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Rethinking Rights: Press Coverage of Orders
Rescinding the World War II Evacuation of Japanese-Americans
Glenn W. Scott
School of Communications
CB 2850, Elon, NC 27244
[log in to unmask]
Submitted to the History Division of the Association for Education in
Journalism and Mass Communication for consideration of presentation
at the 2006 annual conference.
Rethinking Rights: Press Coverage of Orders
Rescinding the World War II Evacuation of Japanese-Americans
California newspapers supported the War Department's order
sending Japanese-Americans into internment camps in the months
following the attack on Pearl Harbor. When federal decrees were
rescinded in late 1944, papers began to reconsider their coverage and
depictions of Japanese-Americans returning to the West Coast. This
study finds the San Francisco Chronicle, influenced by retired editor
Chester H. Rowell, was more willing to revise its narrative than the
other major paper, the Los Angeles Times.
Rethinking Rights: Press Coverage of Orders
Rescinding the World War II Evacuation of Japanese-Americans
When Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast were ordered
into internment camps in early 1942, most newspapers in California
cheered. America, argued the editors, was fighting a devious enemy in
the Pacific, and early government reports following the surprise
attack on Pearl Harbor suggested that Japanese-Americans were
dangerous as well. Scholars have found that California's newspapers
looked with such favor and relief on War Department actions to
evacuate and relocate Japanese-Americans that the papers rarely
questioned the merits of the policy or the veracity of the claims
that evacuees posed a real threat.1
By late 1944, when the first camp residents began returning to
California, they faced a less certain environment of opinion. Japan
no longer seemed capable of attacking the coast. And to prove their
American loyalties, young Japanese-American Army volunteers from the
camps and from Hawaii had distinguished themselves fighting and dying
in Europe. Newspapers had to take these new conditions into account
as their coverage reached the December 1944 rulings that would allow
most camp residents to regain their freedom.
Tadayuki Todah's case study reveals some of the ironies of the
time. A World War I veteran, naturalized citizen, and Los Angeles
restaurant owner, Todah had won an early release from the Poston,
Arizona, camp.2 Once home in Southern California, however, he was
greeted by a Los Angeles Times cameraman, and Todah's photo ran on
the newspaper's front page. Invisible in Poston, he was news in LA.
Yet the short Times story accompanying the photo revealed nothing of
Todah's thoughts or misgivings at such an emotionally complex moment.
Readers were left to divine those from his wistful expression.3 They
had help from two other stories that ran in the Times the same day.
In one, a leader of the American Civil Liberties Union predicted that
hostility toward Japanese-Americans would subside as more loyal
evacuees returned home.4 In the other, the Los Angeles County
district attorney warned that releasing Japanese-Americans back to
California represented "the second attack on Pearl Harbor."5
Such competing perceptions were the stuff of press coverage in
late 1944 as Japanese-Americans began to emerge from the camps.
Scholars studying press performance on this wartime topic have looked
predominantly at two time periods: the time immediately following the
Pearl Harbor attack and the period following the war. They have found
that the reporting on Japanese-Americans was neutral in the first few
weeks following the attack. As government leaders began depicting the
Japanese-American community as a threat to security, however, the
press began to reflect the same ill-informed biases.6 Bishop
maintains that the press adopted the "guard dog" function by assuming
a sentry role in protecting the dominant culture from threats seen in
the hysteria following Pearl Harbor as coming from
Japanese-Americans.7 Chiasson, in a study of editorials from the
period, called the California press a "governmental publicist."8
After the war, other historians have observed that press coverage
lost much of its overt racist overtones by the late 1940s.9 Leonard
concluded that Americans reacting against wartime atrocities in
Germany and Asia adopted more complex attitudes about treatment of
Japanese-Americans and "cloaked their hostility" in indirect references.10
Little has been written specifically on how newspapers
responded to decisions by both the War Department and the U.S.
Supreme Court in December 1944 that altered California's wartime
status quo. Indeed, it was an anxious time. As American forces began
to prevail in the Pacific, federal government leaders confronted the
constitutional implications of their policy of locking away
Japanese-Americans, most of them citizens, in an act historian Roger
Daniels has termed a "legal atrocity."11
This work examines the performance of two prominent
California newspapers during that important transitional period. The
Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle were perhaps the
two most influential papers in the state.12 This paper asks how
those papers adapted to the shifting political, military, and social
discourse surrounding the War Department's decision on December 17,
1944, rescinding evacuation orders, and the Supreme Court ruling the
following day upholding the rights of loyal Japanese-American
citizens to be released. It finds that, far more than the Times, the
Chronicle refocused its coverage on the constitutional rights of the
returning Japanese-Americans. Behind that shift was the retired
editor of the Chronicle, 74-year-old progressivist Chester R. Rowell,
who a decade earlier had involved himself in efforts to improve
relations between the United States and East Asia.
Specifically, this research analyzes coverage of news and
opinion in the papers' main news sections during a 46-day period from
Nov. 15, when early camp releases such as Todah's began to be
reported, until the end of the year when coverage ebbed after the
decision was announced and analyzed.13 In analyzing the newspaper
reports, this paper divides the study period into three sections.
Period I includes stories published prior to the War Department and
Supreme Court edicts. Period II focuses on two days of breaking news
coverage of those events. Period III captures news that followed the
announcements through the end of the year.
