VIOLENCE AT MANZANAR ON DECEMBER 6, 1942: AN EXAMINATION OF THE EVENT, ITS UNDERLYING CAUSES, AND HISTORICAL INTERPRETATION (continued)
Arrests. Neither charged nor given a hearing, Ueno was again removed from Manzanar after midnight following the riot and taken to the jail at Bishop. A few days later, he was transferred to the jail in Lone Pine, along with a number of other suspected evacuee troublemakers who had been rounded up by WRA and military authorities. The members of the Committee of Five were arrested Sunday night, December 6, and transported to the Bishop jail. Five other evacuees were arrested Sunday night or Monday morning on the basis of a list supplied by Ned Campbell and the camp internal security staff. Eleven additional evacuees were arrested on Thursday, December 10, at the request of Merritt. By December 15, the jails at Lone Pine and Independence had been turned over to the WRA, and 15 of those arrested were incarcerated in Lone Pine and seven in Independence. Military police guarded the jails, and the WRA furnished food and blankets for the prisoners. Of those arrested by December 15, ten were Issei, ten were Kibei, and two were Nisei. One of those arrested attempted to commit suicide by consuming rat poison in the Independence jail, but, after being returned to the Manzanar hospital to have his stomach pumped out, he was returned to jail. 
All arrests made on Sunday night, December 6, were conducted by the military police. Thereafter, the military authorities requested that further arrests be made by camp internal security officers accompanied by soldiers. The purpose of this request was "to avoid any question of military law that might be raised as a result of the arrest of civilians by military officers." 
All those arrested were held pending determination as to whether they should be prosecuted in the local or federal courts, and whether they should be sent to an isolation center, a different relocation center, or be returned to Manzanar. A partial list of evacuees that were arrested included:
Altogether, 26 evacuees, presumed to be the ringleaders of the altercation on December 5-6 or who were "believed to be trouble makers," were arrested and transferred to jails in Lone Pine and Independence.  Ten of these persons were later returned to Manzanar. The remaining 16, including Kurihara and Ueno (with the exception of Kurihara, all were Kibei) were sent to a temporary isolation center in an abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps camp near Moab, Utah, via a two-day journey by bus and train on January 9, 1943. The isolation center had been established in the mountains outside of Moab by WRA authorities for dissidents and "troublemakers" from all ten relocation centers. Meanwhile, the WRA, having concluded that some more formal arrangements were needed for removing persistent and chronic "troublemakers" from relocation centers, moved ahead with plans for establishment of an isolation center on the grounds of an inactive Indian boarding school near Leupp, Arizona.
On February 16, 1943, the WRA issued a confidential policy statement governing removal of "aggravated and incorrigible troublemakers" from relocation centers. Under the procedure established, relocation center project directors were instructed to prepare dockets on each candidate for isolation for submission to the Washington office. If the candidate was an alien, the project director could recommend his transfer to an internment camp; otherwise, the transfer would be either to another relocation center or to an isolation center. 
Accordingly, the group of Manzanar agitators was transferred from Moab to Leupp on April 27, 1943. The Leupp center, replete with guard towers, a high fence, and 150 military police assigned to guard about 45 prisoners, received small contingents of agitators from the relocation centers until December 1943, when it was closed, and its remaining inmates, including Ueno, were removed to the Tule Lake Segregation Center. 
Ueno's own odyssey during this period was noteworthy. During the weeks he was jailed with other dissidents in Lone Pine, the military police guarding the jail sometimes reportedly became drunk during the night and peppered their cell doors with rifle shots. His last two weeks at Moab were passed in the county jail after disagreement with the authoritarian edicts of Francis Frederick, Moab's chief of internal security and acting project director in the absence of Project Director Raymond Best. Ueno was trucked, along with five or six other men, in a 4-foot x 6-foot box to Leupp. Upon arrival there, he was jailed in nearby Winslow for several days where he was served "adulterated" food, housed in cramped quarters, and left inadequately protected from the weather. When finally taken to Leupp, he was Jailed for about two weeks before being granted housing in a barrack. In spite of repeated WRA promises and his persistent demands for their fulfillment, Ueno never received a trial or hearing to determine his guilt or innocence to any charge that led to his removal from Manzanar.
When Ueno was transferred to the Tule Lake Segregation Center in December 1943, almost a year to the day after the altercation at Manzanar, he spent an initial week in an Army-supervised stockade before being permitted to live in the residential compound. At last reunited with his wife and children, he promised camp authorities that he would remain apart from all camp politics. Although a distressed Ueno had renounced his citizenship while at Moab, he was ultimately persuaded in late December 1945 by his knowledge of the devastated condition of postwar Japan to remain in the United States and thus spare his family further hardship. Three months later, he was released from Tule Lake, one of the last to leave. After working for a railroad in several small central California towns, Ueno turned to farming in the Santa Clara Valley, and in 1954 his American citizenship was restored. 
