U.S. Government Newsreel: A Challenge to Democracy

U.S. Government Newsreel: A Challenge to Democracy


Evacuation. More than 100,00 men, women and
children, all of Japanese ancestry, removed from their homes in the Pacific coast states to wartime
communities established in out-of-the-way places. Their evacuation did not imply individual
disloyalty but was ordered to reduce a military hazard at a time when danger of invasion was
great. Two-thirds of the evacuees are American citizens by right of birth. The rest are their
Japanese-born parents and grandparents. The people are not under suspicion. They are
not prisoners, they are not internees. They are merely dislocated people, the unwounded
casualties of war. The time: spring and summer of 1942. The place: ten different relocation
centers in unsettled parts of California, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and
Arkansas. The relocation centers are supervised by the
War Relocation Authority which assumed responsibility for the people after they had been evacuated
and cared for temporarily by the Army. A relocation center, housing from 7 to 18 thousand people.
Barrack-type buildings, divided into compartments, 12 or 14 residence buildings to a block, each
block provided with a mess hall, bath house, laundry building and recreation hall, about
300 people to a block, The entire community bounded by a wire fence
and guarded by military police, symbols of the military nature of the evacuation. Each family, upon arrival at a relocation center,
was assigned to a single-room compartment, about twenty by twenty-five feet, barren,
unattractive, a stove, a light bulb, cots, mattresses and blankets. Those were the things
provided by the government. The family’s own furniture was in storage on the west coast. Scrap lumber, perhaps some wall-board and
a great deal of energy, curtains, pictures, drapes depending on the family’s own ingenuity
and taste, helped to make the place livable. Some families built partitions to provide
some privacy. Others took what they received and made the best of it. The 300 or so residents of each block eat
in a mess hall, cafeteria-style, rough wooden tables with attached benches. The food is
nourishing, but simple. A maximum of 45 cents a day per person is allowed for food and the
actual cost is considerably less than this for an increasing amount of the food is produced
at the centers. A combination of Oriental dishes to meet the
tastes of the Issei, born in Japan, and of American-type dishes to satisfy the Nisei, born in America. Land that had never been occupied or farmed
was chosen for the relocation centers. Most of the land was covered with desert growth
or with timber, in the case of the Arkansas centers. It had to be cleared before farming
could start. Then it had to be leveled and irrigation ditches laid out or rebuilt in order that the
people could produce a part of their own food. Then came the plowing and preparation of the
soil and planting. A few of the centers had crops in 1942; in 1943, all of them. About
half of the evacuated people were farm folk, skilled producers of vegetables, fruits and
other crops. They had made desert land productive before and around the relocation centers they
could and did do it again by the application of hard work and water for irrigation. At
the two centers in Arkansas they have introduced western-style irrigation and succeeded in
producing vegetables in the heat of mid-summer when ordinary production methods are not successful.
Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, corn, melons and many other crops have been grown on land
that a year or two years ago was unproductive. Food production is aimed at self-support for
the relocation centers. It does not go onto the open market. From the fields it goes to
the center warehouse; from there it may go to the kitchen or it may be shipped to other
centers. The Arizona centers are most productive in winter. The others produce only in summer
or fall, so vegetable crops are exchanged. Besides the workers engaged in farming, it
takes many others to handle food, in the warehouses, in transportation, in the kitchens. To keep the rolling equipment, trucks, cars
and tractors in operation it takes mechanics and machinists. Water mains have to be laid
and repaired. Roads, sanitation systems and buildings have to be maintained. At the Arkansas center the land is covered
with trees and the clearing process provides lumber for construction and firewood for heating. Those who work are paid. Wages by outside
standards are low, $12 a month for beginners, $16 a month for most of the workers and $19
for professional people such as doctors and others on skilled or difficult work. The workers
also receive a small cash allowance for clothing. The money received as wages lets an evacuee
buy the things he needs which are not provided by the government, but most have had to draw
on their savings to live as they would like to. In each center a cooperative business association
operates stores which handle clothing, toilet articles, and the merchandise which would
be needed in any community. The co-ops also run barber shops, beauty parlors, shoe-repair
