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Final Phase of Relocation Program (January to November 1945)

Reaction to Announcement of Impending Center Liquidation. The announcements terminating the exclusion ban and closure of the relocation centers, according to Heath, "brought into the relocation program an element of compulsion that had been absent." While many of the WRA appointed personnel were skeptical and took a "wait and see" attitude, the general reaction of the evacuees to the announcements was, according to Heath, one of "disbelief." Many residents at Manzanar did not see how it would be possible "for all persons in the Center to be relocated within so brief a span without more physical hardship than the Government was willing to countenance." They frequently voiced the statement "that the Government had once disrupted their lives and that it had no right to do so again." The announcements also resulted in new problems for the camp's relocation office, Generally, the "announcement that centers would be closed within a year's time appeared not to be taken seriously by evacuees in general." According to Heath, there "was a marked disinclination to do anything in haste" as "most evacuees preferred to let someone else lead the way."

In the wake of the announcements and the evacuee reaction to them, WRA administrators at Manzanar, as well as at other relocation centers, determined that one of the first problems to be addressed was to convince the evacuees that the centers were definitely going to close. Until the evacuees were convinced, they would make little effort to plan for the future. Accordingly, in late February 1945, WRA Director Myer arrived at Manzanar to conduct a variety of meetings with evacuees during which he outlined his plans for closing the centers and assisting the evacuees in relocation. He refused "to admit the possibility" that "evacuees could not solve their problems, if given minimum assistance from the WRA. He saw "no problem in employment and housing in the Los Angeles area." Despite his assurances that the WRA would proceed with its liquidation plans, however, many evacuees in the camp "still felt that it was impossible within the year to find places for them to work and live on the outside and that the Government of the United States would not be so inhumane as to force them to leave the Center." [80]

Character of Residual Population on December 31, 1944. On December 31, 1944, the evacuee population at Manzanar consisted of 5,549 persons, including a number absent on seasonal and short term leave. Of this number, 3,125 were citizens; 2,117 were 20 years and under; 2,020 were between 20 and 50; 733 were between 50 and 60; and 401 were over 60. The group had a disproportionate number of older people, and many of those in their prime were "burdened with children." The population included a considerable number of farmers and approximately the same number of small business men who had formerly engaged in the wholesale and retail produce trade. About 350 were fishermen or members of fishermen's families from Terminal Island. A few had been domestic servants prior to evacuation, but a large number had been gardeners, farm laborers, produce clerks, and semi-skilled laborers. Approximately one-half of those over age 40 spoke no English, and many of the rest spoke limited or broken English.

By January 1, 1945, the day before the exclusion ban was to be lifted, the relocation office at Manzanar had received only one application for terminal departure to return to the evacuated area. On the other hand, 46 applications for short term leaves had been received, but many of these did not involve departure until after January 8. [81]

Preference for California. At the beginning of 1945, administrators at Manzanar estimated that about "50 percent of the Center residents would wish to return to California," A majority had come from Los Angeles and "would normally desire to return to their former residence area.

At the beginning of the year, some newspapers and public officials in California raised loud cries, criticizing the Army for lifting the exclusion ban and permitting the Japanese to return to the west coast. Some predicted harm to returning evacuees, while others urged them to stay away until the war ended and the housing shortage was alleviated, arguing that this was the "fair and patriotic thing to do." At the same time, the Governor of California and some individuals and groups rose to publicly support the evacuees, asking the public to accept them in "the American spirit of justice and fair play."

As the year wore on and evacuees returned to the former exclusion zone despite threats and acts of arson and violence, the California public, according to Heath, "appeared to become resigned to the fact that persons of Japanese ancestry would again live in California." At first evacuees feared "to risk the danger of returning," but this fear "eventually abated since little or no physical violence occurred in Los Angeles where most of them would go."

