Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace 1940-1950

Chapter 2 of this book is entitled “Shelling Santa Barbara” and is the most relevant to this section on the war.

The chapter starts by talking about the submarine I-17 which, in December of 1941, operated off the coast of California.

Then the chapter gets REALLY interesting. It holds that, for all practical purposes, California was already at war with Japan; indeed, it refers to the California-Japanese war of 1900-1941. It's a term used by the Southern California journalist and historical Carey McWilliams.

The book holds that the war that California declared was one based on “fierce, racial hatred, uncompromising and annihilating in intent.” Further, this hatred, and the acts it resulted in, actually poisoned US/Japanese relationships even before the war started.

The book refers to the interment of the persons of Japanese ancestry from California as “...one of the most egregious violations of civil rights in American history...”

1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act is passed, largely as a result of pressure from California. This was also a result of racism, and the feelings shifted easily from being anti-Chinese to anti-Japanese.

1886: the Kingdom of Hawaii makes an agreement with Japan to allow Japanese laborers to come to Hawaii.

1890: members of the Shoemaker Union assault Japanese shoe-makers in San Francisco.

1891: members of the Cooks and Waiters Union trash a Japanese restaurant.

1900: The US formally declares Hawaii a territory after basically taking it over by force, a move spurred on by American business interests.

May 7, 1900: San Francisco Labor Council holds an anti-Japanese rally. The Japanese are portrayed as undermining American workingmen by working for low wages. One speaker basically advocates firing at any ships bringing Japanese to the state.

1901: Japan cuts back on issuing passports to contract laborers who would be going to the US and Hawaii.

May 6, 1905: The San Francisco school board segregates Japanese students into a separate school. This amounted to 93 students out of a total of 25,000 in the system.

May 7, 1905: Another anti-Japanese rally denouncing the influx of Japanese labor into the state.

May, 1905: The Japanese Exclusion League gets started in California, trying to get a complete ban on all Japanese from entering the state.

April, 1906. During the great earthquake and its aftermath, there are 19 assaults against Japanese residents. Japan, meanwhile, had sent money to help the city recover.

December, 1906: The President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt, has to intervene in the school board affair. A study he ordered done said there was no justification for the exclusion of the Japanese students.

1905/1906: Both countries draw up plans for a possible conflict. It is suggested in Japan that they war with California, but not the rest of the US.

(sometime between then and February of 1907): A labor leader says that the states west of the Rocky Mountains should go to war with Japan on their own.

March, 1907: the order for the exclusion of the Japanese students is withdrawn. Roosevelt issues an executive order prohibiting further Japanese immigration into the US via Hawaii, Canada or Mexico.

1907: Japan agrees not to issue any more passports to contract laborers.

1908: Gentlemen's Agreement with Japan: Japan promises to stop issuing passports to laborers that want to immigrate to the US. The San Francisco Police Commission refuses to license any new Japanese restaurants. Also, the Anti-Jap Laundry League is founded in San Francisco. California politicians try to get a measure passed to segregate all Japanese children in all the public schools of the entire state. Other measures they tried to pass were those that would stop Japanese from owning land, bar them from being director's of corporations, and one that would basically established legalized ghettos for Japanese.

1908: Cosmopolitan magazine has an article by a Congressman predicting that Japan would land a million-man army on the West Coast within six months of any war breaking out between Japan and the US.January 16, 1909: Roosevelt wires the governor of California, basically stating that California was undermining US national policy in relation to Japan. Two weeks later, a mob in Berkeley attacks Japanese residents.

1909: A California politician in the US Congress tries to get a measure going which would exclude Japanese from the entire country, not just California. The measure gets withdrawn.

1909: A book, The Valor of Ignorance, is published, outlining a Japanese invasion of the US. The book was actually fairly close to what later really happened as far as the Far East theater goes. It also predicted that the Japanese would attack Washington State, the San Francisco area, and Los Angeles. The Japanese were pictured as landing at Santa Monica bay and then seize Los Angeles and gain control of the rest of Southern California. They would also land in Monterey Bay, surround San Francisco and bombard the city until it surrendered. The Japanese army would then move east to the Sierra Nevada area.

1910: One of the men running for governor does so on an anti-Japan platform.

1911: The Chronicle refers to the picture brides as prostitutes.

1912: Woodrow Wilson, running for office, says that the Japanese do not blend with the Caucasian race, that they are not assimilating into our culture.

1913: Japan sends a commission of Conciliation to California to try and find out why they are hated so much, and to find some way the two areas could get along better. One of the people on the committee writes a pamphlet, Survey of the Japanese Question in California, urging the Japanese in California to try to understand American culture and get along with it as much as possible, and asks whites for understanding.

1913: The San Francisco Examiner mocks the pamphlet, basically questioning the right of anyone Japan to recommend anything to the US.

1915: The Hearst newspapers publish what they say are plans for a Japanese invasion of California via Mexico.

1919: Japan stops issuing passports to “picture brides.”

1920: The Alien Land Initiative causes an outrage in Japan.

Oct. 6, 1920: The American Association of Tokyo and the American Association of Yokohama cable the Secretary of State, saying that there was “intense feeling” in Japan over the California action.

1921: Must We Fight Japan is published, saying that there will definitely be a war with Japan. The book says that the persons of Japanese ancestry in California will become a “fifth column” for Japan.Nov. 1922: The Supreme Court decides that Japanese are “ineligible aliens,” meaning they cannot gain US citizenship.

1924: A California senator introduces a bill in Congress to stop “all aliens ineligible to citizenship” from immigrating to the US, which would have stopped all first-generation Japanese. The Japanese ambassador writes a letter of protest to the US Secretary of State. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge replies that Japan was threatening the US.

1924: Immigration Act of 1924 (Oriental Exclusion Act). This was to end all Japanese immigration to the US forever.

1925: Sea Power in the Pacific is published, suggesting that the Japanese/American war would begin with a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Yamamoto read the book and it's possible it influenced him in his later push for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

1927: The Reckoning is published in Los Angeles, also about a Japanese attack on the West Coast, this time using poison gas bombs and incendiary bombs.

Oct. 14, 1940: Newsweek publishes an article on the “threat” that was posed by Japanese Americans living near military instillations in Hawaii and California.

Feb. 1942: The Los Angeles times calls for the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from California.

Among the major California publications that were anti-Japanese was a magazine called The Argonaut. The San Francisco Chronicle was a similar type of newspaper. That paper ran headlines like “Brown Asiatics Steal Brains of Whites,” which sounds like something out of the cheap tabloids of today that run stories like My Grandmother was really an Alien from Mars.

Another thing that the Japanese immigrants were criticized for was their birth rate, and that some of the Japanese men might want to take white wives. The sexuality of the Japanese was branded as “something loathsome and degenerate.”

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