Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Establishment of Relocation Field Offices

In late November 1942 WRA Director Myer, impatient with the slow pace of relocation, recommended that field area offices be established in cities throughout the nation where WRA expected substantial numbers of evacuees to be relocated. The offices, according to Myer, could handle much more closely and systematically the kind of contact work with employers that the Employment Division in the Washington office had been conducting somewhat informally. The offices could provide a check on public attitudes toward the evacuated people in their areas and work toward improving the "climate of social acceptance. The offices could also furnish a variety of services that the incoming evacuees would need as they settled in their new homes.

The first field area office was established in Chicago on January 4, 1943, to supervise relocation activities throughout the midwestern states. Within weeks, additional offices were opened in Cleveland, Kansas City, Salt Lake City, and Denver. During the spring, an office was established in New York City to supervise relocation in the eastern states and another was opened in Little Rock, Arkansas, to cover the southern portion of the nation. By June 30, an additional area office had been established in Boston to handle relocation efforts in the northeastern United States. In addition to the eight area offices, the WRA opened approximately 35 subordinate or 'district" field offices during the spring to perform similar types of functions in specific localities. Each of the district offices was under the supervision of one of the area offices, and all of the area offices, which also functioned as local relocation offices for the cities where they were located, were responsible to the chief of the Employment Division in Washington As the network of field offices 'was gradually geared up to an operating peak in the late spring of 1943," the WRA was finally "in a position, for the first time, to move directly towards its major goal of restoring a substantial number of the evacuated people to private life outside the west coast exclusion zone." [22]

Changes in Leave Procedures

During the early months of 1943, the WRA made changes in its basic leave regulations. The changes were made primarily to speed up and simplify the leave procedures by transferring to the field offices and the relocation centers functions which had previously been conducted by the Washington office.

The first significant change in the basic leave procedures was made in tentative form on March 3, 1943, and clarified in greater detail on March 20. The change provided for decentralization in the handling of applications for indefinite leave. The function of issuing leave permits — in cases where clearance had been granted — was transferred to the relocation centers. The function of checking on community attitudes was placed in the hands of the relocation field offices. The "net effect" of this change was "to accelerate the handling of indefinite leave applications and to give the field offices an effective control over the influx of evacuees into the communities of their respective areas.

A second significant change in the basic leave procedures was adopted on March 24. Designed to fill a "long-felt need in the relocation program," it established a system of providing, final assistance for evacuees going out of the centers on indefinite leave. Such assistance was limited, however, to cases of "genuine need" and was provided only to evacuees who were leaving the centers for the purpose of taking jobs — "not to those going out on student leave or those with independent means of support." The assistance grants amounted to $50 for evacuees leaving the centers without dependents; $75 for those leaving with one dependent; and $100 for those leaving with two or more dependents. Later policy modifications adopted in April and May provided that grants would be made to the families of men in the armed services regardless of the purpose for which they were leaving the centers and that evacuees going out to live temporarily in hostels for the purpose of seeking employment after arrival would also be eligible. Later in October 1943, a change in the schedule of leave assistance grants was made to stimulate family relocation. The $100 ceiling per family had proved to be an obstacle to the relocation of larger families. The new ruling reduced the grant per individual from $50 to $25, but removed the per family ceiling and was thus advantageous to families consisting of five or more persons. [23]

The third significant change to the basic leave regulations was adopted on April 2, 1943. Since the registration program conducted in February and March placed the WRA in a position to eliminate clearance as a separate step in the leave procedures, the amendment of April 2 "authorized the Project Directors to grant indefinite leave permits without referral to the Washington Office and in advance of leave clearance provided basic requirements were met." These included: (1) the applicant must have answered Question 28 during registration with an unqualified affirmative; and (2) the Project Director must be satisfied, on the basis of evidence available at the center, that the applicant would not endanger the national security or interfere with the war effort. Issuance of permits in advance of clearance, however, was prohibited in the case of: (1) those who had applied for repatriation or expatriation to Japan; (2) those whose applications for leave clearance had previously been denied; (3) Shinto priests; (4) aliens released on parole from internment camps by the Department of Justice; and (5) those who were planning to relocate to one of the eastern seaboard states under jurisdiction of the Eastern Defense Command. [24] Later, on December 14, 1943, the WRA notified the War Department that it had decided to lift all special restrictions on relocation in the Eastern Defense Command (except for those cases where the Joint Board recommended denial of leave clearance) and would thereafter grant leave permits for resettlement in that area on the same basis as for other sections of the country. [25]

