740.00115 Pacific War/2497

The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy


The Department of State refers to memorandum No. 86, Ex. 113.00 T, dated April 24, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States transmitting a communication from the Japanese Government with regard to the treatment of Japanese nationals at Tule Lake and at other War Relocation Authority centers.

Before considering in detail the individual points made in the memorandum from the Japanese Government, one basic consideration should be clarified. Throughout the memorandum there are various references not only to Japanese nationals, but also to American citizens of Japanese ancestry. At the outset, therefore, it seems desirable to reaffirm the understanding of the Government of the United States that the Japanese Government has a legitimate concern for Japanese nationals only.

Since a considerable portion of the memorandum from the Japanese Government is given over to the registration which was conducted at all relocation centers in the early part of 1943, it is necessary that some of the basic facts concerning this registration program be set forth. The purpose of the registration was two-fold: to acquire information on the background and attitudes of (1) male American citizens of Japanese ancestry with a view to possible service in the Army of the United States; (2) Japanese nationals and other persons at relocation centers with a view to restoring them to normal life outside the centers.

Among the many questions which were asked of the registrants, only one was referred to specifically in the memorandum of the Japanese Government. This question was originally drawn up primarily with American citizens of Japanese ancestry in mind. Through an inadvertence, however, it was phrased in identical form both for American citizens and for Japanese nationals. However, as soon as it was realized that this wording was not applicable to Japanese [Page 1118] nationals, a substitute question was presented to them. In the period between presentation of the original question and development of the substitute, a third type of question was used at the Manzanar Relocation Center. When the substitute question was presented to the Japanese nationals residing at the Manzanar Center, the answers to the interim question were disregarded. Consequently, although at first Japanese nationals were asked to answer the same question as were United States citizens, no attempt was made to force them to renounce their allegiance to Japan, and with the change in question, they were finally asked merely whether they would promise to abide by the laws of the United States and to refrain from interfering with its war effort.

Throughout the entire registration program, every person was free to answer all questions, including the question referred to in the Japanese Government’s memorandum, according to the dictates of his judgment and conscience. At no time did any official use restraint or duress to force anyone to change an answer previously given. Since the entire purpose of the registration was to obtain honest answers regarding the background and attitudes of the registrants, it seems obvious that any attempt to use compulsion in influencing the replies would be self-defeating. It is true that some of the American citizens at the centers were given an opportunity to reconsider their answers to the question under reference, in view of the evidence that they might have been influenced by threats from other evacuees or by undue emotional strain or by lack of understanding when they gave their original answers. This reconsideration was permitted, however, in order to assure each person the fullest possible opportunity to make his own answers on the basis of his own individual choice and not in any sense as an attempt to influence ultimate decisions. All those who preferred to let their original answers stand after reconsideration were freely permitted to do so.

The memorandum from the Japanese Government suggests that the majority of American citizens of Japanese ancestry at the relocation centers answered the question under reference in the negative and that they were transferred to the Tule Lake Center as a form of punishment. Actually, the answers to the question were such that it was necessary to transfer only a small minority of the American citizens of Japanese ancestry as well as only a small minority of the Japanese nationals to the Tule Lake Center. While it is true that both the American citizens and the aliens who answered the question under reference in the negative were among the evacuees segregated at the Tule Lake Center, this segregation process is not and was never intended to be a form of punishment.

The primary purpose of the segregation program carried out by the War Relocation Authority was to separate the people in relocation [Page 1119] centers whose loyalty and sympathies lie with Japan from those who wish to remain in the United States as loyal American citizens or law-abiding aliens. As representatives of the Spanish Embassy who have visited the relocation centers can doubtless testify, there was at all centers, prior to the segregation program, a considerable amount of tension between these two groups. After the centers had been in operation approximately one year, it became clear that peaceful and orderly communities could probably not be maintained as long as people of sharply diverging loyalties were living in such close proximity. Many evacuees, including a number who have openly professed their intention of returning to Japan, urged that a separation be made between the two groups. Accordingly, after a long and careful consideration, steps were taken in the late summer of 1943 to consolidate in the one center at Tule Lake all those who had expressed a desire to move to Japan or who had indicated by word or action that their loyalties are not with the United States. The living conditions and facilities provided at the Tule Lake Center are in accordance with the standard set for all War Relocation Authority centers. The major differences are (1) that those segregated at Tule Lake are not eligible to leave the center except through an appeals board procedure, (2) that they are not permitted the same degree of latitude in establishing their own community government, and (3) that additional precautions have been taken to insure maintenance of law and order.

The incidents at Tule Lake referred to in the memorandum of the Japanese Government occurred at the center shortly after the completion of the first major segregation movement. At that time the Committee of Fourteen met with officials of the War Relocation Authority, including the National Director,94 and presented a series of “demands”. The National Director indicated to the members of the Committee that the War Relocation Authority would not accede to any “demands” as such, but expressed a willingness to consider requests or complaints made on behalf of the evacuees at any time. Three days after this meeting between the officials and the Committee of Fourteen, a group of evacuees armed with clubs entered the area where employees of the War Relocation Authority reside and made attacks upon some of the personnel. As a result, troops stationed immediately outside the center were summoned inside to restore order, and the center was placed under Army jurisdiction for a period of several weeks while conditions were being gradually returned to normal. Peaceful conditions having been restored, the center was returned to full civil administration on January 15, 1944. The War Relocation Authority is now responsible for all phases of [Page 1120] internal administration at the center and has been for the past few months. So long as the residents of the center continue to maintain a peaceful and well ordered community, it is not contemplated that there will be any further occasion for summoning troops or placing the center under military control.