shops and other services for the community. When the school bell rings it’s a signal for
these students at Heart Mountain in Wyoming, to change classes. The school curriculum
meets the standards of the state where the center is located. Mathematics, American history, geography,
the fundamentals of an American education. This is a class in mathematics. And a rhythm class of fifth-grade pupils.
In the modern school many subjects are added to Readin’, Ritin’, and ‘Rithmatic
as part of the school works. Some of the teachers are Caucasian; some are evacuees – Americans
of Japanese ancestry. The first-graders in this class, taught by
an evacuee teacher, are making colored drawings which will decorate the walls of their barrack-building
classroom, the same kind of beautifully-clumsy drawings that can be found in almost any first-grade
room. In the high school, vocational training gets
plenty of attention. Scientific farming, studied in school and in the fields. And older boys
are learning trades. They use them first as part of the regular work of the relocation
center as welders, mechanics, machinists. Frequently learning to do the necessary jobs in a
relocation center have led to better jobs outside. Health protection is part of the obligation
assumed by the government. Evacuee doctors and nurses serve in the hospitals under the
supervision of Caucasians. Dentists, oculists and pharmacists also. The Japanese professional
men and women, most of them American citizens, had their own practices on the west coast
before evacuation. Many of them now are in the Army Medical Corps and others have replaced
doctors and other health workers in communities outside the centers. The health service in
relocation centers, in proportion to population, is about like that of any other American community
in war time, barely adequate. The evacuees have a form of community self-government
which aids the appointed officials in administration of the community. A community council of evacuees
is elected to make rules and regulations. Anyone 18 years old or older is eligible to
vote in the elections which are carried on in the democratic manner. A judicial commission
sits in judgment on minor offenses. Attorneys among the evacuees represent the
prosecution and the defense. A serious crime would be tried in the regular courts outside
the center. The crime rate among people of Japanese ancestry in the United States always
has been extremely low and this has proved to be the case in the centers. After working hours, over weekends, a relocation
center is the scene of baseball and softball games by the dozen. The teams are counted
by the hundreds. The evacuees have provided practically all of their own equipment, or
little government money has been spent for strictly recreational purposes. In the fall,
touch football is in season and more quiet forms of recreation. The relocation centers
include many well-known artists. Amateur and professional artists and craftsmen have used
their spare time in creating beauty in many different forms. Sunday church services. Advanced preparations
include carrying the benches into the barracks building. Most of the alien Japanese are Buddhists
but almost half their American-born children belong to some Christian denomination, Catholic,
Methodist, Presbyterian. Except for state Shinto, involving Emperor worship, there is
no restriction on religion in relocation centers. Boy Scouts, who usually provide the color
guard for the American flag which floats over each center are typical of the American organizations
which are prominent in each relocation center. There’s a U.S.O. club to provide entertainment
for the Japanese American soldiers who come to the center to visit their families or friends.
Girl Scouts, Campfire Girls, Parent Teacher Associations, the Red Cross, the evacuees
belonged to these organizations in their former homes and transplanted them to the centers. The Boy Scout Drum & Bugle Corp here is leading
a harvest festival parade marking the high point of the successful season of farm production.
Everyone turns out to view the Beauty Queen, to see the well-decorated floats and to join
in the good time that goes with a full day of celebration. While they have many things in common with
ordinary American communities, in the really important things relocation centers are not
normal and probably never can be. Home life is disrupted. Eating, living and working conditions
are abnormal. Training of children is difficult. Americanism, taught in the schools, in churches
and on the playgrounds… …loses much of its meaning in the confines
of a relocation center. When the War Relocation Authority was only a few months old it was
decided that relocation centers should not be maintained any longer than necessary. The
first people to leave the relocation centers were volunteer workers recruited to help tend
and later to harvest the sugar beet crop of the western states. Almost 1/10th of the evacuees
volunteered for this seasonal work in 1942. The result of their labors was a year’s sugar
ration for about ten million people. But work in the beet fields was temporary.