Background: Evacuation and Relocation Orders
Two and a half months after Japan's December 7, 1941, attack on
Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive
Order 9066, authorizing the War Department to exclude and move people
from the West Coast for military security reasons. Secretary of War
Henry Stimson followed with more orders instructing the Western
Defense Command and Fourth Army to evacuate people who posed security
threats,14 which in practice meant Japanese-Americans, both
first-generation "aliens,"15 known in Japanese as Issei, and their
native-born offspring, Nisei, who were U.S. citizens.16 FDR's
administration created the War Relocation Authority to administer the
move and to manage the camps. Moving 110,000 people from the West
Coast via temporary centers into ten hastily constructed shelters
required months, and most people had settled into the camps by
November 1942. Dillon S. Myer, director of the authority through most
of the war, described the housing as "bare, dusty, unattractive,
Although most residents remained in camps for at least the two years
until the War Department rescinded its orders, some received
exemptions to leave earlier to attend college or to work on farms or
in factories in the Midwest and East.18 By the fall of 1944, the Army
also began allowing selected "loyal" camp residents, usually
well-established citizens such as Todah, to return to their homes.
The great challenge to public opinion during the evacuation period
came as Japanese-Americans joined the U.S. military. By late January
1943, the Army had responded to Nisei pressure to prove their
loyalties by organizing the 442nd Combat Team, an
all-Japanese-American volunteer group that absorbed the 100th
Battalion, an all-Nisei National Guard unit from Hawaii. In his
memoirs, Myer makes the point that the all-Nisei fighting unit
"dramatically reawakened" American public consciousness about
Period I: Nisei Loyalty, Early Returns and Earl Warren
The 442nd unit's effect on press coverage becomes clear
immediately in press coverage during this paper's period of study –
especially in the period prior to the December 17 ban on the mass
exclusion. On November 16, 1944, for example, the Chronicle ran an
Associated Press photograph of Army private Raymond Matsuda, in
uniform, leaning on a crutch. Matsuda, a Purple Heart medal
recipient, made the news after he was refused service by an Arizona
barber. Said the caption: "His ancestry was more important than his
service to this nation."20 The Times did not run the photo. Two days
later, the Times published a story remembering Henry Kondo, the first
Nisei from Pasadena to be killed in the war. The story begins with a
quote from Kondo: "Even unto death, we'll show we're Americans in
every way."21 The six-paragraph article describes comments about
Kondo and Nisei in general during a dedication service at the
Pasadena Federated Mission.
The two newspapers developed their own themes, often zooming in on
particular story threads. The Chronicle showed more interest in Nisei
military news. On Nov. 23, the paper carried a reminder of
Japanese-American losses with a brief AP story reporting a casualty
count of 263 Nisei soldiers who had volunteered from internment
camps.22 Another AP story, this one on Nov. 27, declared a
"pronounced trend" among soldiers from Colorado to oppose an
anti-Japanese-American ballot proposition. By the publication date,
the election counts had been tallied and the ballot measure narrowly
defeated. The story, however, carried an instructive implication:
Soldiers fighting along with the Nisei were far more apt to honor
Japanese-Americans' rights than were other voters.23 Such stories
undermined easy conceptualizations of Japanese-Americans as enemies.
As the war progressed, the papers were providing their readers with
chances to construct more complicated mental "pictures of the world." 24
As distant Nisei sacrifices made news, papers reported that
selected Japanese-American families had won Army exemptions to return
home in California. After running Todah's profile on its front page,
the Times followed with a report on the Fukuda family's return to the
Orange County citrus farm it had owned for thirty-four years. "I'm
mighty glad to be back," the Times quoted William Fukuda.25
The Chronicle told the story of James Yamamoto coming home to
his "six-acre berry patch" in Santa Clara. Like Fukuda, Yamamoto came
across as entirely assimilated. He mentioned that "many of my
schoolmates have come to tell me they are glad to see me." The
Chronicle interviewed neighbors and concluded that few showed much
concern. "The poor guy is bewildered," said one neighbor. "All he
wants is a chance to go to work quietly and run his farm as he had
before." The Chronicle's story was significant in another way: It
reflected the paper's trend toward introducing questions of Nisei
constitutional rights. In this case, the story described an informal
"survey of community sentiment." Wrote the unnamed reporter: "The
majority are determined that the constitutional rights of citizens
regardless of their race will be respected." 26
Where did that idea come from? Concern for Nisei rights does
not fit with the scholarly depiction of the California press two
years earlier, in 1942, willingly dismissing Japanese-American
interests for the sake of the larger society's security.27 Here,
then, is another glimpse of how papers began adapting to shifting
contexts. Soon after Pearl Harbor, even the most respected state
leaders such as then Attorney General Earl Warren warned of sabotage
and enemy attacks.28 By late 1944, Warren had become governor, and
though he still spoke cautiously about preventing sabotage and ethnic
conflicts, Warren's public statements had evolved to acknowledge the
legitimacy of Japanese-American rights.29
Aware that the first Nisei were returning to the state, Warren
addressed the topic at a November 18 press conference in Sacramento.
Both the Times and Chronicle carried wire stories from the event, and
the treatment of each underscored the papers' thematic approaches.
The Chronicle, more willing to explore constitutional issues, ran an
AP story that hesitatingly explored the notion that
Japanese-Americans had rights to return. The lead paragraph read:
"Governor Warren said today that if the Federal
Government determines military necessity no longer requires the
exclusion of Japanese from California, the State government will give
'full recognition of their constitutional and statutory rights.'"30
Thus did the discourse on rights enter press reports. By emphasizing
that Nisei rights were part of the public discourse (without moving
far from his guarded political position), Warren invited newspapers
to dilute the racist chemistry of earlier anti-Japanese-American perspectives.
One Chronicle writer who soon followed up on this was Chester H.
Rowell, a former Chronicle editor who had retired at age 68 in
1935. Inducted into the California Newspaper Hall of Fame in 1964,
Rowell is best remembered as a political leader in the Progressive
movement during his years as publisher and editor of the Fresno
Republican. But in the 1920s and 30s, Rowell also had invested great
effort in diplomatic and academic relations among the United States,
Canada, China, and Japan through organizations such as the Institute
of Pacific Relations. In a 1933 column from an institute meeting in
Banff, he wrote that improvements in international relations would
likely come from experts who "appreciate the Orient most sanely and
sympathetically."31 By 1944, he was 77 when he wrote a column that
backed Warren's references to Nisei rights. "The California governor,
fortunately, is not only an experienced lawyer, but also he can read,
and he actually does so. He has read the Constitution of the United
States, and knows what it says on this subject, and what the courts
have decided on it."32 Rowell's work, perhaps more clearly than any
other, signals the Chronicle's shift toward a primacy on
The Times' coverage of Warren's speech, however, took a
different path. The lead of the United Press report read: "Gov.
