Digital History>eXplorations>Japanese American Internment>The Decision to Intern>Relocation of Japanese Americans
of Japanese Americans
Relocation Authority, Washington, D.C.
the spring and summer of 1942, the United States Government
carried out, in remarkably short time and without serious incident,
one of the largest controlled migrations in history. This was
the movement of 110,000 people of Japanese descent from their
homes in an area bordering the Pacific coast into 10 wartime
communities constructed in remote areas between the Sierra Nevada
Mountains and the Mississippi River.
evacuation of these people was started in the early spring of
1942. At that time, with the invasion of the west coast looming
as an imminent possibility, the Western Defense Command of the
United States Army decided that the military situation required
the removal of all person of Japanese ancestry from a broad
coastal strip. In the weeks that followed, both American-born
and alien Japanese residents were moved from a prescribed zone
comprising the entire State of California, the western half
of Oregon and Washington, and the southern third of Arizona.
United States Government having called upon these people to
move from their homes, also assumed a responsibility for helping
them to become established. To carry out this responsibility,
the President on March 18, 1942, created a civilian agency known
as the War Relocation Authority.
The job of this agency, briefly, is to assist in the relocation
of any persons who may be required by the Army to move from
their homes in the interest of military security. So far, the
work of the WRA has been concerned almost exclusively with people
of Japanese descent who formerly lived close to the Pacific
rim of the country.
first, plans were made by the Western Defense Command and the
WRA to build accomodations only for a portion of the 110,000
evacuated people. A considerable percentage of them, it was
hoped, would move out of the restricted area and resettle inland
on their own initiative. During March of 1942, some 8,000 actually
did move, but the great majority were held back by limited resources,
general uncertainty, and mounting signs of community hostility
in the intermountain region. By the latter part of March, it
had become apparent that such a large-scale exodus could be
handled effectively on a planned and systematic basis. Accordingly,
all further voluntary evacuation was halted by the Western Defense
Command on March 29 and plans were initiated by the WRA for
establishing relocation centers with sufficient capacity and
facilities to handle the entire evacuated population for as
long as might be necessary.
relocation centers, however, are NOT and ever were intended
to be internment camps or places of confinement. They were established
for two primary purposes: (1) To provide communities where evacuees
might live and contribute, through their work, to their own
support pending their gradual reabsorption into private employment
and normal American life; and (2) to serve as wartime homes
for those evacuees who might be unable or unfit to relocate
in ordinary American communities. Under regulations adopted
in September of 1942, the War Relocation Authority is now working
toward a steady depopulation of the centers by urging all able-bodied
residents with good records of behavior to reenter private employment
in agriculture or industry.
procedures are relatively simple. At a number of key cities
throughout the interior of the country, the WRA has field employees
known as relocation officers and relocation supervisors. These
men, working in close collaboration with local volunteer committees
of interested citizens and with the United States Employment
Service, seek out employment opportunities for evacuees in their
respective areas and channel such information to the relocation
centers where an effort is made to match up the jobs with the
most likely evacuee candidates. Direct negotiations are then
started between the employer and the potential employee and
final arrangements are made ordinarily by mail.
any evacuee is permitted to leave a relocation center for the
purpose of taking a job or establishing normal residence, however,
certain requirements must be met:
A careful check is made of the evacuee's behavior record at
the relocation center and of other information in the hands
of the WRA. In all questionable cases, any information in
the possession of the federal investigative agencies is requested
and studied. If there is any evidence from any source that
the evacuee might endanger the security of the Nation, permission
for indefinite leave is denied.
There must be reasonable assurance from responsible officials
or citizens regarding local sentiment in the community where
the evacuee plans to settle. If community sentiment appears
so hostile to all persons of Japanese descent that the presence
of the evacuee seems likely to cause trouble, the evacuee
is so advised and discouraged from relocating in that particular
Indefinite leave is granted only to evacuees who have a definite
place to go and some means of support.
Each evacuee going out on indefinite leave must agree to keep
the WRA informed of any change of job or address.
primary purpose of this program is to restore as many of the
evacuees as possible to productive life in normal American communities.
specific procedures being followed have been approved by the
Department of Justice as sound from the standpoint of national
security and have been endorsed by the War Manpower Commission
as a contribution to national manpower needs. As the program
moves forward, the costs of maintenance of the relocation centers
will be steadily reduced.
interested in employing evacuees from relocations centers for
any sort of work should communicate with the nearest relocation
supervisor of the WRA.
the interest of both accuracy and fairness, it is important
to distinguish sharply between the residents of relocation centers
and the militarists of Imperial Japan. Two-thirds of the people
in the centers are American citizens, born in this country and
educated, for the most part, in American public schools. At
all centers, the residents have bought thousands of dollars
worth of war bonds and have made significant contributions to
the American Red Cross. Many of them have sons, husbands, and
brothers in the United States Army. Even the aliens among them
have nearly all lived in the United States for two decades or
longer. And it is important to remember that these particular
aliens have been denied the privilege of gaining American citizenship
under our laws.
