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Early Phase of Relocation Program (September 1942 — May 1943)

Commencement of Relocation Program. On September 7, 1942, the Manzanar Free Press featured a headline "Relocation Starts Rolling." The article noted:

Nisei hopes for permanent relocation in areas outside the Western Defense Command brightened considerably with the arrival last Saturday of Thomas W. Holland, WRA chief of employment, who began interviewing applicants for permanent outside jobs. This is not to be confused with temporary agricultural furlough employment.

Following a general survey of employment opportunities in the midwest, Holland is interviewing individuals at 1-5-2 to clear their records and open the way for their eventual relocation. . .

Especially requested to appear are those with definite employment offers, but others desiring permanent relocation are also asked to file applications.

The 900 applicants for temporary harvest work will not be interviewed at this time but it was expected that company representatives would arrive within a week to conduct recruiting for furlough work. . . . Outlining the procedure followed in relocating Japanese, Holland stressed that at the present time existing regulations limiting relocation to citizens must be followed. 'But these regulations are temporary in nature and it may be possible in the future to include other classifications,' he said.

After an individual files application, his record is checked with his project head here and sent to the FBI for further clearance. A pass to leave for the job is issued after assurances from the prospective employer and other citizens in the new community are received. If conditions do not prove satisfactory a person may return to the relocation center, it was announced.

Planning to remain the greater part of the week, Holland has established his headquarters at 1-5-2. Although many employment opportunities are agricultural, other types of work including secretarial, hotel, teaching, [and] domestic fields are offered. [42] While at Manzanar, Holland filled out newly-devised forms, titled "Application for Permit to Leave a Relocation Center for Private Employment" (Form 71), for each applicant that he interviewed. Walter A. Heath, an employment officer, was detailed to Manzanar from San Francisco to sit in on the interviews. Although Heath subsequently held various titles, such as senior administrative assistant, leave officer, assistant relocation officer, relocation program officer, and relocation officer, he was generally referred to as the camp's relocation representative and headed the relocation office and division throughout its entire program.

Form 71 was designed to disclose background information which would serve as a basis for judging loyalty It covered relatives, residence, education, references, activities, and hobbies, as well as a direct question on loyalty Additional longhand notes were added to indicate the degree of Americanization, the interviewer's impression of the applicant, and the applicant's choice of relocation locality and type of work. Along with the original Form 71s, Holland also obtained copies of the applicant's "Individual Record" (Form 26) and information and recommendations from WRA appointed personnel in the camp for submission to Washington.

Applicants were told that they might expect an offer of a job in two or three months "if everything turns out all right." Approximately 350 persons completed interviews during the days that Holland was at Manzanar and the weeks following his departure when Heath took over the interviews. Virtually all applicants were between the ages of 20 and 28, and men outnumbered women by a three to one ratio. Later, about 50 additional persons applied before the Manzanar relocation representative's efforts were focused on recruiting seasonal agricultural labor. [43] Because of the interest shown in relocation by the camp residents, Heath warned the evacuees "against over-optimism" in a camp newspaper article on September 17. He noted that relocation was "a slow and laborious process. Much "time may elapse before the records of the job-seekers can be cleared, and before he can leave the gates of Manzanar behind him." Heath also stressed "the difficult task of public relationship being conducted by the WRA to influence the employers and communities to accept the Japanese Americans." [44]

Early "Leave" Efforts.

Seasonal Agriculture Furlough Work — Because of wartime labor shortages, the western sugar beet growers were anxious to use relocation center evacuees to help harvest their crops. Before mid-September 1942, several representatives of the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company arrived at Manzanar to recruit seasonal agricultural labor under the WRA's newly-established 'group work leave' program. Later, a representative of the Amalgamated Sugar Company recruited workers at the camp. In both instances, several days' delay elapsed because contract approval from the San Francisco regional office was late in arriving.

By the time that active agricultural recruiting finally started at Manzanar, interest had developed to such an extent that waiting evacuees completely filled the space between the two barracks used for recruiting. The evacuees formed themselves into crews ranging in size from two to ten persons, and the crews chose a leader to act as their spokesman. The crews were interviewed by recruiters who selected a farmer's contract requiring a group of suitable size. Work to be accomplished, location, living quarters, and wages were discussed briefly with the crew leader. In almost every instance, the crew agreed to accept the contract offered to it and signed the agreement. Both Issei and Nisei were eligible for agricultural work furloughs.