Protective Custody for Evacuees Whose Lives Were Threatened. On Sunday night and Monday, December 6 and 7, threats were made against many evacuees at Manzanar who were outspoken pro-American advocates or who were perceived to have pro-WRA administration sentiments. Those threatened included staff members of the Manzanar Free Press, members of the internal security police force, and evacuees who had supervisory jobs in the center. Many of these evacuees, including Tayama, Tanaka, and Slocum, had been active members of the Japanese American Citizens League prior to evacuation, and many had encouraged evacuee cooperation with the government's relocation policies. John Sinoda, a 25-year-old Kibei who held a key position in the camp's employment office, was severely beaten by a gang with clubs at the outdoor theater, receiving scalp lacerations. Others were assaulted, including George Kurata, the camp housing coordinator, who managed to escape from his attackers.  By Monday noon, approximately 40 evacuees had entered the camp Administration Building, asking for protection and indicating that they were afraid to remain in their barracks. The administration also aided removal from the barracks those evacuees whose names appeared on the dissidents' blacklists and deathlists. Thus, the number of evacuees taken into protective custody by the camp administration subsequently increased to 65 individuals.
The evacuees in protective custody slept on cots in the Administration Building at night and were crowded into a room in one of the military barracks in the military police compound south of the camp during the day. There was insufficient room for all of them, however, and they were forced to take turns "in getting warm." They were fed in the kitchen in the military police compound. 
Faced with the dilemma of protecting the 65 people, Merritt and his staff immediately began a search for a place outside of Manzanar to house them on a temporary basis. Merritt and Brown had been associated with T. R. Goodwin, Superintendent of Death Valley National Monument, during their days with the Inyo-Mono Associates as well as the Citizens Committee established by the military to ease public relations for the camp with the Owens Valley residents following evacuation. Thus, Merritt sent Brown to Death Valley to inquire as to whether the national monument had any place to house the people. Goodwin offered the abandoned Cow Creek Civilian Conservation Camp, comprised of 16 deteriorating buildings adjacent to the monument's headquarters. After considerable discussion and clearance was received from WRA Director Myer and General DeWitt, the 65 evacuees, who became known as "refugees," were sent to Cow Creek on December 10. They were transported via "a military convoy of jeeps and weapons carriers," accompanied by ten WRA staff members led by Assistant Director Campbell and about 12 soldiers armed with rifles. The cavalcade included a truckload of hay, one of furniture, and one of food.
The Cow Creek camp was administered by Camp Director Albert Chamberlain, a WRA employee, and Fred Tayama was elected unofficial "mayor" by the refugees. The WRA staff, evacuees, and soldiers shared the same latrines and showers and ate at the same times in the mess hall which was supplied from Manzanar. After improving their quarters and the grounds of the camp, the evacuee men, needing something to do with their time and appreciative of the hospitality shown by the National Park Service, painted signs, cleaned out springs, built dams, dug ditches, mixed cement, installed radio antennas, and conducted other odd jobs in the national monument without pay. The evacuee women spent their days, caring for their children, assisting in the mess hall, and housekeeping. During their stay. Park Service personnel, as well as the soldiers, took groups of evacuees sightseeing in the national monument and on trips to pick up supplies and mail. The camp had a swimming pool that was enjoyed by the older children. The 65 evacuees remained at the Cow Creek camp under military guard, primarily for their protection, until arrangements could be made for their release through indefinite leave and assistance could be provided for relocation. The American Friends Service Committee played a major role in obtaining jobs and homes for the evacuees, sending representatives to Cow Creek to interview and assist them in planning for relocation. As a result of this organization's efforts, many of the evacuees relocated to Chicago where the Friends had established a hostel to help those relocating from the relocation centers. As jobs and housing became available, departing evacuees were taken to Las Vegas, the nearest railhead, via military escort. By mid-February the "refugee" camp at Cow Creek was vacated. 
Following the events at Manzanar on December 5-6, Merritt blamed the FBI, in part, as a cause of the riot, stating that FBI use of informants in the camp had been the special targets or the rioters. According to an FBI investigation, however, only six of the 65 persons removed to Death Valley had ever been interviewed by agents. Of the 65, two had been prominently associated with the Japanese American Citizens League, were outspoken in their loyalty to the United States, and had served as informants for the FBI. These two individuals were Fred Tayama and Togo Tanaka, the latter having been employed as a documentary historian for the center's administration. Several other evacuees had been interviewed by the FBI in connection with investigations by the bureau, but, according to bureau officials, "could in no sense be considered as confidential informants." These evacuees included Tom Imai, Assistant Chief of Police at Manzanar, and Joseph Blarney and Ted Uyeno, both editors of the Manzanar Free Press. In addition, Tomoasa Yamazaki had been interviewed by FBI agents on two occasions. 
