The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1996, Volume 42, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor

by Matthew T. Estes and Donald H. Estes

Images from the Article

On the morning of Sunday, December 7, 1941 a way of life ended for all persons of Japanese ancestry residing in California. Their communities and the very existence they had known were abruptly, and with a grim finality, terminated by the mass uprooting and exile of all men, women, and children of Japanese descent. Today, that diaspora has become a defining moment in time for the Nikkei community.1

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the events that followed have become a touchstone for several generations of Japanese Americans—an experience by which all other experiences, past and future, are measured. In historical terms World War II cuts a ragged swath across the fabric of the Japanese American experience, dividing it into “before the war,” “camp,” and “after camp.”2

The attack on Pearl Harbor not only drew the United States into war, but within six months resulted in the detention of over 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry by the United States government. Of this number, 70,000 were citizens of the United States by virtue of jus soli, a status they had acquired by being born in the United States of America.3

By June 1943, a little more than a year after President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 authorizing this mass removal, serious doubts had already surfaced, both publicly and privately, about the morality and wisdom of this action. Equally hard questions were raised about the order’s constitutional legality as well. Commenting editorially at the time, The Washington Post observed, “The outright deprivation of civil rights which we have visited upon these helpless, and, for the most part, no doubt, innocent people may leave an ugly blot upon the pages of our history.”4

Today, with the benefit of over fifty years of study, inquiry, and reflection, coupled with a perspective that only time can provide, scholars are still attempting to explain what Norman Thomas called,”a horrible indictment of our democracy.”5

The exile and detention of the West Coast and San Diego Nikkei, came in two distinct phases. The initial action consisted of transporting the affected Nikkei populations from their original domiciles to one of the sixteen assembly centers that had been established by the Wartime Civil Control Authority (WCCA). From their inception the sole mission of these WCCA centers were to serve as temporary holding facilities while preparations for phase two, the establishment of permanent camps, located farther away from the West Coast, were under construction. Because of the Army’s desire to move rapidly once the mass removal was authorized, the sixteen assembly centers were strategically placed in proximity to major Nikkei population centers.

The actual removal of San Diego County’s Nikkei population was authorized by two separate Civilian Exclusion Orders issued by the Western Defense Command (WDC) and signed by Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt. Order Number Four, dated April 1, 1942 authorized the removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry residing in the area from south of Del Mar, California to the Mexican border on April 8, 1942. The area from Del Mar to Orange County, covered by Order Number Fifty-nine, dated May 10, 1942, authorized removal from that zone on May 17, 1942.6

Once rounded up, the first contingent of San Diego’s Nikkei population traveled 125 miles by rail to reach their initial assembly center located at Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California. The second contingent from North San Diego County traveled directly to Poston, Arizona where they were, for the most part, assigned to Camp One.7

The second phase of the Nikkei internment began with their removal from the temporary assembly centers scattered along the West Coast to the more permanent holding facilities that had been built under the direction of the army and were generally located further inland. Excluding those facilities administered by the Justice Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service, there were ten of these designated “relocation centers” operated by the WRA which, with the exception of Jerome, Arkansas, were scattered throughout the Western United States.8 Without exception, all of these camps were built in isolated, desolate locations. These were places where, as one San Diego evacuee put it, no one else wanted to live.9

For San Diego’s Nikkei, the second phase of their exile was initiated on the evening of August 26 and the early morning hours of August 27, 1942. Just as had occurred in San Diego four months earlier, the Santa Anita evacuees were once again lined up and loaded onto trains that came replete with armed guards and drawn shades. The train ride lasted throughout the night, with one stop for water in Barstow, California at about 5:45 in the morning. At noon on August 28, the first of two trains pulled into the station at Parker, Arizona where the former San Diegans boarded busses for a dusty twenty-five mile trip to Poston’s Camp Number Three.10

The Colorado River Relocation Project, or “Poston Complex” as some called it, was actually three separate camps with one common administrative center located on land belonging to the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Poston’s Camp I was the first constructed and largest of the three camps in the complex. While it held Nikkei from all over the Western United States, the majority of the population were former residents of Phoenix, the Salt River Valley, Tucson, Yuma, and California’s Central Valley, with a smattering of other evacuees from everywhere else within the military’s exclusion zone, including many of the former residents of northern San Diego County. Despite the WRA’s policy of attempting to keep communities together, necessity sometimes stranded individuals. Dr. Roy Tanaka, a former resident of San Diego, was sent to the internment camp at Jerome, Arkansas because of a shortage of doctors there.11

The new arrivals’ journey from Parker paralleled the Colorado River until the busses turned right off Highway 95, and followed a twenty-five mile long dirt road into the camp. As San Diegan Masami Honda, a Nisei, recalls that day,

The bus trip to Poston III was long and dusty. So dusty that the sky was blotted out completely. At first we tried to keep the windows of the school bus that was transporting us closed, but it was so hot – over 110 degrees that people, especially the older people, and the kids, were getting sick . So we opened the windows. Immediately everyone was covered by dust. When Kiyo Ochi and her group got off the bus everyone was covered by this thick layer of dust. I know you won’t believe this, but it’s really true, friends couldn’t recognize each other.12

To the surprise of many of the new arrivals, large areas of the camp remained uncompleted. There was some astonishment expressed when they found the camp headquarters was still operating out of tents.13

There appears to be a degree of generational consistency about the former San Diegans first impressions of Poston. Kiyuji Aizumi, an Issei wrote,


Extreme heat that can melt iron. No trees, no flowers, no signing birds, not even the sound of an insect. All at once a strong wind began to blow, sandy dust whirled into the sky, completely taking the sunshine and light from us. That night a full moon shone in the wilderness.14

Lawrence Yatsu, a Nisei who was a senior in high school at the time of evacuation, described Poston in a powerful and telling narrative,


The earth around Poston is not unlike parched flour; it is fine dust which the wind blows around readily. The ground differs as you go from the river to the hills. Some spots were obviously at one time or another river or lake beds; other spots were sand dunes and beach sand-like stretches.

The vegetation varies with the ground. Mesquite trees are the commonest. As you stand on the river bank, all you will see is green such as cottonwood trees, willow trees, arrow-weeds, and many other plants; then, as you leave the river, the plants begin to thin out. All you will see will be plenty of mesquite trees until you reach the immediate vicinity of the mountains. There the plants and vegetation end abruptly. The hills are very bare, but there are a few cacti, desert holly, and other plants. The mountains themselves have no plants at all.

If you climb to the top of the mountains, at the eastern part of the valley, you will see that there is a slightly higher elevation. This neighboring valley is a desolate, sun beaten place where a few miserable plants manage to exist. Our own valley is very green in comparison, although our own valley is a desert, too.

The weather in Poston ranges from about 95″ to about 120″ F. The main industry of Poston is going to be agriculture, although at present they are stymied by the presence of so much alkali. Eventually, however, we hope that this valley will become the fertile, green valley of which Mr. Poston dreamed.15

What the San Diego Nikkei found on their arrival at Poston III was an environment of feverish activity as the construction of their new living quarters moved apace. As they were forced to wait for permanent housing, living conditions became increasingly crowded and congested. Like many others, the Tsumagari family were required to move in with another family from San Diego until more barracks could be built. All of this simply reinforced the observation of Yutaka Kida, a Nisei from Lemon Grove, that Poston was a, “…raw and ugly camp.” It is said that first impressions are the most lasting—perhaps that is so. In 1972, Mr. Kida, a former resident of Poston III stated, “I don’t think I can ever forget evacuation. Maybe others can. I can’t. I’m not built that way. I hated Poston the first day I saw it. I hate it now.”

The evacuees soon discovered that their new Poston-style residences were simply designed, and constructed of a single thickness of tar paper and pine. As such, the buildings were ill equipped to keep out the fierce desert heat during the day and the bone chilling cold at night. To deal with the problems caused by the excessive summer heat, the residents developed an architectural feature that ultimately became identified with Poston; a second and larger roof built directly on top of the original, with an air space of about eighteen inches that facilitated air flow, and kept the barracks cooler during heat of the day. The “double roof” would become a Poston trademark. The green lumber used for construction by the Del Webb Corporation created another problem. As the lumber shrank, gaps in the flooring and walls appeared that allowed a variety of desert species like scorpions and crickets access to the barracks interiors.16 The crickets at Poston appear to have been not only numerous, but of a very aggressive variety. Louise Ogawa observed,


The San Diego crickets were harmless, but very noisy in the evening. But the Poston crickets are very naughty. It [sic] eats clothing. The other day I sprinkled my clothes to iron – before I knew it a cricket had made a nice big hole in the back of my shirt.17

The barracks themselves measured twenty by one hundred feet and were partitioned as required by the camp administration. The scheme for dividing the interior of the barracks was based on the number of exposed ceiling beams which were placed four feet apart. A family of two was allocated a space covered by three beams. A family of three was given a four-beam space, and families of four or five were allotted five beams worth of space. Any family with six or more members received the space covered by seven beams.18

For administrative convenience, the barracks at the Poston complex were grouped together in blocks. At Poston’s Camp III there were eighteen such blocks divided into three units of six blocks each. Relying on the Japanese word for “six,” this arrangement gave rise to the use of the terms, Roku One, Two, and Three by both the residents, and the camp administration to identify the individual units.

Each block consisted of fourteen barracks; one male lavatory and showers, one female lavatory and showers, a laundry room, an ironing facility, one mess hall, and a recreation hall. The residents of each block were required by the camp administration to use only the mess hall and communal facilities they were assigned to. To counter the monotony growing out of a confined existence the administration made an effort to provide organized activities at Poston. Each block had a recreation hall which was a barracks that was utilized for spare time diversions or social activities. These halls were also used for various club activities, and for any type of meeting. Eventually many adult and youth organizations ranging from Scouting to flower arrangement were organized, and usually met in one of the block recreation halls. Another popular activity were the Friday evening movies which were shown outdoors, weather permitting.19

Attached to each laundry room was a boiler room which heated the water for the showers, laundry, and mess hall. The residents were assigned specific times for laundry and shower activities because the unit could not produce enough hot water to accommodate constant use. The boiler units were undersized because the camp designers did not realize that with the Japanese propensity for cleanliness, the Nikkei usually showered at least once, and in many instances, twice a day. As a consequence the boiler room was one of the few constantly heated rooms in the block. This being the case, these areas rapidly developed into a fall and winter activity centers for Issei men. The boiler room provided an ideal area for the games of go and shogi—Japanese board games somewhat akin to chess.20

Because alcohol was unavailable and considered “contraband” by the camp authorities there quickly developed at Poston, a series of small, but thriving enterprises centering on selected boiler rooms, and dedicated to the production of bootleg liquor. The raw materials usually involved in this illicit activity were rice, raisins, potatoes, or sweet potatoes, all of which were relatively easily acquired from cooperative block mess hall workers. These ingredients yielded sake, a type of rice wine; shochu, a form of brandy; and awamori, a kind of rum. The men enjoyed the product of their covert labor in the boiler rooms, where after a few drinks a round of traditional songs would inevitably be sung. When Katsumi Takashima married Yoshiko Taniguchi at Poston III, the only way to provide liquor for their reception was to have it made on-site.

