought for the free nations of the world . . . you fought not only the enemy, you fought prejudice — and you won. Keep up that fight . . . continue to win — make this great republic stand for what the Constitution says it stands for: “The welfare of all the people, all the time.”

How can Mr. Lowman think that “actions by the present administration and Congress regarding the evacuation of some 112,000 people of Japanese ancestry . . . have become a farce” in his article written for the Commentary column of the May 12 San Diego Union, titled “Payoff is shameful sell-out.” His intelligence report of 1942 statements from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Army Intelligence and the Office of Naval Intelligence are the opposite of the information which came from the National Archives.

I think it is pitiful of Mr. Lowman to accuse the present government of “appeasing the powerful Japanese-American lobby.” This particular remark is the biggest distortion of all. The Japanese American Citizens League-Legislative Education Committee in Washington, D.C. is a small operation. We cannot believe our opponents would make up such a story.

The same assessment is made of the plaintiffs of U.S. v. Hohri. Lowman wrote “An even more remarkable distortion of facts is occurring in the case currently before the Supreme Court. Here, the Japanese-American lobby is seeking the right to sue the United States for more than $25 billion because of the evacuation.” The U.S. Supreme Court, by an 8-0 decision referred the class action suit to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. without rendering a decision on the overall merits of the case. The Hohri case remains active. JACL has joined in the amici curiae to support Hohri et al plaintiffs.

The small lobby has justice and the Constitution behind it and the base of fair-minded people who upon reviewing the facts are capable of making the decision to support the redress cause.

CONCLUSION

We believe this Senate will enact S. 1009. I will paraphrase George Bernard Shaw: “You see things; and you say, “Why right now?” But I dream things and have hopes and aspirations for Japanese Americans and all Americans that never were and I say, “Why not now?”

The reality of time weighs more heavily. There are less than 60,000 survivors of the 120,000 who left their homes with such short notice after being publicly branded as potentially disloyal to their own country.

It is time for honesty in our nation that Japanese Americans were removed from their hones on the basis of “potential disloyalty” to their own country. It is time to recognize that Japanese Americans are Americans, too. It is time to make real the promise of liberty and justice for all.

From the CWRIC report developed from the testimonies of 750 witnesses at the 20 hearings and the research completed from records, from numerous researched books on Japanese Americans and from the hearings held by the Senate and House subcommittee since the redress legislation was first introduced, we can conclude today there is acceptance in American [sic] that the incarceration of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry and resident aliens was not justified and that appropriate remedies should be made by Congress in recognition for the damages for the loss of personal freedom.

I have attempted to answer many questions raised by Senators on this bill to redress the Japanese Americans, particularly on the individual payments. The passage of S.1009 with the payment of $20,000 to each survivor of Executive Order 9066 will not set a precedent for compensation, since the payment is to be made only to the direct victims of the order and subsequent Acts which came form the initial order. This method of payment is the only workable plan after 45 years, rather than to set up and adjudicatory claims procedure which will take more years. In the meantime, the surviving victims who suffered the most and who never recouped after their isolation from the mainstream of American life. These people spent from one to four years as prisoners in their own country; make no mistake that this dislocation and removal of the whole West Coast population of Japanese Americans can be described in any other manner.

This nation is celebrating the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution. Besides correcting the travesty committed against loyal citizens, the passage of S.1009 will be timely and will show the rest of the world that America admits its mistakes and makes amends to those who were damaged by its decisions and actions. How also will other nations understand what we say about human rights and individual freedom?

William B. Reynolds, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, in his speech to the Federalist Society in January, 1987 said:

All of us in government — officials of the Executive branch, Congressmen, judges — have taken an oath to uphold the Constitution. In taking this oath, we do more than merely promise to avoid committing federal crimes. We promise to take our responsibilities under the Constitution seriously. This will sometimes mean making unpopular decisions, taking political heat, (ad heat from the press too), and accepting accountability. Yet too often, decisions with profound consequences for our constitutional government are made with no reference or thought given to the constitutional implications; those more profound considerations are all but forgotten I the rush to respond (invariably politically) to immediate political exigencies.

It is through our conduct, the choices we make, the objectives we set, that we decide our nation’s course and pass on this liberty to future generations.

Time inexorably marches on beyond. In behalf of the less than 60,000 survivors of E.O. 9066, the Japanese American Citizens League and Legislative Education Committee turn to Congress and ask the Senate to support the passage of S. 1009 during this 100th Congress in response to the petition for redress of our grievances.

The ancient Greek scholar asked, “When will justice come? When those whoa re not injured are as indignant as those who are.” Our hope is that the Senators will agree that S. 1009 is responsible legislation and good for our nation.

I am available to respond to any concerns raised by the members of the Governmental Affairs Committee.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee for this wonderful opportunity to testify today.

 

 

Source: Hearing Before the Subcommittee on Federal Services, Post Office, and Civil Service of the Committee on Governmental Affairs United States Senate, One Hundredth Congress, First Session on S. 1009, to Accept the Findings and to Implement the Recommendations of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, June 17, 1987 (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office) 1987, pp. 97-118.