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In Defense of JusticeJoseph Kurihara and the Japanese American Struggle for Equality$

Eileen H. Tamura

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037788

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037788.001.0001

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To Manzanar

To Manzanar

Chapter:
(p.39) Chapter 3 To Manzanar
Source:
In Defense of Justice
Author(s):

Eileen H. Tamura

Publisher:
University of Illinois Press
DOI:10.5406/illinois/9780252037788.003.0004

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the forced removal and incarceration of the Nikkei. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. With a stroke of his pen, and without regard for the U.S. Constitution, the president set in motion the process of forced removal and incarceration of an entire people charged with no crime. This episode was “a historical moment when the cultural, racial, and national Otherness of the Asian was most lucidly articulated, most undisputed, and most resolutely dealt with by the American citizenry and state.” The executive order gave the Western Defense Commander, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, the power to exclude from designated “military areas” “any or all persons.” As such, Nikkei living within DeWitt's exclusion zone were then herded into temporary detention centers, officially called “Assembly Centers,” managed by the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA), an agency of the army's Western Defense Command (WDC).

Keywords:   Nikkei, Executive Order 9066, U.S. Constitution, American citizenry, John L. DeWitt, Wartime Civilian Control Administration, Western Defense Command, detention centers

At the time of Pearl Harbor, Joseph Kurihara was on the high seas navigating the Belle of Portugal, a handsome, state-of-the-art, 130-foot craft, the second largest tuna vessel based in California. The Belle was one of many Portuguese-owned boats, which dominated tuna-fishing out of San Diego. Kurihara spent many months at sea on this craft in search of tuna, venturing as far as the Galapagos Islands, nearly three thousand miles south of San Diego.1

Tuna fishing was strenuous work, both physically and mentally. A typical fishing trip lasted seven or eight weeks, covering round-trip distances of six thousand to eight thousand miles from southern California down the coasts of Mexico, Central, and South America, and westward about 850 miles. Tuna boats held from 150 to 350 tons of fish, with crews of twelve to twenty men, depending on the size of the vessel.2

The boats traveled the seas in search of widely scattered schools of yellowfin and skipjack tuna. Of the two species, yellowfin was much larger, with individual fish weighing up to several hundred pounds, while skipjack rarely attained thirty pounds. Yellowfin tuna was the predominant species, brought higher prices than skipjack, and were the prized catch, but both species were caught and sold.3

The catching of tuna alternated between long periods of mundane activities relating to searching for tuna and live bait, and icing down the catch, and then relatively brief periods of intense and strenuous activity, excitement, and risk.4 When a school of tuna was located, a frenzy of activity ensued. Live bait was tossed in the water as chum to attract the tuna to the boat. When the tuna were biting, a crew of fishermen might haul in as many as twenty to fifty tons on a good day.5

To facilitate the fishing, the aft section of tuna boats rode low in the water. The men stood at or below water level, outside the boat itself, on special (p.40) walkways lowered from the sides of the boats. They used poles and hooks, and the “weight and the muscles of [their] arm[s] and back[s]” to haul in the tuna. To land an especially large fish required as many as five fishermen and five poles for a single hook. While fishing a school of small tuna, a man could be pulled into the water by the unexpected arrival of an especially large fish. In rough seas, the men fished in waist-deep water with waves crashing on them. In this backbreaking and exhausting endeavor, the men might work from dawn to dusk, using their “every ounce of strength and energy.”6

Kurihara was spared the risky and strenuous tasks of fishing. As navigator he had a key role. Not only did the captain and crew expect him to navigate with precision, they relied on him to find schools of tuna. This job placed him in the pilot house on the upper deck, where he commanded a wide view of the surrounding ocean, helpful for spotting the flocks of seabirds, schools of porpoises, and patches of roiled waters indicating the presence of tuna schools.7

The search for tuna took Kurihara far from shore for weeks at a time, with the success of each voyage depending on how well he and the crew dealt with the conditions they encountered at sea. Tuna schools chose when and where they would appear. Storms and high waves could emerge without warning and sweep over the fishing vessel. These were challenges tuna fishermen honed their skills to meet. For Kurihara, however, there were additional forces at work that would soon prove a far greater challenge than any he encountered at sea.