The harsh weather conditions experienced at Poston came as a shock to many of the San Diego Nikkei who had grown up in the milder conditions of coastal Southern California. The temperature on the day the former San Diegans arrived at Poston was one hundred and three degrees. The new residents were dismayed when their new neighbors told them that this was the coolest it had been in weeks. Even the military conceded that the conditions were harsh. Between June 15 and September 1, 1942 the temperature at Poston varied between one hundred and twenty and one hundred and thirty degrees. In mid-July, 1942, the United States Army Corps Engineers recorded a temperature of one-hundred forty-five degrees. Another hardship facing the new Poston residents was the fine desert dust that was constantly whipped up by the wind. Regularly wetting of the ground was the only defense the residents could devise against the winds, which became popularly known as the “Poston Zephyrs.”21

Writing with more than a touch of irony, eighteen-year-old Louise Ogawa separately wrote her friends Helen McNary and Clara Breed, “Poston is a wonderful place – way out in the open spaces. It would be a paradise if it were not for the dust, heat, wind, and insects.”22

One of the things that was immediately apparent about Poston III was that there were far fewer people there than there had been at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. Poston III was the smallest of the three Poston camps whose evacuee population never exceeded three thousand. Poston II held a maximum of 5,952 and Poston I, was the largest camp with a maximum population of 9,483. There were positive and negative attributes to being in the smallest camp. On the positive side, the food was of a better quality. Since meals no longer had to be prepared for so many people, more time could be invested in improving both the taste and variety. Most importantly, the mess lines were not as long. Tetsuo Hirasaki wrote,

…The canteens here are not as crowded as they were at Santa Anita because people don’t have the money they used to have. You see we have to buy what we used to get free at the assembly center [Santa Anita]. Brooms, buckets, baby food, fresh fruit, spoons and forks (there are none in the mess hall) and even soap for the mess hall. At the present time we fight for it. After all the dishes have to be cleaned.

On the negative side, the large community activities like the weekly neighborhood singing, or the talent shows held at Santa Anita, were sorely missed.23

As the first autumn drew on, people gradually became accustomed to the conditions of their new existence. They found it easier to deal with the nights becoming colder than it was to deal with the pervasive summer heat. Without regard to the seasons however, the wind continued blew constantly. A inordinate amount of time and effort was spent by the residents in usually futile attempts to seal their pine and tar paper living quarters from the invading dust. Even when sealed up it still took maximum effort to keep the huts clean. Louise Ogawa observed, “We have to mop the house every day because of the dust, but it does not do any good because before you know it, it’s dusty again.” Maintaining cleanliness was made even more difficult by virtue of the fact that only a single broom and mop were allotted for every block of barracks.24

Official news from the outside was heavily controlled by the camp administration. A press bulletin was issued three times a week, and then only to the main office at each camp. This lack of information prompted Fusa Tsumagari to observe, “We have a daily press bulletin, but they are issued only to the [main camp] offices. I wish they would issue it about two or three times a week, and let everybody see it instead.”25 These bulletins were purposely not distributed throughout the camps, but were posted outside the administration buildings. Eventually however, a camp newspaper was initiated and circulated on a much wider basis. The Poston Chronicle, as the periodical was christened, consisted of “front page” stories, sections for reports from each of the three Poston camps, a sports section, and an editorial page.

For the first few months at Poston, the most reported on, as well as discussed, topics of conversation, dealt with the impending arrival of goods the evacuees had been authorized to order from the Sears catalogue.26 As Louise Ogawa explained to her friend Helen McNary,


The government gave us a clothing allowance for the months we were in Santa Anita. I was allowed $13.00 for four months. We were given items from which we could order through the Sears catalog. Thinking we were going to a cold place, everyone ordered winter clothes—wool slacks, heavy sweaters etc. If we were informed as to where we were going we would have ordered things to suit the climate of Poston. Unfortunately we were not. As yet [September 17, 1942] we have not received our clothing.27

Part of adjustment process at Poston included becoming acquainted with the Nikkei from other parts of California. Once settled in Poston III, people from San Diego found themselves sharing the facility with Nikkei from Central California. One practice that particularly irritated the people from San Diego was the mixing of Japanese and American entertainment at the community variety shows. At Santa Anita, the Japanese events like traditional folk dances and songs would normally be reserved for “Issei Night” where they could be properly appreciated. Also, then the Issei would not have to sit through the American style skits and songs, which some of them found not only difficult to understand, but actually distasteful.28

Just as they had at Santa Anita, churches once again began to organize. A Dharma School and a Sunday school were opened at Camp III. Within a few weeks the Christian youth invited everyone to attend a “Singsperation” concert that was pronounced a big hit. Other social events that followed, however, experienced problems. Many of the girls missed the dances at Santa Anita, or, to be more precise, the boys at those dances. Their major disappointment appears to center around the perception that the “San Diego boys” were extremely rowdy at the camp dances. Fusa Tsumagari wrote,


The young girls from Reedly, Visalia, and Fresno and thereabouts no longer go to the dances cause they are afraid of the Santa Anita “yogoris” [A colloquialism meaning, “not the best of boys”]. Due to this the young fellows act twice as rowdy and really make us [girls] disgusted!

At Santa Anita, there had been boys from all over Southern California who were “a lot nicer.” As a result, many of the Poston III girls refused to go to the dances.29

Quickly, however, other community events at Poston, like clubs and social functions, once again became the focus of popular participation. These activities became so numerous that it became apparent that someone was required to coordinate these varied activities. San Diegan Moto Asakawa volunteered his services. Moto had already served as a member of Santa Anita Assembly Center’s short-lived attempt at self-government, and had also volunteered to serve as the Scoutmaster for Poston III’s newly chartered Boy Scout Troop. When not busy with his community work, Moto assisted his wife, Florence, in raising their one-year-old son, Bruce. Much to his parent’s pleasure, young Bruce had taken first place at Santa Anita’s “Baby Parade” just prior to his family’s relocation to Poston.30

For the new residents there was at least one happy change from the procedures required at Santa Anita. At Poston the internees were allowed to have visitors inside the camp proper. While at the Santa Anita Assembly Center, they had only been to receive their friends at the “visitors house,” and were unable to show them around the assembly center.31

At Poston there were numerous camp work projects that offered employment for the evacuees. These included jobs involving both the completion of camp facilities as well as tasks centering on war-related industries. Fusa Tsumagari worked as a secretary in the camp Construction Office. There, her job was to requisition materials needed for the completion of the camp facilities. Like the timekeeper job she had held at Santa Anita, this employment was not very demanding, but it at least provided her with a steady source of spending money.32

Louise Ogawa also went to work after graduating from Poston III’s high school in June, 1943. In a letter to Clara Breed she reports,


Yes, I am still employed at the school office. I am now classified as a stenographer. I take dictation, type letters, transcripts to be sent out to various schools where students have entered, take care of dittoing and mimeographing, file, answer the telephone, and take care of teachers reports, memo, etc. I work 8 hours a day and 4 hours on Saturdays making a 44 hour week. I am paid $16 a month.33

Hisako Watanabe wrote, “Here in Poston we are required to work a full 8 hours a day. It is also very hot and one does not feel in the mood to work at times. The other day the temperature went up to 110.”34

With the shortage of labor brought on by the war, selected younger Nikkei men and women were authorized to leave camp to work on the Western sugar beet harvest. Harvesting sugar beets turned out to be physically hard, and most of the workers were grateful to be able to return to Poston in time to have Thanksgiving with their families. These young people were ultimately sent to Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado and Nebraska as seasonal agricultural workers. Through their efforts the first wartime sugar beet crop was saved.

At first, the majority of these young Nisei were glad to be out of Poston, but the world on the other side of the barbed wire was still hostile to anyone with a Japanese face. They soon realized that at least Poston provided them with a supportive community. Louise Ogawa described the experience of an acquaintance,


On his return to Poston, one young man who had participated in the Colorado sugar beet harvest related to his family that he and some of his friends had gone into town to find a restaurant to get a bite to eat. The first thing the waitress at the restaurant asked them was, “Are you Japs?” When they politely replied, “No, ma’am, we’re Japanese Americans,” she turned her back on them and said, “We don’t serve Japs.”35

During their time outside of camp there were other, similar incidents that disappointed and disgusted the young Nikkei. In one instance, several Nisei farm workers asked a local policeman where a certain store was located. He unhesitatingly replied, “I don’t serve Japs,” whereupon one of the Nisei became angry and remarked, “All right, be that way! What do you think we came here for? We didn’t come to be made fun of, we came to help out because of the labor shortage!” Then the policeman apologized and showed them the way to the store. Because of these and similar incidents, many of these young men later said they were very glad to be able to leave Colorado and return to Poston.36

During this same period, progress was made in establishing a formal education system for the people at Poston. In the beginning there were twenty volunteer Caucasian teachers from colleges throughout the East and Midwest working in the school at Poston III. These twenty teachers were responsible for the instruction of all subject matter areas ranging from elementary school through high school. A major challenge faced by the camp faculty was the lack of instructional supplies. Three or four students were forced to share a single book, and there were no maps for social studies classes, or laboratory equipment for science lessons. In addition to the regular school curriculum, special classes taught skills ranging from shorthand to flower arranging.

