Enforcing the Law Against Gambling, Bootlegging, Graft, Fraud, and Subversion 1922-1942 (Oscar J. Jahnsen)

From the California State Government Oral Histories:

Enforcing the Law Against Gambling, Bootlegging, Graft, Fraud, and Subversion, 1922-1942. (1970).

As a Prohibition agent, tracking down bootleggers, rum runners, and smugglers, Jahnsen first became acquainted with Earl Warren, then vigorously enforcing the Prohibition laws as district attorney of Alameda County. Warren provided Jahnsen and his colleagues with office space in the DA's suite of offices, and the two offices collaborated closely. Jahnsen describes Warren's efforts to uphold Prohibition and the standards of evidence then acceptable in state and federal courts. Jahnsen also discusses Japanese-American relocation during World War II. He describes the efforts by county officials, acting on requests from the attorney general, to plot Japanese landholdings on county maps. From this and related evidence Warren concluded that the Japanese constituted a danger, and recommended to the Tolan Committee that they be removed. Jahnsen himself played a role in enforcing Executive Order 9066.

(Note: the portion I'm referring to is only a very small portion of a much, much longer document.)

The material itself is an interview. A question asked Jahnsen was how did the relocation get started, and he replies “...it was just one of those things that common sense would tell you to do. Before Pearl Harbor, there was some reason, but not too much to suspect espionage and sabotage.”

“Of course when Pearl Harbor came along, and they start sinking ships off of San Luis Obispo, Mr. Warren and I went to Admiral [John L.] Greenslade, who was then with the Western Sea Frontier. Admiral Greenslade said, "We don't have anything, General"--meaning Attorney General--"to defend the West Coast I" Warren said, "Well, my God I We have thousands and thousands of Japanese here. We could have an invasion here." Admiral Greenslade said, "Everything that we had in fighting forces we have sent out to the Pacific. Whether they let it get out there or not, we don't know. But we've sent [it] out to defend the islands."

Warren is Earl Warren, who became Governor of California and got onto the Supreme Court of the United States eventually. At the time, he was markedly anti-Japanese.

As far as not being able to defend the West Coast, he was quite correct. There were a few forts, a few planes, but nothing that could really mount any kind of meaningful defense. The West Coast was, technically, quite vulnerable to attack.

Jahnsen was asked if he thought Earl Warren was the main mover behind the internment process.

“I would say he did a lot toward initiating it. I don't think he did it with any thought of being, you might say, cruel, or trying to injure Japanese of American ancestry, but to protect the country.”

Then there was a question of various maps that were drawn up to show where all the important facilities were, and where the Japanese were.

“When all these maps came in, we had a master chart on which we marked all of the vital things, such as where every proposed airport and oil and communication lines were located. Japanese were all around these vital installations.

Where the main transmission of communication lines ran up and down the state, the Japanese were there. They were centered on Grant Avenue next to Trans-Pacific Broadcast of the telephone company. Where the main railroad lines ran up and down the coast in several places, they ran across Japanese property, and there was nothing to stop them taking the railroad out. The main oil lines that were pumping from the desert came across Japanese property. At all of these places the Japanese appeared to be strategically set up. It looked as though pressing one button they could go to work and very shortly they'd take over the whole state of California.”

There were reasons they were located where they were, though, but it would take time to find those out (like how certain parcels of land near power line towers were formed of poor land and were thus leased out to Japanese immigrants, etc.), but everything at that time was too frentic to consider other possibilities.

The issue of sabotage is discussed.

“We always figured the only thing why great sabotage didn't happen was that the job was so big for the Japanese and that they didn't have the equipment, the forces to do this. They had to consolidate and reorganize their forces before this could happen.”

In other words, the job of sabotage was so massive that nothing was done since they had to get their plans together before anything could be done. Another way this has been seen is that, since there was no sabotage, that itself was proof that someday there would be sabotage.

He also addresses the initial arrests of some Japanese:

“The California attorney general's office went down and helped the FBI and others to pick these Japanese people up, who we felt were ready to help the Japanese invasion of California. We had to segregate the sheep from the goats, the locals from the foreigners. They had a number of Japanese who were members of foreign dual-citizenship organizations.”

There wasn't a whole lot more to that section. Basically, he agrees with what was done to the persons of Japanese ancestry and he thinks it was necessary.

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