Although opportunities for employment, housing, and occupational and social acceptance were "still superior in areas to the east," many Manzanar evacuees began to cancel earlier plans to relocate in the eastern states, replacing them with "the hope for any early chance to go 'back home." Because of "fear and limited employment and housing on the West Coast," greater numbers of evacuees went eastward during the first seven months of 1945. During the summer months, however, the "determination to go only to California seemed to crystallize in the minds of many more Manzanar residents." During August to November 1945, approximately 80 of those relocating went to California, while the percentage moving directly to California during the entire year was 64 percent. To handle the evacuees returning to southern California, buses were scheduled to Los Angeles three days a week during the closing months of the center's operations. [82]

Major Obstacles.

Housing — As the war neared an end, the shortage of housing Los Angeles became increasingly serious. While Manzanar residents relocating in the eastern states were able to find available public and private housing, those moving to the Los Angeles area in 1945 faced mounting difficulties in finding adequate shelter.

By the middle of the summer, some 200 to 300 evacuees were "habitually absent from the Center on short term leave in an effort to find living quarters in the Los Angeles area." As a result of the efforts of Project Director Merritt and other WRA officials with various public housing authorities, however, a few veterans' and servicemen's families were accommodated in federal housing projects in Los Angeles in August. The following month 100 trailer units were made available for allocation to former Terminal Island residents near their pre-evacuation homes. Additional servicemen's families were also accommodated with "stop-gap housing." During November 1945, temporary living quarters in barracks or trailers with community mess halls and sanitary facilities were provided for about 70 families in the Los Angeles area. These incremental housing measures were sufficient to take care of those evacuees who had not found "make-shift quarters." Although no Manzanar evacuees left the camp "without temporary housing being assured, "few Manzanar families who went to Los Angeles during the summer and fall of 1945 "were really satisfactorily housed." [83]

Employment — Throughout 1945, fair to good jobs in most occupational classifications were available in many eastern and midwestern states and cities. In Los Angeles, however, few employment opportunities were at first available to the returning evacuees. Produce operators in the city managed to keep the field closed to persons of Japanese ancestry until the end of the WRA program in 1946. Nursery work and employment in war-related factories were largely closed to returning evacuees, although a few Manzanar residents were employed in both before the close of the war. Evacuee farmers, who had difficulty in finding equipment and securing financial aid, were hesitant to grow produce that would have to be sold in the markets dominated by anti-Japanese operators. Wartime regulations closed the fishing industry to all Issei, and restrictions were not lifted sufficiently to permit Nisei to engage in commercial fishing until after the Japanese surrendered on August 14. Domestics and gardeners, however, continued to be in demand in the city, providing many employment opportunities for the returning evacuees. Thus, many returning Japanese evacuees reestablished small businesses in Los Angeles and its surrounding area. After the first few months following relocation, "most other relocators obtained employment of one kind or another without the assistance of the War Relocation Authority" Young people found low-paying jobs rather easily, but many trades and professions remained closed to them. Older people, however, "were not altogether successful in finding employment." [84]

Exclusion Lists

  1. Military: Army intelligence personnel entered Manzanar immediately after the announcement that persons of Japanese ancestry would be excluded from the coastal area after January 2, 1945, on an individual basis only Such officers remained at the camp until Public Proclamation No. 24 was issued by the Western Defense Command on September 4, 1945, withdrawing all restrictions which the military had placed on persons of Japanese ancestry and rescinding all exclusion orders.

    On January 1, 1945, Army officers delivered to Project Director Merritt a list of names of all evacuees in the camp deemed to be dangerous to the "internal security" of the United States. This list classified all evacuees in one of three categories: (1) cleared persons, or those free to travel and reside anywhere in the United States; (2) excluded persons, or those excluded from travel or residence within the evacuated area but otherwise unrestricted; (3) detained persons, or those who were temporarily restricted from leaving the relocation center and who were to be detained by the Department of Justice if military recommendations were implemented. Registration documents and reports of various federal intelligence agencies were used in making the classification. but apparently no attention had been paid to leave clearance granted by the WRA or to such matters as applications for repatriation or expatriation that had been filed subsequent to the registration program. The Army list included 259 Manzanar male citizens of the United States classified as detained persons, but no aliens were "so classified as excluded persons." No females were listed.