Relocation in 1943

As a result of the changes in the basic leave procedures, the volume of relocation mounted steadily during the first three months of 1943, soared sharply upward in April and May, and dropped off slightly in June. By the half-year mark, more than 9,000 evacuees had left the centers to establish residence outside, and by the end of 1943 this figure had risen to more than 17,000.

The majority of those who left the centers in 1943 were Nisei between the ages of 18 and 30. This movement tended to alter the composition of the relocation center populations gradually yet nevertheless distinctly. By the summer, the oldest and the youngest evacuees were beginning to comprise the majority of the population in the centers. "The more vigorous, more alert, more thoroughly Americanized members of the community were beginning to thin out; the more cautious, the more timid, and the least well adjusted to American life, who had previously occupied a kind of background role at the centers, began to move steadily into the foreground." Thus, the WRA became increasingly aware that the "winnowing effects of the relocation program were going to make the relocation centers somewhat harder places to manage and that the relocation effort itself would become increasingly difficult as time went on."

The relocation movement of 1943 found its primary geographical focus to be the north central states and the intermountain region. Chicago, with its numerous employment opportunities and relative lack of anti-Asian bias, "soon proved to be the favorite relocation spot and remained so throughout the history of the program.' Denver and Salt Lake City also attracted large numbers of resettlers, because they had small but reasonably well established Japanese populations during the prewar period which provided a nucleus for further settlement. In addition, the two cities had both received several hundred additional people of Japanese descent during the period of voluntary migration, and many of the evacuees who went out on seasonal agricultural leave during 1942 and 1943 eventually gravitated to them and found year-round jobs. Aside from Chicago, Denver, and Salt Lake City, the resettling evacuees were widely distributed throughout the midwestern and intermountain states. Relocation in the southern states was limited, partially because the WRA did little to encourage it and few of the evacuees looked upon the South with its reputation of racial discrimination and limited economic opportunity as a favorable region for resettlement. During the summer of 1943, an agreement was concluded with the National Housing Administration (NHA) to assist the relocation officers to meet one of their most critical problems. By the terms of this agreement, the relocation supervisor of a specific area was to advise the NHA regional representative of current and anticipated in-migration trends. In return, the NHA would assist the WRA in determining the acceptability of evacuees for housing in localities and recommend communities where the housing shortage was less serious and opportunities for housing were most promising. [26]

One development that stimulated the increased tempo of relocation during the fall of 1943 was the initiation of a "community invitation' plan in August. By this time it had become clear that there were many cities throughout the country where employment opportunities were plentiful and varied where the original WRA requirement of a specific job prospect for the resettler was virtually "academic." Consequently the WRA authorized its field offices on August 5 to designate certain communities as open to the evacuees on an "invitation" basis and the centers to grant leave permits for relocation in such communities regardless of whether or not the applicant had a specific job prospect, provided that they had leave clearance and met other procedural requirements. This plan enabled the resettler an opportunity to meet with potential employers face to face and to "shop around" in search for employment. A large share of the relocation in late 1943 and throughout 1944 was carried out on a "community invitation" basis. [27]

Seasonal Leave, 1943-44

With the arrival of spring in 1943, American farm interests again requested the services of evacuees in the relocation centers for seasonal agricultural work. By the end of June, more than 5,000 evacuees had been employed. The majority of these seasonal workers went to jobs in the sugar beet sections of the intermountain states, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, and Montana receiving the heaviest contingents. A considerable number, however, took jobs in the Great Plains states, and some even entered seasonal farm work as far east as Michigan. In addition, several dozen went into railway maintenance jobs in several western states.

