VIOLENCE AT MANZANAR ON DECEMBER 6, 1942: AN EXAMINATION OF THE EVENT, ITS UNDERLYING CAUSES, AND HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION
Despite the intervening years since World War II and the opening of previously sealed government records, it is little known that evacuees in all ten relocation centers persistently resisted the conditions in the camps. Evacuees regularly repudiated the government's Americanization program and experienced a resurgence in Japanese cultural values. They rejected WRA-imposed political and economic bureaucracy, while rejuvenating prewar Japanese patterns of community leadership. They redeployed themselves from labor projects selected by camp administrators to those regarded valuable by evacuees. Because this type of resistance was daily and incremental, rather than occasional and dramatic, it has gone largely unnoticed.
More visible, both during the war and in later studies of the period, were displays by evacuees of open resistance such as strikes and violent confrontation with WRA authorities and the military police who provided the external security for the centers. One of the most renowned examples of evacuee resistance during the evacuation and relocation center period was the violent event, variously termed or described as an "incident" "riot," or "revolt" that occurred at Manzanar on December 6, 1942. 
Events of December 5-6, 1942 
Assault on Fred Tayama. On Saturday evening, December 5, 1942, at about 8:00 P.M., Fred Tayama, a Nisei evacuee at Manzanar, was assaulted in his apartment (Block 28, Building 11, Apartment 3) by six masked men. He was taken to the camp hospital and, when questioned there by Ralph P. Merritt, who had become Project Director at Manzanar on November 24, gave the following account:
Although Tayama was severely beaten, his injuries, including a badly cut scalp, were painful but not serious.
Tayama, a 37-year-old Nisei who had moved with his family from Hawaii to a fruit farm in the Sacramento Valley before settling in Los Angeles before the war,  had returned the previous day from Salt Lake City where he had served as the center's representative at the national convention of the Japanese American Citizens League. At the convention, Tayama had supported a proposal urging the War Department to draft Nisei for the American armed forces. Dillon Myer, the WRA director, was a guest at the convention, and many of the residents of Manzanar assumed that the director had allowed himself to become a spokesman for the JACL.  Having worked closely with WRA administrators at Manzanar, Tayama was suspected by many camp evacuees as being an "inu" or informer ("dog" in Japanese) to federal investigative agencies regarding camp activities.
According to a WRA memorandum, Tayama was a former owner of a chain of restaurants in Los Angeles and the head of the Southern District of the Japanese American Citizens League prior to the war. The report noted that it appeared "that he is regarded by a large number of evacuees" as "an FBI informer" and was "disliked for that reason." 
Arrest of Harry Y. Ueno.  Tayama could not positively identify his attackers, but he told police that he was sure that one was Harry Y. Ueno (Block 22, Building 3, Apartment 4), an outspoken Kibei who had been employed in marketing and fruit stand operations in Los Angeles prior to the evacuation. Later, one of the suspects that was questioned in the case identified Ueno as one of the assailants.  In September 1942, Ueno had organized the Kitchen Workers' Union at Manzanar to represent Manzanar's 1,500-Kibei-dominated mess hall workers more effectively than did the Japanese American Citizens League-inspired Manzanar Work Corps chaired by Tayama. Thus, Ueno's group was composed largely of anti-JACL, anti-administration Kibei and Issei,  and Ueno had become an avowed enemy of Tayama. At Merritt's request, Assistant Project Director Ned Campbell had requested that the Manzanar police assist in rounding up a number of possible participants in the assault. Accordingly, Ueno was taken into custody and questioned. Unable to give a clear account of his activities that evening, Ueno was handcuffed and taken to the county Jail in Independence by Campbell,  thus becoming the first Manzanar evacuee to be jailed outside the camp. Two other Kibei suspects were taken into custody and questioned at the Manzanar jail during the night. The two men were questioned until about 5:00 A.M. on Sunday, December 6, when they were released.
