740.00115 PW/11–444

The Department of State to the Spanish Embassy


The Department of State refers to memorandum (No. 61, Ex. 119.01) dated March 13, 1944, from the Spanish Embassy in charge of Japanese interests in the continental United States transmitting complaints from the Japanese Government concerning the reported mistreatment of Japanese nationals held in custody in the United States.

With regard to the deaths of Toshiro Kobata and Hirota Isomura during their transfer from Bismarck Internment Camp, Bismarck, North Dakota, to the Lordsburg Internment Camp, Santa Fe, New Mexico, on July 27, 1942, a thorough investigation with regard to the circumstances connected with the deaths of these two men was made in July–September 1942.

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The proceedings of the board appointed to investigate the matter revealed that in the early morning hours of July 27, 1942, one hundred and forty-seven internees arrived at the Lordsburg Railroad Station from Bismarck and were escorted by military police to the camp. The two internees, Toshiro Kobata and Hirota Isomura, who were reported to be unable to keep up with the main column on the march to the compound, were permitted to walk behind at their own pace, accompanied by a guard. They were ordered to keep on the main highway in the center of the road, but were permitted from time to time to rest. At times they walked slowly, at other times they proceeded rapidly. Before coming to the main gate of the military reservation where the internment camp is located the men appeared to be arguing between themselves. After they entered the reservation but before they were within the camp enclosure, they suddenly made a break and started running toward the boundary of the reservation. The guard shouted to them twice to halt and when his order was not obeyed he fired in accordance with his standing instructions. Hirota Isomura died instantly and Toshiro Kobata a few hours later.

An inquiry into the circumstances was conducted at once. The court-martial of the guard was vigorously prosecuted and all the facts were developed. An acquittal of the guard resulted. While this Government regrets that Mr. Kobata and Mr. Isomura lost their lives in their attempt to escape, since they failed to stop when warned, the guard acting in the performance of his duty, had no other recourse than to shoot.

Concerning the alleged unwarranted use of firearms at the Lordsburg Internment Camp during April to June 1943, to which attention was called in the second part of item 1 of the Embassy’s memorandum, the Japanese Government is informed that an investigation was conducted with regard to the cases cited. The Japanese Government maintained that at one time a captain fired a revolver to urge internees to hasten to their work. The investigation disclosed that, during a slow-down in internee work details, an American captain in charge of the internees fired a shot from his pistol to attract the attention of the internees in order to address them and tell them to proceed with their work. The captain was reprimanded for his action by the Commanding Officer.

The allegation contained in the memorandum from the Spanish Embassy that an internee was fired at when requesting a sentry to fetch a golf ball, was reported not to be based upon facts. The only occasion when a sentry at Lordsburg Internment Camp fired in the direction of a Japanese internee was at a time when the guard had been alerted to expect an attempted escape by the internees. On that occasion, when an internee approached one of the gates during the [Page 1132] evening, a sentry fired a warning shot at a nearby telephone post. The camp authorities on learning of the incident investigated the circumstances and as a result the sentry was relieved from further duty of this nature.

Reference is made to the alleged wounding of Dr. Uyehara on November 26, 1942, by an American garrison prisoner who was confined at Lordsburg Internment Camp. Several American military personnel who were prisoners were confined at Lordsburg Internment Camp at this time. On November 26, 1942, one of these American prisoners became disorderly, and in the fracas Dr. Uyehara was knocked down, but was not injured to an extent requiring medical attention. After this incident, the prisoner who created the disturbance, together with all other American garrison prisoners, was removed and confined elsewhere. The prisoner was tried for this offense by special court-martial on December 31, 1942, and the commanding officer of the Lordsburg Internment Camp was given a written admonition because of the incident. The camp commander was subsequently removed from command.

With regard to the incident at Manzanar Relocation Center reported in item 2 of the Embassy’s memorandum, it is necessary in view of the number of misstatements and distortions of fact which appear in the Japanese Government’s communication to give a resume of the incident and the events leading up to it. For some time prior to the incident, unrest and dissension among the Center residents had been apparent. A great many complex and not altogether related factors led to this unrest. These factors included frictions among various groups of the Japanese center residents themselves over matters of group interest in which the Center Administration was not directly concerned.

