Hoover discusses pros and cons of evacuation, Feb. 2, 1942 memo

J.Edgar Hoover, in a ten page memo, analyzed the situation relating to possible evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry, going over both the pros and the cons of the idea and, at least in my opinion, he did a fairly good job in his memo. Summarizing the memo:

A conference had been held between representatives of the War Department and the Dept. of Justice concerning evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry. Hoover checked with various FBI offices and enumerated pros and cons of evacuating persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coat. He says: "The necessity for mass evacuation is based primarily upon public and political pressure rather than on factual data. Public hysteria and in some instances, the comments of the press and radio announcers, have resulted in a tremendous amount of pressure being brought to bear on Governor Olson and Earl Warren, Attorney General of the State, and on the military authorities."

In other words, Hoover, the head of the FBI at the time, did not believe there was a military necessity to move AJA (Americans of Japanese Ancestry, including Issei), out of the West Coast area.

He goes on: "It is believed by many that the mass evacuation will be a cure-all and will eliminate the danger of Japanese espionage and sabotage. It would, of course, eliminate the possibility of the Japanese physically committing sabotage on the coast. However, experience has taught that the Japanese often rely on Occidentals to obtain physically their information for them. Bureau cases substantiate this."

Hoover is pointing out that the Japanese have used non-Japanese for their spying and sabotage purposes. He then discusses what some people apparently had considered, and that was moving out only the Issei, and says that would simply not be practical at all, that it would meet with a lot of resistance from family members.

Since his memo covers both sides of the issue, the next portion points out that in the event of an actual invasion by the Japanese army of the West Coast, he points out: "Although law-abiding while under the control of the Occidental, little doubt remains that they would assist a Japanese army having apparent local successes. No one can say definitely what the local Japanese would do during an invasion as it would be a matter of individual decision."

Another issue that has been covered in the various writings on the time is the possibility of anti-Japanese riots, and this is something that concerned Hoover.

"The possibility of race riots continues to exist. There is a large Filipino population in California that presents a constant threat to widespread violence. Stories of Japanese atrocities in the Philippines, either true or magnified, could quickly bring about a serious condition in the Sacramento Valley where there are large Japanese and Filipino populations. This is presently of major concern in the Hawaiian islands. The unrest there, as well as in California, has, however, resulted only in individual assaults. If widespread conflicts do occur, the Filipinos will be the aggressors."

This is the first time I've seen the racial riot possibility discussed in relation to Filipino/Japanese violence rather than just "racial violence." It seems Hoover was quite concerned about this possibility.

What he does next is to examine specific areas of the West Coast.

First he talks about the Los Angeles area. He points out that there are too many AJAs living there to keep them all under surveillance. He also talks about the Japanese Central Association of Los Angeles and how it has acted as an agent for the Japanese Consul before. He also talks about the Buddhist churches in the area, and also talks about Shinto. He says all three groups have close ties to Japan. He adds there has been widespread non-compliance with "the proclamation relating to travel, firearms and signaling devices on the part of the above Japanese." He adds the Kibei are strongly in favor of Japan. He says Japanese language schools in the area "have used texts printed in Japan" and that they "contain articles and illustrations definitely of a propaganda nature."

He finally adds that the Nisei are reluctant to act as informants and talks about the location of the Japanese being near oil fields, shipyards and other defense-related industries.

San Francisco is next to be analyzed. He believes there is no need to evacuate the AJAs from there. There have been no uprisings and no widespread acts of violence between the Japanese and the Filipinos. He talks about the JACL importance in the area and how it is pro-American. He then points out that the those who were leaders and influence in the "Japanese colony" were also apprehended.

As far as sabotage goes, he says "In regard to sabotage activities it is not believed that the Japanese are in a position to do material damage. They are greatly handicapped in that they are most conspicuous and are not generally accepted for employment in our vital defense industries.

As to the firearms that have been found, he says they turned out to be small caliber rifles and guns that any person might own, especially farmers.

He says that the Nisei have not been helping Issei in "obtaining vital defense information" despite the rumors. He does say the Nisei have not provided as much information on their parents as he would like.

San Diego is next and, in this case, he says that evacuation of the AJAs is "highly desirable."He says the AJAs in the area are very nationalistic and that they have not been acculturated into our society to the degree AJAs in other areas have been. He adds that one of the strongest reasons for evacuating them is due to the strong anti-Japanese hostility in that area.

Portland is next. He notes that most of the AJAs leave relatively near defense facilities in the area.

Seattle follows. He cites some reasons for evacuating AJAs from the area, then all of a sudden comes up with this concern about paratroopers, saying that Japanese paratroopers who got into the area would be impossible to tell apart from the AJAs living there. I have no idea why he cites that as a concern for only Seattle where the same thing could have been said for Los Angeles and other areas.

He adds that the language schools have been supported for a long time in the area, and that the Japanese organizations there are racist in character. He adds there are no spies that have not already been apprehended, and no sabotage threats.

Thus, he seems to present a somewhat mixed bag of reviews here and , if taken at face value, they would present a very, very difficult situation to deal with, where AJAs would be evacuated from some parts of California but not other parts, that some areas are very loyal and some aren't, and that there is a major concern about race riots against the Japanese in the area should bombs actually drop or should the Filipinos decide to attack the Japanese living in the area.

Parts of his analysis seem to be rather well done where other parts seem slightly contradictory.

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