Shortly before his arrest, Ueno had gained a measure of popularity at Manzanar as a result of reporting allegations to the FBI that Campbell and Chief Steward Joseph ^^ Winchester were stealing meat and sugar intended for the evacuees in order to sell them for profit outside the camp. Thus, Ueno's arrest aroused widespread hostility and resistance among the evacuees. Contrary to the purported WRA rationale for this action that Ueno had been identified positively by Tayama as one of his assailants many evacuees charged that Ueno was innocent and was being victimized due to his recent allegations against Campbell. Many of the members of the Kitchen Workers' Union were Terminal Islanders who were notoriously anti-WRA in sentiment, convinced that the agency's staff members were grafters and caustic in their denunciation of individuals suspected of being informers or collaborators. Many were convinced that unionist Ueno's brazen exposure of corrupt practices, and the investigation he was promoting, were at the root of his being punitively confined in the county jail "outside" the camp. Thus, they reached the conclusion that Ueno was imprisoned not because he had beaten Tayama, but, rather, because Campbell, who had transported him to the Independence jail, wished him removed from the camp as a result of Ueno's accusations. 
Sunday Morning Meeting. At 10:00 A.M. on Sunday December 6, about 200 evacuees assembled in the mess hall of Block 22 (Ueno's block) to discuss his arrest and consider ways of effecting his return to the camp. This meeting, comprised primarily of Block 22 residents and a sprinkling of Kitchen Workers' Union members, entertained several plans of action, including the imposition of a center-wide mess hall strike. After about 20 minutes, the meeting was adjourned, and a second meeting to consist of block managers, mess hall workers, and various Kibei evacuees was arranged for 1:00 P.M. in Block 22. 
Sunday 1:00 p.m. Mass Meeting. News of the noon 1:00 P.M. meeting apparently spread throughout the center, for the crowd that subsequently arrived at Block 22 was so large (estimated to be about 2,000) that the gathering had to be moved outside the mess hall to the adjacent firebreak area. Shigetoshi Tateishi, a Kibei born in San Francisco and educated in Japan who was the block leader for Block 23, led the meeting. Some fiery speeches were delivered over a hastily-installed public address system, devoted to accusations against "dogs" among the Japanese as well as the Caucasians at the camp. A Committee of Five was selected to negotiate Ueno's reinstatement with Merritt. This committee included: Gengi Yamaguchi, a 40-year-old Issei educated at the University of Southern California and employed as a landscape gardening contractor and proprietor of a retail produce business in Los Angeles before evacuation who was block manager for Block 13; the aforementioned Shigetoshi Tateishi; Sakichi Hashimoto, a 42-year-old Issei who lived in Block 19 and was a member of the Kitchen Workers' Union executive committee; and Kazuo Suzukawa, a 38-year-old Issei who served as chef for the mess hall in Block 8. The principal spokesman for the Committee of Five, however, was Joseph Y. Kurihara, a Hawaiian-born Nisei, wounded World War I veteran, and outspoken American patriot who, while a friend of Ueno's was unaffiliated with the union. After Pearl Harbor, Kurihara had attempted to volunteer for the U.S. armed forces, but had been rejected because of his Japanese ancestry. Embittered by his rejection and the humiliation of evacuation, he had become one of the most prominent dissidents at Manzanar.
A detail of evacuee policemen was sent to the meeting by John M. Gilkey, the Caucasian Acting Chief of Internal Security at Manzanar. The police detail returned to the police station and reported that they were not wanted and had been asked to leave. Alarmed by the huge assemblage, Merritt, in company with Gilkey decided to go to the meeting. At the same time, he ordered Ned Campbell, Assistant Project Director, to request Captain Martyn L. Hall, Commanding Officer of the 322d Military Police Escort Guard Company that had been assigned to Manzanar, to form a contingent of his men outside the center's gate in the event of trouble. When Merritt and Gilkey arrived at the mass meeting, the evacuees were breaking up. Merritt and Gilkey were told that the purpose of the meeting had been to (a) protest the arrest of Ueno and demand his unconditional release, and (b) denounce and threaten physical violence to Tayama and other camp residents on a "blacklist" of evacuees regarded as "stool pigeons" and "traitors to our people" who were cooperating with federal investigative agencies. The list included Togo Tanaka and Joe Grant Masaoka, brother of Mike Masaoka, national executive secretary of the JACL, who had been serving as the camp's documentary historians. They were also told that a Committee of Five had been appointed by the evacuees to discuss their grievances with Merritt. 