Kurihara was employed in an industry that provided one of the relatively few opportunities for good, well-paying jobs open in California to persons of Japanese ancestry. Hundreds of Japanese worked as tuna fishermen on Japanese fishing vessels or in the canneries and other businesses related to the tuna fishing industry, both in southern California and in the Mexican territory of Baja California. This concentration of Japanese along the west coasts of the United States and Mexico did not go unnoticed as tensions rose between Japan and the United States through the 1930s.

Following Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) became concerned about Japan’s long-range military ambitions and the evident need to counter those ambitions, even to the point of preparing for a possible war with Japan. Those preparations included significant increases in intelligence activities designed to detect and counter potential or suspected espionage by Japanese agents and sympathizers.8 ONI officials focused particularly on the U.S. West Coast fishing fleet owned and operated by persons of Japanese descent, due to the proximity of the fleet and its workers to harbors and naval bases.9

Naval intelligence officials also believed that Japanese fishing and commercial enterprises in Mexico, specifically in Baja California, served as fronts (p.41) for Japanese espionage networks and potential bases for attacks on the United States should war erupt between the two countries. The most compelling case for concern over Japanese activities in Mexico was provided by the Japanese government itself. By August 1940, U.S. intelligence had succeeded in breaking the code the Japanese used to communicate with its overseas embassies. A process known as MAGIC had been developed to intercept, decode, and translate secret Japanese worldwide diplomatic messages. A message intercepted in July 1941 stated that, because of its geographic location, Mexico was and would be the main site for gathering intelligence on the United States as long as Mexico did not officially join the war on the American side. During the preceding three years, ONI had been picking up persistent rumors from other sources alleging subversive activity by Japanese agents stationed in Mexico. Before the MAGIC intercept, however, ONI had not been able to verify any of those rumors. Yet none of the information from MAGIC ever implicated any Japanese American in espionage or other subversive activity.10

More than six decades later, Michelle Malkin, in a book defending “racial ethnic, religious, and nationality profiling policies,” used the MAGIC intercepts to justify the forced removal and incarceration of the Nikkei. She furthermore argued that the Nikkei were not the only ones who suffered in the war: Italians, Germans, and others were excluded from sensitive areas, and hundreds of thousands of servicemen were killed or wounded. Were Kurihara alive to learn of the MAGIC intercepts and read Malkin’s statements, he would remind her emphatically that no Japanese American was ever implicated in the messages. He would further state that, yes, others also suffered in the war, but using that fact to justify the incarceration of the Nikkei misses the core of his argument, that people—whether Nikkei or non-Nikkei—are unjustly treated if they are incarcerated solely because of their race (or for that matter, their ethnicity, religion, or nationality) without evidence of any crime committed.11

While ONI fretted over Mexico, it became more concerned about possible espionage activities in southern California. In 1937, about seventy vessels, of which fifty were “larger tuna boats 90 feet or more in length,” constituted the tuna fleet operating off the California coast. These boats were owned and operated by men of various nationalities, predominately Japanese, Italians, and Portuguese. At that time, some twenty-five hundred persons of Japanese ancestry lived in “tiny wooden shacks” “cramped together” on Terminal Island in San Pedro Bay, the Los Angeles harbor. Some were fishermen but more worked in the canneries and processing plants located on the island and associated with the fishing industry. Because Japanese on Terminal Island lived adjacent to Reeves Field, a naval air base, a confidential Navy report identified them as potential security risks.12

(p.42) Some of the Japanese owners and operators of fishing fleets based in Los Angeles or San Diego were long-time residents but not citizens of the United States. Because U.S. immigration law barred alien Asian residents from obtaining citizenship, the fishing fleets were technically owned by Japanese nationals, even though those persons did not reside in Japan. To further complicate matters, some of the fishing vessels were registered in Japan and flew the Japanese flag on the high seas, and some of their crewmembers were contract workers from Japan.13