The extent of the shortages can be illustrated by the fact that when the school at Poston III first opened, all the students were required to bring their own chairs from their barracks. Louise Ogawa, a high school senior at the time wrote, “Many rooms are not furnished with tables or chairs as of yet. So we have to bring our own chairs. The lower grades have tables.”37 Writing in May, 1943 Hisako Watanabe recalled,


The schools are better than what they were. When school started about three months ago there were no chairs, tables, books etc. It was just a barren room. Everyone had there father or brother make them a chair. We had to carry these chairs from one class to another.

Now we have tables, chairs and we just received our books. In our history class there are mags [magazines] and other things on the wall which make it look much more like a classroom.38

One of Fusa Tsumigari’s major assignments in the construction office was to requisition lumber for the carpenters to make enough tables and chairs for the students.39

At about the same time that a school system was established, and at the urging of the camp administration, the Poston III Public Library was organized by volunteer evacuees, and established in a vacant barracks in Block 325. Individuals and families throughout Camp III donated their own books, magazines, or money in a united effort to help build the collection. Books that had to be purchased were “rented” to people as they were checked out until the original cost of the book had been recovered. After they had been “paid off,” the books were simply checked out.40

Nine-year-old Katherine Tasaki wrote to Clara Breed, a San Diego city librarian,


This time there are more books, but before they didn’t have half as much, so the children’s books and the juvenile books were all mixed up on the same shelf. Since there are so many books [now], the library is cut in two sections. One half is the adults’ books and the other half is used for juvenile and children’s books.41

By the end of December, 1942, over a year after the events that had led to their internal exile had begun, Fusa Tsumigari wrote an answering letter to her friend, Clara Breed. At the time, Miss Breed was writing an article for the Library Journal on the establishment of libraries in the camps, and had written to her friend Fusa, requesting all the information that all the young Nisei could locate on the Poston libraries at Camps I, II and III. With the help of her brother, Yukio, Fusa was able to gather a quantity of material which she duly reported. She found that the Poston library system was divided into two branches; an Education Department, and the Poston Public Library. Further, each branch functioned as an independent unit, administering the policies, procedures, and regulations laid down by the Poston’s Head Librarian, who was usually an evacuee hired by the camp administration.42

The Central School Library for the entire camp complex was located at Poston II, and was supervised by Ethel Manning, a former California State Library worker from Colusa, California. She was employed by the WRA, who funded only the educational component of the Camp library system. Miss Manning supervised the distribution of school supplies including: text books, collateral reading materials, periodicals, and other miscellaneous readings materials. It is interesting to note that there were no maps of Arizona in either the educational or public libraries at Poston.43

In the midst of this harsh environment, the Nikkei began to rebuild their lives, and their communities. For all their attempts at normalization however, the fact remained that they were still prisoners. During their first four months at Poston, the San Diego Nikkei bore witness to a number of evacuee beatings by other residents, and strikes directed against the camp administration. The great majority of these disturbances occurred at Poston I. Those who were assaulted for reasons other than personal grudges, were either prominent members of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) who were urging cooperation with the camp administration, or evacuees who were suspected of being informants for the authorities.

Saburo Kido, the National President of the JACL, and a resident of Poston I, was one of the first to be so assaulted. Mr. Kido was attacked on the evening of September 25, 1942 by five assailants who were never identified. Later that month, a group of unidentified Nikkei came to the barracks of Tomo Ito, an influential member of the Poston community who supported cooperation with the authorities, and threatened to beat him if he continued to work with the camp administration. Fred Ota, the General Manager of Poston Community Enterprises, was similarly “warned.”44 Members of the army’s Military Intelligence Section believed that the attacks and threats were instigated by Keisuke Yamada and Revered Matsutani Mitani, who were also widely respected by many people at Poston. Major James Huges, a military intelligence officer assigned to Poston, reported that Yamada and Mitani were using their positions in the economic and social life of Poston to intimidate “loyal” Nikkei.45

At the beginning of November, 1942, the people at Poston III heard reports of a disturbance at “Camp One” where, according to Camp Manager Wade Head, “pro-axis elements representing a small but well organized group, incited the people to go out on strike.” It was later reported by other evacuees that a group of men had attacked an unknown number of people who were rumored to be informants for the camp administration. Further, the Camp III residents were told, that two of the men who were attacked were Lyle Kurasaki and Kay Nishimura, both leaders in the Poston JACL. Two of the men who were reported to have taken part in the attacks were arrested for “Attacking with Intent to Murder.” The attackers were reportedly to be held for transport to Phoenix by the FBI where there would be a judicial hearing.

As it turned out the people of Poston I were unwilling to allow the transfer to Phoenix to take place. A letter written by Fusa Tsumagari graphically reflected a split in sympathies at Poston marked on one hand by the evacuees’ outrage at the offenders being forced to face trial and possible imprisonment outside of Poston, and on the other, by traditional Japanese respect for law and order felt by many at Poston. This conflict of emotions and values characterizes one of the major dilemmas faced by the Nikkei during the camp experience.


They [the people of Poston I] did not want these men taken to Phoenix and tried for two reasons: first, they did not believe the men were guilty of the charges against them; second, if taken to Phoenix they probably wouldn’t get a fair trial. The people built large bonfires near the police station and stayed there all night to be on guard [and] make sure the men were not taken out while everyone was asleep…A proposition has been set up by the people for the men to have their trial here…The terrible thing about having the trial here is that if anyone goes up on the stand against these men they will be in for a tough time, and yet the people are unwilling to let them go to Phoenix because they think the jury would be biased before the trial…You know, the people who spy on their own people may profit monetarily, but in the long run they are asking for trouble and they know it before they start….when situations like this arise we know they were asking for it, but when crowds get violently mad it is really terrible.

I really don’t know what my philosophy is, but I’m trying awfully hard to keep it balanced in these times. One day I feel one way, then the next, some other way, but I try to keep my balance.46

After a week of protests lead largely by militant Issei and Kibei, and marked indecision on the part of the camp administration, everyone calmed down and began to talk. It was decided that the prisoners would not be transferred to Phoenix or Yuma, but would be tried in camp. In addition, a new representative self-governing body would be formed, and the camp administration would pursue the issue of the Niseis’ rights as citizens. At the same time the JACL continued to lobby the WRA to press the issue of Nikkei enlistment in the armed forces with their superiors in Washington.47

Heightening the tension at Camp III was a report that there had been an arson set fire at the San Diego Buddhist Temple where many families had stored the personal effects that they had been unable to take as they were moved to Santa Anita. Louise Ogawa wrote,


I have heard there was afire at the Buddhist Temple. Was it a big fire? Do you know how bad the damage was? We have been quite worried because all our belongings which we left behind, we stored at the Buddhist Church. I certainly hope the damages were not too severe. We stored such things as the World Book Encyclopedia, trunks, a little of our furniture, other books, my Japanese kimono, and a box of Japanese canned food we planned to bring with us, but were unable to. I would appreciate it if you would inform me. Father is very worried.48

Yoshiko Watanabe representing another family with concerns wrote Clara Breed, “We had all our possessions in the Buddhist Temple. Do you know whether or not, everything burned?”49

These growing feelings of uneasiness and resentment were compounded even further by the fact that military aircraft were making low flights, or “buzzing” the camps at all hours. The intensity of feeling generated by these activities may be judged from a letter written by Tetsuo Hirasaki,


Say, what is this? Just as I wrote this, three bombers came roaring overhead flying so low that the barracks shook. Every now and then the Chinese Air Force who are training somewhere close to Poston, come zooming down at us here in camp. They must think it’s funny. A couple of weeks ago, one of the bombers (twin motored Douglas attack bomber) crashed on the other side of the Colorado and burst into flames. It wasn’t right, but a lot of us were kinda glad in a cynical sort of way. God forgive us for the thoughts that are beginning to run amok in our brains.50

A little over a month later Louise Ogawa wrote,


In the day time they [the military aircraft] often swoop down very low and try to scare us. They don”t scare us anymore – just get on our nerves. Now a ruling has been issued that if they swoop down on us lower that 200″, we should take down the number and report it to the officials.51

Another source of contention and dispute within Poston and the Nikkei camp communities centered on the issue of service in the armed forces. In March 1942, all Nikkei men not previously enlisted in the armed forced of the United States were classified by the Selective Service Commission as 4C, a category designed for, “Aliens not subject for service.” This decision came as a great disappointment to many Nisei and Kibei who were not only willing, but eager for a chance to prove their loyalty to America.

On December 3, 1942, evacuee representatives from the camps began returning from a week-long, government-sanctioned National JACL meeting in Salt Lake City. At this gathering, JACL representatives had once again urged WRA and military officials to open the draft to the Nisei. Finally, and after protracted discussion, the federal officials in attendance agreed to support the JACL’s proposal, and the jubilant representatives returned to their respective camps with what they considered “good news.” Many of the residents of the camps however, did not view potential military service from the same perspective as the JACL leadership. Chief among those were individuals and groups that remained resentful at the way they had been treated by their own government. The thought of being conscripted to fight for the country that had denied them their most fundamental constitutional rights only intensified their resentment.52

At Poston, National JACL President Saburo Kido was beaten a second time in retaliation for his role in advocating the opening the draft to the Nikkei. On the night of January 31, 1943, a group of eight assailants carried out a well planned and coordinated attack on Kido. The attackers first wedged shut the doors of Kido’s neighbors so that they could not assist him. They then removed the hinges from the door of the JACL President”s quarters and stormed in. In front of his wife and child, Kido was beaten with wooden clubs so severely that he had to be hospitalized for three weeks.53

In response to the attack, the Poston II police arrested eight suspects who were later described by the Poston Chronicle, as “Kibei trouble-makers.” Those involved in the assault were all residents of Camp II, and ranged in age from eighteen to thirty-seven. George Inouye, James Tanaka, Tadao Hasegawa, Tetsuo Inokuchi, Mitsuto Kurimoto, Miyoshi Matsuda, Kataru Urabe and James Toya were all found guilty of the attack by the Poston Judicial Committee, and were removed to Yuma under provisions of WRA Administrative Instruction Number 34, to stand trial. All of the attackers, except for Urabe, pled guilty to the charge of assault with a deadly weapon. Receiving four-year sentences the attackers served their time at the Arizona State Penitentiary at Florence. The charges against Kataru Urabe were eventually dropped due to a lack of evidence. One of the major reasons Urabe was released was that the forty-one year old Kido refused to testify against him or any other of his assailants claiming, “they were just mixed-up kids.”54

For some of the Nisei at Poston, the opportunity to enlist was the chance they had been waiting for. Many saw enlistment in the armed forces as the best way to finally prove their ultimate loyalty was to the United States. The right of voluntary enlistment for the Nikkei had been a high priority issue for the JACL which had been heavily lobbying the Selective Service Commission since February, 1942. The centerpiece of the proposal advocated changing the Nikkei draft rating from 4C to 1A, “eligible for service.”55

On February 1, 1943, President Franklin Roosevelt instructed Secretary of War Henry Stimson to once again, not only allow the Nikkei to enlist in the armed forces, but also be made re-eligible for the draft.56 For senior WRA officials however, there still remained some question of the relative loyalty of Nikkei citizens to the United States. Acting without apparent forethought, a questionnaire was developed by the WRA bureaucracy to answer the agency’s “loyalty issue.” From its inception the WRA’s effort was dogged by controversy. In the final analysis the WRA efforts to establish the loyalty of their evacuee wards floundered on a combination of Nikkei indignation over their treatment during relocation, and the defective phrasing of the two most crucial questions on the agency’s “loyalty” form.

