Paul Kusuda’s column
Remembering forced removal/incarceration
Paul H. Kusuda
By Paul H. Kusuda

Toward the end of April, I was a member of a panel discussion, primary sponsor, Madison Chapter, American
Constitutional Society, together with Attorney Hal Harlowe, Professor of Law at University of Wisconsin-
Madison AsifaQuiraishi-Landes, and Moderator Jean Feraca.  The Madison Chapter Program Committee
decided to host a program “…that examines the legal, social and moral lessons to be learned from the
United States’ mass internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  Given recent developments,
this shameful chapter in American history has taken on new relevance.”  

The observations, comments, and questions raised by the Moderator were incisive enabling coverage of
many topics related to the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who
were residing in the West Coast states of California, Oregon, and Washington.  On February 19, 1942,
President Franklin D. Roosevelt promulgated Executive Order 9066 authorizing the Secretary of War “…to
prescribe military areas
from which any or all persons may be excluded…”  Because the Japanese attack
on Pearl Harbor was December 7, 1941, the Order was actually written relatively quickly and carried out with little delay.  

My personal feelings were that there was no legal rationale to justify any mass removal of U.S. citizens without the federal government going
through processes covered by the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.  All secondary education students in California had to study both the
U.S. Constitution and the California Constitution.  As citizens, we all felt protected by provisions of the U.S. Constitution requiring due process
of the law.  (I overlooked the government’s need to consider compassion—that is, when families were comprised of both American citizens
and alien parents, could family ties be remain whole?  Citizens of Japan who emigrated to the U.S. were denied until 1952 the privilege to
become naturalized as American citizens; therefore, Japanese parents [Issei] were ineligible for U.S. citizenship while their children [Nisei]
were American citizens by birth.)  The “family-split” dilemma had to be taken into account when hysteria, xenophobia, race hatred, economic
considerations, etc. played the major role in the federal decision to dispense with Civil rights considerations in favor of national security—
forced removal and incarceration of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the three West Coast states.

Among questions asked of me during the panel discussion was “How soon after public notice was made did you and your family have to
leave?  That was not easy to answer since I had an inkling because within a month after December 7, people of Japanese ancestry were
forced to leave Terminal Island, an enclave of fishermen and families living a few miles south of Los Angeles.  Being of college age, I joined
a group of young men who borrowed trucks to help Terminal Islanders move inland to homes of relatives and friends in the LA area.  They
had about two or three days’ notice from local officials.  That unofficial evacuation went almost unnoticed because it was sudden as well as
unofficial; so, I had early knowledge of what was happening a harbinger of future activity.  A couple of months later, official notices were
posted throughout the western parts of the West Coast.  

In Los Angeles, notices were tacked on telephone poles, roadside trees, or strapped to standing poles. Census Tract Areas were grouped to
become specific areas for   evacuation.  In L.A., groups were sent first to Wartime Civilian Control Centers (viz., county fairgrounds and race
tracks) and then to more permanent War Relocation Centers.  So, our family was aware of areas being evacuated; we had been told that
evacuated areas were to be considered taboo, that is, no one of Japanese ancestry was to enter an evacuated area.  I didn’t pay any attention
to that because I knew people could not distinguish Japanese from Chinese from Filipino or any Asian; I had no identification mark or tattoo; I’
m an American.  So, what else is new?

For one thing, when the official notice for evacuation from the area where we lived, I started to write about what was happening to our family.  I
didn’t maintain the note-taking when too many things began to happen, and I was too occupied to keep up any kind of a diary.  However, what
I wrote answered the question raised about how much time we had after the posting was made.  The following is what I wrote:

“May 11, 1942—Orders for evacuation finally appeared on telephone poles and in shop windows.  The Order that affected the area around
410 S. Crocker, where we have lived to date, was Civilian Exclusion Order No. 66.  After noon today, most of the area of Los Angeles will be
barred from all persons of Japanese ancestry.   After today, noon,the area where I can wander is limited so that I can’t go farther north than E.
Third St.; farther south than E. Sixth St.; farther west than So. Main St.; and farther east than about three or four miles.

“May 12—Registration for evacuation took place today at the old Southern Pacific  Railway Station.

“May 14—Medical examination (very cursory in details), so-called to appease the public, no doubt, were given today at the S.P. Depot.  We are
to leave from this station for Manzanar California, at 6:30 a.m. (scheduled departure) Saturday morning, May 16.

“May 16—We remained awake the whole night of the 15th and the entire morning of the 16th packing and repacking our baggage.  By about 4:
00 a.m. (16th) (Sat.), we were all packed and ready to go.  At about 5:45 a.m., Mr. Wendell Warden and I loaded a car with some of the stuff
and left for the Southern Pacific Railway Station. By luck, we loaded all our heavy, bulky articles into a freight car by 6:15 a.m.  Mrs. Warden
and Billy, her son, stayed with us until we left by bus (not train, as we formerly supposed) for Manzanar, California, which was 8:30 a.m.  Our
departure was scheduled for 6:30 a.m.  We arrived at Manzanar at 3:00 p.m.  The trip took approximately five hours since there were two rest
periods.  At noon, we spent one hour eating lunch and stretching our legs.  Our new home was Block 19, Building 9, Apartment or Section 2;
Owens Valley Reception Center, Manzanar, California.”
Well, that’s how life is.  Most of us go with the
flow and do not recognize that history needs
records at the time things happen.  I did write
many letters to outside-of-camp friends and
recorded meeting notes as part of my work
responsibilities when I had employment in the
Center’s adult education program.  Many of
those documents are part of the collection
maintained at the Manzanar National Historic
Site; P.O. Box 426; Independence CA 93526-
0426.
Subsequently, I made entries in the notebook
at various times in May to November 11. Then,
in early December, all hell broke out, and I
began to make entries again. On hindsight, I
can see that I should have taken time to
record some of what I did, observed, and
thought.
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