Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Investigation of Military Police, August 31 — September 1, 1942

After June 1, 1942, when the WRA took over administration of Manzanar, there were an increasing number of complaints about "laxity" in enforcement of camp security regulations under Project Director Roy Nash. Throughout the summer, the military units at Manzanar complained that the WRA was permitting the evacuees to violate orders of the Army. According to a memorandum from DeWitt to Bendetsen on June 19, there seemed to be a distinct attitude of camaraderie and brothership between the camp management and the Japanese. In other words, there seems to be an overly friendly attitude — in the opinion of the officers on duty with the Military Police Company. [17]

Among the accusations of the military police officers were that Nash had issued picnic passes for large groups to leave the center, sent groups out of the center without passes and Caucasian guards, and allowed movement across the center's boundaries after curfew Captain Hall, the commanding officer, attended the camp director's daily conference two or three times a week "as observer, not as a participant." Although guard trucks passed "through camp every four hours posting guard," three "guard towers" were "needed in [the] back" or west side of the center. The guards "in [the] rear" walked "through brush" and were "unable to see much of their area." One "man alone" had "no protection against attack." They were not "able to get replacement bulbs for searchlights" in the observation towers when bulbs burned out. The military police did "not inspect vehicles for contraband." The vehicles were "stopped by [a] gate guard and directed on into camp to [the] Interior Police Station for information as to how to obtain pass." All roads "entering [the] camp have now been closed except [the] main gate." Local residents had informed military police that "when location of [the] camp was announced all local sporting goods houses experienced a sell out of guns and ammunition." Thus, the entire "neighborhood" was a self appointed police force to see that evacuees stay within limits." [18]

As a result of the complaints of laxity by the Army which were submitted to the War Relocation Administration on August 27, the WRA assigned P. J. Webster, Chief, Lands Division, in its San Francisco regional office, to investigate the matter. Webster conducted his investigation during August 31 to September 2 "in order that a report could be furnished the Wartime Civil Control Administration, which would serve as the basis for a communication to the Commanding General." During his investigation, Webster interviewed 36 individuals, 12 of whom were connected with Manzanar. He "drove approximately 100 miles in and around the Relocation Center and as far south as Keeler and as far north as Independence," including "a trip through the agricultural area and west of the Relocation Area where it is claimed that Japanese have been fishing and swimming." He inspected "the military police guard system in operation during daylight hours and at night" and "personally inspected the knives and hatchets."

In his report, submitted to E. R. Fryer, Regional Director, on September 7, Webster listed eight specific claims of WRA laxity" at Manzanar that the Army had sent to the WRA. These included:

  1. That 'there is potential danger to the security of property and materials adjacent to subject alien camp because of laxity in the adequate policing and guarding under the new administration by civilian authority.'

  2. Particular stress is laid on 'vital material supplies and processing equipment' in connection with mining operations near Manzanar and 'potential danger to life and property because of inadequate policing and guarding at subject alien concentration camp. . . .

  3. That 15 to 20 Japanese aliens on many occasions have been seen by 12 persons 'riding in Army trucks driven by a Japanese driver, seldom with a white civilian escort, driving all over the district surrounding the alien camp, in many instances over 30 miles from subject camp.'

  4. That Japanese have been seen fishing and swimming in streams 'at distances of from 3 to 9 miles from the concentration camp with no escort or guards.'

  5. That Mr. Horton, Civilian Chief of Police at the War Relocation Area, had 'collected several large boxes of short handled axes and hatchets, and also large quantities of long bladed knives from male Japanese internees, all of which the new civilian administration had ordered him to return to their owners as their personal property' and that Mr. Horton had refused to do this.

  6. That on Saturday, May 10, 1942, a Japanese, Isami Noguchi, driving a Ford V-S - 1940 Station Wagon with no license plates, parked his car alongside of Military Prohibited Zone sign, which he read, and then walked into the Sierra Talc Ore mill at Keeler and asked why talc ore was considered vital to the war effort. [Noguchi was a world-renowned Japanese American sculptor who was a voluntary relocatee at Poston for a time.]

  7. That Dr. James Goto, — 'now located at the Manzanar Evacuation Center, leaves this Center almost weekly in order to come to Los Angeles to work in the Los Angeles County General Hospital.'