The offending questions were numbers 27 and 28 of the imperfectly titled “Application for Leave Clearance,” which read as follows:


27. Are you willing to serve in the Armed forces of the United States on combat duty, whenever ordered?

28. Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and foreswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese Emperor, to any other foreign government, power or organization?57

Because of their particular construction, the answers to these two questions concerned all Nikkei, but most affected were the Issei, and all adult women.

Nikkei women read question 27 with some fear and trepidation. Even though the form had been modified for Nisei women, it still made reference to “volunteer” military service. This statement raised the question in the women’s minds of not knowing if they would become eligible to be sent into combat along with the men if they answered “yes.” In Japanese culture it was acceptable, even proper, to send a son off to war for their country. But for many Issei parents, the very prospect of sending their daughters into combat was appalling.

The controversy surrounding question 28 devolved upon the nature of existing Federal law. Under federal regulations then in force, the Issei were ineligible to ever become citizens of the United States. After reading question number 28, many evacuees came to believe that if the Issei renounced their Japanese citizenship they would in fact become stateless persons. In their minds this was comparable to assuming the status of a ronin of Japan’s feudal period—an honorless samurai with no master or home. Additionally, the very title of the form was misleading. The appellation, “Application for Leave Clearance,” troubled many of the Issei who were afraid that if they completed the form they would be forced to leave camp. While impounded, they at least possessed a modicum of personal security.58

Nisei males were also troubled by the implications of question 28. It is clear from individual reactions to the form, that months of being under overt and hostile suspicion had begun to take their toll. Many considered 28 a “trick question” and feared that if they answered “yes” it would be taken to mean that they had once been loyal to Japan and that their relocation was justified. In addition, there were widespread rumors, whose veracity was intensified by the very nature on the enclosed camp environment, that any Nikkei who volunteered to serve would be sent overseas to be used as shock troops, or be killed outright by the United States Army. At Jerome, Arkansas, another rumor that was widely circulated was that the ships taking the Nikkei overseas would be sunk in the middle of the Atlantic. These rumors were also of concern to those Nikkei who had entered the army prior to December 7, 1941, and those who had chosen to volunteer for service with military intelligence units as translators in the Pacific theater of the war.59

In the end, some Issei responded “Yes-Yes” to questions 27 and 28, even though by doing so, they were making themselves stateless persons. Others, Issei and Nisei, were motivated by the old Japanese proverb, “If not your mother, then your adopted mother,” which carried the implication that the proper thing to do is support and defend the one who cared for you, regardless of bloodline. For most Nikkei, this meant the United States. Even though they were beyond the age of maximum eligibility, a number of the Issei also volunteered for combat duty to show their support and loyalty to the United States.60

The turmoil resulting from questions 27 and 28 represented a critical juncture in the lives of many Nisei and Kibei. For these young men, the dilemma was especially acute. If they answered “yes,” they became either eligible for the draft and could be sent to fight and die for a country that many felt had wrongfully imprisoned them and their families, or they might even be forced to leave camp and establish a home without the benefit of the Nikkei community for support. If any Nikkei, man or woman, answered “no” to the questions, they faced the prospect of additional WRA investigations into their loyalty and possibility of being transferred to the Tule Lake Relocation Camp, and perhaps, even be repatriated to Japan.61

On Friday, January 29, 1943, the headline of the Poston Chronicle read, “US ARMY TO FORM NISEI DIVISION.” Secretary of War Henry Stimson was quoted as saying that the formation of an all-Nikkei combat unit was authorized after, “a careful study by the War Department.” Wade Head, the Project Director at Poston, announced that this action by the War Department was “…the consummation of a long campaign on the part of the Nisei and their parents, as well as, a vast host of their Caucasian friends.”62

Some at Poston, like Tets Hirasaki, jumped at the chance to serve and volunteered at the earliest possible moment. Others looked at the situation with a more resigned pragmatic outlook, and ultimately concluded that, “…if we all pitch-in and fight the war will be over, and we’ll be out of camp, that much sooner.”63

Just as the beatings of the JACL leaders who had advocated Nikkei enlistment had shown, the news of the War Department”s decision was not met with universal jubilation by the evacuees. At Poston, fifteen Nikkei, most of whom had answered “no” on questions 27 and 28, refused to take the pre-induction physical examination, and thirty-eight refused induction. A few young men attempted to avoid induction by artificially raising their blood-pressure above the acceptable standards for enlistment. This was done by ingesting a quantity of shoyu or soy sauce in the hope that the high sodium content of the liquid would effect their systems sufficiently causing them to fail their physical. Despite these and other similar attempts by a few, the far greater number of young Nisei duly reported to the administration buildings at their respective camps to enlist, or at least register with the Selective Service Commission.

The number of young Nikkei enlisting or registering experienced a corresponding increase as young Nisei women came forward and volunteered to join the Women”s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). Also impacting the registration rate was the news that even those who had answered “no” to questions 27 and 28 were to be subject to the draft.64

It became a common occurrence that each of the young men who was accepted for service was given three or four “going away parties” by different groups inside Poston. The kitchen workers, construction workers and, the favorite among the young men, the Nikkei WAACs, all threw parties for the departing enlistees. Some of the organizations giving the parties gave more than one for the same young men because their departure date kept being pushed back. As of August 4, 1944, one-hundred and twenty Poston Nisei had been called to active duty, one-hundred and fifty-one were placed on active reserve, and twelve had been classified for limited service. To his great disappointment, Tets Hirasaki was one of the twelve turned down because of physical complications.


Regret to inform you that for the good of the country and the morale of the U.S. Army I have been, “rejected for general military service” as a result of my physical examination. I have applied for limited military service although present plans for limited service men do not include the Japanese American Combat Unit.65

With the nation’s military and political leadership altering their position on Nikkei military service, the WRA took this moment as an opportune time to initiate existing plans which they believed would eventually facilitate the closing of the camps.

In retrospect, perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the entire relocation experience is that almost as soon as the Nikkei were lodged in their “permanent” relocation centers, the national government through the WRA initiated a policy designed ultimately to move them out and “resettle them.” A direct result of the WRA”s newly announced “resettlement strategy,” and the agency”s clumsy handling of the “loyalty issue,” resulted in a heightened degree of frustration and apprehension among the vast majority of the imprisoned Nikkei. While it had always been the intention of the army to detain the Nikkei for the duration of the war, such a goal had never been either the policy or the intent of the WCCA or the WRA.66

Despite the misgivings many evacuees had about leaving camp, the WRA, with the grudging approval of the War Department, mounted an intensive effort to begin permanently resettling the Nikkei in areas around the United States outside the military exclusion zones. Dillon S. Myer, the head of the WRA, announced in January 1943, that he hoped to resettle and find jobs for about four thousand evacuees by June. He further estimated, that a total of seventy-five thousand Nikkei would be resettled by the end of 1943. On January 29, 1943, the same day the Poston Chronicle carried the story of the formation of the new all-Nikkei 442 Regimental Combat Team, Poston Director Wade Head announced that the camp administration would, “…speed up the process of leave clearance.” In addition, he stated that he hoped that this action, “…would allow the placement of hundreds of women, as well as men who are not physically acceptable by the Army, in jobs throughout the country.”67

To encourage and facilitate the Nikkei to relocate outside of camps, the WRA set up field offices throughout the United States designed to help the evacuees locate housing and employment. The first five field offices were opened in Salt Lake City, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, and Chicago. Each of these principal offices was also responsible for the establishment and staffing of eight to twelve subsidiary field stations. These stations served the dual purpose of finding local employment for the Nikkei who choose to relocate, and providing potential employers with information relative to skills, education, or any special training possessed by the former camp residents. To further expedite the resettlement program, every Nikkei man and woman over seventeen years of age was required to complete either a WRA questionnaire, or a military service eligibility form. In this manner, the WRA and the military hoped to accomplish the dual goals of encouraging the resettlement program and determining the eligibility of Nisei men for service simultaneously.68

While the resettlement program was not compulsory, registration for it was. On March 1, 1943, residents of Poston began to report to their respective block mess hall to complete the required paper-work. For the camp administration, it was an ambitious plan. They hoped to interview and register a total of ten thousand aliens and female citizens in three days time, and have all of Poston registered within six days. To do this required two-hundred and fifty interviewers who were drawn from the Camp’s Caucasian staff, Nikkei employees, and evacuee volunteers. Military personnel were designated to interview all male, citizen, Nikkei in order to determine their fitness for military service, and if determined unfit, then make a recommendation as to their eligibility to relocate. In response to the flood of questions received by his office, Camp Director Wade Head felt compelled to issue the following statement:


1. This mass registration is compulsory.

2. Questions asked to aliens will differ slightly from questions asked to female citizens.

3. This registration is not a move to compel residents to leave the camp.

4. Any alien who does not sign the leave clearance papers will be reported to the FBI.

On March 5, a full day ahead of schedule, Director Head announced that the registration at Poston was completed. Poston’s chief administrator further stated that once the results were processed, those determined eligible would be granted permission to leave immediately. It was later announced that all of the applications would be fully processed by May 1, 1943.69