Following a change of command in May 1938, ONI’s 11th District Office, based in San Diego, increased its surveillance of the Japanese fishing fleets. The newly arrived commander, Ellis Zacharias, a veteran intelligence officer, was convinced that the fishermen posed a major security threat, that San Diego was “the very hub of Japanese espionage,” and that this hub centered on “the fishing fleets in which scores of Japanese espionage agents sailed [U.S. waters].” Accordingly, ONI initiated intensive scrutiny of the Japanese fleets, which included detailed information on each boat and its owner and skipper.14

It was in this atmosphere that Kurihara came to the attention of U.S. officials. He and his crewmates had been at sea near the Galapagos Islands when Japanese bombers attacked Pearl Harbor. Soon after the attack, the Navy ordered all U.S. vessels to return to their home port. After some hesitation, Captain Souza of the Belle decided to ignore the order, reasoning that his boat was of Portuguese registry, and Japanese submarines were unlikely to venture so far south. Moreover, Souza wanted an additional one hundred tons of tuna before heading home. After a number of days, Souza reached this goal and directed Kurihara to head the Belle north to San Diego.15

As they neared Cedros Islands, off the coast of Baja California and three hundred miles south of San Diego, Souza and his men spotted U.S. airplanes hovering above them. Kurihara “felt proud” as he watched the planes fly back and forth, trying “to determine the name of the boat.”16

At daybreak on December 29, the Belle entered San Diego Bay. Before it reached the dock, however, a navy patrol boat stopped it and several officers came aboard. After examining the boat’s papers, the officers took Kurihara and two of his Portuguese sea mates to the navy wharf, where they waited for several hours. After receiving no orders concerning the detainees, the navy officers returned the three men to the Belle. Immediately upon boarding the boat, however, Kurihara was singled out by an intelligence officer. “Hey! You Jap, I want some information. You better tell me everything or I’ll kick you in the ____.” Kurihara recalled that his “blood boiled,” and he “felt like clubbing the man’s head off.” “What did you call me?” Kurihara asked him. “If you want (p.43) any information from me, you better learn to address a man properly.” Their altercation ended there, for another officer quickly intervened and asked Kurihara to go with him to the immigration office. After sitting in the office for six hours, ignored and without food or water, he learned that he had been brought because of instructions to question all Japanese in the fishing fleet. After a feeble attempt at interrogating him, an officer told him that he could leave.17

Kurihara’s experience was played out many times over and often for the worse, not only for Issei—Japanese nationals—but also for Nisei—U.S. citizens. A Nisei named Togo Tanaka, for example, the English-language editor of the Rafu Shimpō, a Japanese vernacular newspaper, who was to become Kurihara’s adversary at Manzanar, was also arrested by the FBI and jailed for twelve days. A Nisei friend of Kurihara who was a radio operator on a fishing vessel had a more embittering experience. Returning to San Diego soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, he and his Japanese crewmates were thrown into jail where they were held for a month with no charges made against them, and where they were forced to sleep on the concrete floor without mattresses and forbidden to bathe. Kurihara soon learned that this was only the beginning of worse things to come.18

After his last voyage at sea, Kurihara had intended to return to Los Angeles, but he remained in San Diego at the request of Captain Souza, who had asked him to delay his departure for a few weeks. Not yet realizing fully the intensity of suspicions directed at all Nikkei on the West Coast, and looking for ways to be useful to the American cause, Kurihara went to see the San Diego port master. Since Kurihara had a captain’s license, which permitted him to navigate, he asked for a permit “to sail the sea,” so that he would be ready in the event that his services were needed for the war effort. “No permit for any Jap,” the port master said bluntly. “Get out or I’ll throw you out.” Unwilling to accept such treatment meekly, Kurihara retorted angrily, “I … served in the U.S. Army and fought for Democracy. … [Y]our pronunciation tells me you came to this country not long ago. … I may be a Jap in feature but I am an American.”19

