There has been a drum beat of recurring news about the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry during World War II. There is now circulating around the country an exhibit labeled "America's Concentration Camps." Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is another side to this episode which needs telling. I was there and had firsthand knowledge of what actually happened. A plane load of staff from the Office for Emergency Management in the Executive Offices of the President of the United States was flown to California the day after Pearl Harbor. We were to organize a civilian defense in cooperation with the military. I participated later in the planning of the "War Relocation Camps" in which the Japanese on the West Coast were placed.As we arrived in San Francisco there was a blackout of the area. Bedlam reigned, for the people fully expected the Japanese to invade the West Coast.
There were two factors that called for wartime measures:
1. You could not tell who was loyal to the United States. There were many who had retained their citizenship in Japan, such as students and those who were not allowed to become American citizens.
2. The frantic citizens were demanding that the Japanese among them be removed from the vulnerable coastal area. There were unauthorized assaults on Japanese persons and their property.
Therefore, the U.S. military urged President Roosevelt to remove them inland, for the safety of this country and for their own safe-ty. The President issued an Executive Order to accomplish that. He appointed Milton Eisenhower, then president of the University of Pennsylvania and brother of Ike, to head up that relocation. We met day and night for weeks planning the location and organization of the camps. Eisenhower would repeatedly caution that we had to be as humane as possible.
These camps were relocation camps, not concentration camps. Those of you who witnessed Japanese concentration camps, as I did, will recognize the difference.
Reed L. Clegg
Salt Lake City