Merritt's Interaction with Evacuee Crowd. Merritt and Gilkey returned to the Administration Building to await the arrival of the Committee of Five. The committee, marching at the head of a large crowd, many of its participants "yelling and marching in an irregular manner," arrived at the Administration Building about 1:30 P.M.  Captain Hall and about 12 soldiers arrived through the main gate of the camp at the same time, forming a line between the police station and the Administration Building with mounted machine guns.
Merritt, Gilkey, and Hall walked out to meet the unruly crowd. The Committee of Five demanded the immediate release of Ueno. Merritt walked among the crowd and talked to them for approximately 45 minutes. He refused to negotiate with the crowd, indicating that he would talk with a representative group and demanding that the crowd disperse. As Merritt, Gilkey, and Hall attempted to reason with the leaders of the throng, they were surrounded by four evacuee men whose actions indicated they were attempting to protect him. The crowd, for the most part, was respectful to Merritt, and as he walked among the men several of them laughed and joked with him. Generally, however, the crowd remained unruly and surly, led by agitators who were attempting to keep sentiment stirred up. Campbell was struck by an evacuee, and Merritt immediately ordered him into the police station when Campbell attempted to retaliate. At Merritt's urging, the leaders finally agreed that they would attempt to convince the crowd to disperse. They climbed on a car and talked to the crowd in Japanese for some time. As a result, the crowd became more menacing, some individuals making obscene gestures toward the soldiers and shouting obscene words in Japanese and English. On the verge of getting out of control, the crowd surged forward at times until it was close to the line of soldiers whose ranks had swelled to approximately 30 men in response to Captain Hall's request. 
Merritt's Agreement with the Committee of Five. When it became apparent that the crowd would not disperse, Merritt, Gilkey, and Hall discussed the course of action that should be taken. Merritt decided the "fanaticism" of some members of the crowd indicated there was imminent danger of bloodshed. The soldiers continued to be taunted and insulted, some stones and sticks being thrown at them by persons in the crowd. Many of the Caucasian school teachers and project appointed personnel were scattered around the fringes of the crowd, raising concern that some of them might be injured if force were used to disperse the mob. Sensing that it was no longer in control of the crowd, the committee urged Merritt to concede before matters got completely out of hand. Although the project director publicly reiterated his earlier refusal to this demand, a private conference with the police chief and the commander of the military police convinced him that this concession was necessary in order to avoid bloodshed. Merritt thus decided to compromise in an effort to forestall violence. Since Ueno's arrest, Merritt's men had investigated Tayama's beating and had been unable to discover any conclusive evidence that Ueno had attacked Tayama. Thus, Merritt directed the Committee of Five to the side of Block I, Building I, Apartment I, directly across the road from the police station, and after some discussion out of the crowd's earshot, the committee, after first rejecting his terms, agreed to the following:
Merritt also announced that a subsequent statement pertinent to Ueno's return would be issued at 6:00 P.M. that evening at the Block 22 mess hall. 
After the terms of this agreement were reached, Kurihara reportedly burst into "a fanatical tirade, disclaimed loyalty to the United States, expressed the hope that Japan would win the war, and threatened death to all informers." He expressed the apparent sentiments of many in the crowd when he said "that no one should be punished for beating such informers as Tayama."  After being reminded of the agreement that had been reached, Kurihara apparently quieted down. Merritt shook hands with the Committee of Five, and Kurihara addressed the crowd, apparently explaining the agreement and urging the evacuees to return to their quarters.