Undaunted by the port master’s hostility, Kurihara looked for other ways to help the American cause. He went to the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation in San Diego to see if the company could use him as a navigator of bombers that needed to be flown to war zones or other places. Rejected again, he went to San Pedro, to the merchant marine office, then across the harbor to the California Shipbuilding Company and the Bethlehem Steel Company, both on Terminal Island. Everywhere, his offers to be of service were rebuffed. Returning to San Diego, he reacted with disgust when his landlady told him that the FBI had searched his room while he was away. It was then that he (p.44) recalled noticing a man trailing him before he had left for San Pedro and Terminal Island.20

After Kurihara had been in San Diego for three weeks, Captain Souza, accompanied by an ONI intelligence officer, visited him and told him with regret that Souza’s request to have Kurihara retained as navigator of the Belle had been denied by the War Department. While Kurihara was disappointed at the news, he was pleased to know that the captain, an exacting man who was difficult to satisfy, had made every effort to have Kurihara continue as his navigator.21

As Kurihara’s experiences show, the attack on Pearl Harbor accomplished what some members of the California legislature had sought years earlier, the demise of the Japanese fishing industry on the West Coast. Opposition to the Japanese fishing operations had begun as early as 1899, as soon as Japanese fishermen and their entrepreneurs began to make inroads into the industry. Anti-Japanese fishing bills were introduced repeatedly in the state legislature between 1919 and 1933. White cannery owners as well as Nikkei community organizations opposed such legislation, and all but one of the bills failed to pass, and that one was later declared unconstitutional by the courts.22

Yet the effort to prevent the Nikkei from fishing continued up until the outbreak of World War II. Although the Japanese tuna fishing fleet was criticized for taking away jobs from U.S. citizens, no evidence was presented to support those accusations. Quite the contrary: Wiley Ambrose, president of the Westgate Sea Products Company, testified at the California legislature that Japanese fishermen were not displacing American fishermen, since very few Americans were willing to work on tuna fishing boats.23

Others who opposed the Japanese fishing industry considered them a threat to American security. Despite their suspicions, however, ONI officers were unable to identify and document espionage activities among the fishermen. And among the rest of the Nikkei population on the West Coast, there was only one case in which three Japanese nationals living in southern California were found to have cooperated with a Japanese naval officer, Tachibana Itaru, in his attempt to gather intelligence on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. In this instance, Tachibana operated through a Japanese national, Kono Toraichi, to try to obtain intelligence from a retired U.S. Navy officer. The Navy officer reported Kono’s actions to ONI and cooperated in setting up a sting operation. On June 9, 1941, Kono and Tachibana were arraigned on charges of espionage; a search of Tachibana’s apartment by ONI officers produced a treasure trove of information on the U.S. Navy and national defense. Ultimately Tachibana’s case became a matter of negotiation between the U.S. and Japanese governments; as a result, Tachibana was allowed to leave the United States. He departed for Japan on (p.45) June 21, 1941. With Tachibana gone, the Justice Department was forced to drop its cases against Kono and two others, Furusawa Takashi and his wife Sachiko, a Japanese couple who helped Tachibana collect information.24

As she did with MAGIC, Malkin in 2004 pointed to Kono and the Furusawas as reason to incarcerate all West Coast Nikkei, and again, were Kurihara alive to read Malkin’s argument, he would think it absurd to take sweeping punitive action based on the deeds of a few. He would have told her in no uncertain terms that even if one or a few Nikkei had acted treasonously, this would not have justified the government’s punishment of more than one hundred thousand innocent Nikkei.25

With the exception of the sensational and well-publicized Tachibana case, ONI never uncovered any espionage activities among the Nikkei, despite efforts by Japan’s intelligence services to recruit agents within the Nikkei community, and despite ONI’s efforts to ferret out such activities. A special investigation undertaken by the State Department in September 1941 at the request of President Franklin Roosevelt also failed to identify any espionage or sabotage activity among the Nikkei. Curtis B. Munson, who conducted this investigation, concluded that the Nisei were patriotic U.S. citizens and that the Issei were basically loyal to the United States.26