Among the Nikkei at Poston III who decided to resettle at this time was Fusa Tsumigari. Fusa relocated to Chicago where she lived with her younger brother Yukio and his wife. Between the workers at the WRA field office in Chicago and her family, Fusa was able to find employment at a small restaurant. Her mother and younger sister decided to remain at Poston to see how re-settlement worked out for those who left early. Fusa’s father, Takeji Tsumagari, formally the operator of the Pacific Hotel located on Fifth and Island, had been detained by the FBI during the days following Pearl Harbor because he was a leader in San Diego’s Nikkei business community. He was eventually separately interned at the Justice Department facility located at Crystal City, Texas. In 1944, his wife and younger daughter were allowed to join him there.70

By the end of March 1943, only seventy-seven people out of the almost twenty thousand who were being held at Poston had actually applied for leave, and been granted clearance. In order to encourage more evacuees to apply and relocate, the application process underwent the first of several “streamlining” exercises. Director Head announced that his office would issue leave permits, under specific circumstances, to those who had not yet been granted clearance. There were eight prerequisites required for the new leave category. Among these prerequisites: the applicant must have registered for leave clearance during the compulsory registration period in March, and they also must have answered an unqualified “yes” to question 28 of the application for leave clearance.71 Further, the applicant could not have previously applied for expatriation of their United States citizenship, or repatriation to Japan, be a paroled alien, or a Shinto priest. The applicant could not have received a previous denial or suspension of leave clearance, or be employed within the Western Defense Command. Finally, Nikkei wishing to relocate had to provide assurance that they would not interfere with any war-related program.72

Once again, despite all the encouragement and urging from the camp administration, most of the Nikkei declined to accept the director’s offer, preferring for a variety of reasons, to remain at Poston. The WRA eventually even went so far as to offer one-hundred dollars to assist families in the relocation process. In April 1944, more than a year-and-a-half after the former San Diego Nikkei had arrived at Poston, most of them were still steadfastly unwilling to relocate any further into the unknown. A survey of three thousand evacuees from all three Poston camps conducted at this time revealed that over seventy percent were not considering relocation outside of Poston. In addition, forty-two percent of those polled felt that the hundred dollars assistance was completely inadequate to allow them to resettle successfully. Many Poston residents indicated that they believed that they would be unable to find jobs to support themselves, or would face intense anti-Japanese hostility in the communities they relocated to. At Poston, many internees rationalized, they were at least guaranteed a place to live and three meals a day, as well as the support of the Nikkei community they knew and were familiar with.73

At this juncture many residents also feared that if they left Poston and were unable to find a place to live; under existing WRA policies, they would not be allowed to return to camp. In an attempt to alleviate this last concern, Director Head announced that anyone who left Poston and could not relocate successfully, would not barred from returning. The Director qualified his statement however, by stating that he anticipated “…that the number of people coming back will be small.” In addition, Head remarked that he hoped that “…everyone who leaves Poston will successfully integrate into the economic and social patterns of American life.”74

For all the time and effort expended by the WRA administrators, the fact remained that many of the Nikkei were reluctant to leave camp because of the hostility they felt they might have to face in their new communities. The camp administration actually made a tacit admission that conditions outside of Poston were not as friendly as everyone had hoped. In May 1944, the Poston Chronicle ran an advice column directed at perspective farmers who might be considering resettlement. The article pointedly counseled them not to rent or buy land immediately upon moving to a new community, but rather to first find a job there, and “become acquainted” with the area and people. The article noted that some relocating evacuees had bought or rented land “…in communities with which they were unfamiliar and were later forced to leave.” It was the established WRA policy to actively discourage the relocating Nikkei from purchasing or renting farm land unless the local relocation officer had indicated that the area was suitable for resettlement.75

Almost as soon as the WRA policy of resettlement was announced, the forces that had historically been hostile to the San Diego’s Nikkei community began to muster their resources. The opening salvo was fired on June 2, 1943, when the San Diego Union published an editorial which attacked the WRA policy of releasing the Nikkei and resettling them outside of the camps. This same editorial also took pains to quote the charge made by the Dies committee that many of these Nikkei were trained agents of the military forces of Imperial Japan.76 The Union‘s editorial writer also lauded General DeWitt as a field commander who was familiar with the “Japanese problem” in California and the West, and repeated the general’s now infamous, “a Jap’s a Jap” statement. The San Diego daily editorially concluded that if the WRA continued its policy of releasing the Nikkei, “…the American people may soon find an invasion force of 119,000 Japs has been landed by the War Relocation Authority.” Subsequent Union articles recounted lurid stories of atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, and stated that the Nikkei in the camps were also members of the “same treacherous race.”77

The city government of San Diego likewise considered it necessary at this moment in history to take a strong, public anti-Japanese stance. On June 8, 1943, the San Diego City Council passed a resolution in support of the Nikkei removal. The evacuation, argued the city leaders, was based on “military necessity” and had been well thought out and executed. As a consequence, the City Council felt moved to strongly protest the release of the Nikkei, who they noted, might even be allowed to return to the West Coast. The council was obviously not very well informed, or thorough, in its research of the WRA’s intent, or the terms of General DeWitt’s exclusion order. Under that order, the Nikkei were still barred from entering any military exclusion zone, and the entire West Coast fell within the largest such zone.78

In September 1943, General Delos C. Emmons replaced General John L. DeWitt as the commander of the Western Defense Command. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Emmons had replaced General Walter C. Short as the Commander of the Hawaiian Department. In that position he actively countered the near hysterical charges of sabotage made by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox in the days following the Pearl Harbor attack. In mid-December, 1941 Emmons stated that no evidence of sabotage by Japanese Americans had been found, and throughout 1942 he frustrated plans hatched in Washington, D.C. to forcibly remove twenty thousand Hawaiian Nikkei to the mainland. Upon taking command of the Western Defense Command in 1943, Emmons immediately and quietly began to take steps to lift the travel and residency restrictions placed on the Nikkei by General DeWitt’s orders. As selected, individual Nikkei began returning to California. Louise Ogawa wrote from Chicago,


Yes, I have heard (that) people are returning to California. I am happy that we are being accepted again in our cities where we spent so much of our happy moments. I too would like to go to San Diego and yet hesitate. With public sentiment as it is, I think it might be best to start life anew in a new community. Making wonderful friends like you, I know will take time for we must first prove to them ourselves. Life would be wonderful if all this hatred and racial discrimination was abolished from the earth. But I believe that this war has taught all of us a great deal. I know it has for me. I have come to appreciate so many things that I have taken for granted before the war.79

On Tuesday, December 17, 1944, the military order that had initially expelled the Nikkei from the West Coast was rescinded by the army’s Western Defense Command making it possible for most Nikkei to return to their former homes.80

Still in Poston, Tets Hirasaki wrote Clara Breed, “The big news here is the lifting of the mass exclusion act for persons of Japanese ancestry. Everything for leave processing has not been clarified as yet. All this rather has me all up in the air.. I haven’t been able to think much about it. The suddenness and the magnitude of this problem took us all by surprise.” Fusa Tsumagari, writing from Minneapolis expressed caution.


The news of being able to go back to California has been accepted with mingled feeling. First of all we’re more than glad that the ban has been lifted, as it rightfully should be. Those with property are wanting to go back, but wondering how the sentiment will be. Of course we know good friends like you would be glad to have us back but others who do not know us or understand us may not be so glad. As for us not so fortunate to have property in California, we’re content to stay here for a while, or maybe for the rest of our life…82

Continuing to encourage the remaining evacuees to relocate, the Poston administration stated that WRA resources and assistance would be made available for relocation to the West Coast on the same basis as to other parts of the United States. At the same time, it was also pointedly announced that all relocation camps would be closed within the next six months to a year, with the caveat that no center would be closed without at least three months advance notice to the residents. Essential services, such as housing, food and health care would continue to be provided by the WRA until their particular center was closed. Schools would also be maintained at Poston and the other the centers, but only through the end of the 1944-45 school year.83 Tets Hirasaki further observed,


Christmas here in Poston will be one of thanksgiving. However there are many who look with misgiving toward the new year with the prospect of the closing of the centers next year. They have nothing to start anew on the outside.84

Even as the Nikkei faced the prospect of both overt and covert hostility upon their release, the security of their former prison seemed about to dissolve. At a mass meeting of residents from all three Poston camps held in the gym at Poston I, it was announced by the administration that the option of remaining at Poston for more than a year was “out of the question.” Duncan Mills, who had replaced Wade Head as the director of Poston, did his best to assure the internees that the government had ample resources to assist them in relocating to their new homes. Mills went on to say that it was extremely important that everyone begin formulating a plan for leaving Poston to avoid a confusing, last-minute rush when the camp actually closed. At this same meeting it was also announced that the WRA had opened regional offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles to assist Nikkei who wished to return to their former homes on the West Coast.85

In January 1945, as a prelude to closing camp the administration at Poston initiated a calculated program of consolidating facilities. A special committee of evacuees and WRA officials was created to evaluate any mess hall that served less than 125 people. It fell to this committee to determine which mess halls would be closed and which consolidated. In addition, nothing was to be planted in the community gardens that could not be harvested by July 1, 1945. No additional construction projects were to be undertaken, and facility maintenance was decreased so that the purchase of new equipment would not be required.86

The consolidation order also applied to the school system at Poston. Elementary and secondary schools at the three camps were scheduled to be closed on June 4, 1945, and there was to be no nursery school services offered beyond August 31, 1945. Camp authorities projected that the school faculty and administration would vacate Poston sometime in June or July, particularly as there was no money allocated to pay their salaries after June 4, 1945. All student records were to be shipped to Washington, D.C., and parents could contact the Justice Department for copies once their children were enrolled in their new schools. High school students at Poston would, however, be allowed to make up fractional credits during the summer of 1945 in order to receive their diplomas, or adapt their credits to another school’s system. It was emphasized that this was not a continuation of the regular school courses, and special permission from the camp administration was required for a student to take these classes.87

Young Katherine Tasaki, just four months shy of her thirteenth birthday, wrote to her friend Clara Breed, “I’ll be seeing you soon, because we’re going back to San Diego soon. The camp is going to close in 1946, but after this year [1945], we aren’t going to have any more school. And just after they finished the new high school building too.”88

To further encourage the internees to leave Poston, the camp administration began to sponsor advanced scouting parties that were lead by Nikkei community leaders. These parties made return trips to their former home sites to investigate how the evacuees would be received by the community. In early February 1945, the San Diego Nikkei sent the first group from Poston to survey conditions in their former home. The party was led by the Congregational pastor Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, who was accompanied by Henry Koide and Yutaka Fujii. The trip by train from Parker, Arizona to San Diego was filled with anxiety. Rumors were rife in Poston about threats of beatings and lynching if the Nikkei actually returned to their former homes in California.