is also important to distinguish between residents of relocation
centers and civilian internees. Under our laws, aliens of enemy
nationality who are found guilty of acts or intentions against
the security of the Nation are being confined in internment
camps which are administered not by the War Relocation Authority
but the Department of Justice. American citizens suspected of
subversive activities are being handled through the ordinary
courts. The residents of the relocation centers, however, have
never been found guilty–either individually or collectively–of
any such acts or intentions. They are merely a group of American
residents who happen to have Japanese ancestors and who happened
to be living in a potential combat zone shortly after the outbreak
of war. All evidences available to the War Relocation Authority
indicates that the great majority of them are completely loyal
to the United States.
physical standards of life in the relocation centers have never
been much above the bare subsistence level. For some few of
the evacuees, these standards perhaps represent a slight improvement
over those enjoyed before evacuation. But for the great majority
of the evacuated people, the environment of the centers–despite
all efforts to make them livable–remains subnormal and
probably always will be. In spite of the leave privileges, the
movement of evacuees while they reside at the centers is necessarily
somewhat restricted and a certain feeling of isolation and confinement
is almost inevitable.
is provided for the evacuee residents of the centers in tarpaper-covered
barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking
facilities of any kind. Most of these barracks are partitioned
off so that a family of five or six, for example, will normally
occupy a single room 25 by 20 feet. Bachelors and other unattached
evacuees live mainly in unpartitioned barracks which have been
established as dormitories. The only furnishings provided by
the Government in the residence barracks are standard Army cots
and blankets and small heating stoves. One bath, laundry, and
toilet building is available for each block of barracks and
is shared by upwards of 250 people.
is furnished by the Government for all evacuee residents. The
meals are planned at an average cost of not more than 45 cents
per person per day (the actual cost, as this is written, has
averaged almost 48 cents), are prepared by evacuee cooks, and
are served generally cafeteria style in mess halls that accommodate
between 250 and 300 persons. At all centers, Government-owned
or Government-leased farmlands are being operated by evacuee
agricultural crews to produce a considerable share of the vegetables
needed in the mess halls. At nearly all centers, the farm program
also includes the production of poultry, eggs, and pork; and
at a few the evacuees are raising beef and dairy products. Every
evacuee is subject to the same food rationing restrictions as
all other residents of the United States.
care is available to all evacuee residents of relocation centers
without charge. Hospitals have been built at all the centers
and are manned in large part by doctors, nurses, nurses' aides,
and technicians from the evacuee population. Simple dental and
optical services are also provided and special care is given
to infants and nursing mothers. Evacuees requesting special
medical services not available at the centers are required to
pay for the cost of such services. As all centers, in view of
the crowded and abnormal living conditions, special sanitary
precautions are necessary to safeguard the community health
and prevent the outbreak of epidemics.
opportunities of many kinds are made available to able-bodied
evacuee residents at relocation centers. The policy of WRA is
to make the fullest-possible use of evacuee skills and manpower
in all jobs that are essential to community operations. Evacuees
are employed in the mess halls, on the farms, in the hospitals,
on the internal police force, in construction and road maintenance
works, in clerical and stenographic jobs, and in may other lines
of activity. Most of those who work are paid at the rate of
$16 a month for a 44-hour week. Apprentices and others requiring
close supervision receive $12 while those with professional
skills, supervisory responsibilities, or unusually difficult
duties are paid $19. In addition, each evacuee working at a
relocation center receives a small monthly allowance for the
purchase of work clothing for himself and personal clothing
for his dependents. Opportunities for economic gain in the ordinary
sense are almost completely lacking to the residents of the
through the high-school level is provided by WRA for all school-age
residents of the relocation center. High schools are being built
at most of the centers, but grade-school classes will continue
to be held in barrack buildings which have been converted for
classroom use. Courses of study have been planned and teachers
have been selected in close collaboration with State departments
of education and in conformity with prevailing State standards.
Roughly one-half of the teachers in the schools have been recruited
from the evacuee population. Japanese language schools of the
type common on the west coast prior to evacuation are expressly
forbidden at all relocation centers.
training is provided at relocation centers as part of the regular
school program for youngsters in connection with the employment
program for adults. The purpose of this training is twofold:
(1) To equip the evacuee residents so that they will be able
to play a more productive role in agriculture or industry outside
the centers and (2) to provide potential replacements at the
centers for those who go out on indefinite leave.
security at each relocation center is maintained by a special
police force composed largely of able-bodied evacuee residents
and headed by a nonevacuee chief plus a few nonevacuee assistants.