After the contract was signed, the workers filled out applications for group work furloughs and leave permits. Departure rosters were prepared for each county of destination. The rosters, together with copies of the "Individual Record" (Form 26) for each person, were sent to San Francisco and to the employment investigator, later known as the relocation officer, responsible for the destination area. Sign-ups ranged as high as 150 per day. After the first few days of recruiting, groups of about 100 left Manzanar simultaneously on chartered busses under civilian escort provided by the sugar companies.

For each movement of agricultural furlough workers, a military travel permit had to be obtained by wire from the Western Defense Command. Permits named the destinations and the number of workers authorized to go to each destination. Every movement included workers for a number of localities.

In less than two weeks, 1,018 evacuees left Manzanar for the western beet fields, and during the entire year 1,148 labored under the program. There were no eligibility requirements other than freedom from application for repatriation or expatriation and parental permission for school-age youths. Unattached women were not granted leave by the project director to insure that the "morals" of the evacuees and community sentiment were respected. In several instances, however, the Welfare Section at Manzanar arranged for seasonal agricultural work for the third party in marital triangles, thus contributing to "peace and harmony" within the center.

"Relocation rumors" began to spread soon after the sugar beet workers left Manzanar. Many of the rumors were found to be exaggerated by WRA officials, but they took on credence as they were retold and spread. The rumors included scores of bus accidents, beatings, unsatisfactory housing, little or no work, poor earnings, discriminatory treatment, and racial prejudice. By the end of the season, such rumors had established a pattern that was to continue throughout the entire relocation program. When the seasonal agricultural workers returned to Manzanar in late November, WRA officials established that there had been no beatings, reception had been good almost everywhere except for several localities in Montana where open discrimination was experienced, and housing facilities, while not modern, had been good compared with those encountered by Mexican beet workers as well as housing owned by many Caucasian farmhands. Earnings had averaged $3.00 per day. This low figure had not met expectations, both because of the inexperience of many of the evacuee workers and the crop yield was poor in many areas. [45]

FBI Clearance — In October-November 1942, Manzanar administrators received several letters from the WRA's Washington Employment Office listing names of persons who had received final clearance by the FBI for "permanent relocation." These names included those who had applied in early September when Holland had been at the center. One such letter listing 74 names was announced in the Manzanar Free Press on November 30. The article noted:

. . . . A few have definite offers for jobs, but the majority do not. Many others have definite offers and have been cleared, but have not been listed as yet. . . .

If these cleared persons do receive offers for work, they should be submitted at the project, as leave is expected to be authorized in a few days. [46]

Early Relocation Trends — During November and December 1942, Manzanar officials received a few offers of employment from private firms or persons. Most of these came as a result of efforts by the chief of employment in the Washington office. Most offers were for domestic service, and many were "poorly paid positions offered by persons with big hearts and small pocketbooks who wanted to do something tangible to help the evacuees.

According to the Final Report, Manzanar, Heath reported that a "psychological reaction appeared" soon after the relocation program began — a development that would continue "throughout the program. Evacuees who, at the time of application, expressed a willingness to do "anything" became hard to please when release seemed assured and positions began to open up. "Waiting for something better," became a popular response. Few wanted to accept a poor job today when a better one might be available tomorrow. Thus, many persons accepted positions but refused departure privilege after the completion of the lengthy Washington procedure that was necessary for final release. This "very human, but exasperating trait of changing one's mind continued until the end."