On March 16, 1943, the regulations governing seasonal leave were significantly modified for the first time since their adoption in May 1942. Under the new policy, the WRA assumed full responsibility for handling the seasonal leave program. The amended regulations provided that seasonal leave was to be issued only for work in areas approved by the relocation field offices and that seasonal workers would be restricted in movement to the county or counties which the field offices designated. Provision was made to exclude grants for seasonal permits from those who had applied for repatriation or expatriation to Japan, those who had been denied leave clearance, and those who had failed to answer Question 28 with an unqualified affirmative. [28]

Because a large number of potential seasonal workers left the centers in 1943 for relocation purposes and several hundred others left to join the armed forces, the number of evacuees employed in seasonal agricultural work was lower than in 1942. It reached a peak in late November when slightly less than 8,000 were reported absent from the centers on seasonal leave. Of this number, probably as many as 50 to 60 percent, elected to remain outside the centers and converted their permits to an indefinite leave basis without returning. According to the WRA:

. . . . To an even greater extent than in 1942, the seasonal leave program, by removing the evacuees from the secluded environment of the centers and giving them an opportunity to see that life 'on the outside' was not nearly so bad as many of them had imagined, proved to be a definite aid to the relocation program. [29] In February 1944, the seasonal agricultural leave program was modified to provide for issuance of seasonal leave only to persons recruited for agricultural work through the War Food Administration, and employment was authorized only in counties approved by War Relocation Authority relocation officers. This modification of the program improved controls and the systematic granting of leaves to meet critical manpower shortages. Although 5,029 seasonal work leaves were granted by the WRA to evacuees in the slowly dwindling populations of the relocation centers during the first six months of 1944, it remained impossible, however, for the WRA to supply enough workers to satisfy all of the calls that were made for evacuee farm labor. [30]

Local Resettlement Committees

From the beginning of the relocation program, the WRA realized that it would need the assistance of citizen groups in various localities to gain public acceptance and assist the evacuees in making adjustments in their new communities. Accordingly, the first resettlement committee was organized in Minneapolis in the fall of 1942. After establishment of field offices in a large number of midwestern communities in early 1943, expansion of these local committees proceeded rapidly. By the end of 1943, 26 committees had been established from Salt Lake City to Washington, D.C.

In most cases, the organizing impetus for local resettlement committees was provided by active church-related people, particularly the Society of Friends (Quakers) and interdenominational workers whose efforts were stimulated and guided by George Rundquist, a traveling representative for the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America assigned specifically to Japanese American resettlement work. As a result of his efforts, the Committee for Japanese American Resettlement provided an umbrella organization for the local committees. The committees, although usually formed around a nucleus of active social-minded church members, generally included civic leaders, representatives of organizations such as the YMCA and YWCA, and a variety of community-oriented people without organizational affiliations.

The first job of most resettlement committees was to foster favorable public sentiment toward the relocating evacuees. This was frequently done by personal contact with key officials and important citizens of the communities, sponsoring meetings at which WRA officials explained the nature and purpose of the program, and a variety of public information devices.

The second phase of the work of the local committees was to help the relocating evacuees in making necessary adjustments in their new homes. Initially, this sometimes involved contact work with potential employers. After establishment of field offices in early 1943, however, the principal problem became location of adequate housing. In some communities, the committees established boarding houses, known as "hostels," where arriving evacuees could find room and board at nominal rates for limited periods while they looked for permanent quarters. Hostels operated by church-related organizations were established in Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Des Moines. In many cities, the local committees conducted contact work with local housing authorities and with property owners to gain entry for evacuees and to advise the resettlers where vacancies could be found. A few committees established comprehensive housing registries and undertook efforts to keep them current. In the majority of cases, however, this type of work was conducted by the WRA field offices with advice and assistance from the cooperating groups.