Warren tonight said that California will give 'patriotic support' to
any decision the U.S. Army may make to release Japanese lodged in
relocation centers, but announced that he has asked the military to
'evaluate' the possibility of civil disturbances."33 This story
captures a recurring Times theme that focused on state officials'
frustrations in convincing federal decision-makers of potential
dangers. This theme becomes the Times' counterpoint to the
Chronicle's interest in constitutional rights. In the Times piece,
Warren's comments about Nisei rights come as literally the last words
in the eight-paragraph story.
By mid-December, as decisions on lifting the ban grew
nearer,34 the Times published more stories reporting on efforts of
state and federal legislators to warn of problems and to seek
procedural clarifications. A page-one story from Washington, D.C., by
staff correspondent Warren B. Francis told readers the Army had
provided "conditional assurance" that "it does not contemplate mass
return of Japanese evacuees to Pacific Coast areas." The story quoted
John J. McCloy, assistant secretary of war. The story did not hint
that McCloy's own department would lift the ban the next week.35
Other stories continued to itemize the frustrations of elected state
and congressional officials.36 A group of state senators, for
instance, predicted that the return of internees "would cause riots,
turmoil, bloodshed and endanger the war effort."37 In a short
editorial on Dec. 13, the Times scolded McCloy for his vague
assurances, arguing that banning the evacuation orders would be
unwise. "To say that there is no immediate intention of returning
Japs here is not to say that there may not be such an intention
tomorrow, or next week or next month. The War Department should be
more specific."38 Indeed, if the Chronicle was beginning explore
questions of individual rights, the Times was holding tighter to its
depiction of Japanese-Americans as threats to the greater society.39
This was by no means a new editorial position for the Times, with its
conservative, anti-labor, and occasionally racist opinions promoted
by the swaggering early publisher, General Harrison Gray Otis, and
carried into the 1940s by family members Harry and Norman Chandler.40
The Chronicle was developing a different theme by focusing on
a relatively small but glaring act of racism in the orchard country
of Hood River, Oregon, where the American Legion post decided to
remove the names of sixteen Nisei volunteers from its monument to all
local soldiers in the war. In a page-one piece sympathetic to the
Japanese-American fighters, columnist Royce Brier resolved that the
post had "jumped the American track in this instance."41 An AP wire
brief reported that a New York legion unit had invited the sixteen
Nisei soldiers to join their ranks.42 A day later, the Chronicle
published more criticism of the Hood River group as well as of the
state senators who had warned of troubles. Perhaps the strongest
criticism came from the assistant director of the War Relocation
Authority, Robert Cozzens. In a staff-written Chronicle piece, the
World War I veteran ripped the rural Oregon group for disgracing and
betraying the legion. Asked Cozzens: "What strange reasoning prompts
you to strike at these heroes who are facing our enemy in deadly
combat?"43 This was not a big story, but it allowed the Chronicle to
tell stories that recast the Nisei solders as loyal victims rather
than prospective saboteurs.44
On the following day, the Chronicle published a UP story
written by a wounded war correspondent, Robert C. Miller, who had
returned to San Francisco on an airplane with an injured Nisei
soldier, Lt. Dick Hamasaki. The story is the closest to a personal
profile of any in the study period. It highlighted Hamasaki's ethnic
identity conflicts – and his three war injuries.
Dick, a member of the famed all-Nisei 100th Infantry
Battalion – better
known as the Purple Heart Battalion – is coming home to
his brothers in
Hawaii. Of his parents he knows nothing. He left them in
Japan four years ago,
where he attended school as ordered by his father.
"Because of my Japanese ancestry, I was forced to bow
to my father's will,
despite the fact I that I was born an American citizen in
Hawaii," said the
sturdily built lieutenant, "and it was at his insistence
that I went back to
Japan for my education. Had my mother not prevailed upon
him to allow
me to return to my brothers in Hawaii I would probably be
in the Japanese
The story ended with an emotional pitch from a U.S. Army
captain about Nisei sacrifice: "They gave everything they had – many
their lives. And we're going to see to it that the ones who do come
back are given every consideration possible."46
Period II: Feds Change the Rules
For Monday, December 18, 1944, California newspapers had
plenty to report. American troops had pushed into Belgium, and U.S.
bombers were hitting targets inside Japan. The Americans were
declaring success in the bloody battle in Leyte, where Japanese
fatalities were estimated at 82,500. In both theaters, Americans were
beginning to prevail. At home, one week before Christmas, the War
Department rescinded its orders banning Japanese-Americans from most
The Times played the domestic news as its lead story with a
banner headline on the front page – "Army Lifts Ban on Japs' Return"
– that made no semantic distinction between the enemy America was
fighting and the Americans to be released from internment camps.47
The separate headline over its lead story maintained the Times
ongoing theme: "Shift in Policy Startles California Congressmen."
Correspondent Francis's story from Washington explained that the War
Department's action came because officials no longer saw California
as "in serious danger of enemy attack."48
The second paragraph explained that the Army's Western Defense
Command would not release people still considered "pro-Japanese." The
following paragraph sought to mitigate some of the fears that the
Times had lately explored. Federal officials, Francis wrote, "will
prevent any stampede, with the War Department directing 'a gradual
and orderly return.'" Francis confirmed that the Army's announcement
had surprised the congressmen who had been prodding the Army to
continue the exclusion.
