Back to The Internment of the Japanese Americans, 1942: Re-Enacting the Policy Debate

Specific Roles

Note: one excellent source on any person in this list would be the obituary published in the New York Times. See The New York Times Obituaries Index, 1858-1968 (1970). For those who died post-1968, you use the death-dates (given below) and look them up in the regular Times index for the appropriate year.

WAR DEPARTMENT

Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950), known as “the Colonel” because of his service during World War I, was Secretary of War. Elderly, a Republican, and a man of immense prestige, he had served in the same office under William Howard Taft and as Secretary of State under Herbert Hoover. Franklin Roosevelt brought him into the cabinet in 1940 to emphasize that the nation faced a national emergency during which partisan politics should cease.

Stimson published a memoir, On Active Service in Peace and War (1948). See also Elting E. Morison, Turmoil and Tradition: A Study of the Life and Times of Henry L. Stimson (1960); Geoffrey Hodgson, The Colonel: The Life and Wars of Henry Stimson (1990); and David F. Schmitz, Henry Stimson, the First Wise Man ( 2001).

John J. McCloy (1895-1989), Assistant Secretary of War, was a central figure in the decision to relocate the Japanese Americans in 1942. McCloy played important parts in later policy debates including the question of whether to bomb the concentration camp at Auschwitz in 1944 and the decision to employ the atomic bomb in 1945. After World War II he served as the administrator for occupied western Germany. Biography: Kai Bird (a Carleton History major!), The Chairman: John J. McCloy and the Making of the American Establishment (1992).
Gen. George C. Marshall (1880-1959), chief of staff of the Army, is widely hailed as the “architect of victory” in the Second World War. He later served as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense and is remembered as the author of the Marshall Plan for economic aid to devastated western Europe (1947). See Forrest Pogue’s four-volume biography, George C. Marshall, especially vol. 2 (1966).
Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt (1880-1962), a career Army officer of mediocre attainments who had held a variety of administrative positions, commanded the Western Defense Command from December 1939 until June 1943. He was the officer directly in charge of evacuating the Japanese and Japanese-Americans from the western parts of California, Oregon, and Washington. For DeWitt see the works cited below under Allen W. Gullion.
  Maj. Gen. Allen W. Gullion (1880-1946) had graduated from West Point and also held a law degree. He worked his way up through the Judge Advocate General’s department in the Army, becoming Judge Advocate General in 1937 and Provost Marshall General (his office headed the military police and was in charge of prisoners of war) from July 1941 until April 1944. An expert on the treatment of prisoners of war under the Geneva Convention, Gullion was an important behind-the-scenes figure in shaping the internment policy. For information see the various works by Roger Daniels such as The Decision to Relocate the Japanese Americans (1975) and Peter Irons’s Justice at War (1983).

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT

Francis Biddle (1886-1968) had become attorney general in September 1941 and held this post until 1945. After the war, Biddle served as a member of the international tribunal that tried Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. See Biddle’s memoir In Brief Authority (1962) and Peter H. Irons, Justice at War (1983).
J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972) was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1924 until his death. The FBI is an agency within the Justice Department (Biddle’s department), but Hoover acted autonomously much of the time. Whatever else you may think about Hoover, note that his investigations in 1941-42 turned up no evidence of espionage on the part of Japanese and Japanese-American residents of the West Coast. Biography: Richard Gid Powers, Secrecy and Power: The Life of J. Edgar Hoover (1987).
  Edward J. Ennis was an assistant attorney general in charge of the Alien Enemy Control Office in 1942. Look for information in Bird’s biography of McCloy, in Peter Irons’s books, and elsewhere; see also the congressional hearing cited in Robinson, p. 293, n. 107.

WEST COAST POLITICIANS

Culbert Olson (1876-1962), governor of California from 1939 to 1943. was the first Democrat to hold that office in the twentieth century. A strong New Dealer, Olson supported organized labor, pardoned the radical labor organizer Tom Mooney after Mooney had served more than 20 years in prison, and called for San Francisco to take over the PG&E company and create a municipal utility. A freethinker, he fought the power of the churches in political life. He was defeated for re-election in 1942. Various web sites have snippets of biographical information about Olson but none (that I checked) discusses his position on the Japanese-American internment. See Robinson’s book and the sources cited therein; also Robert Eugene Burke’s Olson's New Deal for California (1953) and relevant sections of Kevin’s Starr’s Endangered Dreams: The Great Depression in California (1996) and Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950 (2002).
Earl Warren (1891-1974), a political rival of Governor Olson’s, was attorney general of California 1939-43, then defeated Olson in the 1942 election and served as governor from 1943 to 1953. Warren was the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 1948. In 1953 President Eisenhower appointed him Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Biography: G. Edward White, Earl Warren: A Public Life (1982). See also The Memoirs of Earl Warren (1977) and Kevin Starr’s Embattled Dreams (cited above), especially chapters 9 and 11.