  8. That on August 8, 'six Japs were up here in Bishop wandering about our streets and buying fruits and vegetables in the Safeway Store. — As far as they know' (referring to two white women residents of Bishop who saw these Japanese 'there seemed to be no guard with them.'

Webster's investigation resulted in a number of conclusions. Regarding the above mentioned Claims Nos. 1, 2, and 3, he observed:

While the impression is widespread in Owens Valley, that Japanese evacuees have been riding around in motor vehicles and have been in Lone Pine and Independence unescorted by Caucasian guards, no one could be found who would state positively that he had seen a Japanese under these circumstances. There are a number of instances where Japanese have been, and are being, allowed to leave the Center under guard and permit which could be easily construed by a casual observer as a case of Japanese being out of the Center unescorted.

Webster elaborated that of the 24 persons he interviewed who had no connection to the center, a "number.., started out by saying that it was common knowledge that Japanese were traveling around in trucks and shopping in Lone Pine and Independence without escort." However, "in no case" could he find "anyone who would state positively that they themselves had seen a Japanese under these circumstances."

Webster also related the substance of an interview with Captain Archer and Lieutenant Buckner" who had been transferred to the 322nd Military Police Escort Guard Company at Manzanar in late June. He noted that their joint statement

indicates that actual cases of Japanese either driving cars or visiting Lone Pine or Independence unattended by a white are few or non-existent. These two officers stated that there is no way that a motor vehicle can leave the Center and get to the highway without either passing through the main entrance of the Center or through the Military Police encampment, and that no motor vehicle is allowed to leave or return to the Center without a written pass. Military Police guards are requested to carefully check every pass without fail, and it was my experience that this procedure was rigidly adhered to even to the extent of requiring Mr. Nash himself to present his pass.

These officers further stated that they had received numerous complaints that Japanese were riding around outside of the Center or were visiting Lone Pine or Independence without guard. On such occasions these officers told the person making the complaint that all they had to do under these circumstances was to call them on the 'phone and that they would come immediately and take such Japanese into custody However, there has not been one single instance in which anyone has made such a report.

These two officers stated that before they were assigned to Manzanar, at the end of June, they believed that the Japanese had more freedom to go to and from the Center. They stated that they were rigidly enforcing their instructions regarding permits for anyone to leave and return to the Center. Without exception the number of Japanese who have been checked out of the Center checks out exactly with the number that have returned to the Center. In other words, there are no Japanese unaccounted for.

Concerning Claim No. 4, Webster noted:

There is little doubt that Japanese have done considerable fishing and some swimming outside of the Relocation Area and, in all probability, some fishing is being done at the present time.

Webster observed that each "of the twenty-four persons interviewed, who are not connected with Manzanar, were asked if they had any first-hand knowledge of fishing or swimming by Japanese evacuees." Most of the interviewees said "that they believed that fishing and swimming were being done by the Japanese; but there were only two cases where anyone said they had first-hand knowledge of fishing; and no one had personally seen any Japanese swimming."

In one case, E. B. Austin, an employee of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, reported that on August 22 he caught an evacuee fishing along Shepherd Creek, two miles west of the relocation center. This evacuee had told Austin that he often fished in the creek and that "many of the Japanese" fished in the stream. The evacuee told him a friend of his was fishing one-half mile west because the fish were larger there. The evacuee had a "bag" that Austin "estimated held from 35 to 50 fish." Austin had reported the incident to the military police and the local game warden, but both men had done little, the guard stating that "he frequently heard that the Japanese got out of the Center with a permit on detail and then sneaked away and went fishing."

Chief of Internal Police Horton told Webster that "he had no doubt that Japanese working on the garbage crew had been fishing in the Owens River in connection with their trips east of camp to dump garbage." This "practice of fishing on return trips was so well known that working on the garbage crew was a very popular job and there were many applicants." Although fishing in the Owens River had been halted for about a month, Horton related that "a party of 9 or 10 Japanese were found by the Military Police and Mr. Baxter, County Health Officer, sometime ago fishing 3 or 4 miles west from the Center on Georges Creek." The party had a truck and was supposed to be getting native plants for gardening purposes. They had a permit which allowed them to get past the military police guard and "this was simply a case of their taking advantage of the situation."