A small group of younger evacuees was particularly persistent in expressing antagonism toward the authorities of the Center. One of the charges made by some of this group was a claim that Mr. Ned Campbell, Assistant Project Director, was misappropriating sugar intended for evacuee consumption. This is apparently the basis of the statement in the Japanese Government’s communication that Mr. Campbell was guilty of corrupt practices in connection with sugar distribution. The War Relocation Authority investigated this claim thoroughly and found it to be without any basis in fact. Mr. Campbell was not, as is stated in the Japanese Government’s communication, discharged. However, because of the unpleasant situation which had been created for Mr. Campbell by the agitators who made of him the victim of their unfounded charges, he was transferred to another branch of the War Relocation Authority service.

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Yoshio (Harry) Ueno, an American citizen, was one of the most active members of the group engaged in agitation against the center authorities. On December 5, 1942, Fred Tayama (who is referred to in the Spanish Embassy’s memorandum as Fred Masary Uamada), a young American citizen, was brutally attacked and wounded by a group of masked men. Ueno was identified by Tayama as one of his assailants. Ueno was questioned, and was then arrested and confined in the jail at Independence, California. It was on the basis of the identification of Ueno as an assailant in the attack on Tayama that Ueno was arrested, and not because of any alleged personal animosity of any Center staff member toward him.

About noon on December 6, 1942, several thousand evacuees met in a mass meeting. It was later revealed that the purpose of the meeting was to protest Ueno’s arrest and demand his release, to denounce and threaten physical violence to Tayama and other evacuees regarded as informers, and to appoint a Committee of Five to negotiate with the Center Director. In the afternoon, the Committee of Five, leading a crowd of one thousand men and boys, presented to the Center Director at the Administration Building, demands for Ueno’s release. For the Center Director to accede to mob rule would have been disasterous to the interests of the Center and its entire population. He walked among the crowd for about an hour and a half, attempting to persuade them to abandon the resort to mob tactics and to disperse and to leave the settlement of the matter to orderly and lawful processes. The crowd remained unruly and surly, refusing to disband. A small number of soldiers who were deployed near the Administration Building were taunted and insulted and sticks and stones were thrown at them. It was apparent that the crowd was turning into an unmanageable mob.

In view of the imminent danger of bloodshed, the Center Director proposed to the Committee of Five to return Ueno to the Center jail; that all future grievances would be taken up with the Center Director through recognized evacuee representatives; and that the committee would help find Tayama’s other assailants. After discussion among its members the evacuee committee unanimously agreed to these conditions. It was later learned that the committee’s spokesman did not explain the committee’s agreement to the crowd but instead ordered that the crowd disperse and, in violation of this agreement, to meet again later in the day to secure Ueno’s release from the Center jail. In fulfilment of his part of the agreement, the Center Director had Ueno returned to the Center in mid-afternoon. In the late afternoon it became apparent that the agreement reached with the committee was being flagrantly violated by the mob. A mob of several hundred persons gathered in front of the hospital and demanded that [Page 1134] Tayama be delivered to them. When the hospital authorities refused to deliver Tayama to the rioters, they invaded the hospital and ransacked it in search for him, but he was well hidden and the mob failed to find him. The rioters then divided into several groups to search throughout the Center for Tayama and several others who had not been sympathetic with the riotous and disruptive activities of the mob. While none of these persons were found, their apartments were entered and wrecked.

In the early evening a second mob converged upon the police station for the purpose of obtaining Ueno’s release from the Center jail by force if necessary. It was apparent that order could not be maintained without the assistance of the military police, and the commander of the military police was requested to assume control of the Center. The commander did so and soldiers were deployed around, the police station. A line was drawn, beyond which the mob was instructed not to pass. The commander talked to the rioters at length requesting them to disperse which they refused to do. The rioters cursed the soldiers, spat on them, threw stones at them and attempted to disarm some of them.

It was then, nearly two hours after the mob had arrived at the police station and all attempts to quiet and disperse the rioters had failed, that the commander ordered tear gas released on the north side of the mob from which direction the wind was blowing. Considerable confusion resulted and the mob scattered in all directions. Part of it ran toward the soldiers who then fired three rounds from shotguns. At about the same time several of the rioters seized a truck, started it and headed it in the direction of the police station and then jumped off in the darkness. It struck the corner of the station running into a Government truck. As it careened toward the soldiers a commissioned officer, who could not see that it was driver-less opened fire on it with a submachine gun. The mob then retreated and dispersed. The injured who were found lying on the ground were promptly removed to the hospital.

During the night and following day a number of law-abiding evacuees who had refused to join the rioters were assaulted and others were threatened. About sixty-five of them came to the Administration Building for protection and were later transferred out of the Center. Some school teachers were also intimidated and threatened by the rioters and as a consequence the schools were temporarily closed. A temporary work stoppage took place, and only such labor as was necessary in connection with the operation of the mess and certain other services essential to the evacuees was carried on. Normal activities were, however, restored in the course of several weeks as a [Page 1135] result of further negotiations between the residents of the Center and the Project Director.

