The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy
The Department of State acknowledges the receipt of a memorandum dated May 24, 1944 (No. 125, Ex.113.01) from the Spanish Embassy in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States reiterating a protest from the Japanese Government concerning incidents which occurred at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and at the Central Utah Relocation Center, Topaz, Utah, which resulted in the deaths of Mr. Kanesaburo Oshima on May 12, 1942 and Mr. James Hatsuki Wakasa, on April 11, 1943.
The Spanish Embassy is requested to inform the Japanese Government that this Government has little it can add to the memoranda forwarded to the Embassy on June 3, 1943, June 29, 1943 and March 17, 1944.8 With regard to these deaths the Japanese Government was informed on these occasions that the United States Government had made a thorough investigation of the deaths of Mr. Kanesaburo Oshima and Mr. James Hatsuki Wakasa. According to the regulations governing the conduct of relocation centers, persons are not permitted to pass in or out of the Relocation Center areas at any place except at the designated entrances and exits. Persons are not permitted to pass in or out of these designated entrances or areas except when in possession of a pass. As has been reported the evacuees were not only repeatedly informed of this restriction but regulations were posted for their information. The guards at relocation centers are strictly prohibited from firing without just cause. They are instructed first to challenge persons attempting to escape but when the challenge is unheeded, they are required to fire.[Page 1129]
Mr. Wakasa attempted to pass out of the Relocation Center at an unauthorized place and only after he had been repeatedly challenged was he fired upon. Mr. Oshima also was repeatedly ordered by the sentry to halt and only when Mr. Oshima failed to obey did the sentry shoot. The fact that Mr. Wakasa was deaf and unable to hear the challenge and that Mr. Oshima was suffering from a fit of mental derangement could not be known to the guard.
The Japanese Government continues to make assertions based on partial evidence. This Government is of the opinion that it can offer no more convincing testimony that the measures taken by the United States authorities were neither unfair nor contrary to the dictates of humanity than to submit the records of the investigation for examination. It renews its offer at this time to make the proceedings available to representatives of the protecting Power with the understanding that representatives of the Swiss Government in charge of American interests in Japan and Japanese-occupied territory will be granted similar privileges by the Japanese Government in like circumstances.
The United States Government is unable to understand the position taken by the Japanese Government9 that the United States Government in offering to submit the documents for examination and review by a neutral representative on a reciprocal basis is trying to conceal the whole truth. On the contrary, the willingness of the United States Government to permit an inspection of its records by representatives of the protecting Power gives evidence that the United States does not fear an impartial investigation and that it is convinced that an unbiased review of the facts will confirm the findings of the boards of inquiry. The unwillingness of the Japanese Government to extend reciprocity under similar circumstances would appear to indicate that the Japanese Government on its part is unprepared to submit its investigations to the light of impartial review.
Articles 22 to 25 of General Orders No. 100, War Department 1863, referred to in paragraph (2) (B) of the Japanese Government’s protest with regard to the death of James Wakasa concern the rights of enemy civilians in their own country and do not apply to enemy aliens interned in a belligerent country. They therefore have no bearing on the case of James Wakasa.
In paragraph (2) (B) the Japanese Government also calls attention to Article 77 of General Orders No. 100, War Department 1863. This article provides that a prisoner may be killed in order to prevent his escape, and therefore constitutes plain legal justification for the position taken by this Government.[Page 1130]
With respect to the allegation that Mr. James F. Hughes, Assistant Project Director, expressed opinions concerning the requisites of an adequate guard, it would appear that Mr. Hughes, if he made such statements, spoke on a subject which was not within his jurisdiction. Under the memorandum of understanding between the War Relocation Authority and the War Department, the patrol and guarding of the perimeter fences of the Centers are the responsibility of the War Department and all questions relating either to the conduct of the sentinels or to the adequacy of the patrol are wholly under the jurisdiction of that Department.
It will be of interest to the Japanese Government to know that the military guard contingent at the relocation centers has been reduced very materially within recent months. At certain centers the military guard is approximately one-half the size of the original contingent; at others only a token guard of not more than two dozen men and two or three officers exists.
This Government regrets the occurrence of incidents resulting in the loss of life and assures the Japanese Government that it is prepared to punish severely those responsible where such loss has occurred as a result of unjustified action. An examination of the evidence in the cases of both Mr. Oshima and Mr. Wakasa reveals, however, that in neither case did the guards shoot without justifiable reason. It is to be regretted that Mr. Wakasa and Mr. Oshima lost their lives but the proceedings disclose no evidence that the sentries acted in haste or in violation of their orders or standing instructions.