Most of the people returned to the centers. The War Relocation Authority has been more
concerned with permanent relocation, getting the evacuees out of the backwaters of the
relocation centers into the mainstream of American life so their labor can help to win
the war, so the cost to the taxpayers may be reduced, so there can be no question of
the Constitutionality of any part of the action taken by the government to meet the dangers
of war. So no law-abiding American need to fear for
his own freedom. Relocation of the evacuees is not being carried on at the sacrifice of
National Security. Only those evacuees whose statements and whose acts leave no question
of their loyalty to the United States are permitted to leave. All information available
from intelligence agencies is considered in determining whether or not each individual
is eligible to leave. Those who are not eligible to leave have been moved to one center to
live, presumably, for the duration of the war. The others, established as law-abiding
aliens, or loyal Americans, are free to go whenever they like. Thousands already have
gone. Here are a few of them. Nobura Eramura is
examining corn for insects in a field in Illinois. Kenneth Sugioka used to operate his own orchard
in Holister, California. Machine work was a hobby. Now it’s his job. He’s making precision
parts for American bombers. Musako Takiyoshi is assistant head nurse in
a large hospital. She was a teaching supervisor of nurses in a Seattle hospital before evacuation.
She has three brothers, all in the army. The tractor driver here is Roy Himoto who
used to farm near Walnut Grove, California and was evacuated to the Tule Lake center. This young machinist learned a trade since
he relocated to Chicago and his boss says he’s learned it well. He’s helping to make
kitchen equipment. Mrs. Ayako Kasai paints miniature dolls in
a mid-western studio. She used to live at Talusa, California and then lived at the Granada
relocation center. In the background is Cecelia Miyamoto who divides her time now between
working and attending college. Kayi Nakadoi feeds the chickens on an Illinois
farm and on the same farm is an Issei, Camago Shimatsu. Shinobu Shakuma, Joe Shihara and
Yoshio Dogan cultivate potatoes on a farm in the middle west. This is Ruth Nishi. Her father ran a fruit stand
in Berkeley, California and Ruth helped him. After living in the Poston relocation
center she moved to Chicago and has become a skilled turret lathe operator. These young men, spraying potatoes, are from
the Minidoka relocation center. This boy liked the printing trade but had
no chance to learn it until after he had left the relocation center. He’s helping to print
some of the nation’s supply of magazines. American eggs are shipped all over the world,
to Americans in the armed forces and to our allies. Mary Haguchi breaks eggs which are
to be dried. And in the same plant John Iamuri feeds the
drying machines. Jim Kuriso used to be a clerk in Maderia, California. Now he’s a candy maker
in Chicago. American flags, some of them for the Armed
Forces, are turned out by Mrs. Yoshie Abe. She hopes that one of the flags she makes
someday may be carried in triumph down the streets of Tokyo. The produce business in Watsonville, California,
used to be home to these boys. Now they’re in the produce business in Denver. Henry Lagoro used to be a farmer at Fresno,
California. From the Jerome relocation center he moved to the middle west to make marshmallows. Threshing oats in the middle west is a new
experience to Tets Shiota who used to grow vegetables near Venice, California. An artificial leg
doesn’t interfere with the way he handles a pitchfork. This young fellow, operating a bookbinding
Machine, is typical of the evacuees who are adjusting to new communities, getting along
with their employers, fellow workers and neighbors and finding satisfaction in becoming self-supporting
once more. The Americanism of the great majority of America’s
Japanese finds its highest expression in the thousands who were in the United States Army.
Almost half of them are in a Japanese-American combat team created by order of the Secretary
of War early in 1943. Some of the volunteers came from Hawaii, some from the eastern part
of the United States mainland where there was no mass evacuations. Hundreds of them
volunteered while they were in relocation centers, volunteered to fight against the
militarism and oppression of Japan and Germany. They know what they’re fighting against,
and they know what they’re fighting for, their country and for the American ideals that are
part of their upbringing – democracy, freedom, equality of opportunity regardless of
race, creed or ancestry.

3 thoughts on “U.S. Government Newsreel: A Challenge to Democracy

  1. Thank you so much for putting this up! I know it already exists, but that's in two parts, and that's kind of annoying… I really need this for my high school project, so thank you!

  2. It's pretty incredible how an act that flew so brazenly in the face of the Constitution is so little remembered.

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