The Times grouped two other stories with that main report on
its front page. A second found "little enthusiasm" among local law
enforcement officials.49 The third, an AP story, reported Warren's
appeal for Californians to accept the decision as part of the war
effort.50 In his written statement, included at the end of the
article, the governor called for respect for the returnees'
constitutional rights and later suggested that "any public unrest
that develops from provocative statements will of necessity retard
the flow of materials to our boys." The Times wire story, however,
transposed the order in its summary of Warren's comments, moving the
mention of public unrest ahead of Warren's reference to rights.
The Chronicle published a front-page story without a banner
headline. The story itself was straightforward, subdued, and
lengthy, reporting in the lead that the Western Defense Command had
lifted its restrictions. "Exclusion has now been placed on a basis of
individual loyalty instead of race." Most of the article focused on
the comments of Major General H.C. Pratt, the WDC's commanding
general. Veering from the Times article, the Chronicle's lead story
did not play up disapproval from the state's congressional
delegation, saving that matter for a less prominent sidebar. But the
story did recap the issue, reminding readers of the utterance of
Lieutenant General John DeWitt, Pratt's predecessor and the framer of
the exclusion orders, who famously had said, "A Jap's a Jap." The
story also called the evacuation "the greatest controlled migration
in the history of the United States."51
The Chronicle ran Warren's statement on page six, summarizing
it as a call to comply "loyally, cheerfully and carefully."52 Other
stories reported pro and con comments, but even the negative comments
were less than vituperative. Rather than showing the congressional
delegation as shocked, an AP story said most members were reticent.
The story quoted one member anonymously in the second paragraph:
"After all, most of those who will be readmitted are citizens, whose
right to go or do as they please is guaranteed by the constitution."53
News advanced quickly that week. One day after the War
Department's announcement, the Supreme Court issued rulings in two
key cases. In Korematsu vs. United States, the court upheld the
authority of the military to evacuate residents for security
purposes.54 In Endo vs. United States, though, the court found that
Endo, a citizen and public employee who had demonstrated her loyalty,
had been confined in violation of due process.55
The Times held fast to its usual interpretation with a
front-page story noting the conflicting results of each case and the
difficulties in resolving the emerging problems. In another byline
story by Francis, the story said the Supreme Court had "added to the
confusion about the handling of Pacific Coast evacuees by ordering
prompt release from War Relocation Authority centers."56 The story
ran alongside another staff-written article reiterating that startled
Southern Californians had "turned more vigilant and demanded to know
where the Japs will live."57 The piece discussed how authorities
would need to increase surveillance against sabotage, a depiction
that moved against the grain of the Army's recent statements.
Sabotage certainly would have been on the minds of anyone who
read that front page. The lead story on that important day was a UP
article played above the masthead in which the FBI said a large
Japanese balloon had been found in a snow-covered forest near
Kalispell, Montana, "raising speculation that enemy saboteurs may
have dropped by parachutes into the interior of the United States."
The story offered no proof but said sabotage was likely.58 Despite
the story's prominent play, later editions of the Times during this
study period made no further mention of the balloon. Today,
historians know Japan launched about 9,000 such "balloon bombs"
beginning on Nov. 3, 1944, in a retaliatory bid to strike at the U.S.
On the same day that the Times carried such anxious stories,
the paper began to explore government attempts to reduce
uncertainties. A staff-written story from Washington, D.C., carried
Interior Secretary Harold Ickes' assurances of an "orderly return" of
Japanese-Americans. The story quoted the secretary's observation that
35,000 of the 110,000 people sent to camps already had resettled
elsewhere. The story offered a face-saving explanation for the Times'
perspective in highlighting official frustrations. Without citing
sources, the story said "signs multiplied that the Army acted on the
basis of a tip that the Supreme Court would order release of all
loyal Japanese-Americans." 60
The Chronicle responded December 19 with a front-page story
that brought together many issues that grew from the government
rulings. The lead estimated that 6,000 Japanese-Americans would
arrive home in the following three months. Mention of the Supreme
Court actions came in the fourth paragraph. The story then quoted
Ickes, Cozzens, and Warren – three public officials who promoted a
peaceful and proper transition. Warren again spoke up for
constitutional rights. The article did carry some nay-saying; Los
Angeles Mayor Fletcher Bowron said the "re-migration might lead to
serious outbreaks of race riots, and would complicate housing
problems."61 Still, the tone varied from the Times coverage. What did
not appear in the Chronicle also is telling. There was no headline
and story about the balloon dropping unconfirmed saboteurs in
Montana. Instead, a headline declared that certain citizens were
"entitled to their liberty."
Both papers produced editorials on Dec. 19 to comment on the
government decrees. The Times called the release of
Japanese-Americans a mistake – and referred in the piece to
Japanese-Americans as "Nips." "We shall take it," the editorial
observed, "but we shall not pretend to like it." The editorial took
issue with the Army's explanation that a release was necessary
without the threat of attack. "Isn't it rather absurd to assume that
Japs in America who are disposed to help their country against us
will do so only if and when a Nip army lands on our shores?"62
The Times also doubted the Army's success in predicting
loyalty, arguing that those who pretended most to be loyal should be
viewed as most suspect. This reasoning neatly indicted everyone who
swore to wartime patriotism – including, by extension, the Times
editorial staff. But the point was aimed at one ethnic group. The
Times, airing even more frustration than its news stories had earlier
expressed, said the federal government was asking too much of
California to expect generosity and sharing. "Human nature simply
isn't built that way." This was an editorial meant to express the
outrage of the greater community, not of those who had been locked up.
The Chronicle's editorial was more analytical. It observed in
the lead that the perfect fit of the two edicts "almost persuades one
of the truth of mental telepathy." Raising both the Korematsu and
Endo rulings, the article was a study of the balance between military
needs and individual rights. It called the Endo decision a "foregone
conclusion." While the Times had castigated the rulings, the
Chronicle held up their lasting value, and not only as a benefit for
Nisei. Speaking of Endo, the editorial said:
If there should ever be another case like this exclusion order
this ruling would put on the detaining authority a compulsion to
release immediately any citizen whose loyalty it could not impugn.