    Thus, the relocation plans of many Manzanar evacuees were delayed and confused "because many American citizens who had been previously cleared by the WRA as loyal were now classified by the Army as detainees." In 1944, 132 of these persons had been granted seasonal or short term leave. At the same time, many others who had applied for repatriation and who were expecting to be segregated to Tule Lake were found by the Army "to be entirely trustworthy, and therefore, were expected to relocate," The Army also issued exclusion orders to both detainees and excludees, and both groups were confused as to why some were prohibited from departing while others were free to leave for areas outside of the jurisdiction of the Western Defense Command.

    Although the exclusion orders named only a relatively small group of evacuees, most of them had families, and an order limiting the movement of the wage earner (perhaps the only wage earner in the family) ordinarily limited the movement of an entire family. Detainees under the Army exclusion orders and their family members totaled 823 persons. Appeals and hearings relating to the exclusion orders continued until V-J Day (August 14), and the status of many remained unclear until all exclusion orders were voided on September 4. [85]

  2. Department of Justice: Seven Manzanar evacuees who had renounced their American citizenship were prevented from relocating. These evacuees were eventually taken into custody by the Department of Justice. [86]

  3. Immigration and Naturalization Service: About 75 evacuees at Manzanar were restricted in their movement as a result of Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations. Some had gained entry to the United States illegally, while others had entered on temporary permits that had expired or been abrogated during the war. None of these persons was free to travel for several months. Eventually, one of these persons was taken into custody, while the others were released either under bond or parole arrangements, or both. Special parole arrangements with the Department of Justice were necessary for aliens who had been interned at the outbreak of the war and who were later paroled. [87]

  4. Promotional Methods: Throughout the closing phase of the relocation program at Manzanar, the WRA undertook efforts to divert evacuees to the eastern states where housing and employment opportunities were "superior" to those on the west coast. Although the majority of evacuees wished to return to their former homes in California, the camp staff emphasized that more "satisfactory opportunities and better social acceptance, particularly for evacuee young people and children, existed in the East." [88]

Personnel Representatives — In spite of the increased use of eastern recruiters and relocation officers on detail at Manzanar, these promotional efforts met with little success. A relocation officer from Philadelphia was in the center during April and May 1945, placing about 30 evacuees. Another from Salt Lake City, who was particularly interested in acquiring workers for the Toole Ordnance Depot, visited the camp in February and April 1945. A Connecticut businessman of Japanese nationality was at the camp in May, and an industrial recruiter came from Wisconsin for ten days in February, but left without obtaining any evacuees. A relocation officer from Newark, New Jersey, arrived in June and succeeded in obtaining about 30 evacuees for relocation to New England and the mid- Atlantic states, while a relocation officer from New York City served as an assistant to Heath from late July to November 1945. Recruiters from Seabrook Farms contracted with more than 200 evacuees to relocate to their expanded facilities in March 1945. A relocation officer representing the agricultural concerns in Nebraska interested 12 to 15 people in resettling in his area, [89]

Publicity — Despite the promotional and publicity efforts by Manzanar administrators to assist the eastern recruiters and relocation officers, it "remained impossible to influence any substantial number of evacuees to go to the East." Recruiters from Utah and Idaho, however, "were able to obtain farm laborers or share croppers."

During April to September 1945, a six to eight-page mimeographed weekly relocation supplement to the Manzanar Free Press was published. Although some west coast news was carried in the supplement, nearly all space was devoted to news and job offers in the eastern United States.

An extensive number of mounted photograph displays with English and Japanese captions were prepared by Reports Officer Robert Brown. The photographs, mostly of eastern and midwestern relocation opportunities, were moved from mess hall to mess hall and attracted considerable interest.