Although none of the people interviewed by Webster had seen any Japanese swimming outside the center perimeter, he investigated "places where Japanese could have gone swimming."

Small Dam at Southwest Corner of Center — In late June a small dam about two feet high had been built across Bairs Creek at the picnic ground located at the southwest corner of the center. The pool behind the dam had been used by children "for wading and paddling around." When it was realized that the water from Bairs Creek flowed directly into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Project Director Nash had issued Project Director's Bulletin No. 7 on July 3, stopping all swimming in any streams that were tributary to the aqueduct. [19] Webster inspected the site "and found that the little two-foot rock dam had been torn down in the middle so that it impounded no water."

Settling BasinManzanar Water System — Completed in July, the concrete settling basin, located about one-half mile to the north and west of the center, made "an ideal swimming pool." In Nash's absence, Assistant Project Director Ned Campbell announced in the July 7 issue of the Manzanar Free Press that the entire area west of the center would be open to the evacuees. The news article stated:

Extension of the boundaries to embrace the fields and creeks surrounding the former center confines was announced by Ned Cambell. . .today. The new limits run in parallel lines straight west from the watch towers located on the southeast and the northeast corners of the center, and extend four miles into the foothills. Picnics and outings can now be held at any time although the residents are cautioned to use their own discretion in keeping the grounds clean and observing reasonable hours. Swimming in the creeks, however, is strictly prohibited since they are the source of the Center's water supply Neither will fishing be allowed until permits are received. Strict adherence of the rules must be observed . . . . or the extended boundaries may be revoked. [20]

After this announcement, a group of Japanese went swimming in the settling basin on July 8. The following day the Manzanar Free Press reported that "Permission for camp residents to go beyond the west boundary line up toward the hills was cancelled . . . after complaints were received that people were swimming in the community water reservoir and also in the aqueduct streams." [21]

Shepherd and Bairs Creeks — Webster noted that reports "have been circulating in the Manzanar area that Japanese have built several crude stone and brush dams "in Shepherd and Bairs Creeks "to dam up enough water for swimming." A survey of the creeks on September 2 revealed "a dam approximately 1-1/2 miles west of the settling basin but it does not appear that this was built by the Japanese." On Bairs Creek there were "three small dams which might be used for swimming but which apparently were built before the Japanese came to Manzanar." Six dams, "two of them quite large, which may have been made by the Japanese" were also found on the latter creek. The two larger dams impounded "enough water to permit swimming of a very modest type while the other dams are too small to permit anything but wading."

Los Angeles Aqueduct — Although there was no definite evidence that the Japanese had done any swimming in the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Webster observed that it "would be much more difficult for them to swim here than west of the Center, because of the difficulty of getting to the aqueduct and because the chances of being apprehended are considerable." The aqueduct was "well patrolled by the City of Los Angeles."

Webster reported that he had conferred with Nash regarding fishing and swimming outside the relocation center boundaries. Although not having any first-hand knowledge, Nash "had no doubt that this had been taking place." He thought such activities would "continue unless more guards were assigned by the Military Police to patrol the west boundary of the Center."

Webster also noted that he had discussed the issue with the military police. Captain Archer and Lieutenant Buckner

thought it was possible for the Japanese to leave the Relocation Center and fish or swim. They said they had heard that the Japanese were doing some fishing and swimming west of the Center, but if this were true they were doing it at a very great risk to their personal safety. They said that there were about 120 soldiers in their unit, and this made it difficult to post an adequate guard on the west side, twenty-four hours a day. At the present time. there are 11 guard posts being maintained on a 24 hour basis. Besides this guarding service this unit is expected to carry on a heavy training program.

After speaking with the military police, Webster had personally reconnoitered the west boundary of the center. He reported:

I inspected the guarding service along the west line, which is approximately 7/10 of a mile in length. This area is patrolled, but so lightly that a person could go over the line without being noticed. This is particularly true because there is a trash-burning dump a little distance from the west boundary of the Center. In connection with this dump, a long trench has been excavated and the dirt therefrom forms a long barrier about five feet high. If a person gets over this barrier he can proceed a considerable distance to the west, out of sight of anyone patrolling the west boundary. Furthermore, at night there are no search lights along the west boundary.