Even as Reverend Kikuchi and his group made their way to San Diego, his wife, Yoshiko gave release to some of her anxieties for the safety of their family by writing an evocative poem as part of an article for a Japanese literary magazine published at Poston,


Should we go west to our old nest,

Or should we go east to explore a new land,

There may be a big storm tomorrow.89

The tension felt by the scouting party began to ease the closer they came to San Diego. Reverend Kikuchi was greatly relieved to see the party of exiles share their railway coach with a group of returning sailors without incident. After a one-week stay in San Diego without encountering any major problems, the scouting party returned to Poston and at a community forum held at Poston III, Reverend Kikuchi encouraged the former San Diegans to return to their homes. He assured them that the worst they would have to deal with would be the congestion in San Diego since the city had grown over the course of the war from 203,341 to a population of 415,875.90

On June 23, 1945, the San Diego Nikkei were given the deadline for leaving Poston by the camp administration. It was announced that Poston Camps II and III were scheduled to close on October 1, 1945—coincidentally, the same day that the near-by Gila River, Relocation Center South of Phoenix was to be closed. These announcements were made in accordance with the WRA’s policy of giving the internees three months prior notice before closing a camp. The camp administration stated they fully expected that all of the residents of Camps II and III would be out and resettled well before the October 1 deadline. Under the conditions of the closure order the only internees eligible for transfers to Camp I, which would remain open until December 1, were those who required continued public assistance or some type of institutional care.

WRA director Dillon S. Myer stated that it was his intention to have all of the camps under WRA jurisdiction close successively, not simultaneously, so as not to overburden the WRA’s resettlement resources. Myer stated his belief that conditions, including public opinion, for the resettling the Nikkei were better now than they had been in the recent past. The director also felt that some haste was justified in closing the camps and relocating the Nikkei because of the predicted shortage of transportation and housing caused by the re-deployment of military troops across the country following the defeat of Nazi Germany. Myer concluded that the WRA was well positioned to assist the Nikkei in making travel arrangements, transporting personal and household goods, finding housing, and assisting with employment.

In a private memo to his center directors Myer expressed his concern that the Congress had barely passed an appropriation bill providing enough money to operate the WRA centers until December 31, 1946, and “…did so only after it defeated, by a small majority of only 18 votes, an amendment that sought to cut our appropriation by $5,000,000 and that would have required the WRA to wind up all its business by next January 1.[1946].”91

On June 29, 1945, and in reaction to Dillon Myers’ telegraphic announcement of June 22nd, Director Mills received a petition from a committee composed nineteen Community Council members, Block Managers, and Department Heads of Camps II and III. Their petition stated,


The committee, after deliberation on the matter, firmly voice the opposition to closing Units 2 and 3 of Poston on or before October 1, 1945. However, we will continue to respect the plans of individual’s who are capable of relocation.92

The committee’s petition not withstanding, Poston’s director, Duncan Mills, echoed Myer’s urging for the Nikkei to depart the camps as rapidly as possible. Director Mills especially encouraged the residents of Poston II and III to try to leave during the month of August when, he claimed, the WRA would be able to fully and effectively meet the needs of the returning Nikkei before the mass exodus that was sure to follow the mandatory closure of all the camps, “when all personal and facilities will be taxed to the utmost.” He reiterated Myer’s claims that the sooner the Nikkei made the decision to resettle, the easier it would be for them to arrange transportation and find housing. It was also announced that the WRA appropriations for resettlement of the Nikkei for the 1945 fiscal year had been approved, but might not last through the projected termination of the internment program in December..93

On September 12, 1945, a specially chartered train left Parker, Arizona carrying those residents of Poston III who had opted to return to San Diego. Unfortunately, there are no existing WRA or Justice Department records available that indicate how many former residents of Poston III returned to San Diego on this train. Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, in a 1978 oral interview, indicated that he believed the majority of Nikkei returning to San Diego from Poston were on this train.94

A handful of former San Diego Nikkei waited until the last minute to leave Poston. Katsumi Takashima, the onetime “mayor” of Poston, remained in camp until the end of September, 1945. After finally departing Poston, he took his family to Phoenix where he bought an “old, junked Packard” with some of the money he had managed to save while at camp. From Phoenix he drove to Thermal, California where his brother Kiyoshi was farming on rented land. He left his wife and daughter with his brother and proceeded to Los Angeles where he was able to obtain a job as a real estate agent and ultimately to buy a house. Once he was financially secure, he brought his family to Los Angeles where they proceeded to establish themselves.95

Leaving Los Angeles in 1951, the Takashimas returned to San Diego where they had left a lemon grove, planted just before the war, in the care of a lessee, John Wonder. Unfortunately, Wonder had not tended the grove during the Takashima’s absence and most of the citrus trees died. Wonder offered Takashima thirty-five thousand dollars to buy the ranch and cover all the back rent. Takashima declined, opting instead to keep his farm.96

Moto Asakawa, who had left Poston earlier for Yellow Springs, Ohio, also brought his family back to San Diego after the war. On their return Moto and his brother George discovered that their family’s Mission Valley farmland had been escheated by the State of California. Working with their local attorney the brothers successfully challenged the state’s escheat action and regained title to their family’s property. With carefully conserved capital Moto was able to open the Presidio Nursery off of Morena Boulevard just below the present site of the University of San Diego. Moto Asakawa became one of the most prominent and respected nurserymen in California. Active in the California Nurserymen’s Association, he served two terms as president of that statewide organization in 1974 and 1975. He owned and operated the Presidio Nursery until his retirement in 1987. His oldest son, Bruce (the winner of the Santa Anita “Baby Parade”), also became a respected nurseryman, and operated the Bonita Nursery until 1985. Bruce Asakawa is presently the host of a popular call-in radio gardening show.97

Ben Segawa was sixteen when his family returned to San Diego. His father began farming in Chula Vista and Ben finished high school. He recalled in a recent interview that before the war, his father had no problems doing business with non-Nikkei, even though his English was never polished. After the internment, Ben’s father always wanted one of his Nisei children to be with him to act as an interpreter when he did business. Ben went on to enlist for four years in the United States Air Force, becoming one of the first Nikkei to be accepted by that service. He finished his military assignment with a two-year tour of duty with the United Nations peace-keeping forces in Okinawa. He returned to San Diego where he obtained a job with Grove Chemical Company of Chula Vista as a fertilizer salesman. He retired in 1985 as a part owner and the company’s vice-president. He married Katherine Tasaki, a Clara Breed correspondent, who was also at Poston III. Together they raised three children. Ben Segawa currently works part-time as a real estate agent and spends his free time doing volunteer work for Kiku Gardens Retirement Center and the Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego.98

Doctor Roy Kiyoshi Tanaka, along with his wife and sister, returned to San Diego from his sojourn at the Jerome, Arkansas Relocation Center almost as soon as the exclusion order was lifted. Because of Executive Order 9066 he had been forced to leave his practice and his position on the staff of San Diego’s Mercy Hospital. The hospital administrators, however, were not at all happy to lose such a promising and compassionate young doctor. They wrote to Tanaka at Jerome and informed him that they merely considered him to be on an “extended leave of absence.” Even though he was unable at first to locate office space upon his return to San Diego, he was able to resume practicing medicine at Mercy Hospital. Later, Dr. Tanaka would co-found the Guadalupe Clinic in Barrio Logan.99

While some Nikkei faced hostility and discrimination when they returned to San Diego, Dr. Tanaka was more fortunate. While making house-calls, he would often find a woman and her children home alone with a picture of a man in uniform on the mantel. When he asked if it was a picture of her husband, the woman would usually say, “yes.” When he asked if the husband was well, sometimes the reply would be, “No, he died in the Pacific.” Somewhat perplexed, he would ask, “It’s obvious that I’m of Japanese descent, do you still want me to treat you?” To his comfort, the reply was always, “Of course. You didn’t start the war.”100

Reverend Kenji Kikuchi worked tirelessly to resettle returning Nikkei after their release from the camps, and to assist them in making a successful transition back into the life of their old community. At the same time he returned to the pulpit of the Japanese Congregational Church of San Diego at 13th and J Street. In 1950 he led his congregation to a new location on Ocean View Boulevard. Reverend Kikuchi continued to serve the San Diego Nikkei community until his retirement in 1962. His grateful congregation granted Reverend Kikuchi the title of “Pastor Emeritus.”

Tetsuo Hirosaki and Yoshiko Louise Ogawa both returned to San Diego, and reestablished their disrupted lives. Neither Fusa Tsumagari nor any of her family returned to their pre-war home.

In the final analysis, it is difficult to determine how many of the Nikkei returned to San Diego immediately following the closure of Poston. As of August 25, 1945, only three hundred of the nearly two thousand Nikkei who were evacuated had returned to San Diego County. A report issued by the War Agency Liquidation Unit (WALU, formerly the WRA) after the conclusion of the World War II indicated that many local Nikkei went to Palm City to work on farms and ranches. Just prior to the evacuation of the San Diego Nikkei, the San Diego Union reported that in 1940 there were a total of four hundred and seventy-one Nikkei families living in San Diego. By the early 1950s, their numbers had almost returned their pre-war levels. The 1952, Zaibei Nikkeijin Jushoroku, published by the Shin Nichibei Shimbunsha, reported that four hundred and seventeen Nikkei families were living or owned businesses in San Diego County.101

While the number of Nikkei in San Diego eventually rebounded from its wartime loss, the physical community had been changed irrevocably. The pre-war “Japanese” business district that once had been bounded by Market Street on the north and Island Avenue on the south, Third Avenue on the east and Seventh Avenue on the west, no longer existed. After April 8, 1942, the physical San Diego Nikkei community ceased to exist all together. The diaspora had the same effect on Nikkei housing patterns. After the war, the former residents of the camps were scattered throughout San Diego County, coming together only for community events or activities involving the churches, temple, JACL, or other group functions.

