”Enemies”: World War II Alien Internment (1985)

There is one chapter in this book dealing specifically with the internment of persons of Japanese ancestry, and it centers on the events at Tule Lake and the issue of the segregation of the “no-no's” and those who wanted to renounce their American citizenship and return to Japan.

Although most persons of Japanese ancestry went along fairly compliantly with the internment program, there was a group that was incredibly angry at what was being done. They were very pro-Japanese and became quite militant in following Japanese principles of culture.

Tule Lake was not the only camp with such people in it, though, as several hundred agitators had been sent to the INS camp at Santa Fe. (The WRA ran some camps, but the Justice Department and the INS ran other camps.)

Some of the Tule Lake people were due to be transferred to Ft. Lincoln.

For the people at Tule Lake who wanted to renounce their American citizenship, there were consequences. One that had been accomplished, some 650 of them were immediately classified as “alien enemies” since they were no longer US citizens. They were scheduled to be transferred to Ft. Lincoln, which was a Justice Department camp.

What made the situation at Tule Lake worse was that, although there was a sizable group of the pro-Japanese, there were also some internees that were more pro-American in their approach, and this caused conflict between the two groups, with the pro-Japanese group sometimes using physical intimidation to try to get the rest of the internees to become as pro-Japanese as they are.

What complicated matters, though, was that even within a family group some would be pro-Japanese and some pro-American, yet the wives and children would end up accompanying the males to Tule Lake, even though they didn't think the same way.

The kibei are those persons of Japanese ancestry who were born in the US then went to Japan to get their education. This group was especially distrusted by the US military.

The book then goes into the main breakdown at Tule Lake when, on October 15, 1943, a truck carrying evacuees for crop harvesting overturned, with one worker being killed. Granted, this could happen at almost any camp and not have caused a major uprising, but the pro-Japanese agitators wanted to use the incident to push their anti-US and pro-Japanese stance.

The funeral was followed by a general strike by farm workers, and the camp administration brought in workers from other camps to harvest crops. WRA Director Dillon Myer ended up becoming personally involved (even though he might have actually planned to), but the people he met with were not really selected representatives of the camp; they were basically self-appointed representatives.

White camp workers were gathered up and put into the Administrative Building and told to remain inside.

Some of the protesters stormed the base hospital and beat up the chief medical officer. This was finally too much, and the camp administration made a call to the army and soon tanks were moved into position and MPs deployed.

The protesters kept up their demands, wanting Tule Lake to become a place strictly for their pro-Japanese group. The already anti-Japanese West Coast newspapers had a field day with the events, of course.

Holding a ceremony to commemorate the birthday of the Emperor was another sort of “in-your-face” move by the protesters.

On November 4, some 150 men armed with clubs entered the administrative area to stop trucks taking food to the evacuees from other camps that were working the crops and they severely beat a security guard. The camp was then turned over directly to the control of the Army.

The Army wasn't into negotiating. The leaders of the “riot” were locked up in the stockade and kept there almost a year. This didn't stop the trouble, though. A petition was stated during the spring of 1944 asking that all pro-American individuals in Tule Lake be removed. The group doing this was the Resegregation group, and they even wrote to the Attorney General of the United States with a list of 6,500 internees who wanted to be returned to Japan A.S.A.P.

The militants became even more militant and militaristic in their actions. In a way all this helped, though, because it helped set up the program to make sure pro-American internees could be released from the camps.

On December 27, 1944, Border Patrol inspectors from the INS came into Tule Lake and arrested seventy men who were then taken to the Sante Fe camp as “dangerous enemy aliens.”

All of this apparently just ended up getting even more people submitting their applications to renounce their American citizenship, until nearly 5000 had done so.

More men ended up being arrested, more sent to Santa Fe, and more sent to Fort Lincoln. At Ft. Lincoln Japanese textbooks were brought in and courses in Japanese language, culture and traditions were set up for the renunciates.

There were even some that held a memorial for the death of Hitler on May 8, 1945.

Gradually, though, some people began to realize that they had been carried away by the militant spirit and they wanted to withdraw their renunciation of their American citizenship. Gradually, more and more of the internees stopped practicing the more militaristic approach of the renunciates and started to put some distance between the two groups.

On Oct. 8, 1945, the Justice Department said that all persons who had given up their citizenship would be sent back to Japan as of mid November. This caused some people who did not really want to return to panic. The first group of Japanese included around 174, and no sooner had they gone then a second deportation was scheduled.

On Dec. 26, another 360 left Ft. Lincoln, headed eventually for Japan. They were joined by others from Tule Lake, making a group of 3,500 leaving American for Japan.

The militants in Ft. Lincoln still tried their pressure tactics to try and make sure no one backed down from leaving America. On Feb. 18, another 39 pro-Japanese left the camp, and on the 18th the last Germans held in the camp left.

On March 2 it was announced that, four days later, the last of the enemy aliens from Ft. Lincoln would be shipped out and the camp would be closed. The Santa Fe camp was losed at the end of March, 1946.

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