Webster elaborated further on his investigation of security measures on the west side of the center. He stated:

On the other hand, the guards have been instructed to shoot anyone who attempts to leave the Center without a permit, and who refuses to halt when ordered to do so. The guards are armed with guns that are effective at a range of up to 500 yards. I asked Lt. Buckner if a guard ordered a Japanese who was out of bounds to halt and the Japanese did not do so would the guard actually shoot him. Lt. Buckner's reply was that he only hoped the guard would bother to ask him to halt. He explained that the guards were finding guard service very monotonous, and that nothing would suit them better than to have a little excitement, such as shooting a Jap.

Another statement which Lt. Buckner made emphasizes the attitude of the Military Police and also that they take the patrol service with the utmost seriousness. He said that he, personally, would not be willing to attempt to cross through the beam of light thrown by one of the four search lights now installed for a thousand dollars, even though he had on his soldier's uniform.

Sometime ago [in May] a Japanese was shot for being outside of the Center. The evidence as to just what happened is conflicting. The guard said that he ordered the Japanese to halt — that the Japanese started to run away from him, so he shot him. The Japanese was seriously injured, but recovered. He said that he was collecting scrap lumber to make shelves in his house, and that he did not hear the guard say halt. The guard's story does not appear to be accurate, inasmuch as the Japanese was wounded in the front and not in the back. This incident is recorded as an indication that, if the Japanese are leaving the Center on the west side to fish and swim, they are doing so at great peril to themselves; and that, if they continue this practice, in all probability one of them will get shot.

Realizing that the patrolling of the west side was not satisfactory, Captain Archer, over a considerable period of time, has been trying to get additional watch towers and search lights. His request has just been approved and plans are now under way for the installation of four more towers, which will make a total of eight. When this installation is completed (the additional four towers would be completed by early November) there will be a tower at each corner, and at the middle point of each of the four sides of the Center. Twelve powerful search lights will be installed which will throw a broad beam of bright light around the entire Center. When this is completed it appears very unlikely than any Japanese will leave the Center without permits during hours of darkness.

As to Claim No. 5, Webster felt that it was "relatively unimportant." "About 50 of the knives and 11 of the hatchets referred to have already been returned to [the] Japanese." The policy has been "to return these articles when it could be shown that they were needed by the Japanese in connections with their regular employment."

In support of this conclusion, Webster summarized the substance of an interview with Chief of Internal Police Horton. According to Webster, the chief related:

When the Japanese began arriving at Manzanar at the end of March, all baggage was carefully searched for contraband. This was in accordance with Army instructions and was carried out jointly by the Army and WCCA. During May and up until [the] WRA took over the project about June 1, the Internal Police were under the direction of Major Ashworth, Internal Securities Section of WCCA. Major Ashworth not only continued this practice of searching the baggage of the Japanese, but he added several items to the list of contraband, including all sharp instruments and flashlights. Prior to Major Ashworth's taking charge no receipts were given to Japanese for any articles collected. This was deemed unnecessary because the Army had no intention of returning these articles. Capt. McCushion gave these instructions. Mr. Horton estimates that the number of articles taken, with no record of the owner, is somewhere between 100 and 150. From May on, receipts have been given by the Internal Securities Section for articles taken and the practice of confiscating such articles is continuing at the present time.

Throughout the entire period a Japanese was allowed to keep any article, such as knives and hatchets, provided that he could show a 'work slip' or 'order' from some properly constituted authority that these articles were needed in the work which he was to perform on the project. For example, a cook with knives necessary for cooking could keep these knives if he could show that he was definitely going to be employed as a cook at the project. Such knives would have to be kept at the place of his job and not at his home. If a Japanese cook was not given a job as a cook when he first came to the project and therefore had to give up his knives but later became a cook, he could reclaim his knives and use them on the job. Mr. Horton estimates that at least 50 knives have been returned on this basis.

Also, about six hatchets have been returned to Japanese working as farmhands and recently about five hatchets have been given out to be used in connection with stone masonry. Mr. Horton explained that his understanding of the policy back of this procedure was that it was an unnecessary risk to have dangerous weapons, which were not necessary to the performance of actual jobs, lying around the homes of Japanese which, in case of a disturbance, might be used to commit personnel injury or damage to property.