One might say that the two decisions say to the Government, "It was
all right when you did it but quit it and you take all the risks if
you do it again."
In general, these decisions of the Court with their accompanying
concurrences and dissents strike a blow at racism. Justice Douglas
summed it all up in, "Loyalty is a thing of heart and mind, not of
race, creed or color." This, a universal truth, is the American
denial of Hitlerism.63
Period III: Adjusting to Change
News stories appearing in the Times in the days following the
decisions suggest a community struggle to adjust perceptions. A
front-page story on December 20 raised the possibility that returning
Japanese-Americans may need to undertake "a gigantic housing project"
to provide places to live since many previously occupied rentals were
taken.64 A day later, another lead story reported that many Nisei had
chosen to move elsewhere. Evidence of the shift came from the
government records at warehouses where the internees stored their
belongings. "There's an intensely human story in these things stored
here," the story quoted a surprisingly well-spoken supervisor, "but
the significant thing is shown by our records is that many of these
uprooted people do not wish to return."65 Next came a story about a
coalition of seven groups calling on internees to stay away. The
groups included nativist groups, a "Ban the Japs" Committee, as well
as Filipino and Korean associations. The story said the coalition
described its motives as "for security reasons and not racial or social."66
As the year ended, Times coverage began to show less
frustration. A December 24 AP story from the Manzanar relocation camp
in Eastern California again made the point that many
Japanese-Americans were not likely to hurry home to the coast. On
Christmas, the Times ran a rare letter to the editor. It came from
E.C. Farnham, general secretary of the Church Federation of Los
Angeles and the Southern California Council of Protestant Churches.
The Farnham letter addressed all of the humanitarian points that the
Times editorial had not. The letter termed the evacuation a
"wrenching of democratic relationships" and called on people to be
thoughtful and "without passion" in resolving problems."67 Four days
later, a story began with a reference to another community religious
group, the Committee for Church and Community Co-operation, which
commended law enforcement groups for vowing to keep the peace in case
of threats. For one of the few cases in a Times story, a county
official spoke in moderation about strife. "The problem will be
handled much easier if we don't let alarmists drive us to extreme
measures," said a member of the sheriff's department.68
The last Times story during the study period provides a
glimpse of the racial tensions the paper had predicted. But it also
reveals a slight shift in the paper's thematic framing, from
frustration toward accommodation. With its Japanese-American members
returning, a Buddhist temple had moved to evict seventy-five black
war workers who had taken residence in the Little Tokyo building. The
workers had hired an attorney to fight the eviction. "We aren't
opposed to the Japanese returning," said a spokesman. "But we believe
. . . that we are entitled to certain considerations." 69
As with the Times, Chronicle reporters began to note during
Period III that, despite some fears, evacuees were unlikely to hurry
back to their former homes. Fears arrived in a December 21 story from
the California State Grange, who sought to speak for rural parts of
the state in opposing re-assimilation. Submitting a new argument to
counter assertions of citizenship, the Grange said that "nearly every
Japanese child born in California was registered with the Japanese
Consul, thereby becoming a subject of the
Emperor of Japan, at the same time claiming American citizenship."70
In the following days, however, the newspaper carried comments from
Warren calling for an orderly transition. The War Relocation
Authority, again measuring warehouse activities, signaled a slow pace
The Chronicle widened its scope significantly during this
stage by publishing eight letters to the editor, most opposing racial
exclusions. Writers like Alan Benner said protecting all citizenship
rights did justice to all soldiers.72 Mary Grace Street applied
contrarian geologic politics: "Since we could not move the West Coast
away from the Japanese after Japan's attack on America, General De
Witt moved the Japanese away from the West Coast. And they should
stay away for the duration."73
Before the year ended, the Chronicle ran a story that combined
two favorite topics: The racism over the Hood River monument and the
heroism of the 442nd Regiment. The story took shape after the Army's
Stars and Stripes, a newspaper distributed to the troops, published a
story about the Hood River episode. UP reporter Clinton Conger
followed up by finding a battalion that the Nisei soldiers had
rescued two months earlier in a distinguished act of bravery by
fighting through a German line. His story offered what Conger
described as a "particularly vituperative" response. "Those boys
deserve a hell of a lot more than the men sitting back in that Oregon
town who don't want them around," said one of the eighty-one soldiers
the Nisei had rescued. "And we feel pretty lousy having to fight for
the rights and liberties of people who do something like that to
these Japanese-Americans fighting over here."74
Scholarly descriptions seeking to explain how the press covered the
government-mandated evacuation of Japanese-Americans in 1942 have
observed that most of the major newspapers, including the Times and
Chronicle, followed the same patterns and supported government
initiatives. This study suggests that by the time federal officials
ended the evacuation, the state's two most prominent papers had
adopted contrasting perspectives, both in their news stories and editorials.
The Times published stories that took neutral, if
non-committal, looks at highly assimilated early returnees during the
first period of the study period. As it became more apparent that the
War Department was planning to end the exclusion, however, Times
coverage focused more on congressional and community objections. The
paper made almost no effort during the period to explore issues from
the Japanese perspective. Rather, the paper at times seemed to slink
toward De Witt's old axiom that "a Jap is a Jap." Given the chance to
consider constitutional issues, the paper instead opted to view even
U.S. citizens as saboteurs in waiting. Not until the last days of
this study period did the paper start to run stories that allowed
readers to consider more humanitarian concerns. But even those
stories depended on the initiatives of church groups. If the Times
coverage had a symbol, it would be the ineffective balloon – an
object of speculation.