The committees were helpful in assisting evacuee families to enroll their children in school, facilitating the efforts of breadwinners to become members of local labor unions, and aiding the evacuees to become adjusted in the social life of their new communities. While the effectiveness of the committees varied, they "provided assistance in the relocation program at a time when it was desperately needed, especially during the early days when a large part of the public harbored feelings of hostility or suspicion towards all people of Japanese descent." [31]

Relocation Work at the Centers

Because of the slow pace of relocation, the WRA initiated efforts at the ten relocation centers to stimulate relocation in early 1943. Virtually every "device was used to build up confidence among the evacuees and create in their minds a desire to take up residence outside the centers." Pamphlets and releases were prepared in the field offices describing the particular localities involved and outlining the general relocation prospects for evacuees. Periodic newsletters were prepared to keep evacuees at the centers informed of specific job opportunities and other changing features in the relocation picture in each major community. Special teams made up of employees from the Washington office and field offices were sent to centers to describe relocation prospects and interview individual evacuees who might be interested. Photographs and motion pictures giving evacuees the visual impression of living conditions in some of the outside communities were sent to the centers for exhibition. The WRA director and other principal staff members, during their visits to the centers, used these opportunities to emphasize the importance of relocation before evacuee groups. The camp newspapers carried numerous articles concerning persons who had relocated and opportunities for resettlement.

On November 9, 1943, the Washington office sent letters to each relocation center describing steps the WRA was taking to assist group relocation agricultural ventures . These included: (1) stimulation of credit unions to provide resettlement loans; (2) aid to evacuees in securing loans from federal and private financing agencies; (3) exploration of group relocation opportunities by relocation officers, with particular regard to agricultural possibilities; and (4) arrangements for evacuees representing bona-fide groups to make exploratory visits. [32] These endeavors, however, did not seem to be enough, as a "deep-seated core of resistance to relocation at the WRA centers" continued. This problem "became increasingly difficult as the more readily 'relocatable' people gradually moved out." By early 1944, the WRA decided that "the main key to a breakdown of this resistance lay in throwing a greater degree of responsibility for stimulating relocation on the evacuees themselves." The ten project directors were authorized to foster organization of relocation committees composed of WRA staff employees and evacuee leaders, and efforts were initiated to bring the community governments into the relocation process as actively as possible.

Family counseling programs were commenced in the relocation centers during the late spring of 1944. At each center, trained WRA case workers were assigned to interview evacuee families, analyzing their specific problems and attempting to work out a family relocation plan, including financial assistance if needed, which would meet their particular circumstances. This counseling program was conducted on a systematic basis with the eventual goal of covering every family and unattached individual in each center.

Under legislative authority granted in 1942, the Social Security Board was authorized to provide special welfare assistance to persons displaced by restrictive governmental action who might require assistance. This program was administered by county welfare boards throughout the country, but the funds were provided through the Social Security Board. Since the program applied to relocating evacuees who developed need for emergency assistance after resettlement, the WRA worked out a system under which it could allocate part of its funds to the Social Security Board for this purpose with the understanding that the necessary arrangements would be made for handling cases at the local level. In cases where the relocated evacuee was only in need of emergency aid, he was referred to the appropriate welfare agency by the nearest WRA field office and provided necessary assistance in presenting his case. In cases where the evacuee family or unattached individual required continuing assistance, an inquiry was made to the community of destination before the person or family left the relocation center. This action was initiated at the relocation center and forwarded with essential details to the nearest field office from which further contact was then directed toward the appropriate welfare agency. Throughout 1943 and 1944 several hundred evacuees received emergency welfare assistance under the welfare assistance program. [33]

Progress of Relocation in 1944

During the first six months of 1944 the volume of relocation out of the centers continued at about the same level as during the comparable period of the preceding year. The totals for January, February, and March were significantly higher, while those for April, May and June were somewhat lower.