Additional Military Assistance. In the aftermath of the altercation at Manzanar, Captain Hall believed that it was necessary to secure additional military assistance to reinforce his military police at the camp. The District Attorney of Inyo County and Major Henderson, Commanding Officer of a detachment of the California State National Guard stationed at Bishop, 50 miles away, informed Hall that Henderson had men available. At Hall's request, some 50 officers and men immediately traveled to Manzanar on the night of December 6 to aid in guarding the camp under Hall's direction. 
During a meeting on Monday morning, December 7, Merritt and Captain Hall agreed upon a plan to govern administration of the camp. Merritt would resume full control of the internal administration of the center, while the military would maintain armed patrols within the camp and would be responsible for law and order. Mail, telephone, and telegraph services would be censored by the military. Although mail delivery was restored within the camp on December 9, mail from the center to the outside world remained restricted.
On Monday morning, December 7, Colonel Harrie S. Mueller, accompanied by Major Green, arrived from the Ninth Service Command at Fort Douglas to take general charge of the military police at Manzanar. Despite their presence at the camp, however. Captain Hall remained on duty.
Additional military police units were sent to Manzanar on Monday. At 2:00 P.M., Company A, 753rd Military Police Battalion, from Reno, Nevada, arrived at Manzanar with three officers and 93 men, and at 7:00 P.M., Company D, 751st Military Police Battalion, arrived at Manzanar from Camp Williston with three officers and 104 men. These military police units, which were housed in "pyramidal tents" in the military police area, reinforced and cooperated with the 322d Military Police Escort Guard Company in maintaining law and order at the troubled camp. After these units arrived, the members of the California National Guard returned to their headquarters at Bishop. 
As an uneasy calm settled over the camp, the censorship restrictions were gradually relaxed. Church services (but no other mass meetings) were permitted on December 13, and by December 16, most censorship restrictions had been removed.
On December 11, Project Director Merritt informed the "Commanding Officer, Military Headquarters, Camp Manzanar" that he wanted the military police to maintain 24-hour guard duty at five locations in the camp "until further mutual adjustment or agreement." These points included the (1) switchboard; (2) post office; (3) warehouse area; (4) power switch; and (5) water line through the upper part of the camp. According to Merritt, this arrangement would "justify the release of one company at this time, with the understanding that two companies remain for the duties outlined above and such emergency duties as may from time to time become necessary, and that these companies be maintained at least at full company strength." 
The military was willing to keep soldiers in the center until the WRA could establish an internal police force capable of maintaining order at Manzanar. As calm returned to the camp during the Christmas holiday season, it was determined that one company of military police could return to their headquarters. On December 23, Company D, 751st Military Police Battalion was released, leaving the 322d Military Police Escort Guard Company and Company A, 753d Military Police Battalion to patrol the camp. Because of continuing calm in the center, the latter company returned to Reno several days after Christmas. 
Maintenance of Essential Center Services. WRA and military authorities determined that essential center services, such as heat, water, light, food, garbage disposal, and supply deliveries, would be maintained during the emergency period following the violence. These services were maintained Sunday night, December 6, by the WRA administrative staff with the help of a few selected evacuees. On Monday, scattered groups of evacuees reported for work. Some were sent home, however, either because they were too few to function effectively, their supervisors felt their safety required such action, or because their work duties were located outside the fenced perimeter of the residential area. Sufficient numbers of evacuees (with the exception of Saturday, December 12, when the plumbers and electricians failed to report for duty) reported for work throughout the week, however, to keep the essential services operating during the daytime. Operation of such services during night hours was maintained by WRA appointed personnel. 
Schools. The Manzanar schools convened classes on Monday, December 7, but demonstrations and disturbances, particularly by high school boys who locked several teachers in classrooms and wrote obscene, threatening, and pro-Axis statements on blackboards, as well as a shortage of oil for heating, caused officials to send the students to their quarters about 11:00 A.M. on December 8.  Because the Caucasian teachers lived in barracks throughout the center, they were sent to local towns on December 8 to live temporarily for their protection. They were returned to the camp on Friday, December 11, because the crowded and expensive living conditions in the towns were unsatisfactory. Upon their return to Manzanar, they were assigned to live in the administration offices in Block I.  The schools, however, did not reopen until January 10, 1943.