Regarding Claim No. 6, Webster could find no record "that a person named Isami Noguchi ever has been registered at the Manzanar Relocation Area." Webster expanded on this conclusion by summarizing the results of a conversation with Nash. The Project Director observed that personnel records at Manzanar indicated that no one by that name had ever been "an inmate" at the camp. However, he stated:

. . . . I recall distinctly Mr. Triggs, who was the Camp Manager under [the] WCCA telling me that before my arrival there had appeared at Manzanar an artist named Mr. Noguchi. I do not recall his first name. He said that this gentleman came voluntarily with introduction from someone on the White House staff, and wanted to teach art in Manzanar and other Assembly and Relocation Centers. Mr. Triggs, for reasons best known to himself, refused admission to Mr. Noguchi, who is at present located in Poston. Whether or not this is the same man, I cannot say.

Concerning Claim No. 7, Webster found no evidence "that Dr. James Goto has left the Relocation Center except on two occasions when he went to Lone Pine attended by a Caucasian." Webster observed that he conferred with both Nash and Goto about these allegations. Nash informed, and Goto confirmed to, him that Goto had left Manzanar "on only two occasions since he entered as an internee." The

first occasion was on Sunday, June 7th, when he and Mrs. Goto were my guests at dinner in Lone Pine in company with Colonel Cress, Assistant Director of the War Relocation Authority. The second occasion was on Monday, July 20th at 2:00 A.M. when the police wakened me to say that the Dow Hotel at Lone Pine made an urgent request that Dr. Goto be permitted to come in to attend a man who was one of their guests who was in extreme pain, no doctors being available in Lone Pine at the moment. I consulted the Commanding Officer of the Military Police and personally drove Dr. Goto to attend the patient. We returned together to Manzanar at 4:00 A.M. Dr. Goto has not stepped outside the Manzanar Center on any other occasion.

In regard to Claim No. 8, Webster noted that in "all probability Japanese were seen in the Safeway store in Bishop on August 8, unattended by a Caucasian, inasmuch as there were 26 Japanese who stopped in Bishop on that date enroute from the Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, Internment Camp to the Manzanar Relocation Area." In response to questioning, Nash had informed Webster:

We have constantly received Japanese both from Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, and from Fort Missoula, Montana (which are Concentration Camps). These people have been coming in from one or the other of these points about every week since I have been here. Our records show that under date of August 8th, 26 Japanese were inducted at Manzanar who arrived here at 3:43 P.M. by Inland Stage, having come from Fort Lincoln, North Dakota, by Union Pacific to Ogden, Southern Pacific to Reno, and thence by stage from Reno to Manzanar. The stage from Reno necessarily comes through Bishop and stops there for nearly an hour. The Japanese who are transported on the stage are under no obligation to stay in the stage during this stop. They are perfectly free to enter any shops they like and I have no doubt that under this date Japanese were seen in the Safeway Store and other stores in Bishop.

The Webster report was submitted by the WRA to the War Department. On October 2, John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, wrote to Myer, commenting that the "complaints received by Wartime Civil Control Administration are typical examples of how rumors spread." McCloy had sent the report to Bendetsen who had written in response: "The report is comprehensive and indicates that all alleged incidents were thoroughly investigated; it tends to disprove the verity and accurateness of the complaints." [22]

Despite the efforts of the military police and WRA authorities, evacuees would continue to leave Manzanar without required passes throughout the history of the center. In the "Internal Security Section" of the Final Report, Manzanar, John W. Gilkey, Chief Internal Security Officer of the camp from September 13, 1942, until March 1, 1946, observed:

The Project regulation, hardest to prevent, was that of 'going out of bounds,' or, in other words, the act of leaving the Center without a proper pass. The attraction of the mountains for hiking and climbing, the nearby creeks for fishing — not to mention the satisfaction gained from going outside of the Center for a while — were all great temptations to many of the residents. This was true even when the Military Police were stationed in towers guarding the Center with guns and searchlights. The punishment prescribed by the Project court was generally to be put on probation. Much attention was given to publicity against this form of conduct but in spite of all that could be done to prevent it, the 'out of bounds' violation never completely stopped. It is doubtful if even a long jail sentence would have eliminated it entirely. [23]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002