By early spring 1944 a sufficient number of evacuees had relocated so that the WRA could begin plans for closing one of the centers. The Jerome relocation center in Arkansas, which had been the last center to be opened, was closed on June 30, 1944, after approximately 5,700 unrelocated residents were transferred to several other centers, primarily Rohwer and Gila River. Throughout the fall of 1944 relocation continued at a level similar to that during the preceding year. By December 17, when the War Department announced the revocation of the mass exclusion orders, about 35,000 evacuees, including approximately 2,300 who had entered the armed forces, had left the centers on indefinite leave. [34]

Liquidation Program

With the revocation of the mass exclusion orders on December 17, 1944, the justification for maintaining the centers as a place of refuge for the evacuated people was eliminated. Accordingly on December 18, the WRA announced that all relocation centers would be closed within six months to one year after January 2, 1945 — the date the revocation became effective.

The actual time of closing at each center was left on a flexible basis for two principal reasons. First, the WRA realized that it would take a minimum of six months for the remaining evacuees at each center to overcome their "fears and misgivings,' complete their "relocation plans," and "make the physical movement." Second, the WRA believed that unless it established an outside limit of one year for the duration of any center, there would be "a strong tendency among the residents to procrastinate," and thus there would be "a real danger of a large and unwieldy residue of people" that needed "to be relocated in the last few weeks before actual closing."

At the same time that it announced the eventual closing of the relocation centers, the WRA also announced the termination of all seasonal leave, liquidation of farming operations at all centers except Colorado River and Gila River — where winter vegetables were still in the ground, and closure of relocation center schools at the end of the spring term in June 1945. While these announcements were made to stimulate relocation, their primary purpose was based on "practical operating necessity." Operations in the centers, according to the WRA, should be gradually liquidated over a period of several months rather than closed out in a hectic, last-minute operation. All liquidation announcements applied to the relocation centers, but were not applicable to the Tule Lake Segregation Center "which was regarded as a specialized problem."

At the time of the revocation of the mass exclusion orders, slightly under 80,000 evacuees still resided in the nine WRA centers, including Tule Lake. The WRA estimated that about 5,000 to 6,000 evacuees would be declared ineligible for relocation and that these detainees would be accompanied in detention by enough family members to comprise approximately 20,000 people. Thus, the WRA projected that it would need to assist in the relocation of approximately 60,000 people within a one-year period — almost twice as many as had resettled in the preceding two and one-half years.

To accomplish this task, and because the majority of the evacuees wished to relocate in their pre-evacuation communities, the WRA established field relocation offices in the west coast evacuated area. During the early weeks of 1945, area offices were established in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle, and district offices were established in some 25 other communities, including Fresno, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, and Portland. For about three months these offices functioned under the general supervision of the assistant director stationed in San Francisco, but in April they were placed on the same basis as other field offices throughout the country and made responsible to the Washington office.

While undertaking efforts to facilitate relocation in the evacuated area, these offices also took steps to gain public acceptance for the returning evacuees. In many communities throughout California, Washington, and Oregon, hostility toward the evacuated people and opposition to their return assumed significant proportions following the revocation of the exclusion ban, especially in the interior agricultural valleys of all three states as well as some rural sections along the California coast.

After revocation of the exclusion ban, anti-evacuee feelings, which had been simmering throughout the fall of 1944, erupted into violence in several communities in the coastal states. At first, the hostility took the form of well-publicized mass meetings, resolutions adopted by various organizations opposing return "at least until after the war," discriminatory signs posted in shop windows, formation of citizens' leagues whose stated purpose was to oppose the return, and unfriendly editorials and paid advertisements in local newspapers. In several California communities, however, the "hoodlum" element among the groups opposing resettlement resorted to violence and open intimidation. By the end of June 1945, authorities recorded 34 such incidents — attempted arson or dynamiting, shots fired into the homes of returned Japanese, and threats of bodily harm. The worst incidents occurred in Merced and Fresno counties, with seven shootings each; Orange County which had six cases of intimidation; and Placer County, which had an attempted arson and dynamiting coupled with a shooting.