Nevertheless, the relocation program at Manzanar began to be implemented, although long delays developed during which Washington checked community acceptance for final approval. In some cases, however, evacuees arranged for their personal relocation with little or no assistance. [47]

First Relocations. WRA officials received word on November 7, 1942, that the first release from Manzanar under Holland's program of "permanent relocation" was granted to Esther Naito, a young Nisei who had been attracted by an offer for a clerk-switchboard operator position from Presbyterian College of Christian Education in Chicago. Since she had no experience with a switchboard, immediate arrangements were made for her apprenticeship at Manzanar. The job was made possible through the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. She left the relocation center on November 15 after receiving "a military pass from the regional office in San Francisco." [48] During November and December 1942, additional Washington approvals were received, and 39 relocations or "releases" were authorized. Some of the "releases" were arranged through the Welfare Section and authorized by the Western Defense Command for persons who were parties of racially-mixed marriages and for children of such marriages. Applicants were required to show evidence of community acceptance from their prospective new communities in the form of a letter from law-enforcement officials as well as an ability to earn a livelihood. A few of the "releases" were for students who obtained college or university acceptance and Army release as a result of church committees working through the camp's Welfare Section. [49]

After the sugar beet workers departed, applications increased for what was to become known as "leave clearance." In an article on December 3, 1942, the Manzanar Free Press reported that "relocation fever" in the camp was "rising." The article noted:

With 312 applicants for private relocation in November, making a total of 644, relocation fever is really becoming an epidemic. Last Monday saw 38 persons crowd the little office where applications are filed, while Tuesday, following the publication of the FBI clearance list, a greater number of applicants swamped the staff.

Mondays may be 'blue' for other departments but it is a banner day for the relocation department. A week ago last Monday, 39 persons rushed in to file their applications after attending the relocation rally at which Thomas M. Temple [chief of the Community Services Division] and Henry Tsurutani [chief of the Legal Aid department] spoke.

To take care of the rush of relocation applications, the relocation office had hired four additional evacuee secretaries, thus increasing its staff to nine. [50] Complications in relocation procedures were the "greatest stumbling block" for the overworked relocation office staff at Manzanar. For each individual relocating, the following documentation was required:

  1. For Submission to Washington — (a) Several copies of the Individual Record, Form 26, to permit FBI clearance; and (b) several copies of the 4-page application, Form 71;

  2. For Local Approval — (a) letters of reference from three pre-evacuation Caucasian friends and one Project supervisor; (b) certificate of clearance with the Project Internal Security Section and the Project official handling applications for repatriation and expatriation; (c) the Project Director's recommendation; (d) proof of guarantee of employment or other means of livelihood on the outside; and (e) transportation and escort to some point outside the restricted area.

  3. Approval from Washington — (a) leave clearance by the Director; (b) favorable sentiment in the community of choice.

  4. Military Approval — travel through the restricted area. [51]

Leave Office Established. Administered by Ruth Cushion, the Leave Office was established on December 1, 1942, and charged with the responsibility for arrangement of evacuee travel, passing judgment on applications for assistance grants, and conducting necessary clerical work for the departure of evacuees after their relocation plans were completed.

Since Manzanar was located inside the restricted military area, all evacuees leaving or arriving at the camp were required to be escorted to the boundary of the restricted area by a Caucasian WRA employee. As a result, an escort position under the supervision of the Leave Office was filled on December 1, 1942.

Because Manzanar was not directly connected with railroad service, the only means of public transportation directly to the camp was provided by a small bus lie that operated between Los Angeles and Reno. The nearest railroad station with regular passenger traffic service was at Mohave, 140 miles distant. From there a local Santa Fe rail line extended to Barstow where it joined the main Southern Pacific Railroad line. The Southern Pacific placed a representative in Lone Pine to sell tickets and take care of travel details, and a railway agent from Mojave went to the center once a week to handle reservations with the Leave Officer. A seven-hour delay between bus and train connections was encountered at Mojave and Barstow. Since both communities were "very unfriendly toward the Japanese," travel through those towns was soon diverted from those communities to Reno, Nevada, a town "more friendly" to evacuees some 265 miles north of Manzanar. As travel from Manzanar became heavier, racial "resentment" also increased in Reno. The situation soon became untenable, and on April 26, 1943, Project Director Merritt determined that WRA equipment" would henceforth be used to transport evacuees.