During 1945 "Japanese language positions" became more "popular," and recruiters, preceded by publicized campaign efforts, continued "to find a few applicants each time they came to the Center." During the year, Japanese language instructors were sent from Manzanar to Army schools at Stanford, Northwestern, and the University of Minnesota, and to Navy schools at the University of Colorado and the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mining College. Some evacuees accepted employment with the Office of War Information and the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the Central Intelligence Agency. [90]

Procedural Changes. Changes in military regulations, coupled with the Supreme Court decision that loyal citizens could not be required to apply for indefinite leave, made procedural short-cuts possible during 1945. Until Public Proclamation No. 24 was issued on September 4, voiding all exclusion orders, all departures had to be cleared with military representatives guarding the gate at Manzanar. However, this procedure was far simpler than obtaining military travel permits as formerly required.

During this period, the actual procedure involved in getting an evacuee and his entire family through the gate was relatively easy It required preparation in triplicate of a form giving identifying dates, relocation destination, and notes as to special factors involved. One copy served as a gate pass, one copy was filed, and a third copy served as a cover sheet under which the relocation officer in the area of relocation was forwarded relocation summaries, welfare and medical information, and related material. In addition, arrangements had to be made for ration books, a relocation grant, and travel reservations, as well as referrals to the Welfare Section if special assistance was required. [91]

Social Welfare and Institutional Cases.

Permanent Dependency — The center's Welfare Section was responsible for all dependency cases, including unattached children that were being cared for in the Children's Village. The Welfare Section "made complete arrangements" for the outside care of such children, and the medical social workers at the hospital provided identical service for institutional cases, referring them to the relocation office after which arrangements were completed. [92]

Temporary Assistance — In addition to dependents, Manzanar included a large number people who did not have sufficient financial resources to re-establish themselves in a new community. In 1945, the Social Security Board, with additional War Relocation Authority grants, undertook a program to assist needy resettlers with original relocational expenses, such as rent, food, and where necessary, minimum essential furniture. Application for assistance was made in the center where it was processed by the Welfare Section and submitted to the community of proposed relocation for approval by its welfare agency. After June 1, however, such grants were paid at the camp before departure, thus further simplifying the process.

Many Manzanar evacuees objected "strenuously" to this procedure and "refrained from applying for what they termed charity." Some felt that acceptance of such funds might be used against them by an unfriendly Immigration and Naturalization Service. Should they visit Japan in the future, re-entry to the United States might be denied, they thought, on the basis of "pauperism."

Since a "considerable proportion of the total money allocated for this temporary assistance was in the budget for the fiscal year of 1945," Project Director Merritt recommended that every "effort be made to accomplish, prior to June 30, 1945, the relocation of families needing these funds."

Consequently, interviewers called on the largest families throughout the center to learn whether they had relocation plans that had been delayed because of lack of money In almost every instance, few families had made "mature relocation plans." [93]

Personnel Adjustments. To expedite the relocation program in 1945, three to four evacuee interviewers were employed in the relocation office until summer, and one remained until early autumn. Five to seven WRA appointed personnel from other sections were detailed as assistant advisers to augment the normal relocation staff. Among these were three persons who spoke Japanese, and another person with a background in social work and employment counseling. In January, the principal of the elementary school at Manzanar was transferred to the position of assistant relocation program officer, serving in that position until April when he left for a position with United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. From May through July, the assistant personnel officer was detailed to the relocation office, and, on August 1, the relocation officer on detail from New York City assumed the position of acting relocation program officer. [94]

Relocation Trends in 1945. Although only 125 persons relocated to California from January through April 1945, the visit by WRA Director Myer in February and "a number of good relocation opportunities in the East were remarkable stimulants to relocation." In March 1945, for instance, the number of applications for "terminal departure" — a term that came into use instead of "indefinite leave" — totaled 52 for each of two days in succession, and for a considerable period it averaged 25 per day. The daily average dropped off to 16 in April, increased to 20 in May, but fell to 12 in June and July and 10 in August.