Funerals/Memorial Services. On Monday, December 21, a funeral was held for the two young men who died as a result of the wounds they suffered during the altercation on December 6. The evacuees requested special permission to conduct memorial services in the camp's outdoor theater. They also asked that mass meeting restrictions be lifted so that 1,000 persons could attend. Ninth Service Command authorities rejected these requests, suggesting instead a service in Bishop with only family members present. When the evacuees rejected this proposal, it was mutually agreed that 150 mourners would be permitted to attend a service in the woods outside the sentry line with Rev. Nagatomi, the Buddhist pastor, officiating. According to Merritt, only those evacuees authorized "to attend the funeral in cars provided with Caucasian drivers, and such Caucasian members of the staff as have been requested to attend" were to "be permitted through the Center limits." Despite these restrictions, the entire evacuee population in the camp expressed its collective sentiments on the day of the funeral with a two-minute prayer and time of silence at 1:00 P.M. 
On Christmas Day, Project Director Merritt described the funeral in a letter written to his Aunt Luella, a daughter of John Shepherd who had grown up on her father's ranch where the relocation center now stood. He observed:
Negotiations Between Evacuee Committees and WRA Administrators. As an uneasy calm settled over the troubled camp, efforts were quickly initiated to begin dialogue between the evacuee population and WRA administrators. On Monday, December 7, the block managers and two representatives from each block met at the Block 22 mess hall under the chairmanship of George Murakami. A committee of six evacuees, calling themselves the "Negotiating Committee," was selected. The members of the committee were Murakami, Fred Ogura, Koichi Masunaka, Thomas Ozamoto, Shunichi Ikkanda, and Bill Tanabe. Purporting to represent the block managers, this committee attempted to meet with Merritt, but the project director referred them to Captain Hall. Robert Brown, the camp's WRA Reports Officer and newly-appointed Acting Assistant Project Director, attended the meeting with Hall and the committee. The evacuee committee demanded release of all prisoners who had been arrested and demanded that F. D'Amat, the Spanish Consul from San Francisco (Spain, a neutral country, was looking after the interests of Japanese citizens in the United States on behalf of the Japanese government), be called to the camp. Captain Hall refused to comply with both demands. That evening, Fred Ogura, one of the spokesmen for the committee, was arrested as part of the continuing WRA campaign to rid the camp of suspected troublemakers.
On Tuesday, December 8, the committee, led by Ozamoto, the block manager of Block 24, called on Merritt and repeated its demands concerning release of all prisoners and calling the Spanish Consul. The committee made veiled threats of stopping essential services for WRA appointed personnel if evacuee demands were not met. Merritt again refused cooperation with the committee, responding that stoppage of essential services for his staff would be met by curtailment of all essential services for the entire evacuee population, including food and heat. He also stated that the Spanish Consul would have no interest in any of the evacuees except those who were aliens, but he indicated that the committee could write the Spanish Consul if it desired. During the ensuing days, the Spanish Consul visited Manzanar on December 17 with a representative of the U. S. Department of State. After interviewing a number of Issei in the center, the consul informed Merritt that the Issei had advised him they would return to work only if the Spanish Ambassador so directed a step taken to protect themselves from recriminations should Japan win the war. At Merritt's suggestion, the consul telephoned the Marquis de Fontana, a diplomat in the Spanish Embassy in Washington, advising him that Manzanar was "a good place" and that the Issei wanted to know if they should go back to work. According to Merritt, de Fontana stated that the ambassador said, "Tell the damn fools to go back to work." Accordingly D'Amat met with the Block Managers Assembly and advised the Issei to return to work.  The evacuees did not immediately return to work, however, because when the Nisei were advised of the Spanish Consul's advice, many of them felt that if they returned to work immediately, it would appear that they were obeying the orders of the Spanish Consul. Finally, however, both Issei and Nisei returned to work on December 19.  While the negotiations continued with the Spanish Consul, Ozamoto, spokesman for the evacuee committee, called on Merritt each day during the week following the violence, his attitude reportedly becoming "increasingly conciliatory."  On several occasions, he requested permission for the block managers to hold a mass meeting in the camp, but all requests were referred to Captain Hall and denied. On Thursday, December 10, Hall stated that he would grant permission to hold such a meeting if a Caucasian interpreter and an Army officer were present. Since no Caucasian interpreter was available, the meeting was not held.