Of the eleven men who received gunshot wounds, two lost their lives. These two men were not Japanese nationals. Among the other nine men who received gunshot wounds two were Japanese nationals. All the nine men, including the Japanese nationals, recovered completely from their wounds. Not one of the dead or injured was, as is stated in the Japanese Government’s communication, “an aged invalid”. The elder of the two Japanese nationals who were involved was fifty years of age, the younger was forty years of age.

During the weeks immediately following the incident, a thorough investigation was made by a duly appointed board of officers and the persons deemed primarily responsible for inciting and leading the rioters were apprehended and questioned. Most of these persons were later transferred to a special detention center from which they have since been transferred to another Relocation Center.

The board, on December 15, 1942, found that the Center Director, was fully justified in requesting the Commander of the Military Police and his Command to enter the Relocation Center to suppress the mob and put an end to the disorders then existing, and that he made such request only after exhausting every other possibility to restore order. The board further found that the Commander and the officers of the Escort Guard Company, in suppressing the mob and its violence, acted with promptness, patience and determination, and employed only so much force as appeared necessary after all other measures had failed. The board further found that the soldier or soldiers who fired the shots acted in obedience to the standing order given by the company commander to fire only when ordered to do so or when attacked, and that the soldier or soldiers who fired the shots did so because members of the mob were closing in and surging toward them.

It is apparent from the foregoing recital that the rioters who participated in the incident must be considered to be primarily responsible for its unfortunate consequences. Instead of trying to settle their grievances by peaceable and lawful means, they adopted the expedient of disregarding lawful authority and attempted to achieve their ends by force and mob violence. This can no more be tolerated in a relocation center than in any other community. That the shooting occurred was unfortunate; however, had the mob dispersed when ordered, instead of refusing to do so and intensifying an already menacing situation, the incident would not have occurred. Since the incident, there have been no further serious difficulties in the administration of the Manzanar Relocation Center. The evacuees resident [Page 1136] there have been and are receiving the same consideration and treatment that evacuees in other relocation centers are receiving.

In item 3 of the communication from the Japanese Government it is stated that there are many cases where United States authorities improperly assessed income tax on Japanese residents, or deducted income tax from their property, or put it up for sale without giving them notice. The specific case referred to is that of Muraichi George Nakanishi (who is referred to as Ouraichi Nakanish in the Spanish Embassy’s memorandum). With respect to his case the Japanese Government states that he was given notice of income tax liability immediately before the departure of the exchange ship, and was threatened with refusal to be allowed to embark unless he paid it.

Muraichi Nakanishi, United States Detention Station, Santa Fe, New Mexico, filed with the Collector of Internal Revenue for the District of New Mexico, an income tax return, Form 1040, for the calendar year 1942, which was executed August 27, 1943, and showed a tax liability of $254.50. A return, Form 1040, for the period January 1 to September 1, 1943, was filed by the taxpayer at the time of his departure showing no tax liability for that period. Mr. Nakanishi was taxed on the income reported by him for 1942 as a resident alien and allowed a personal exemption of $1200.00 as a married man living with his wife, the same as any other resident alien. He was also allowed a credit of $350.00 for his dependent daughter, Akiko. Furthermore, in computing his net income he was allowed a deduction for California State income taxes of $41.32. In as much as his income tax return for the year 1942 was not filed within the prescribed time (on or before March 15, 1943) a penalty of twenty-five percent was assessed, and his total tax liability including interest amounted to $325.53 for the year 1942. This together with an unpaid installment of tax for 1941 of $63.00 and an unpaid installment owed by his wife, Tsuruyo Nakanishi, of $79.00, made an aggregate outstanding unpaid tax liability of $467.53.

According to the information available in this Department Mr. Nakanishi did not have the money with which to pay his income tax liability. Certain stock owned by him in the Pacific Trading Company, Inc., 100 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, California, as well as stock in the same company owned by his daughter (which was transferred to her in 1939 by her father as a gift), were therefore, voluntarily assigned to the Alien Property Custodian for the purpose of liquidating his outstanding liability, by written assignment in affidavit form dated August 27, 1943. The tax-payer, accompanied by his wife and daughter, sailed aboard the exchange ship Gripsholm on September 2, 1943.