While ONI was unable to find further evidence of espionage by Nikkei, it did uncover cases of espionage directed from the Japanese embassy or conducted by Japanese agents in the United States posing as language students or naval attaches. Furthermore, ONI was able to prosecute successfully a few cases of espionage involving white Americans.27

One of these was Harry Thompson, a veteran of the United States Navy. Thompson used personal connections to gain access to Navy vessels and obtain information to sell to a Japanese contact, Lieutenant Commander Miyazaki Toshio. Miyazaki, a graduate of the Japanese Naval College and an expert on torpedoes, was in the United States as a language student at Stanford University. In July 1936 Thompson was tried, convicted, and sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment. Miyazaki left the country before the Thompson case came to trial.28

Another espionage case involved the Drummond brothers, one of whom was an employee of the Northrop Division of Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles. He was able to smuggle out photographs and blueprints of a new Navy bomber under development at Northrop. The brothers tried unsuccessfully to sell their information to Japanese contacts, and were eventually arrested and successfully prosecuted.29

The impact of the Tachibana case was immense. It convinced the U.S. intelligence community of the need for increased vigilance. Furthermore, it (p.46) shocked and worried the Nikkei, who feared that the publicity it generated would intensify suspicions against them.30

Forced Removal

Even before the Tachibana case surfaced, the FBI and military intelligence agencies had been wary of Nikkei loyalty. In 1939, the agencies began keeping lists, primarily of Issei, whom they labeled as “dangerous enemy aliens,” and after Pearl Harbor, the FBI arrested those on the list. In their endeavor to ferret out these “enemy aliens,” intelligence agents had gained the cooperation of Nisei leaders of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL). As a result, these JACL leaders were deeply resented by many Nikkei, who took this resentment with them to the concentration camps.31

But even the Nisei were suspects. Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, three separate investigations into Nisei loyalty had been made—one, mentioned earlier, by special investigator Curtis B. Munson, another by the ONI officer Lieutenant Commander Kenneth D. Ringle, and a third by the FBI. All three concluded that despite widespread suspicions against them, most Nisei were loyal citizens, and neither they nor their parents were likely to engage in disloyal or subversive acts. The bombing of Pearl Harbor did not change this conclusion. In fact, in internal administrative discussions, Ringle and Munson urged the federal government to “engage the Nisei in the war effort.” Moreover, the FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover advised against removing all Nikkei from the West Coast, an idea then being promoted by army Provost Marshal General Allen W. Gullion and Major (later Colonel) Karl R. Bendetsen, head of the Aliens Division in Gullion’s office. In time Gullion and Bendetsen succeeded in convincing Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy and Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson, and through them, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, that on the West Coast the Nikkei were a security threat.32

On February 19, 1942, the president signed Executive Order 9066. With a stroke of his pen, and without regard for the U.S. Constitution, the president set in motion the process of forced removal and incarceration of an entire people charged with no crime. As Eiichiro Azuma notes, this episode was not so much “our worse wartime mistake,” as Yale law professor Eugene Rostow had labeled it. Instead, it was “a historical moment when the cultural, racial, and national Otherness of the Asian was most lucidly articulated, most undisputed, and most resolutely dealt with by the American citizenry and state.”33

The executive order gave the Western Defense Commander, Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt, the power to exclude from designated “military areas” (p.47) “any or all persons.” Neither “Japanese” nor “Japanese Americans” were mentioned in the order, but it was clear that they were the targets. DeWitt in turn designated as military zones the western half of California (later the entire state), western Oregon and Washington, and southern Arizona.34

Nikkei living within DeWitt’s exclusion zone were then herded into temporary detention centers, officially called “Assembly Centers,” managed by the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA), an agency of the army’s Western Defense Command (WDC). (Several thousand had left legally before DeWitt’s March 27 deadline.) “Without charges, without proof, without hearings, with only a few days’ to a few weeks’ notice, and forced to leave behind their furniture, appliances, farm equipment, automobiles, and other possessions, they were placed in makeshift barracks at racetracks and fairgrounds in and near the major West Coast cities.”35

With the Nikkei in temporary detention centers by the summer of 1942, a newly created civilian agency, the War Relocation Authority (WRA), assumed responsibility for the imprisoned people. Milton Eisenhower, the first director of the WRA, attempted to convince governors in the mountain west states to allow the Nikkei to resettle in their states, but none would do so. Unable to overcome the governors’ resistance, the WRA decided to designate ten sites for the incarceration of the Nikkei. Officially called “Relocation Centers,” the sites were in desolate and forbidding environments.