In one place, the memorandum of the Japanese Government suggests that United States authorities attempted to remove Japanese subjects from the relocation centers in order to utilize their labor. This statement is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the program of the War Relocation Authority. The Authority has never considered its primary purpose to be the operation of a detention program. It has, rather, conceived its purpose to be the relocation into normal life so far as practicable of persons of Japanese ancestry who were evacuated from the West Coast in the early stages of war as a matter of military necessity. A considerable number have now been relocated in various parts of the United States, where the relocated citizens of Japanese descent are free to go about their business on the same basis as other American citizens, while the relocated aliens are subject only to the restrictions which apply to all other enemy aliens. Relocation is a privilege, and the War Relocation Authority extends liberal assistance to those who desire to avail themselves of the opportunity. On the other hand, it is not, and never has been, the policy of the War Relocation Authority to force any evacuees to leave the relocation centers against their will so long as the restrictions remain in effect which prohibit them from returning to their former homes.

The Japanese memorandum also suggests that the United States authorities have brought pressure to bear on the evacuees in order to force them to change their minds concerning application for repatriation. There has never been any attempt to influence any person either to decline or to request repatriation. No officer of this Government has ever been authorized to refuse to accept a communication from a Japanese national regarding his wishes for repatriation or for non-repatriation. Decisions by individual Japanese were freely reached in all cases with the exception of some cases in which Japanese aliens attempted to force Americans of Japanese extraction to elect to go to Japan. The question of allegiance to Japan has at no time and in no way been associated with the eligibility of Japanese nationals for repatriation to Japan. The records affecting the repatriation status of Japanese nationals contain no entries regarding replies to the so-called allegiance question.

The persons included in the lists submitted by the Government of Japan were informed that the Japanese Government had named them for repatriation and that they were requested to indicate whether [Page 1121] they desired to accept or to decline. Such persons have been completely free to make their own decisions.

In this connection, it may be pointed out that of all of the persons whose names were submitted in the Winter of 1942 and Spring of 1943, approximately ninety percent stated that they did not desire to return to Japan. Even though they were informed that the Japanese Government had named them, they indicated that they desired to remain in the United States. On the other hand, thousands of applications have been received from persons who were not named by the Japanese Government indicating their wish to go to Japan. These names have been reported to the Japanese Government and the Japanese Government is aware that the Government of the United States has made every effort to arrange for their inclusion in American-Japanese exchanges.95

The demand made in the Japanese memorandum that representatives of the Spanish Embassy be given “suitable and sufficient opportunities” for investigating matters of interest to Japanese nationals at Tule Lake has already been met to the fullest possible extent. Representatives of the Embassy have visited the relocation centers, particularly Tule Lake, on several occasions. At no time have the representatives of the Embassy been denied access to any of the centers. The United States Government has given Japanese nationals in this country, whether at large or confined, every opportunity to register with the Spanish Embassy their wishes and their changes of wish with respect to repatriation from day to day, and cases could be found of individuals who have changed their minds as many as four or five times and on consecutive days. Whenever a Japanese national who previously refused repatriation has changed his mind, his new expression of wishes has been fully respected. The Spanish Embassy is in a position to verify this statement.

The Spanish Embassy has had free access to all Japanese nationals without exception and has repeatedly been invited to verify all or any of the statements of the United States Government regarding the repatriation washes of Japanese nationals. In a great majority of cases the information provided by the Department of State regarding the wishes of Japanese nationals is supported by communications individually addressed to the Spanish Embassy by the Japanese nationals in question. The United States Government would welcome any investigation by any authority into the individual case of any Japanese to verify the accuracy of the foregoing statements.

With respect to the Committee of Fourteen at the Tule Lake Center, the War Relocation Authority is not prepared to recognize this particular [Page 1122] group since there is considerable evidence that it represents no more than a small minority of the total Tule Lake population. It is true that certain members of the Committee and approximately two hundred other evacuees were temporarily confined immediately following the riot at the center because they were suspected of complicity in its instigation. The majority of those confined, however, have now been released and those found guilty of inciting the riot will ultimately be transferred to other quarters. Their treatment will comply fully with the applicable provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1929,96 but they will not be in a position to foment unrest among the other residents of Tule Lake, the majority of whom desire to live quietly and peaceably.

The question at Tule Lake is not whether the residents of the center will be treated according to the principles and provisions of the Geneva Convention, or whether the administration is prepared to cooperate with the evacuees in reaching a solution of common problems. Both these considerations are assured under the existing and past policy of the War Relocation Authority. The only question at issue at Tule Lake is whether a small group is to be permitted through methods of violence to force their leadership on the remainder of the community in such a manner as to cause a recurrence of a riot such as that of November 4. It is believed that the interests of the great majority of the evacuees at Tule Lake require that such troublesome individuals be housed in separate accommodations where their propensity for creating discord cannot contribute to the discomfort of the large number of law abiding residents of the camp.

  1. Dillon S. Myer.
  2. For correspondence on interest of the United States in negotiating a third exchange of American and Japanese nationals, see pp. 1081 ff.
  3. Signed July 27, 1929, Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 336.