From an examination of the facts in this case it appears that no injustice was done to the taxpayer, but that he was merely required to [Page 1137] satisfy his income tax obligations prior to his departure from the United States, in accordance with the provisions of section 146 (e) of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 146 (e) of the Internal Revenue Code reads as follows:

“(e) Departure of Alien—No alien shall depart from the United States unless he first procures from the collector or agent in charge a certificate that he has complied with all the obligations imposed upon him by the income, war-profits, and excess-profits tax laws.”

The treatment received by Mr. Nakanishi was not discriminatory or unlawful but is the same as that accorded to all aliens departing from the United States.

With reference to the general protest in regard to collection of income taxes from Japanese who depart from the United States, it has been the policy of this Government to endeavor to collect outstanding tax liabilities of Japanese nationals and other aliens prior to their departure from this country when they possess assets. This Government knows of no case where departure of repatriated Japanese aboard the exchange ship Gripsholm was prevented for the sole reason that the taxpayer had not cleared his tax liabilities and was unable to do so. There would seem to be no reason, however, why outstanding income tax liabilities of Japanese nationals should not be paid prior to departure in cases where assets in the United States can be used to liquidate such liabilities. It is the opinion of this Government, therefore, that the complaint of the Japanese Government with respect to these matters is unjustified.

In item 4 of the Japanese Government’s communication it is alleged that food provided at Kenedy and Santa Fe Internment camps is of a quality inferior to that provided at other camps. It is also alleged that the food provided at Ellis Island Detention Station is not only inferior in quality but meagre in quantity, and that as a result, the eyesight of internees has been impaired. The Government of the United States is forwarding herewith10 a complete analysis, taken from random samples, of food provided at the Kenedy and Santa Fe Internment Camps at various periods since these stations were first established. The bulk of the food served at these camps is obtained from the Army Quartermaster and is identical with food being served to American troops with the exception that account has been taken of Japanese tastes. For example, fish is shipped by express from the Pacific Coast in order that the internees may enjoy fresh raw fish. Also the quantity of rice issued is considerably in excess of the starch requirement used in the American dietary. Fresh fruits and vegetables are furnished rather than dehydrated fruits and vegetables. All canned goods and fresh meats as well as fruit and vegetables conform [Page 1138] to Government Specifications and are of quality and grade superior to that obtainable in ordinary wholesale or retail markets. The internees have not only been provided with foodstuffs of excellent quality, scrupulously in accordance with the provisions of the Geneva Convention, but account has been taken of Japanese national dietary habits.

As to the food served at Ellis Island to Japanese nationals, it has been found upon investigation that the cost was uniformly higher than that for food provided for American troops at base camps. The same food is furnished to persons of all nationalities and also to the officers and members of the Immigration Service. The menus are well balanced and more than ample. During the period under reference frequent visits were made to the Ellis Island Detention Station by representatives of the Central Office of the Immigration Service who have personal knowledge that the complaints as to the food are not based on fact.

With respect to the complaint that some sixty-five persons were put in a room with capacity only for forty, causing illnesses among them, at no time has the population in the Santa Fe Internment Camp exceeded that allowed under Army regulations for the billeting of American troops at base camps. If the internees had properly distributed themselves in the facilities provided, no congestion would have existed. Such congestion in a given dormitory as did exist at any time was due to the insistence of certain groups of internees on being billetted in the same set of barracks. This Government is in possession of no facts that would indicate that illness was caused by overcrowding.

In item 5 of the memorandum it is stated that money and belongings of Japanese nationals transferred to the United States from Alaska were seized by authorities at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and that the applications of these internees for the return of the property were not considered. This Government on May 6, 1944 in an effort to facilitate tracing the property under reference, requested the Spanish Embassy to endeavor to obtain from the internees the receipts given to them. When the receipts are received from the internees, this Government will make every effort to trace the property, and to investigate the complaints made by the Japanese Government.

With regard to the complaints in item 6 of the memorandum of the Japanese Government that the Japanese residents of Virginia were subjected to compulsory evacuation, a total of ten Japanese in the Norfolk, Virginia, area were apprehended in the Summer and early Fall of 1943 under the authority of the Department of Justice and released on parole, the parole conditions requiring that they live outside of the immediate vicinity of the Norfolk Naval Base. Seven of [Page 1139] these persons voluntarily accepted parole to Chicago. The Immigration Service made arrangements with social organizations for assistance in establishing these persons in the Chicago community. The remaining three voluntarily accepted parole to Philadelphia. Transportation was furnished in each case. It is the opinion of this Government that these facts are sufficient to demonstrate that the charge as to compulsory evacuation at the expense of the Japanese nationals is unfounded.

  1. Enclosures not printed.