Misdemeanors and other similar offenses are ordinarily handled
by the Project Director or by a judicial commission made up
of evacuee residents. The maximum penalty for such offenses
is imprisonment or suspension of work and compensation privileges
for a period of 3 months. Major criminal cases are turned over
to the outside courts having appropriate jurisdiction. At each
center, the exterior boundaries are guarded by a company of
military police who may be called into the center in cases of
emergency. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is also called
in from time to time as the need arises.
enterprises, such as stores, canteens, barber shops, and shoe-repair
establishments are maintained at the relocation centers in order
to that the residents may purchase goods and services which
are not provided as part of the regular subsistence. These enterprises
are all self-supporting and are managed by evacuee residents
mainly on a consumer cooperative basis. Each resident is eligible
for membership in the relocation center cooperative association
and all members are entitled to patronage dividends which are
derived from the profits and based on the individual volume
of purchases. As rapidly as possible the cooperative associations
are being incorporated under appropriate laws.
government is practiced in one form or another at every relocation
center. In some of the centers, formal chargers have been drawn
up and evacuee governments roughly paralleling those found in
ordinary cities of similar size have been established. In others,
evacuee participation in community government has been along
more informal lines and has consisted largely of conferences
held by a small group of key residents with the Project Director
whenever important decisions affecting the population must be
reached. The evacuee governmental set-up is not in any sense
a substitute for the administration provided by the WRA Project
Director and his staff, but residents are encouraged to assume
responsibility for many phases of community management.
is practiced at relocation centers with the same freedom that
prevails throughout the United States. Nearly half of the evacuees
are Christian church members. No church buildings have been
provided by the Government but ordinary barracks are used for
services by Protestants, Catholics, and Buddhists alike. Ministers
and priests from the evacuee population are free to carry on
their religious activities at the centers and may also hold
other jobs in connection with the center administration. Such
workers, however, are not paid by WRA for the performance of
their religious duties.
activities at the centers are planned and organized largely
by the evacuee residents. The WRA merely furnishes advice and
guidance and makes certain areas and buildings available for
recreational purposes. At each center, recreational activities
of one sort or another have been organized for all groups of
residents from the smallest children to the oldest men and women.
Local branches of national organizations such as the Red Cross,
the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Boy Scouts are definitely encouraged.
At some of the centers, athletic contests are arranged periodically
with teams from nearby towns.
the War Relocation Authority is placing first emphasis on relocation
of evacuees in private employment, student evacuees are also
being permitted to leave the centers for purposes of beginning
or continuing a higher education. Applicants for student leave
much meet the same requirements as all other applicants for
indefinite leave and are permitted to enroll only at institutions
where no objection to the attendance of evacuee students has
been raised by either the War or Navy Department. The WRA provides
no financial assistance to evacuees going out on student leave.
of Evacuee Property
110,000 people of Japanese descent were evacuated from the Pacific
coast military area during the spring and summer of 1942, they
left behind in their former locations an estimated total of
approximately $200,000,000 worth of real, commercial and personal
property. These properties range from simply household appliances
to extensive commercial and agricultural holdings.
the time of evacuation, many of the evacuees disposed of their
properties, especially their household goods, in quick sales
that frequently involved heavy financial losses. The majority,
however, placed their household furnishings in storage and retained
their interest in other holdings even after they were personally
transferred to relocation centers. Since these people are not
in the position of absentee owners and since many of their properties
are highly valuable in the war production effort, the War Relocation
Authority is actively assisting them to keep their commercial
and agricultural properties in productive use though lease or
sale and is helping them in connection with a wide variety of
other property problems.
carry out this work, the Authority maintains an Evacuee Property
Office in San Francisco with branches in Los Angeles and Seattle
and employs an Evacuee Property Officer on the staff at each
relocation center. Two principal types of service are rendered.
In connection with personal properties, such as household furnishings,
the Authority provides–at the option of the evacuee owners–either
storage in a Government warehouse located within the evacuated
area or transportation at Government expense to a point of residence
outside. In connection with real estate, commercial holdings,
farm machinery, and other similar properties, the Authority
acts more in the role of intermediary or agent. At the request
of evacuee property-holders, it attempts to find potential buyers
or tenants, arranges for the rental or sale of both commercial
and agricultural holdings, checks inventories of stored personal
goods, audits accounts rendered to evacuees, and performs a
variety of similar services. Any person who is interested in
buying or leasing the property of evacuees should communicate
with the nearest Evacuee Property Office in the West Coast evacuated
area. The locations of these offices are:
Hotel Building, San Francisco, Calif.
Room 955, 1031 South Broadway, Los Angeles, Calif.
Room 6609, White Building, Seattle, Wash.
possible, these offices will try to put potential buyers or
tenants in touch with potential sellers or lessors among the
evacuee population. It is should be emphasized, however, that
the WRA has no authority to requisition the property of evacuees
and cannot force any resident of a relocation center to sell
or lease against his will. Final agreement on terms is solely
a matter between the parties directly involved.
Relocation of Japanese Americans. Washington, D.C. : War Relocation