Dispersal of Crowd. Kurihara spoke to the crowd in Japanese, and the evacuees responded with applause. Merritt turned to Higashi, the Japanese chief of internal security who was standing nearby, and asked whether Kurihara had explained the agreement. Merritt was assured that "the speech was all right."  Merritt later learned that Kurihara had not explained the agreement but had renounced his American citizenship and had reminded each evacuee that he should remember he was a Japanese. He reportedly told the crowd that a victory had been won in obtaining an agreement to return Ueno to Manzanar and that the crowd should disperse temporarily and reassemble at 6:00 P.M. at the police station to secure Ueno's release. The Japanese chief of internal security may have been intimidated, but it is possible that he did not fully understand all of Kurihara's speech to the crowd. Later, it would be learned that this man knew little Japanese and did not understand all of what Kurihara said. 
The crowd refused to disperse until the soldiers left the camp. At Merritt's request, Captain Hall moved the soldiers back to the entry gate at the center's periphery "in the face of humiliating catcalls."  The crowd was not satisfied by this pullback, and the soldiers were ordered back to the highway where they remained until the crowd broke up. By 3:00 P.M., the crowd had dispersed and the soldiers had returned to their quarters. 
That afternoon, Merritt, Gilkey, and Hall toured the camp by automobile and found it quiet. Football games were underway, and children were playing in the streets. They returned to the police station, where the Committee of Five was waiting, and arrangements were undertaken to return Ueno to Manzanar.
Ueno's Return to Manzanar. Ueno was returned to the Manzanar jail about 3:30 P.M. The Committee of Five remained until he arrived. Merritt repeated the terms of his agreement with the committee and Ueno and shook hands with them.
Sunday Evening Mass Meeting. When the Committee of Five appeared at the Block 22 mess hall at 6:00 P.M. to affirm the return of Ueno, it encountered a crowd of some 2,000-4,000 evacuees. Again the meeting was transferred outside to the adjacent firebreak. As the crowd milled about the dusty firebreak, various grievances were aired, including charges that Campbell and Chief Steward Joseph Winchester had been stealing sugar from a camp warehouse for sale outside the center and that the evacuees' clothing allowance had not only been delayed by administrative bungling but was also inadequate. On the grounds that it had accomplished its objective, the Committee of Five attempted to resign. This suggestion was shouted down by the crowd which apparently felt that the administration had not gone far enough by merely returning Ueno to the Manzanar jail. According to some of the more militant elements in the crowd, Ueno should be unconditionally released, even if release required his enforced removal. Moreover, the crowd demanded that evacuees like Fred Tayama, whom they accused of collaborating with the WRA administration and informing the FBI about pro-Japanese activities in camp, should be killed as "inu" or traitors. A list of 50 female "dogs" was also read. Having degenerated into an uncontrolled demonstration, the meeting broke up when its leaders announced a hurried plan of action. The crowd divided into two main groups, one to ferret Tayama out of the camp hospital and finish the job begun the previous night, and the second to liberate Ueno from jail. Members of the crowd armed themselves with knives, hatchets, hammers, screw drivers, stones, and any other weapons they could secure. 
About 6:30 P.M., Dr. James M. Goto, the chief evacuee medical physician at Manzanar, telephoned Merritt at his apartment and Arthur L. Williams, Assistant Chief of Internal Security in the camp, at the police station, reporting that a group was advancing toward the hospital, demanding that Tayama be turned over. Dr. Morse Little, Chief Medical Officer at the hospital, also called the police station as he saw the crowd approaching the hospital, requesting military police protection. Williams telephoned Merritt and was told to request the military police to escort an ambulance to the hospital for the purpose of removing Tayama. Following a request by Merritt, the military police agreed to take a circuitous route to the rear of the hospital, thus avoiding Block 22.
About the same time, one of the Japanese policemen (Jack Shimatsu, Block 14, Building 6, Apartment, 2) informed Williams that, according to his father, approximately 2,000 people attended the meeting at Block 22, and it was agreed that two groups would be formed, one of which would go to the hospital to get Tayama, while the other would go to the police station to release Ueno and kill all evacuee policemen because they were "stooges" of the WRA administration. Evacuee members of the police force were blamed for the arrests which had been made, and the mob intended to injure or kill them. Williams immediately notified Merritt by telephone that the crowd was marching toward the police station. When Merritt heard this, he told Williams to ask Hall to place a military guard at the station. 