All evacuees who left or entered the restricted military area had to have military passes. These passes were issued by the Western Defense Command through the WRA's regional office in San Francisco until the spring of 1944. (After that time, the commanding officer of the military police company at Manzanar was allowed to issue outgoing passes, and, at a later date, passes for those arriving at the camp.) As a result, evacuees waiting to leave on scheduled dates, as well as on emergencies, were held up because their passes were delayed. Prior to the spring of 1944, It was not uncommon for persons of Japanese ancestry coming into Manzanar to wait three days for a travel permit which had been applied for a week in advance of their anticipated arrival. There were no overnight accommodations in Reno, and the evacuees often had to sit in depots until their permits came through from San Francisco. [52]

Impact of "Manzanar Incident" on Relocation. Following the outbreak of violence at Manzanar on December 6, 1942, administrative offices in the camp were used as dormitories for evacuees taken into protective custody, and evacuee laborers stopped work. The necessity of hurriedly preparing documentation for relocation of the 65 persons taken to the Cow Creek Civilian Conservation Corps camp in Death Valley brought "total confusion" to the relocation process. Although camp school teachers were used in the emergency, they were not familiar "with procedures" and had little "clerical experience."

In the wake of the violence, WRA officials reported that for "the first time, pro-Japanese elements began to work against relocation" as evacuees "commonly understood that a trip to the Relocation Office would place them in danger of physical harm." In spite of this development, however, "a newly hired escort quietly left the Center with 15 relocaters while the work stoppage was under way" The people leaving the camp were "picked up unobtrusively and without fanfare."

The relocation representative at Manzanar was instructed to relocate immediately the 65 evacuees who were taken into protective custody and transferred to Death Valley. Their applications were airmailed to Washington with an appeal for quick action, but little progress was made for several months.

The American Friends Service Committee, in the process of opening a hostel in Chicago in cooperation with the Church of the Brethren, found employment possibilities for many of these evacuees, but clearance "remained discouragingly slow." The Washington office rejected a suggestion that Project Director Merritt be granted authority to approve indefinite leave for the evacuees, but promised to give 48-hour service on applications for each individual. In spite of this promise, however, clearance for most was delayed for several months, and three persons still remained in Death Valley when the camp was closed in mid-February 1943. The three individuals were transferred to the Granada War Relocation Center pending final clearance. [53]

Later on October 19, 1944, Morris Opler, the community analyst at Manzanar, submitted a report on the relocation program in which he commented on the "serious" impact of the "December disturbance" on relocation efforts at the camp. He noted:

Relocation was off to an early and a good start at Manzanar with the visit and special assistance of Mr. Holland in September, 1942. . . . The bloodshed and tension of that period and of the period that followed made it difficult for evacuees to cooperate with a WRA sponsored program. The fact that those who left the Center in December of 1942 were taken out because they were suspected of participation in the riot or for their own safety caused many who contemplated speedy relocation to abandon the idea for the time being. This was particularly true of those who had been critized [sic] for friendliness toward the Administration or toward individual members of the appointed personnel. Since they had been labeled 'dogs' and had been accused of one thing and another through the channels of gossip, they felt that it would be an admission of guilt or an indication of cowardice to leave until such talk and attitudes had subsided. [54]

Establishment of First Hostel. WRA officials working with the relocation program concluded that the procedures for release were "too involved" and that employment could be found "with greater ease and better individual adjustment" if evacuees were permitted to locate employment after rather than before release from the camps. Former Manzanar staff members joined others in solving these problems through the establishment and use of hostels, low-cost hotel-boarding houses operated for relocating evacuees. Through the efforts of two former teachers and a former Director of the Community Management Division at Manzanar, the Church of the Brethren accepted sponsorship of a group of evacuees from Manzanar and provided temporary living quarters at a hostel it had established in Chicago in cooperation with the American Friends Service Committee. The former Community Management Director accompanied the group of evacuees to Chicago in late December 1942, and the two teachers left the camp shortly thereafter to assume management of "this first hostel." [55]

Reorganization of the Relocation Office, December 1942 — February 1943. In late December 1942, the relocation office at Manzanar was separated from the employment office and placed under the supervision of Assistant Project Director Robert Brown. On February 1,1943, it was placed under the newly-named Assistant Project Director in charge of Community Management, where it remained organizationally until some time after a Washington reorganization effort provided for an enlarged Relocation Division under the direct supervision of Project Director Merritt. The early change at Manzanar was made because Merritt, a strong supporter of the camp's relocation program efforts, believed that relocation and project employment were competing activities and that relocation should be the principal, as well as an independent, function of the WRA organizational structure.