Those Nikkei who had been able to purchase their own fishing boats prior to the outbreak of the war saw their ships confiscated by the United States government. Many of these confiscated boats were taken over by the United States Navy and converted and used as patrol boats in the Pacific fighting Japan. The Nikkei fishermen in San Diego who had made so many contributions to the growth and success of the industry never recovered from the trauma of the war. When Moto Asakawa was asked why he thought the Nikkei community in San Diego did not develop along its pre-war lines, he laughed and said off-handedly, “I guess we just didn’t want to make so easy for them to round us all up next time.”102

It may be argued, that in many ways the Nikkei have two immigrant generations. The Issei who first came to the United States with few material resources were forced to make many personal sacrifices to ensure that their children had a place in American society. When the Nisei returned from camp, their savings had been depleted, their businesses had been taken over, and their homes had been looted. They also were forced by circumstances to began a long, difficult process of rebuilding. They undertook this task with the same sense of determination their Issei parents had exhibited. The old Japanese ethic of hard work and frugal living gained a new and special meaning for the Nisei, and helped carry them through the lean years they spent re-establishing their lives. They, like their parents before them, were determined that their children, the Sansei, would have a respected place in American society.

For the most part, the Nisei have remained silent about the evacuation and have done their best to assimilate into American society. The Sansei, for their part, grew up largely unaware of the full consequences of the momentous events that shaped their parents and grandparents lives. Many Nisei have, until only recently, been reluctant to talk about the evacuation for a variety of reasons. For many, it was a period of time so painful to recall that they simply wished to put it behind them for good. The memories of being exiled coupled with the war-time anti-Japanese hatred and hysteria were events they had no desire to relive. In addition, in Japanese culture incarceration carries the stigma of guilt, regardless of the facts. This too caused many Issei and Nisei to feel varying degrees of shame, and so made them even more reluctant to discuss the evacuation except among others with whom they shared the experience. Both generations likewise have a tendency to accept life’s experiences as they come. In interviews the Japanese term, Shikataganai [It cannot be helped], is frequently invoked. This is not a matter of fatalism, it is simply the recognition that there are some forces and events that the individual simply cannot control—a concept the West continues to be largely unwilling to entertain.

Today, however, as the awareness of the gross injustice of the entire camp experience grows among the non-Nikkei population, and in the name of education, Nisei are becoming more willing to share their experiences. In a real sense, the relocation has now become a defining experience of their generation. For the Nisei and the few remaining Issei, it is an event that binds them together. It is common today, when Nikkei of the appropriate age meet, once names are exchanged, invariably, one of the first questions asked is, “Which camp were you at?”

Nikkei from the different camps have begun to hold regular reunions, while local Nikkei historical societies, comprised largely of former evacuees, are publishing camp remembrance booklets. Many Nisei have readily assisted the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles with a series of poignant exhibits, programs and panels on the relocation. Most importantly, many Nisei are now willing to visit schools and give presentations on the camp years to students so that the human story of relocation will not be forgotten.

Today, over fifty years after the event, the concerns of not only the surviving evacuees, but their descendants as well, manifests this new congruence. They now turn toward intellectual issues like, justice, constitutional legality, and guarantees of habeas corpus, and equal protection of the law. This re-orientation in large part explains the readiness of many former evacuees, who here-to-fore were unwilling to even discuss the camps with their own children, let alone strangers, now volunteer to share their experiences with school children because they feel it must, “never happen again.”

Illustrative of this view was the response of Dr. Roy Tanaka when he was asked his perception of the significance of the internment, and its impact on himself and the Nikkei community. He replied:


I think the whole evacuation taught me to be a little more patient and understanding. My respect for politicians has gone way down and when I try to balance the ledger, I can’t help but to feel this kind of injustice should be impossible in a country where we are so proud of our freedom. Especially when you’re told by some chief FBI agent not to stand on your rights as an American citizen.

People have begun to show an interest in the evacuation and I think that is reward enough, as far as I’m concerned. Financial compensation is not going to correct the mistake that the country made. I pray to God we’ll never make a mistake like that again.103



1. Nikkei is a term in common use within the Japanese American community to designate persons with any discernable degree of Japanese ancestry living in the United States. Part of the term’s appeal is that it facilitates the identification of both “Japanese” and “Americans of Japanese ancestry,” rather than relying on the incorrect and confusing term “Japanese” when wishing to refer to both groups simultaneously.

2. Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States Since 1850 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988), 201; Donald H. Estes, Before the War: The Japanese in San Diego (San Diego: San Diego Historical Society, 1978), 1.

3. For a discussion of the “dual” citizenship status of some Nisei, see John J. Stephen, Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan’s Plans for Conquest after Pearl Harbor (Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 1984), 23-25.

4. Allan R. Bosworth, America’s Concentration Camps (New York: W. W. Norton Co., 1967), 120; Washington Post, 25 June 1943.

5. Norman Thomas quoted in William Peterson, Japanese Americans (New York: Random House Inc., 1971), 75.

6. United States War Department, United States Department of the Army, Western Defense Command, Wartime Civil Control Adminstration, Civilian Exclusion Order Number Four (Presidio of San Francisco, CA:WDC/WCCA, April 1, 1942); United States War Department, United States Department of the Army, Western Defense Command, Wartime Civilian Control Adminstration, Civilian Exclusion Order Number Fifty-nine (Presidio of San Francisco, CA: WDC/WCCA, May 10, 1942).

7. For details of the movement of the San Diego Nikkei to Santa Anita please see, Donald H. and Matthew T. Estes, “Further and Further Away: The Relocation of San Diego’s Nikkei Community 1942,” Journal of San Diego History, Special Issue, War Comes to San Diego 39:1-2 (Winter-Spring, 1993): 1-31; The Wartime Civil Control Adminstration WAAC) was created to administer the hastily erected “assembly centers.” By October, 1942 the residents of these temporary facilities had been transferred to the more permanent “relocation centers” under the control of the War Relocation Authority (WRA).

8. For a useful reference, and penetrating criticism of euphemisms like, “relocation,” utilized by the government of the United States throughout this period, see Raymond Y. Okamura, “The American Concentration Camps: A Cover-Up Through Euphemistic Terminology,” Journal of Ethnic Studies 10 (1982): 95-108.

9. Hosokawa, Nisei, 318; Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 12 September 1942, San Diego Nikkei History Project, here-in-after, SDNHP. The authors have relied the term evacuee throughout this paper because many Nikkei who experienced Poston used it at the time and continue to do so today. In addition, the WRA utilized the term extensively. See, WRA “Administrative Instruction Number 78,” (Washington, D.C.: WRA, 22 June 1943), SDNHP.

10. Margaret Ishino to Helen McNary, 8 September 1942, San Diego Nikkei History Project, here-in-after SDNHP; Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 8 September 1942, SDNHP; Mizue Himaka to Clara Breed,29 August, 1942, SDNHP.

11. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 27 August 1942, SDNHP; Roy Kiyoshi Tanaka, M.D., interview by Donald H. Estes, tape interview, San Diego, CA, 21 February 1979, SDNHP.

12. Masami Honda, interview by Donald H. Estes, Poston, Arizona, 23 April 1996. Within the Nikkei community generations are specifically identified. The Issei are the pioneer generation, born in Japan. Nisei denotes the “second generation.” They are the first generation born in the United States. Kibei is a collective term to identify those Nisei who had been sent to Japan for their formal education. The term literally means, “Returned to America.” It is also not uncommon to find the term Kibei-Nisei used to describe members of this group.

13. Ibid.

14. Reverend Kenji, Kikuchi, Aizumi Kiyuji No Omoide [Memories of Kyuji Aizumi] trans. Donald H. Estes (Hollywood, California: By Reverend Kenji Kikuchi, 1967), 17.

15. Poston I Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion Committee, Poston I 50th Reunion Booklet (Los Angeles, CA: Poston I Fiftieth Anniversary Reunion Committee, 1992), 8-9; Poston was named for pioneer Arizona developer and sometimes “Father of Arizona,” Charles Debrille Poston (1825-1902).

16. Apparently a few scattered units at Poston III were built of a single thickness of redwood instead of the more commonly used pine. The profusion of desert life is mentioned in, Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 30 August 1942,SDNHP; Segawa interview, 3 May 1994; Jeanne Morimoto Elyea, interview by Matthew T. Estes, Bonita, California, 3 May 1994.

17. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed 16 September 1942 SDNHP.

18. Takasumi Kojima, Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946: Physical Layouts of the WRA Camps (Los Angeles: The Conference on Teaching about Internment, 1993), 7; Katherine Tasaki to Clara Breed, 22 February 1943, SDNHP: Katherine Tasaki to Helen Mc Nary, 5 March 1943, SDNHP.

19. Ibid., 9; Honda interview, 23 April 1996; Hisako Watanabe to Clara Breed, 7 January 1943, SDNHP.

20. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 27 August 1942, SDNHP.

21. Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 10 September 1942,SDNHP; Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 90-92; Hosokawa, Nisei, 320; Norris James, Press and Intelligence Officer, WRA (Poston) “Problems of Security at the Colorado River Relocation Project,” an internal report of the WCCA to Colonel William A. Boekel, Assistant Provost Marshall, WCCA, 19 September 1942, Bohem, United States Congress, House, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, here-in-after USCWRIC, 102 Cong., 2d sess., March, 1992, Committee Print, 7:855-64.

22. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 16 September 1942, SDNHP; Louise Ogawa to Helen McNary, 17 September 1942, SDNHP.

23. War Relocation Authority, Colorado River Relocation Project (Poston), Quarterly Census as of Midnight March 31, 1944 (WRA, Colorado River Relocation Project, 31 March 1944) SDNHP; Tsumagari, 30 August 1942,SDNHP; Tetsuo Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 3 October 1942, SDNHP.

24. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 14 September 1942,SDNHP; Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 22 September 1942,SDNHP; Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed 27 August 1942, SDNHP.

25. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed 14 September 1942, SDNHP.

26. Yoshiko Kubo to Clara Breed, 17 September 1942, SDNHP.

27. Louise Ogawa to Helen McNary, 17 September 1942, SDNHP.

28. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 9 October 1942, SDNHP.

29. Tsumagari, 14 September 1942, SDNHP; Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 20 September 1942, SDNHP.

30. Poston Chronicle, 15 September 1942; Motoharu Asakawa interview, 5 November 1994.

31. Tsumagari, 14 September 1942, SDNHP.

32. Ibid.

33.Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 10 October 1943, SDNHP.