The Chronicle, on the other hand, was not without its efforts
to arouse the readership.75 Finding a proper – and safely distant –
villain outside its circulation area in Hood River, the Chronicle
exploited the contrast of ignorance against sacrifice in a narrative
strategy showing Japanese-Americans as deserving, not suspicious.
During the study period, the paper grew bolder in framing the federal
decision-making as a constitutional issue. The Chronicle's December
19 editorial was as superb as the Times' was sour. The Chronicle's
symbol? Perhaps Lt. Hamasaki's three Purple Hearts, items too
honorable to challenge.
The papers veered so far in their coverage that scholarly
depictions of press coverage from 1942 almost seem to fail. The
Times' performance may still fit with the "guard dog" function, a
conceptualization that makes room for occasional media jousts at
dominant institutions. But certainly the Chronicle by late 1944 had
abandoned its perch as protector of the dominant culture. Or, to make
an argument that the Chronicle was still guarding something, that
object would need to be noble indeed. The Constitution, perhaps.
A better explanation is that both papers continued to maintain
a supportive line with the government. They simply nominated the
governments and the leaders who brought legitimacy to their
interests. The Times lined up with legislators, the mayor, and others
who fought to preserve the racist assumptions that maintained the
status quo. The Chronicle allowed Earl Warren, federal executive
agencies and, finally, the Supreme Court, to cut a protective path.
The Chronicle was not leading, just narrating.
This depiction reflects political assumptions that the media
will stay closely in step with government policies during crises as
long as influential elites remain united in their public discourse.
Once elite disagreement emerges, however, news organizations are more
apt to seek wider ranges of dissent.76 Such was the case here, with
each paper choosing a different camp. And as the U.S. war effort
improved, desperation ebbed and dissent grew. By proving, or
sacrificing, themselves in battle, the Nisei accelerated social
acceptance by forcing a hard and costly reality on Americans. The
Chronicle, with a more accepting approach as personified by Chester
Rowell, seized on that reality. The Times of the Otis and Chandler
family legacy, tried to avoid it.
1 Ronald Bishop, "To Protect and Serve: The 'Guard Dog' Function
of Journalism in Coverage of the Japanese-American Internment,"
Journalism Communication Monographs 2, no. 2 (2000); Morton Grodzins,
Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1949); and Kevin Allen Leonard, ""Is
That What We Fought For?" the Japanese Americans and Racism in
California, the Impact of World War Two," Western Historical
Quarterly 21 (1990).
2 For works detailing life and restrictions in relocation camps,
see Brian Komei Dempster, ed., From Our Side of the Fence: Growing up
in America's Concentration Camps (San Francisco: Kearny Street
Workshop, 2001); Louis Fiset, Imprisoned Apart: The World War Ii
Correspondence of an Issei Couple, The Scott and Louise Oki Series in
Asian American Studies (Seattle: University of Washington Press,
1997), Bryan J. Grapes, ed., Japanese American Internment Camps,
History Firsthand (San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2001); Bill Hosokawa,
Out of the Frying Pan: Reflections of a Japanese American (Niwot, CO:
University Press of Colorado, 1998), John Modell, ed., The Kikuchi
Diary: Chronicle from an American Concentration Camp. The Tanforan
Journals of Charles Kikuchi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1973); Eric Muller, Free to Die for Their Country, ed. John M.
Conley, The Chicago Series in Law and Society (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 2001); and Richard S. Nishimoto, Inside
an American Concentration Camp (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 1995).
3 "Naturalized Japanese Returns to Home Here," Los Angeles Times,
Dec. 6 1944.
4 "Japanese-American Hostility Held Fading," Los Angeles Times,
Dec. 6 1944.
5 "Howser Wonders If Jap Returns by Coincidence," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 6 1944.
6 See Bishop, Lloyd Chiasson, "Japanese-American Relocation During
World War Two: A Study of California Editorial Reactions," Journalism
Quarterly 68 (1991); Patricia A. Curtin, "Press Coverage of the 44nd
Regimental Combat Team (Separate -- Nisei): A Case Study in Agenda
Building," American Journalism 12, no. 3 (1995); Grapes, ed,
Grodzins, Dillon S. Myer, Uprooted Americans (Tucson: The University
of Arizona Press, 1972); Gary Okihiro and Julie Sly, "The Press,
Japanese Americans, and the Concentration Camps," Phylon 44 (1983);
and Michi Weglyn, Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America's
Concentration Camps, updated ed. (Seattle: University of Washington
Press, 1976). Weglyn offers the sternest indictment, asserting that
top War Department officials knew from an intelligence study prior to
Pearl Harbor that Japanese-Americans were highly loyal, but leaders
were willing to mislead the public to remove themselves from blame.
"Little did authorities then realize," Weglyn says, "that with all
their zealotry, not one instance of subversion or sabotage would ever
be uncovered among the Issei, or a single case involving the Nisei (46)."
7 Bishop applies the "guard dog" conceptualization from G.A.
Donohue, P.J. Tichenor, and C.N. Olien, "A Guard Dog Perspective on
the Role of the Media," Journal of Communication 45, no. 2 (1995).
Bishop notes, for example, that after Secretary of the Navy Frank
Knox claimed on Dec. 15, 1941, that Japanese-American conspirators in
Honolulu had aided the Pearl Harbor attack, San Francisco Chronicle
columnist Dorothy Thompson echoed Knox's words in a subsequent story
promoting the notion that the press would lead the charge against
fifth-column conspirators (83).
8 Chiasson, "Japanese-American Relocation During World War Two," 262.
9 Tetsuden Kashima, "Japanese American Internees Return -- 1945 to
1955: Readjustment and Social Amnesia," Phylon 41, no. 2 (1980);
Leonard, Mitchell T. Maki, Harry H.L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold,
Achieving the Impossible Dream: How Japanese-Americans Obtained
Redress, ed. Roger Daniels, The Asian-American Experience (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1999); and Greg Robinson, By Order of
the President: F.D.R. And the Internment of Japanese Americans
(Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
10 Leonard, "Is That What We Fought For?" 481-482.
11 Roger Daniels, The Decision to Relocate the Japanese Americans,
ed. Harold M. Hyman, The America's Alternatives Series (Philadelphia:
J.B. Lippincott Company, 1975).