Although no evacuees were injured during these incidents, property damage was extensive, and the "terrorism" "undoubtedly contributed to the relatively slow rate of return to that State during the first 6 months after revocation of exclusion." [35] Fearing that excessive visiting at relocation centers by evacuees who had already relocated would jeopardize the agency's intense relocation efforts and harm relationships with employers generally, the WRA adopted regulations, immediately after the revocation announcement, placing temporary controls on visits to the relocation centers. Project directors were instructed not to admit any visiting evacuees unless they had obtained prior approval from the appropriate WRA field office. The field offices, in turn, were assigned the responsibility of investigating the request of any relocated evacuee for a permit to visit a center in order to make certain that the visit was necessary and contributed toward the development of relocation plans for the family members still in residence. Thus, the control system, which would be operative until April 16, 1945, kept visiting at the centers within "reasonable bounds during a period when the Nation's transportation facilities were badly overloaded, when the center staffs were extremely overworked, and when all attention needed to be focused on the primary business of relocation." A significant feature of the WRA liquidation program policy concerned provision of resettlement assistance to people who had relocated outside the evacuated area before the revocation announcement and who now wished to exercise their option of returning to their former homes. Assistance was made available to such persons in the form of rail fare and transportation of personal property. Grants to cover subsistence while traveling and to assist resettlers during the first 30-day period in their new localities, however, were made available only to those leaving directly from the relocation centers. During 1945, about 5,000 of the approximately 35,000 people who relocated prior to revocation took advantage of this provision and received WRA transportation grants for travel back to their former homes in the evacuated area. [36]

Final Relocation Drive

To its surprise, announcement of the WRA's post-revocation program to liquidate the centers was received by many the remaining evacuees in the centers 'with a marked amount of apathy." The predominant feeling, as reported by community analysts at the centers, was one of 'disbelief." "Every possible pretext was eagerly seized upon to justify the rationalization that WRA did not actually intend to close the centers and that its announcement was merely a 'bluff' to stimulate further relocation." Some residents "attempted to build an elaborate case that WRA had made definite commitments to keep the centers open for the duration of the war and that it was guilty of bad faith in the adoption of its liquidation policy" [37]

To counteract the evacuee reaction and stem wide-ranging rumors that were sweeping the camps, the WRA concentrated its attention on convincing the remaining evacuees in the centers that the liquidation announcement was not a bluff and that the centers would close. Director Myer visited each of the eight remaining relocation centers during the early months of 1945, speaking before community mass gatherings, meeting with members of the community governments and other evacuee leaders, and attempting to answer all questions. This tour accomplished its principal objective, and, according to the WRA, "the great majority [of evacuees] began gradually to concede this point in their own minds and soon shifted their resistance to other grounds."

The new focal point for evacuee discussion became the difficulties associated with relocating — the nationwide housing shortage, losses the evacuees had suffered during evacuation, public hostility against them, and the fact that many of evacuees still in the centers were older and had passed their prime years of earning power. These arguments were addressed at what came to be called the "all-center conference" held in Salt Lake City in February 1945. Initiated largely by members of the community council at the Central Utah center, the conference was attended by community government representatives from all centers except Manzanar and Tule Lake. After lengthy debate, the conference issued a document requesting more extensive and far-reaching relocation assistance and questioning the "fundamental wisdom of closing the relocation centers." Although the WRA reply to the conference "was generally conciliatory in tone and did make a few minor concessions," its only "feasible course was to stand firm and insist quietly that the centers would be closed."

Throughout the early months of 1945, the relocation totals from the centers mounted steadily despite continuing evacuee resistance. During the week ending May 5, for example, a total of 788 people left the centers — the highest number for any single week up to that time. The WRA's goal was relocation of some 16,000 people between January 1 and June 30 — an objective that it almost reached.