34. Hisako Watanabe to Clara Breed, 26 July 1943, SDNHP.

35. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 30 November 1942, SDNHP.

36. Ogawa to Breed, 30 November 1942; Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 4 December 1942, SDNHP.

37. Ogawa to Breed, 20 October 1942.

38. Hisako Watanabe to Clara Breed, 7 January 1943, SDNHP.

39. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 4 December 1942, SDNHP.

40. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 27 December 1942; Yoshiko Kihara to Clara Breed, 9 December 1943, SDNHP.

41. Katherine Tasaki to Clara Breed, 22 February 1943, SDNHP.

42. Tsumagari to Breed, 4 December 1942.

43. Ibid.

44. The Poston Community Enterprises was an important part of camp life. It was a WRA sanctioned and internee run business that provided such basic comforts as clothing, extra food, and household cleaning supplies. It also was a place for the internees to make a limited profit by providing them a market to sell goods like produce grown in community gardens or handy-crafts made by the internees.

45. James S. Huges, Major, Military Intelligence, “Japanese Activities in the Colorado River War Relocation Project, Poston, Arizona,” to the Headquarters of the Western Defence Command and Fourth Army, 29 September 1942, Bohem, USCWCRIC, 2:778-81.

46. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 23 November 1942,SDNHP; Lieutenant (jg) E. O. Berry, “Colorado River Relocation Project: Subversive Activities Therein,” an internal report of the Office of Naval Intelligence, Eleventh Naval District, 5 December 1942, Bohem, USCWRIC, 25: 823-830.

47. Paul Bailey, City in the Sun (New York: Tower Publications, Inc., 1971), 131-13; Lane Ryo Hirabayashi, ed., Inside an American Concentration Camp: Japanese American Resistance at Poston, Arizona (Tucson, Arizona: The University of Arizona Press, 1995), 139.

48. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 27 January 1943, SDNHP; Louise Ogawa to Helen Mc Nary, 27 January 1943, SDNHP.

49. Yoshiko Watanabe to Clara Breed, 10 February 1943, SDNHP.

50. Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 16 November 1942, SDNHP.

51. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 30 January 1943, SDNHP.

52. Daniels, Concentration Camps: North America, 107-108; Hirabayashi, Inside An American Concentration Camp, 230, 240.

53. The Pacific Citizen, 4 February 1943, Salt Lake City, Utah.

54. Poston Chronicle, 2 and 4 February 1943; The Pacific Citizen, 4 February 1943, Salt Lake City, Utah; The Pacific Citizen, 12 December 1955, Los Angeles, California.

55. Hosokawa, JACL: In Quest of Justice (New York: William Morrow and Company, 1982), 183-208.

56. Like all other eligible Americans the Nikkei were subject to the provisions of the Selective Service and Training Act of 1940. With the outbreak of the war with Japan their eligibility for conscription was withdrawn.

57. President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Secretary of War Henry Stimson, 1 February 1943, SDNHP; Daniels, Asian America, 261.


58. Daniels, Asian America, 261-262; Hosokawa, Nisei, 364-365; Weglyn, The Years of Infamy, 137-139; Niiya, Japanese American History, 217-218.

59. Daniels, Asian America, 261-62; Hosokawa, Nisei, 364-365; Hosokawa and Wilson, East to America, 234-235; Weglyn, The Years of Infamy, 137-139; Headquarters of the Eighth Service Command, “Rumors being circulated at Rohwer and Jerome, Arkansas Relocation Centers,” 1 March 1943, Bohem, USCWRIC, 25:750.

60. Hosokawa, JACL: Quest for Justice, 322; Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 20 February 1943, SDNHP; Tanaka interview, 21 February 1979; Frank Wada, “Day of Remembrance,” panel discussion on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, 17 February 1995, University of California, San Diego; Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 149.

61. Weglyn, The Years of Infamy, 154-58; In a letter to the Los Angeles-based vernacular, Rafu Shimpo, on 8 July 1996, Nikkei community activist and author William Hohri of Lomita, California points out that only question 28 represented a “loyalty” question. WRA materials in the possession of the authors tend to support Mr. Hohri’s position. See, WRA, “Administrative Instruction Number 22, Supplement 9,” (Washington, D.C.: 27 March 1943); WRA Administrative Instruction Number 22, Supplement 12,” (Washington, D.C.: WRA, 5 June 1943).

62. Poston Chronicle, 29 January, 28 February, 6 and 20 March 1943.

63. Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 4 February 1943, SDNHP.

64. Martin Lloyd Ito, “Day of Remembrance,” panel discussion on the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, University of California, San Diego, 17 February 1995; R. C. Mc Fall, “Selective Service at Japanese Relocation Centers in the Eleventh Naval District,” an internal report of the Office of Naval Intelligence, 16 August 1944, Bohem, USCWRIC, 25: 894-897; Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 171-73; George Sekiguchi, interview by Matthew T. Estes, 19 October 1992, Los Angeles, California; Daniels, Asian America, 262-264.

65. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 23 February 1943; Fusa Tsumigari to Clara Breed, 26 February 1943; Mc Fall, “Selective Service at Japanese Relocation Centers,” 16 August 1944, Bohem, USCWRIC, 25:894-897; Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 21 April 1943, Breed collection.

66. Milton S. Eisenhower, The President Is Calling (New York: Doubleday & Co., 1974), 118-123; Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 118.

67. Poston Chronicle, 24 and 29 January 1943.

68. Poston Chronicle, 10 and 16 February 1943.

69. Poston Chronicle, 28 February, 6 and 20 March 1943.

70. Fusa Tsumigari to Clara Breed, 26 June 1943 and 14 August 1944, SDNHP.

71. In answer to Question 28, some Nikkei gave conditional responses like, “yes, if my rights as an American citizen are respected.” A mimeographed report entitled, “Sentiments of Segregants,” distributed to the Community Council of Poston III with no author indicated, but dated August 30, 1943, and in the possession of the authors discusses in some detail the possible reasons for negative and affirmative answers to Question Number 28. Written in both English and Japanese this report reads much like materials emanating from the Community Analysis Section at Poston.

72. War Relocation Authority, “Administrative Instructions Number 22 (Revised), Supplement 9,” (Washington, D.C., March 27, 1943), 1., SDNHP; Poston Chronicle, 11 April 1943.

73. Poston Chronicle, 22 April 1944; A copy of the survey instrument is in the possession of the authors.

74. Poston Chronicle, 16 April 1943.

75. Poston Chronicle, 2 May 1944.

76. The Dies Committee, more formally known as the Special Committee on Un American Activities (SCUA), was the brainchild of Republican member of the House Martin Dies of Texas. The committee held extensive and well publicized meetings in the months following the Pearl Harbor attack. Although Dies never offered any substantive evidence of a “Japanese Conspiracy” his allegations were repeatedly utilized by anti Nikkei individuals and organizations to justify their position.

77. San Diego Union, 2 June 1943, 6 October 1943.

78. San Diego Union, 9 June 1943; San Diego City Council, “Resolution Number 78313,” Book 67 of Resolutions, 8 June 1943, Research Archives, San Diego Historical Society.

79. Louise Ogawa to Clara Breed, 3 December 1944, SDNHP.

80. Brian Niiya, ed., Japanese American History: An A-to-Z Reference from 1868 to the Present (New York: Facts on File, 1993), 133-134: U.S. Congress, House, Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, 102 Cong., 2d sess., March 1992, Committee Print, 213-243.

81. Tets Hirasaki to Clara Breed, 20 December 1944, SDNHP.

82. Fusa Tsumagari to Clara Breed, 14 January 1945, SDNHP.

83. Poston Chronicle, 19 December 1944.

84. Hirasaki to Breed, 20 December 1944.

85. Poston Chronicle, 25 December 1944; Taylor, Jewel of the Desert, 207; A field station of the Los Angeles WRA Field Office was opened in April, 1945 on Illinois Street in San Diego.

86. Poston Chronicle, 17 and 31 January 1945.

87. Poston Chronicle, 17 and 31 January and 5 May 1945.

88. Katherine Tasaki to Clara Breed, 27 December 1944, SDNHP.

89. Yoshiko Iwama (Kikuchi), “Hitori Omoi” [“Thoughts to Myself”], Mojave : Number 24 (5 February 1945), n.p.

90. Poston Chronicle, 17 February 1944; Kikuchi interview, 12 November 1978; United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Characteristics of the Population, Labor Firce, Families, San Diego Congested Production Area ( Series CA-3, Number 2.) (Washington: GPO, March 1944).

91. Dillon S. Myer to Duncan Mills, Incoming Teletype #2, 9:15 a.m., Backdate 20 June 1945, 21 June 1945, SDNHP; Poston Chronicle, 23 and 27 June and 18 July 1945.

92. Council Committee to Duncan Mills, 29 June 1945, SDNHP.

93. Poston Chronicle, 25 July 1945.

94. Poston Chronicle, 8 August 1945; Kikuchi interview, 12 November 1978.

95. Takashima interview, 10 February 1990.

96. Ibid.

97. Motoharu Asakawa interview, by the authors, 27 February, 1993.

98. Ben Satoshi Segawa, interview by the authors, Bonita, California, 3 May 1994.

99. Tanaka interview, 21 February 1979.

100. Ibid.

101. Shin Nichibei Shimbunsha [Japanese American News], Zaibei Nikkeijin Jushoroku [All American Japanese Address Registry] (Los Angeles: Shin Nichibei Shimbunsha, 1952), 272-281; United States Department of the Interior: War Agency Liquidation Unit, People in Motion: The Postwar Adjustments of the Evacuated Japanese Americans (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1947), 109-110.

102. Hironaka interview, 27 May 1973; Moto Asakawa interview, 5 November 1994.

103. Tanaka interview, 21 February 1979.

Matthew T. Estes graduated from San Diego State University with a Master of Arts degree in history. He has previously published articles on the Japanese American experience in San Diego including one for the Journal of San Diego History. He is currently teaching in Santa Barbara County’s Outdoor School, and is an adjunct instructor of history at Rancho Santiago Community College.

Donald H. Estes is a professor of history at San Diego City College. Married to Toshiye C. Hasegawa, he has been involved with the local Japanese American community all his life. He attended San Diego State University and UCLA. Professor Estes has been the recipient of major grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and the East West Center. He has published extensively on Japanese Americans, and serves as a member of the Scholarly Advisory Board for the Japanese American Museum.