12 This study focuses on California, the population center for
Japanese-Americans, the host state of the Western Defense command,
and the area where the evacuation and resettlement were most
contested. Of the 110,000 people sent to camps, 85 percent of them,
or 93,717, left homes in California. By March 1946, about 48,600 had
returned. For more demographic data, see Myer, Uprooted Americans, 225.
13 A total of 109 news items ran in the two papers. The
Times published sixty-three; about half were staff-produced articles.
One was a letter to the editor. The Chronicle published forty-six
items, of which twenty were staff produced. Another fourteen were
letters. The distribution of articles during this study is relatively
balanced for periods before, during, and after the key decisions. Not
surprisingly, the day following the War Department's announcement
showed the most activity. The Times carried eleven stories and the
Chronicle nine. While some stories were lengthy, others were no
longer than a paragraph.
14 For verbatim texts of these documents, see Daniels, The
Decision to Relocate, 113-128.
15 Virtually all first-generation Japanese immigrants lived with
the title of "alien" even if they had been permanent residents in
the United States for decades. Federal law generally prohibited them
from becoming citizens, although some such as Todah, a World War I
veteran, were naturalized.
16 Daniels, The Decision to Relocate. He suggests that existing
racism, fear of Japanese-American economic mobility, the geographical
concentration of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast, and the threat
of Japanese militarism produced the preconditions that served to
legitimize the relocation decisions. For discussions on
discriminatory federal policies directed toward Japanese-Americans
earlier in the century, see Keith Aoki, "No Right to Own? The Early
Twentieth-Century "Alien Land Laws" as a Prelude to Internment,"
Boston College Law Review 40 (1998); and Bradley Hamm, "Redefining
Racism: Newspaper Justification for the 1924 Exclusion of Japanese
Immigrants," American Journalism 16, no. 3 (1999).
17 Myer, Uprooted Americans, 30. Weglyn has suggested that Myer,
though sympathetic, was an apologist for government policy and
glossed over the desperate conditions that camp internees faced.
18 Grapes, Japanese American Internment Camps, 169, Fiset,
Imprisoned Apart, 82-83.
19 Myer, Uprooted Americans, 146. For more on press coverage of
the 442nd, including a discussion of how the Army managed publicity
of the unit, see Curtin, "Press Coverage of the 442nd."
20 "No Haircut for Him," San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 16 1944.
21 "Gold Star Honors Nisei Killed in Action," Los Angeles Times,
Nov. 18 1944.
22 "Army Reports 263 Casualties among the Nisei," San Francisco
Chronicle, Nov. 23 1944.
23 "Soldiers Vote 'No' on Alien Property Ban," San Francisco
Chronicle, Nov. 27 1944.
24 This fits with the observations of Leonard, in "'Is That What
We Fought for?'" describing the postwar period. For more on media
effects on mental imagery, see Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion (New
York: Free Press (1965 reprint), 1922); and Maxwell McCombs, "News
Influence on Our Pictures of the World," in Media Effects: Advances
in Theory and Research, ed. Dolf Zillman (Hilsdale, NJ: Lawrence
Erlbaum Associates, 1994).
25 "Japanese Family Returns to Orange County Ranch," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 10 1944.
26 "A Nisei Comes Home: All Is Quiet as James Yamamoto Returns to
His Santa Clara Ranch," San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 21 1944.
27 Bishop, To Protect and Serve, found that the New York Times,
Los Angeles Times, and Chronicle "had in effect helped the government
work through its period of indecision by marginalizing
Japanese-Americans, by focusing on the acts of officials as
individuals rather than as part of a larger structure, by accepting
without question the government's manufactured challenge" (91).
28 Warren would later distinguish himself as chief justice of a
U.S. Supreme Court remembered for its protections of civil liberties,
an irony so obvious that few scholars have failed to comment. Warren
never publicly apologized for his support of evacuation. But he did
remark in his memoirs, published three years after his death in 1977,
that he "deeply regretted the removal order and my own testimony
advocating it." For more on Warren's life and career in California,
see Ed Cray, Chief Justice: A Biography of Earl Warren (New York:
Simon & Schuster, 1997); Richard B. Harvey, Earl Warren: Governor of
California (New York: Exposition Press, 1969); Leo Katcher, Earl
Warren: A Political Biography (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967); Earl
Warren, The Memoirs of Earl Warren (Garden City, NY: Doubleday &
Company, 1977); and G. Edward White, Earl Warren: A Public Life (New
York: Oxford University Press, 1982).
29 Warren's comments clearly had moved away from his Feb. 21-23,
1942, testimony before the U.S. House Select Committee Investigating
National Defense Migration. He told the committee, for instance, that
"It seems to us that it is more than circumstance that after certain
government air bases were established, Japanese undertook farming
operations in close proximity to them." (Quoted in Grapes, Japanese
American Internment Camps.)
30 "Return of Nisei: Governor Warren Says State Can't Bar Citizens
of Japanese Ancestry," San Francisco Chronicle (1944).
31 Chester H. Rowell, "Institute Breeds Understanding," San
Francisco Chronicle, date unmarked, from Rowell Collection, Henry
Madden Library, California State University, Fresno.
32 Chester H. Rowell, "Japanese Order," San Francisco Chronicle, Nov.
33 "Governor Cites Possible Peril of Jap Return," Los Angeles
Times, Nov. 19 1944.
34 Myer said public officials were aware that a decision was
pending. Well-connected journalists may have sensed the change as
well. See Myer, Uprooted Americans, 185.