Hospital Incident. The crowd that converged on the hospital consisted of some 50-75 persons. The crowd was prevented from entering the hospital building by three evacuee women employees. Nevertheless, the group clambered around the hospital grounds, insistent in its determination to get Tayama. Believing that Tayama had been spirited away by the military police before the crowd arrived. Dr. Little agreed to permit a group of five evacuees from the crowd to accompany him in searching the hospital wards. The search was conducted, but Tayama, hidden by evacuee personnel on the lower shelf of an orthopedic bed, concealed by blankets, was not found.
The ambulance and military escort arrived during the search, but the soldiers were told that Tayama was not there. However, the soldiers removed Fred Tayama's mother, a tuberculosis patient who had entered the hospital suffering from anxiety neurosis after her son's beating, in the ambulance. The milling crowd jeered and threw stones at the ambulance, believing that Tayama was in the vehicle. The hospital building was also pelted with stones, and a window was broken. 
At the suggestion of a leader in the crowd, the frustrated evacuees then divided into groups for the purpose of locating Togo Tanaka, Tokataru (Tokie) Slocum, John Sinoda, George Hayakawa, Tom Imai, and other former JACL leaders who had supported evacuation and were suspected of collaborating with federal investigative agencies. Small bands went to the apartments of these persons, but these men, having been warned, had retreated or been taken to various hiding places, including the military police compound south of the camp, and could not be found. In some cases, the apartments were ransacked by the increasingly angry evacuees. 
Thereafter, the hospital would remain quiet until about 9:30 P.M., when those who were wounded in the skirmish at the police station would be brought for treatment. At this time, WRA authorities discovered that Tayama had not been moved from the hospital as Dr. Little had presumed, but instead had crawled under a bed with the assistance of evacuee personnel when he heard the crowd approaching. The military police were again called, removing Tayama from the hospital to the military police compound. 
Police Station Incident. The crowd heading for the police station arrived about 6:50 P.M., surging into the building and completely surrounding it. Headed by the Committee of Five, this crowd consisted of approximately 500 men and boys. The jail was opened, but Ueno refused to leave the cell until Merritt arrived to release him. Meanwhile, Williams talked to the Committee of Five and others who were in the police station, reminding them of the agreement reached earlier in the day. The committee insisted that he call Merritt. Williams telephoned Merritt, advising him, however, not to attempt to come to the police station because the crowd was "completely out of hand."  Merritt realized that the agreement reached at noon had been broken and that the evacuee police force was either unable or unwilling to cope with the situation, most of its members having disappeared into the approaching darkness. Fearing that life and property in the center were in danger, he concluded that order could not be maintained without the assistance of the military police. Accordingly, Merritt instructed Williams to telephone Captain Hall and request him to take command of the situation and "if necessary declare martial law." 
Meanwhile, however. Private Ruggiero, the sentry at the gate, fired two volleys of three shots in the air as a warning for the purpose of summoning the military police.  In response to this signal from the sentry, rather than as a result of Williams' request made a few minutes later. Captain Hall dispatched to the center all of his men (approximately 135) who had been on alert since the afternoon meeting. 
The first detachment of military police arrived at the camp under the command of Second Lieutenant Stanley N. Zwaik. By 7:15 P.M., the detachment was "deployed in a line of skirmishers in the roadway immediately west of the Relocation Center jail."  When the remainder of the soldiers arrived, they cleared the dimly-lit street in front of the police station with some difficulty and forced the crowd back from the sides of the building.
At the request of Williams, the soldiers allowed the Committee of Five to remain in the front office of the police station with five of his evacuee police, three of whom had fled there for safety while only two had remained on duty. 
Merritt attempted to join Captain Hall, but was not allowed to pass through the sentry line. He returned to Campbell's apartment where he, in company with Robert Brown and Campbell, watched the crowd through the window and communicated with Williams via telephone. Thus, Williams was the only member of the WRA staff present at the police station.