Reports from many evacuees indicated that they were threatened or intimidated by evacuees they did not know and told not to go to work for the administration. The reports, together with the fact that only essential services were continued by evacuees until December 19, convinced WRA authorities that "some kind of informal organization was controlling the action of the evacuees, and there was reason to believe that it operated through threats of physical violence."  By Tuesday, two days after the violence, all evacuees who reported for work were wearing black arm bands as "a sign of mourning for those who were shot." WRA authorities also believed that the arm bands represented "permission by an evacuee committee to work." Failure to wear the arm bands while working "resulted in threats of violence." According to WRA authorities, the committee headed by Ozamoto was believed to be close enough to the controlling group "to be useful when the time to negotiate arrived."
On Sunday, December 13, one week after the altercation occurred, Merritt and Hall determined "the time was ripe to permit a mass meeting composed of representatives selected from each block for the purpose of selecting a committee to negotiate" with Merritt. Thomas Ozamoto was notified that such a meeting could be held the next morning at 9:00 A.M. The plans were for Hall to address the group, explain the bad faith of the Committee of Five on the preceding Sunday, and indicate that the group could elect a committee to negotiate with Merritt. Although Merritt did not plan to attend the meeting, he posted a mimeographed notice in each mess hall on December 13, informing the camp residents as to "the facts concerning last Sunday's events." Because the Committee of Five had broken its agreement with him, he had been forced to call in the military to "maintain law and order." He had called in the military "as a last resort to protect life and property from the rule of mobs." "Law and order must be preserved in any community at any cost," and if "it cannot be preserved through the police it must be preserved through the military." Soon after this notice was posted, the committee cancelled the meeting scheduled for the next morning, believing that Merritt's announcement had been "too brutal." 
On Monday, December 14, the evacuee committee and block representatives, after cancelling their morning meeting with the project director, asked to meet with Merritt that afternoon. The meeting was attended by three representatives from each of the 36 blocks in the camp, one of whom was the block manager. The representatives purported to have been chosen fairly by the residents of each block. The method of selection varied from block to block, however, some holding elections while others circulated petitions naming the three representatives that were signed by a majority of the residents of the block.
Merritt addressed the afternoon meeting, accompanied by Brown and two interpreters, John McLaughlin and Father Leo Steinbach, the Catholic priest at Manzanar. Merritt informed the gathering that he was not there to negotiate or discuss the "incident." His purpose in speaking was to report that the results of the prior week were "due directly to the bad faith of the committee of five in breaking its agreement reached on Sunday, December 6, and to advise them that he would receive any committee that was fairly selected and truly representative of the people of Manzanar." The meeting was given one and one-half hours to select such a committee to negotiate evacuee grievances with Merritt with the goal of returning the camp to "normalcy." 
During the meeting, four members of the original evacuee "Negotiating Committee" were selected to negotiate with Merritt. Led by Thomas Ozamoto as chairman, other members of the new committee included Koichi Masunaka, Block 19; George Murakami, Block 34; and Shunichi Ikkanda, Block 16.  The new committee met with Merritt on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 15 and 16, recounting the "general background of unrest and dissatisfaction of the evacuees at Manzanar" and requesting that Merritt "return to Manzanar all those who had been arrested, for the purpose of a fair hearing." The committee was told that the future of the men who had been arrested was no longer within the control of the project director, and that some of them would not be returned to Manzanar but would be treated fairly by the government. The representative character of the committee was also discussed. Merritt proposed to continue meeting with the committee, helping to determine whether its membership needed to be supplemented by other evacuees to represent various minority group viewpoints in the camp, and to work out a solution for returning the project "to normalcy." 
Christmas Day. As the Christmas holiday season approached, Merritt determined to relieve tensions at Manzanar. Just before Christmas, truckloads of Christmas trees, cut from the nearby mountains by WRA staff members at Merritt's suggestion, were taken to the camp and distributed to each mess hall. Presents sent by religious and other philanthropic organizations to the children at Manzanar, which had been stored in warehouses, were used to decorate the trees. In response, about 100 young people gathered to sing Christmas carols in front of Merritt's barracks on Christmas Eve. A special festive Christmas edition of the Manzanar Free Press, which had not been printed since the violence occurred, was printed for distribution throughout the center. 
In his aforementioned letter to his Aunt Luella on Christmas Day, Merritt attempted to place the recent violence in historical perspective. Describing the peace that had returned to the camp, he noted:
After describing the pleasant events surrounding the Christmas celebrations at the center, Merritt completed the letter by describing his goals and hopes for the restoration of peace in the camp:
With the removal of the additional military police unit from the center several days after Christmas, a semblance of normal operations returned to Manzanar. In early January 1943, the camp's operations fully resumed with the block managers reconvening on January 6 and the opening of schools on January 10.
Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002