 

WHITE HOUSE INSIDERS

Harry Hopkins (1890-1946), one of FDR’s closest advisors, was a social worker by background. He managed several New Deal relief programs, then during the war served as Roosevelt’s private emissary to Churchill and Stalin and as administrator of the Lend-Lease program. See Robert L. Sherwood, Roosevelt and Hopkins, an Intimate History (1948) and June Hopkins, Harry Hopkins: Sudden Hero, Brash Reformer (1999).
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), wife of the president, was by 1941 a noted leader in all manner of efforts to ease the plight of the poor and neglected in American society, particularly blacks, migrant workers, and women. Because FDR was unable to travel freely (polio had left him wheelchair-bound), Mrs. Roosevelt traveled incessantly to investigate conditions throughout the country. Through her newspaper column, books, and speeches, she had an immense shaping influence on humanitarian opinion in the US. FDR did not always follow her advice - she did not “run the country,” as conservatives often claimed - but she did have his ear. Among the figures listed in this prospectus, Mrs. Roosevelt was particularly close to Harry Hopkins. Biographies: those by Joseph P. Lash (Eleanor and Franklin, 1971) and Blanche Wiesen Cook (Eleanor Roosevelt, 1992) are particularly good. See also The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt (1961) and It Seems to Me: Selected Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt, ed. Leonard C. Schlup & Donald W. Whisenhunt (2001).
Harold L. Ickes (1874-1952) was Secretary of the Interior throughout the Roosevelt years. He became involved in the Japanese-American matter because the agency set up to manage the internment camps, the War Relocation Authority, came under the Department of the Interior. Ickes was always troubled about the internment and pressed FDR to end it at the earliest possible date. See The Secret Diary of Harold L. Ickes (1953-54).

 

OUTSIDERS

Walter Lippmann (1889-1974) was one of the most influential political philosophers of 20th-century America. A brilliant writer, he created the modern role of the newspaper columnist who comments on national and international affairs. While just in his 20s, Lippmann emerged as a leading progressive intellectual who wrote one of the key texts of the progressive movement in Drift and Mastery (1914), co-founded the New Republic magazine (1915), advised President Woodrow Wilson during World War I, and drafted Wilson’s historic Fourteen Points speech (1918). In the 1920s Lippmann grew more doubtful about the capacity of the mass public for intelligent self-government (Public Opinion, 1922). From 1931 until 1962 he wrote the syndicated column “Today and Tomorrow” for the New York Herald Tribune. After World War II Lippmann coined or at least popularized the term “the Cold War” and opposed McCarthyism and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. There has been a recent revival of interest in Lippmann because intellectuals assume that were he around today, he would oppose the US intervention in Iraq. Biography: Ronald Steel, Walter Lippmann and the American Century (1980).
Roger Baldwin (1884-1981) was founder and spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union. There are various works on the ACLU and biographies of Baldwin including Robert C. Cottrell, Roger Nash Baldwin and the American Civil Liberties Union (2000). Baldwin was not directly involved in discussions of US policy toward the Japanese Americans in 1942, but he and other leaders of the ACLU debated the organization’s policy and did try to influence some leaders in Washington including Biddle and FDR himself. See Peter Irons, Justice at War (1983).
Mike M. Masaoka (1915-91), a controversial figure among Japanese Americans, in 1942 was national field secretary of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), an organization founded in 1928 that reflected the outlook and interests of the Nisei or second-generation Japanese Americans. The JACL was not at root a protest or civil-rights organization; it cooperated with the relocation effort in the spring of 1942. Masaoka himself was interned but later in the war volunteered for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which fought in Italy and France. Books by Peter Irons, Kai Bird, and Roger Daniels, among others, contain information about Masaoka and the JACL. Masaoka’s autobiography is They Call Me Moses Masaoka: An American Saga (1987). See also Bill Hosokawa, JACL in Quest of Justice (1982). Web sites show that many Japanese Americans today believe that Masaoka should have led an effort to protest the relocation, but would this have been a realistic strategy in 1942?

This site was updated on 23-Apr-18.