After the military deployment, the crowd grew quiet. Captain Hall talked to the Committee of Five in the police station for about 30 minutes, listening again to a list of their demands. He reminded them of the agreement reached earlier that day and then went out to urge the crowd to disperse. Apparently, the committee, fearing that violence would soon erupt, offered to have themselves jailed if Ueno would be released. When Hall rejected this overture and his further efforts to disperse the crowd were met by "several Japanese throwing large stones," he returned to his soldiers to await developments.  A line was drawn in front of the soldiers, and the crowd was ordered not to cross it. Meanwhile, the milling crowd surged back and forth, coming as close as ten feet to the line of military police.
The temper of the crowd became increasingly threatening, some observers noting that the attitude of the crowd was "insulting, ugly, jeering, and menacing."  Some soldiers later stated that they were called "boy scouts" and were told to say "please" when ordering the crowd to move back. Stones, sand, and lighted cigarettes were thrown , and a door in the jail was broken open to release Ueno. Some members of the crowd sang Japanese patriotic songs and spit on the soldiers, while others attempted to disarm several soldiers and reportedly taunted the soldiers "to shoot." Some shouted "Banzai," a traditional "greeting to the Japanese armed forces." 
After waiting for a short period. Captain Hall and Lieutenant Zwaik addressed the crowd between 8:00 and 8:45 PM, urging its participants to disperse once more. When they were rebuffed. Hall determined that the crowd would not disperse without force. Thus, he decided to use tear gas grenades (CN-DM type) to disperse the crowd. The soldiers threw four or five grenades into the crowd, causing its participants to scatter rapidly amid the resulting smoke, chaos, and confusion. The wind was blowing from the north to the south, and since most of the crowd were assembled north of the point where the grenades fell, the majority did not suffer ill effects. However, most of the crowd scattered to the west or north, some elements apparently reforming and starting back for the jail while others advanced toward the soldiers. At about the same time, although no order to fire was given, shotgun and sub-machine gun blasts by two soldiers. Privates Ramon Cherubini and Tobe Moore, were fired into the crowd. Moore fired three 12-gauge shotgun blasts, while Cherubini fired two bursts (about 14-15 shots) with a .45 caliber Thompson sub-machine gun. The soldiers who fired did so on their own initiative, believing that their lives were in danger. Earlier, when rocks were being thrown, one of the soldiers had asked one of Captain Hall's assistants under what conditions he could fire. He had been told not to fire unless ordered to do so or unless rushed by the crowd. This direction was consistent with the policies of the military police who had been "trained and ordered to fire upon an unarmed mob only when commanded to do so, or when rushed by the mob." 
During the melee, a driverless automobile used by the camp's fire chief, was released by the crowd and headed for the police station. The vehicle struck the northeast corner of the station, gained speed, and traveled the length of the building's east side, before crashing into an Army truck loaned to the WRA that was parked on the southeast side of the structure. As it careened toward the soldiers. Lieutenant Zwaik, who could not see that it was driverless, opened fire on the vehicle under direct orders from Hall with a Thompson sub-machine gun, firing six or eight times. 
Amid the shooting, the crowd dispersed in panic. When the smoke and dust cleared, injured and dying evacuees lay on the ground near the police station. Some were immediately carried into the police station by the evacuees, and an ambulance quickly removed them to the camp hospital. The time was about 9:30 P.M.
During the night, the camp remained in a turbulent state. Meetings were held in many of the mess halls throughout the camp, and mess hall bells tolled continuously. Beatings of alleged informers ensued, and the military police patrolled the camp, breaking up numerous evacuee gatherings.
Casualties. As a result of the altercation, one youth (James Ito) was killed instantly, and eleven others were injured. One of those injured died in the Manzanar hospital on December 11 as a result of his wounds and complications. Four of the casualties were Nisei, two were Issei, and five were Kibei. All wounds were "from the side or behind," except for those of James Ito who was shot from the front at a distance of no more than 25 feet.  The casualties included:
Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002