After the war ended in Europe on May 8, 1945, the WRA became increasingly concerned about the transportation problems associated with its relocation efforts. The WRA determined that a "comparatively spaced-out, regular flow of relocation movement, with specific dates for center closures, was clearly essential in the interest of both the evacuees and the Nation at large." On June 22, the WRA announced that the Canal Camp at the Gila River relocation center and Units II and III at the Colorado River center would close by October 1. Four weeks later, on July 13, the agency issued a comprehensive schedule for the closing of all centers, except Tule Lake, between October 15 and December 15. But these two steps, which were taken to hasten relocation and curtail further evacuee procrastination, were not sufficient. In consequence of persistent talk by many evacuees about "staying until the last minute" and threatening that they were "going to see what happened" if they remained in the centers when the deadlines arrived, the WRA announced a mandatory "scheduling" of relocation at all centers, first for the individuals and families requiring special welfare assistance outside the centers and then for all remaining center residents.

On August 1, 1945, the project directors received official notification of Administrative Notice No. 289, the controversial policy statement covering the scheduled relocation of all remaining center residents. It provided that each project director, starting six weeks before the scheduled closing date of his center, should establish weekly quotas for relocation in order to meet the goal of depopulation by the deadline date. The order, however, could become operative two weeks earlier at the discretion of the project director. The quotas were to be filled, insofar as possible, by people who stepped forward and volunteered to develop relocation plans. If the quota for any particular week could not be met by volunteering, however, the project director was authorized to assign a departure date for individuals in sufficient number to make up the quota. Those assigned a departure date were given the option of selecting the place where they wished to relocate. In case they refused to make a selection, they were given a rail ticket to the community from which they were originally evacuated. If an evacuee refused to pack his belongings, they would be packed for him, and he would be escorted to the train, if necessary, by the camp's internal security force. All centers were urged to avoid the use of force except as a last resort, and they were instructed not to schedule any evacuee for relocation to a community unless the appropriate field office had indicated that temporary housing was available.

Administrative Notice No. 289 was issued two weeks before Japan surrendered to the United States on August 14, 1945, and was "disseminated among the evacuees only a few days before that event." According to the WRA, the two developments "finally convinced even most of the 'die-hards' that a return to private life was inevitable and would have to be accepted." The occurrence of V-J day was important, "superficially because it completely eliminated the protracted argument about 'war-duration communities,' and more significantly because it convinced some of the most relocation-resistant Issei that they would spend the rest of their lives in the United States and that they could no longer count on official intercessions from Japan on their behalf." Thus, the WRA was able to carry out its relocation program and center closing schedule "without resorting to compulsion in more than a half dozen cases." All centers, except for Granada, were closed between two and fifteen days before their scheduled dates, and the "evacuees at all centers ~ except Tule Lake were restored to normal communities before December 1." [38]

Resettlement Patterns

Throughout early 1945, the majority of evacuees leaving the relocation centers were bound for destinations outside the evacuated area. Many of these people had developed their relocation plans before revocation of the exclusion order and were only then carrying them into effect. Moreover, the somewhat precarious state of public opinion on the west coast during the early part of the year meant that "only the bolder-spirited evacuees and those with properties which could readily be reoccupied were inclined to go back to their former homes." By late spring, however, sufficient numbers of resettlers had established themselves in the former evacuated area so that the movement back to the coast began to increase. By the end of June, approximately half of those leaving the centers were going eastward, while the other half were headed "back home." From that point on, the balance swung increasingly in favor of 'westward' relocation. By the end of October, the proportion of people moving back to the evacuated area was as high as 85 to 90 percent of the total leaving the relocation centers. During December 1945 and January- February 1946, after the relocation centers had closed, the overwhelming majority of the people who left the Tule Lake Segregation Center, following clearance by the Department of Justice, found their relocation destinations in the evacuated area. After closure of Tule Lake on March 20, 1946, the net results of the WRA relocation program showed that approximately 57,000 evacuees had returned to the former exclusion zone, nearly 52,000 had settled in other sections of the country. In addition, 1,108 went to Hawaii, and 82 to Alaska. Evacuees resettled in every state on the mainland except for South Carolina. Illinois received the most resettlers with a total of approximately 11,200. Colorado and Utah were next with about 5,000 each, and Ohio, Idaho, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, and Minnesota had totals ranging between 4,000 and 1,700. Approximately 3,000 evacuees still remained, either voluntarily or involuntarily in the custody of the Department of Justice. A group of 450 evacuees were transferred from Tule Lake to Department of Justice internment camps on the day the segregation center closed. Following closure of Tule Lake, the WRA closed most of its district offices in the west coast evacuation area by May 1, and its last field offices were closed on May 15. The agency was liquidated by executive order on June 30, 1946. [39]