Nativist groups, with long histories of racial animosity toward the Nikkei, cheered their forced removal. The removal was also endorsed by the country’s political majority, who believed that ethnic Japanese were “genetically untrustworthy and racially unassimilable.” The attack on Pearl Harbor only “confirmed” that view. General DeWitt, the man who oversaw the removal to the temporary camps, shared the sentiment. To him the Nikkei was an “enemy race,” a perspective endorsed by such officials as Secretary of War Henry Stimson and Navy Secretary Frank Knox. Roosevelt himself was ambivalent at best concerning the Nikkei. Widespread nativism in the country and Japan’s rising military strength and increased aggressiveness in the 1930s influenced his image of Japanese Americans as essentially foreign and “potentially dangerous.”36

Ironically, in Hawai‘i, where martial law was declared after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and where the Nikkei population was larger than in California, the Nikkei’s fate in World War II was far different. Although anti-Japanese hostility existed there too, the small geographic area meant that Nikkei interacted more frequently and familiarly with non-Nikkei, which made them seem less a threat to many whites. Moreover, concerted efforts by multi-ethnic leaders in the community succeeded in squelching the attempt to remove the Nikkei wholesale. Then, too, there was the prohibitive cost of removing the (p.48) 158,000 Nikkei to a small island in the territory and maintaining them there, or removing them to the continental United States. And finally, because the Nikkei constituted as much as 37 percent of the population, their labor was vital to the islands’ economy. Thus the military governor of the islands, General Delos Emmons, opposed removing the Nikkei, and with the help of McCloy, Emmons persuaded Stimson to drop proposed plans to do so. As a result, some fifteen hundred Nikkei, most of them Issei, whom someone in the nation’s security apparatus deemed dangerous, were incarcerated in the islands, and some seventeen hundred, similarly singled out, were sent to mainland camps. The others, well over 150,000 of them, continued to live their lives as normally as possible under martial law.37

An interesting footnote to this story of the Hawai‘i Nikkei is that Emmons, the military governor who opposed Nikkei removal, replaced General DeWitt in September 1943 as head of the Western Defense Command. In that capacity, he lent his support to the War Department’s rationale of military necessity and internal security as justification for removing all Nikkei from the West Coast. A year later, however, after being informed of the “tenuous legal basis” for continued mass exclusion, he worked with John McCloy of the War Department to find a way to end it in favor of individual exclusion.38

One of DeWitt’s justifications for removing the Nikkei from the West Coast had been the claim that there had occurred shore-to-ship communication that aided Japanese submarine attacks on mainland targets. Yet DeWitt had no evidence for his claim, and no Nikkei was ever charged with such actions. Moreover, there were only a few sporadic submarine attacks on the West Coast, and all of them were inconsequential. In contrast, attacks along the U.S. Atlantic coast and on transatlantic American shipping were numerous and often deadly. German submarines destroyed hundreds of Allied and neutral merchant ships in the Atlantic and for a long time posed a serious threat to the Allied war effort. Furthermore, military officials had concluded even before President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 in early 1942 that there was no threat of a Japanese invasion of the West Coast.39

DeWitt had also justified the removal by arguing that especially Issei but also Nisei ties to Japan made them a danger to national security. West Coast congressmen and Departments of Justice and War officials agreed by pointing to the matter of dual citizenship, whereby Japanese Americans were citizens of the United States and simultaneously subjects of the emperor of Japan.40