35 Warren B. Francis, "Army Sees No Early Return of Coast Japs,"
Los Angeles Times, Dec. 12 1944.
36 "California House Group Maps Objections to Japs: War Department
and W.R.A. To Be Told Return of Nips Still Involves Military
Security," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 13 1944, "Reports Sought on Jap
Releases," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 14, 1944.
37 "State Senators Warn Turmoil Would Follow," Los Angeles Times,
Dec. 13 1944.
38 "War Department Still Does Not Meet Jap Issue," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 13 1944.
39 This was not an unsuccessful strategy. It was during this
period that the Times moved into the lead in circulation in the Los
Angeles area. See Jack R. Hart, The Information Empire: The Rise of
the Los Angeles Times and the Times Mirror Corporation. Washington,
D.C.: University Press of America, 1981.
40 See Marshall Berges, The Life and Times of Los Angeles, New
York: Atheneum, 1984; David Halberstam, The Powers That Be, New York:
Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
41 Royce Brier, "This World Today," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 14 1944.
42 "Legion Post Asks 16 Nisei to Join," San Francisco Chronicle,
Dec. 14 1944.
43 "Legion Post Attacked in Nisei Case," San Francisco Chronicle,
Dec. 15 1944, "State Legion and Other Groups Opposing Exclusion
Policies," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 15 1944.
44 Cozzens also appeared as the main source in a Times article,
"Attempt to Bar Japs Scored by Official," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 8
1944. The story covered his speech to the Junior Chamber of Commerce,
in which he remarked, "It is difficult for me to understand how the
Bill of Rights can function in 47 states and not in California." This
was one of the most direct references to constitutional issues in
45 Robert C. Miller, "A Wounded Nisei Comes Home from Italy," San
Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 16 1944.
46 Miller, "A Wounded Nisei."
47 The Times used "Japs" or, less commonly, "Nips" in at least
twenty headlines during the study period. The Chronicle used "Japs"
twice, both early in Period I, but more regularly referred to
"Japanese" or "Japanese-Americans."
48 Warren B. Francis, "Shift in Policy Startles California
Congressmen; Known Disloyal Excluded," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 18 1944.
49 "Officials Fear Crisis in New Order on Japs," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 18 1944.
50 "Warren Urges People Support Army Decision," Los Angeles Times,
Dec. 18 1944.
51 "Coast Exclusion: Army Lifts Blanket Ban on Japanese-Americans;
No Mass Return Expected," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 18 1944.
52 "Warren Urges Compliance with Exclusion Order," San Francisco
Chronicle, Dec. 18 1944.
53 "Congressmen Say Little on Army Order," San Francisco
Chronicle, Dec. 18 1944.
54 Robinson, By Order of the President, 112.
55 Robinson, By Order of the President, 229. Peter Irons, Justice
at War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983). Robinson and Irons
assert that, government officials, knowing they would lose the Endo
case, arranged to delay the Supreme Court ruling to first allow the
War Department to rescind its orders.
56 Warren B. Francis, "Supreme Court Rules Loyal Nips Held
Illegally," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19 1944.
57 "Southland Uneasy over Japs' Return," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19 1944.
58 "Jap Balloon Found in Montana," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19 1944.
59 Japanese Balloon Bombs, [Online history] (United States Air
Force Museum, 2002, accessed May 2, 2002); available from
http://www.wpafb.af.mil/museum/history/wwii/jbb/htm. The first
balloon bombs were released from Japan on Nov. 3, 1944, about six
weeks before disclosure of the Montana balloon. There were 285
reported incidents of balloons reaching the country. According to the
museum, the military eventually asked the news media not to report on
the balloons to prevent panic and to suggest to the Japanese the
devices were ineffective. The government changed its policy in May
1945 and publicized the threat after six Oregon picnickers died in an
explosion while dragging a bomb from the woods.
60 "Orderly Return of Japs to West Coast Planned," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 19 1944.
61 "U.S. Japanese: 6000 Removed from Coast Expected to Return Home
During Next Three Months. Supreme Court Upholds Exclusion and Rules
That Citizens Affected Are Again Entitled to Their Liberty," San
Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 19 1944.
62 "We Shan't Pretend to Like It," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 19 1944.
63 "Exclusion Order," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 19 1944.
64 "Housing Project May Be Needed for Japanese," Los Angeles
Times, Dec. 20 1944.
65 "Japs Moving Belongings from Coast," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 21 1944.
66 "Japs Advised to Stay Away: Seven Groups Join in Appeal to Nips
to Consider Safety," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 22 1944.
67 E.C. Farnham, "Churchmen and Japs," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 25 1944.
68 "Plans for Maintaining Order Here on Return of Japs Commended,"
Los Angeles, Dec. 29 1944.
69 "Japs Plan Return to 'Little Tokyo': Court Battle Looms as
Negroes Receive Notice to Vacate Temple," Los Angeles Times, Dec. 31 1944.
70 "California Grange Deputies Oppose Return of Japanese," San
Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 21 1944.
71 Earl C. Behrens, "Homecoming for Japanese-Americans: Warren
Clears Way for Evacuees' Return," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 22
1944; "Japanese Find Other Areas to Liking," San Francisco Chronicle,
Dec. 23 1944.
72 Alan Benner, "Citizens' Rights," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 21 1944.
73 Mary Grace Street, "Japanese," San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 22 1944.
74 "Japanese Ban Angers GI's at the Front," San Francisco
Chronicle, Dec. 31, 1944, 1.
75 The competitive context of the coverage needs to be considered
as well. Both papers competed against the more outlandish and
anti-Asian editorial strategies of Hearst-owned papers, the Examiner
in San Francisco and the Herald in Los Angeles.
76 Lance W. Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion (White
Plains, NY: Longman, 1996), John E. Mueller, War, Presidents and
Public Opinion (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1973).