Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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In early May 1942, the first persons of Japanese ancestry began to arrive at the relocation centers operated by the War Relocation Authority from the assembly centers administered by the Wartime Civil Control Administration. By June 5, when the movement of evacuees from their homes in Military Area No. 1 into assembly centers was completed, the transfer of evacuees to relocation centers was well underway There were, however, two exceptions to this phase of the government's evacuation program — Manzanar and Poston. Both camps had been established initially by the Army as "reception centers" to serve not only as assembly centers but also as permanent relocation centers. The former, which is the focus of this study, had been opened as the first assembly center by the WCCA on March 21 but was transferred to the WRA on June 1 to become an officially-designated relocation center. As the government's evacuation program continued, provision for the external security of both the assembly and relocation centers by military police units was developed by the Western Defense Command.


First Order Governing Function of Military Police at Evacuation Centers, April 15, 1942

On April 15, 1942, the first order governing the functioning of military police units at evacuation centers (a term covering both the assembly and "reception" centers then being administered by the WCCA) and the relationship of those units with the centers' civilian managers or directors was issued by Lieutenant General DeWitt, Commanding General of the Western Defense Command. The order included a brief statement outlining the purpose of the centers:

They [the evacuees] have been moved from their homes and placed in camps under guard as a matter of military necessity. The camps are not 'concentration camps' and the use of this term is considered objectionable. Evacuation Centers are not internment camps. Internment camps are established for another purpose and are not related to the evacuation program.

According to DeWitt's order, the centers were "operated by civilian management under the Wartime Civilian Control Administration." Civilian 'police available will be on duty to maintain order within the camp." Responsibilities of the civilian police would include "search of individual evacuees and their possessions for contraband" and 'escort of visitors and evacuees throughout the camp." The camp director was responsible 'for all means of communication within the camp.

The order described the functions of the military police at the evacuation centers. These included:

  1. The military police are assigned to the Center for the purpose of preventing ingress or egress of unauthorized persons and preventing evacuees from leaving the Center without proper authority. The Assembly Centers in the combat area are generally located in grounds surrounded by fences clearly defining the limits for the evacuees. In such places the perimeter of the camp will be guarded to prevent unauthorized departure of evacuees. The Relocation Centers are generally large areas of which the evacuee quarters form only a part of the Center. These Centers may have no fences and the boundaries may only be marked by signs. At such Centers the military will control the roads leading into the Center and may have sentry towers placed to observe the evacuee barracks. The balance of the area may be covered by motor patrols. The camp director will determine those persons authorized to enter the area and will transmit his instructions to the commanding officer of the military police. The camp director will determine those persons authorized to enter the area and will transmit his instructions to the commanding officer of the military police. The camp director is authorized to issue permits to such evacuees as may be allowed to leave the Center.

  2. In case of disorder, such as fire or riot, the camp director or interior police are authorized to call upon the military police for assistance within the camp. When the military police are called into the camp area on such occasions the commander of the military police will assume full charge until the emergency ends. The question of the disposition of unmanageable evacuees is not a responsibility of the military police.

  3. The commanding officer of the military police is responsible for the black-out of the Evacuation Center. A switch will be so located to permit the prompt cut-off by the military police of all electric current in the camp. He will notify the camp director of his instructions relative to black-outs.

  4. The commanding officer of the military police is responsible for the protection of merchandise at the post exchanges furnished for the use of the military personnel.

  5. Enlisted men will be permitted within the areas occupied by the evacuees only when in the performance of prescribed duties.

  6. All military personnel will be impressed with the importance of the duties to which their unit has been assigned, the performance of which demands the highest standards of duty, deportment and military appearance.

  7. A firm but courteous attitude will be maintained toward the evacuees. There will be no fraternizing. Should an evacuee attempt to leave camp without permission he will be halted, arrested and delivered to the camp police.

  8. Commanding officers of military police units will be furnished copies of operating instructions issued to the camp director. They are required to maintain such close personal contacts with the camp director and his assistants as will assure the efficient and orderly conduct of the camp, and the proper performance of the duties of each. [1]

Establishment of Organizational Responsibility for Implementation of External Security Provisions

DeWitt outlined the organizational arrangements of the Western Defense Command to implement the aforementioned order in the U.S. War Department's Final Report, published in 1943. The Commanding Generals of each Sector of the Western Defense Command were responsible to DeWitt for the external security at each of the centers located in their respective Sectors. One or more military police companies were assigned to each center as required by the area and evacuee population.

The Sector Provost Marshal was responsible for the actual supervision of the military police at all centers in his Sector. The Provost Marshal, Western Defense Command, advised the Commanding General, Western Defense Command, in matters pertaining to external security at the centers, and prepared the policies and orders of the Commanding General for transmittal to the Commanding Generals of the various Sectors. The Provost Marshal, Western Defense Command, as well as other officers from that headquarters, periodically inspected the manner in which announced functions and policies were carried out by the military police companies at each of the centers. [2]

External Security Provisions in Memorandum of Agreement between the War Department and the War Relocation Authority, April 17, 1942

On April 17, 1942, War Department and the War Relocation Authority officials signed a Memorandum of Agreement delineating the responsibilities of each in the implementation of the government's program to evacuate persons of Japanese descent from the west coast to assembly centers and ultimately to relocation centers, the latter to be administered by the WRA. Section 9 of the Memorandum of Understanding provided for external security measures at the relocation centers by the military:

In the interest of the security of the evacuees relocation sites will be designated by the appropriate Military Commander or by the Secretary of War, as the case may be, as prohibited zones and military areas, and appropriate restrictions with respect to the rights of evacuees and others to enter, remain, or leave such areas will be promulgated so that ingress and egress of all persons, including evacuees, will be subject to the control of the responsible Military Commander. Each relocation site will be under Military Police patrol and protection as determined by the War Department. Relocation Centers (Reception Centers) will have a minimum capacity of 5,000 evacuees (until otherwise agreed to) in order that the number of Military Police required for patrol and protection will be kept at a minimum. [3]

Civilian Restrictive Orders and Public Proclamation No. 8

Subsequent to the aforementioned Memorandum of Agreement, the Western Defense Command issued a series of Civilian Restrictive Orders and Public Proclamation No. 8 in compliance with its terms. On May 19, 1942, Civilian Restrictive Order No. 1 established all assembly and relocation centers in the eight far western states under its jurisdiction as military areas from which evacuees were forbidden to leave without express written approval by the Western Defense Command. Succeeding Civilian Restrictive Orders Nos. 18, 19, 20, 23, and 24 described the boundaries of the various centers.

Public Proclamation No. 8, issued by the Western Defense Command on June 27, 1942, further assured the external security of the relocation centers. Under its terms all center residents were required to obtain a permit before leaving the designated center boundaries The proclamation specifically controlled ingress and egress of persons other than center residents. Violations were made subject to the penalties provided under Public Law 503, 77th Congress.

Four of the ten war relocation centers were established outside of the Western Defense Command and hence outside the jurisdiction of the Commanding General, Western Defense Command. To secure uniformity of control, the War Department published Public Proclamation WD:1 on August 13, 1942. This proclamation designated the Heart Mountain, Granada, Jerome, and Rohwer relocation centers as military areas and as War Relocation Project areas. In addition, it contained provisions similar to those of Public Proclamation No. 8 relative to the ingress to and egress from relocation centers. [4]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002