Like most nations, including the United States, Japan adopted the concept of paternal jus sanguinis (right of blood), by which a child born to a male national also became a national of the country, no matter where the child was born. In addition, the United States held to the concept of jus soli (right of soil), by (p.49) which a child born in the United States automatically became a citizen. Because of these laws, ethnic Japanese born in the United States before 1916, like Kurihara, were nationals of both the United States and Japan. In response to requests from Japanese Americans, Japan revised its nationality laws in 1916 to allow Nisei under the age of eighteen to expatriate. (Eligibility for military service began at age eighteen.) In 1924 Japan further revised the law, allowing Japanese Americans to expatriate at any age, and no longer holding to the concept of jus sanguinis for children born after 1924 unless their parents registered their births at a Japanese consulate. Most Nisei responded to these changes in Japanese law so that in 1941, Kurihara was among the minority 10 to 15 percent of Nisei who remained dual citizens.41

It should be noted that Germany and Italy also followed the practice of jus sanguinis. As a result, there were more than a million German and Italian Americans in 1941 who were also dual citizens. Yet the U.S. government focused on Japanese Americans while ignoring the dual citizenship of German and Italian Americans.42

The order to move from the West Coast, which forced families to leave behind most of their possessions, infuriated and dismayed Kurihara. In early February 1941, even before Roosevelt signed E.O. 9066, Kurihara had seen Terminal Islanders “thrown into turmoil” by the order to leave the island at once. Mothers were “completely bewildered with children crying from want and care.” With most of the men gone, having earlier been arrested as security risks, the women were taken by surprise when the Department of Justice ordered them off the island. Kurihara saw “peddlers taking advantage and offering prices next to robbery.” “Here my first doubt of American Democracy … crept into the far corners of my heart,” he recalled, “with the sting that I could not forget.”43

Knowing now that he was excluded from the war effort, that he could no longer work as navigator of the Belle, and that Nikkei were being evicted from their homes and jobs, Kurihara decided to return to Los Angeles to join other Nisei to fight the order to move. Two days after Roosevelt signed E.O. 9066, Kurihara wrote a letter to Togo Tanaka, editor of the English-language section of the Rafu Shimpō. Kurihara did not know Tanaka personally, but only as the editor of the opinion pieces Kurihara had contributed to Tanaka’s newspaper. In his letter, Kurihara asked Tanaka if anyone was taking the leadership in speaking up for the Nisei against the forced removal. If not, he stated with some desperation, “[M]ay I ask if you can obtain the sanction of the Niseis to delegate the position to me?”44

Soon after writing his letter, Kurihara departed for Los Angeles. On the evening of his arrival, he attended a meeting of the Citizens Federation of (p.50) Southern California, a Nisei organization affiliated with the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), founded in 1929 to promote Americanism among its members. There he heard Mike Masaoka, JACL field secretary, tell the audience that he had recently met with General DeWitt. Masaoka urged his audience to comply voluntarily with the order to move. Kurihara “felt sick” when he heard this. While the prospect of forced removal had angered him, Masaoka’s effort to assist the government in the unjustifiable expulsion of innocent and defenseless people was too much for Kurihara to stomach. These so-called leaders, he concluded of the JACL leadership, were “a bunch of spineless Americans” whom he would “fight” and “crush” “in whatever camp [he] happened to find them.” He would take this determination with him to Manzanar.45

Notes:

(10.) Dorwart, Conflict of Duty, 68. On MAGIC, see Loureiro, “U.S. Counterintelligence against Japan,” 39–40, 119. On MAGIC not implicating Japanese Americans, see Robinson, By Order of the President, 277n43. Herzig, “Japanese Americans and MAGIC,” refutes accusations that MAGIC intercepts played a role in the decision to incarcerate the Nikkei.

(13.) Estes, “‘Offensive Stupidity,’” 10. Some of the tuna vessels owned by Abe Tokunosuke, a Japanese national and longtime U.S. resident, for example, were registered in Japan and flew the Japanese flag while at sea. See Loureiro, “U.S. Counterintelligence against Japan in Southern California,” 49. In 1939 Abe’s twenty-five tuna vessels constituted the largest fleet under a single management in Southern California. Abe also used Baja California as a base of operation for his fleet, and among his crew were more than a hundred contract workers from Japan residing in Mexico. See Estes,“‘Offensive Stupidity,’” 3. On the Japanese role in the development of the fishing industry in southern California and western Mexico, and the recruitment of fishermen from Japan, see Estes, “Kondo Masaharu.”;

(24.) Loureiro, “The Imperial Japanese Navy and Espionage”; Ichioka, Before Internment, 204–26. A slightly different account is in Kumamoto, “The Search for Spies,” 55. I use the family name first for Japanese nationals who were not residents of the United States.