A series of events in late summer 1945 resulted in accelerated relocation levels, On July 13 Myer announced that Manzanar would be closed by November 30. The issuance by Myer of Administration Instruction No. 289 authorizing the project directors to use physical force in evicting evacuees (after due warning) who had failed or refused to arrange for their departures was announced in the Manzanar Free Press on August 18. A follow-up letter to all residents at Manzanar on August 29 from Merritt reinforced Myer's directives. On August 14, the Japanese government formally surrendered, ending the war. Between August 15 and September 15, ten blocks within the center were closed, and the remaining residents were consolidated with those living in partially-filled blocks, This consolidation caused considerable inconvenience to persons who had spent three years in making their apartments and surrounding grounds more habitable. Schools failed to open in September, and no other educational facilities were made available for children. Camps 2 and 3 at Poston and the Canal Camp at Gila River closed on October 1, as scheduled, and only a handful of residents were permitted to remain temporarily until difficult arrangements could be completed.

Thus, the daily average of applications for relocations increased to 38 in September. When commercial fishing was reopened to Nisei and Issei received promise of work in fish canneries in the Los Angeles Harbor area, Merritt worked with Los Angeles housing authorities to locate temporary housing facilities in a trailer park near the former homes of the Terminal Island evacuees. On September 15, a large contingent of Terminal Islanders left for their new homes in one caravan, thus removing the one group that might have proved difficult to relocate.

On September 25, approximately 1,000 single persons and family heads were still in Manzanar who had not yet named an exact departure date, Merritt sent a letter to each of these persons, informing them that on and after October 9, departure dates would be established for those who had not set one for themselves, and that this would be done at a rate sufficient to keep the busses moving as scheduled. Immediately, applications jumped to an all-time high, and thereafter few evacuees required further individual attention. The impact of Merritt's letter was strengthened by the fact that one neurotic woman, a notorious welfare case, and two families with women in late pregnancy were forced to leave according to schedules set by the camp administration.

Busses were obtained to transport from Manzanar 90 persons per day, five days per week, during the six weeks ending November 23. According to Heath, there was "somewhat of a rush for reservations for the last days, particularly by those who had no assured housing." As a result of a scheduling error, 125 persons had been permitted to set November 23 as their departure date, and more than 90 were accepted for the 21st and 22nd, Meanwhile, the relocation program was proceeding considerably faster than had been anticipated in early October. Many evacuees left in private automobiles and trucks during this period, and the three busses per day to transport 90 persons were not needed. Many residents who had set late departure dates continually advanced their departure times. As a result, by November 15, a total of 61 evacuees were scheduled to leave on the 21st, 22nd, and 23d. This number was slightly in excess of one bus load after discounting those who were to leave in private cars and trucks. Thus, camp administrators arranged for the remaining evacuees to leave the center on November 21.

At 11:00 A.M. on November 21, nine days ahead of schedule, the last remaining evacuee, a four-year-old boy accompanied by his mother, passed through the front gate of Manzanar. The occasion was marked by an informal gathering of WRA staff members and a short impromptu speech by Project Director Merritt. Heath commented, albeit somewhat inaccurately on the symbolism, as well as the irony, of the occasion:

. . . . But even this touch of ceremony did not succeed in placating the sorrows of the little fellow whose protest at leaving Manzanar was expressed in tearful, physical resistance. The only home this small American had ever known was the barrack he was being required to leave; the only place that spelled safety and security was Manzanar.

Caucasians who were gathered around tried to placate him with smiles and soothing words, but he hid his face as if ashamed at so un-Japanese a display of emotion. He squirmed and kicked and to the end resisted the War Relocation Authority.

Yet 18,358 other evacuees had preceded him through that same gate and had found their places in normal American communities. Some had gone willingly enough; indeed, many had been eager to go. An even greater number, however, like this four-year-old child, had stepped through the gate haltingly and in fear. Yet all had found security and companionship and peace in the world 'outside,' This was obvious from the many letters of appreciation which they had sent back to the Administration. . . . The challenge which had been set for the staff at Manzanar had been met. The evacuees, uprooted and resentful, had been cared for for three long years; then they had gone 'home.' In the 'going-home' — no matter where it was — the Relocation Division had taken a major hand. Now it was over. The task was finished. [95]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002