During 1945 and the early spring of 1946 the principal unresolved problem confronting WRA officials in the former exclusion area as they sought to speed their relocation program was adequate housing. To meet this need, the WRA, in cooperation with the Army and the Federal Public Housing Authority (FPHA), developed a program under which a number of surplus Army facilities in the vicinity of Los Angeles and San Francisco were made available for evacuee occupancy on a temporary basis under FPHA management. By March 20, 1946, some 2,100 evacuee resettlers were living in such facilities in Los Angeles County and about 1,000 in the San Francisco Bay area.

Gradually the population of these "special projects" was reduced during the spring of 1946. Many of the occupants moved into "normal" quarters, while several large groups, including a significant number of Terminal Island evacuees from Manzanar, found employment with canneries and other concerns that provided trailer housing. In early May 1946, a trailer project at Burbank in Los Angeles County was opened for the approximately 800 evacuees still remaining in the "special projects" who were classified as 'hardship cases.' The last of the "special projects" was officially closed on May 18.

Aside from housing problems, resettling evacuees faced other obstacles in late 1945 and early 1946. In some sections of California local licensing boards refused to grant permits to evacuees to engage in professional practice or commercial enterprises. Under the so-called "escheat law" enacted by the California state legislature in 1943, many evacuees were deprived of rural homes on the grounds that the property had been purchased or leased by alien parents in the name of citizen children in violation of the statute. In the Seattle area, the local members of an International Teamsters Union undertook a drive to boycott the handling of evacuee farm produce and thus force the returned evacuee farmers off the land. In the Stockton, California, area, some members of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union attempted to foment a strike to protest against the employment of three returned evacuees. This action, however, was promptly repudiated as contrary to the union's policy both by the international president and by the head of the San Francisco local which had jurisdiction over the Stockton unit. The protesting members were quickly suspended from membership, a strike was averted, and the evacuees retained their jobs. [40] Throughout the spring of 1946 the field offices in the former exclusion area cooperated with various groups that were supporting the rights of the evacuees to soften or eliminate the "last vestiges of discrimination" and help create "a more secure future for the evacuated people.' At each of the field offices the objective of the WRA was to make as much progress as possible on the solution of these problems before the date of the agency's liquidation and to foster activation of local resettlement committees which would carry on the work after the agency was terminated. Such committees were eventually organized in all west coast communities where WRA had field offices and where significant numbers of evacuees had relocated. However, the progress made in solving these problems was, according to the WRA, "admittedly somewhat uneven."

In concluding its examination of the relocation program, the WRA observed in its Story of Human Conservation that it had adequately discharged its obligations to the evacuees. This "self congratulation" would be questioned by many, especially when compared with what was later done for refugees in the Cold War era. Whether it would have been politically possible for a government agency to do more in 1945, however, is another matter. Recognizing the limitations of the political climate at the end of the war, the WRA concluded:

Although there can never be full or adequate recompense for the experiences which the evacuated people went through, it is best, we feel, to set these down among the civilian casualties of war and to build on the present base toward a better and more secure future for the people of Japanese descent in this country. The building of that future lies largely in the hands of the still-active groups which have supported the evacuated people throughout the war and, even more importantly, in the hands of the evacuees themselves. [41]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002