Under the reorganization plan of February 1, 1943, the relocation office was headed by a WRA senior administrative assistant. The expanded office had two WRA appointed personnel — a senior escort who, with an evacuee typist and a WRA-appointed escort, handled travel arrangements, military passes, and leave credentials, and a senior clerk (school teacher on detail) who supervised six evacuee clerical typists who filled out forms

— and two evacuee interviewers who assisted the office head in interviewing applicants for leave clearance and outside jobs. Despite the organizational changes and additional personnel, the relocation office was often overworked, a problem complicated by the fact that Washington was "hopelessly behind' in clearing applications. [56]

Impact of Registration, Segregation, and Leave Clearance Programs on Relocation. The registration program at Manzanar during 1943 had a significant impact on relocation. According to the Final Report, Manzanar, the registration program "created great mental and emotional turmoil at Manzanar, particularly among the alien group." Revision of the loyalty question "to permit aliens to respond to their intent in obeying the laws of the United States, rather than in being loyal to the United States" had made it possible for them "to become eligible for leave clearance." The report continued:

In all the confusion, approximately 50 percent of the citizens answered the 'loyalty' question in the negative. Although it is doubtful this answer represented the true feeling of more than half of those who had given it, no way was found to correct the situation easily and quickly. Persons who answered in the negative were not eligible for relocation.

After a number of weeks, Washington provided a procedure for reconsidering persons who had first answered 'no' and who later claimed loyalty to the United States. Leave clearance hearings were held for all 'no' persons. Transcripts of the hearings and recommendations by the boards and the Project Director were sent to Washington for review. . . .

On an average, several weeks were required at the Project for a given case in order to assemble pertinent information, have a hearing, transcribe and summarize the hearing, and get proper signatures. It was then not unusual to wait as long as six months for a decision from Washington, with the average wait being perhaps four months. No substantial number was cleared until one year after registration.

Throughout the following months, the Relocation staff spent a great deal of time serving as members of Leave Clearance Boards. Even more time was spent with individuals desirous of relocating and anxious about their status. Numerous letters and wires were written to Washington in an effort to expedite action on individual cases.

In addition to preventing or delaying relocation of large numbers of evacuees, the registration, segregation, and leave clearance programs "brought to Center residents a great fear of forced relocation and of split-ups in families." This development, according to Heath, "did much to crystalize feeling against relocation, and this fear persisted even when the reason for it had faded." [57]

In his aforementioned report on relocation, Opler reiterated many of Heath's themes concerning the impact of registration, segregation, and leave clearance on relocation. He observed:

Unfortunately registration came hard on the heels of the riot and the issues and divisions which had much to do with the December disturbance again came to the fore. In fact, many who had remained aloof from the events leading up to the trouble of December were, out of anger or because of intimidation and family pressure, caught up in the difficulties growing out of a qualified or negative answer to Question 28 and were denied leave clearance.

Persons to whom indefinite leave is closed can be expected to make some kind of a psychological adjustment to that fact and to rationalize their position. Thus the Center was filled with skeptics and opponents of relocation and with people who had a stake in the maintenance of Manzanar, with most of its population, and all of its facilities and services. [58]

Relocation Rates, 1943-44. The number of evacuees relocating from Manzanar during the early months of 1943 were 60 in January, 64 in February, and 78 in March. The figures, according to the Final Report, Manzanar, did "not indicate the popularity of the program but only the ability to complete detailed clerical work at Manzanar and in Washington."

In April 1943 the WRA established simplified procedures that allowed evacuees "with no adverse factors in their backgrounds" to be released for relocation subject the approval of the individual project directors. As a result, relocation rates increased to 192 in April and 182 in May. According to the Final Report, Manzanar, persons who relocated "during this time were those who had been clamoring at the gates to get out and who remained eligible even after registration" During the spring of 1943, most evacuees relocating continued to be Nisei with men outnumbering women. Gradually, Issei "began to go out in greater numbers but the program continued to be much more successful for those of the second generation." The number of evacuees relocating from Manzanar declined to 85 in June and 66 in July — a level that continued until the spring and summer of 1944, when it climbed above a monthly average of 100. The number of relocations remained at that monthly level until the fall and early winter months of 1944, when relocation rates underwent "a sharp incline upwards." [59]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002