(32.) Muller, American Inquisition, 15–16; Daniels, Concentration Camps, 39, 71–72. For analyses of the discussions and activities that led up to forced removal of West Coast Nikkei, see Daniels, Concentration Camps, 42–73; Daniels, The Decision to Relocate the Japanese Americans; Irons, Justice at War, 25–47; U.S. Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 72–92; Grodzins, Americans Betrayed; and tenBroek, Barnhart, and Matson, Prejudice, War, and the Constitution. de Nevers, The Colonel and the Pacifist, provides a portrait of Bendetsen and reveals how he conceived, developed, advocated, and executed E.O. 9066. While acknowledging domestic issues—racial antipathy, pressure of lobbyists, and wartime hysteria—Hayashi, inDemocratizing the Enemy, 8, 39, 80–84, posits national and global security issues, both real and imagined, as further causes for the mass removal of the Nikkei.

(34.) Executive Order No. 9066, February 19, 1942, Authorizing the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum. Available at http://www.fdrlibrary.marist.edu (accessed November 11, 2012) The expansion of exclusion zones to include all of California is discussed in Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 111–12.

(35.) Muller, American Inquisition, 21. The forced removal is also discussed in Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, Personal Justice Denied, 100–12; and Unrau, The Evacuation and Relocation of Persons of Japanese Ancestry, 63–64.

(40.) Japanese American Citizens League, The Case for the Nisei, 18. Unease about Japanese American dual nationality was reflected in question 25 of the loyalty questionnaire that those incarcerated were required to answer: “To the best of your knowledge, was your birth ever registered with any Japanese governmental agency for the purpose of (p.170) establishing a claim to Japanese citizenship?” Dual citizenship continued to be a heated topic in 1944, as evidenced by the American Legion Hood River Post’s removal from an honor roll the names of Nikkei veterans suspected of being dual citizens: “Legion Post Explains Its Anti-Jap Stand” December 22, 1944, Hood River News, Roll 7, M1342, Community Analysis Reports, 1942–46, WRA.

(41.) Huber, “Dual Citizenship,” 23–24; Japanese American Citizens League, The Case for the Nisei, 15–18; Muller, American Inquisition, 11–12. For the 1924 Japanese Nationality law, see Flournoy and Hudson, A Collection of Nationality Laws of Various Countries as Contained in Constitutions, Statutes, and Treaties, 382–88. For a discussion of the difficulties of expatriating, see Sakamaki, “Dual Citizenship and Expatriation,” 35. Kurihara’s dual citizenship is indicated in Kurihara, Removed Koseki; Kurihara, Individual Request for Repatriation, 2864, WWII Internment Case File; and Kurihara, “Murder in Camp Manzanar,” 17.

(42.) American-born children of male citizens of France, Switzerland, Russia, and Turkey were also dual citizens. Japanese American Citizens League,The Case for the Nisei,18–21, 20n79. For nationality laws during this period, see Flournoy and Hudson,A Collection of Nationality Laws of Various Countries as Contained in Constitutions, Statutes, and Treaties (304–6 and 361–63 for laws for Germany and Italy). Currently the United States tolerates dual passports, but it continues to refuse to accept explicitly dual citizenship. Those wishing to become naturalized citizens must still swear that they renounce any allegiance to another country. This is in contrast to many other countries, which recognize explicitly dual and multiple citizenships. See Bloemraad, “Much Ado about Nothing?” 159–60, 179–80n2, n4.

(44.) Kurihara to Tanaka, February 21, 1942, Tanaka Journal, frame 342, folder A17.07, reel 011, JAERR.