Monday, June 23, 2008


If Amerasia Journal was a real magazine, it would have published my response to Frank Abe’s review of my book BORN IN THE USA: A Story of Japanese America: 1889-1947. The book came out in 2002. It was reviewed in 2004. My response was never published. Since this is my blog, I’ll publish it myself.


Frank Abe claims to have found confirmation Masaoka’s “contingency plan” in Bendetsen’s speech, cited by Mike Masaoka.

In his review of BORN IN THE USA in Amerasia Journal, Volume 30:2, 2004, he writes:

The author (Frank Chin) wants to catch Masaoka in a lie about an Army “contingency plan” to round up all Nikkei at gunpoint within twenty-four to forty-eight hours, which Masaoka knowingly used to scare Nisei audiences into submission with exclusion. Masaoka overreacted and embroidered the threat with images of “guns, bayonets, and tanks,” and James Omura and Joe Kurihara call him on that. But you can read in Major Karl Bendetsen’s own words confirmation of just such “a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required a complete evacuation, practically overnight, in the event of an emergency” (221), a plan entirely consistent with a military force instructed not to distinguish citizen from alien.

“a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required a complete evacuation,” is not a “contingency plan.” Bendetsen’s “practically overnight,” is not Masaoka’s “Within 24 or 48 hours.” Bendeten’s “in the event of an emergency” doesn’t say whether the “emergency” he envisions comes in the form an invasion or “raid” by the Japanese, or from an American uprising in reaction to the military orders. Nowhere does Bendetsen suggest, much less confirm is his speech one word of what Masaoka said to the JACL convention, on August 10, 1982:

"Col. Bendetsen pointed out, and it was told to us much more in cruel detail, that the Army had two programs for removal of the Japanese. One, if you will cooperate then the Army and the United States will do its best to make that movement as humane as possible. Two, if you don't--and this is the thing to remember--the Army has a contingency plan to move you out within 12 or 24 hours.

"What are you going to say in a situation like that?
"You want people murdered on the streets? You want tanks to come in and destroy the little ghettoes we have enjoyed? I think we had no alternative."

In his "Final Report" to the JACL National Board of 1944, the JACL's Mike Masaoka cited this speech by Colonel Karl R. Bendetsen, G.S.C., United States Army, Assistant Chief of Staff, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, as his "proof" that the WDC had a "contingency plan" to round up all the Nikkei on the West Coast within “forty eight or twenty four hours” using "guns, bayonets, and tanks..."

James Omura seems to be the only Japanese American writer to have actually read the speech and found Masaoka to have put ideas and words into Bendetsen's mouth. To check Omura’s reading and Masaoka’s “proof” I sought out Bendetsen’s speech.

After reading Bendetsen’s speech, and checking the number of troops under arms, and the state of arms available, I determined that Masaoka lied. I found no indication in Bendetsen’s speech that the Army had a “contingency plan” to round up the all Japanese Americans in Washington, Oregon and California “within 24 or 48 hours.” Bendetsen’s speech does not have the words that threaten Japanese Americans that Masaoka says are contained in the speech. No “guns.” No “Tanks.” No “bayonets.”

I asked the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians if they had any information of Bendetsen’s “contingency plan.” On April 28, 1981 Bendetsen wrote the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians:

Your question relates to an allegation that the Western Defense Command issued a preemptory order that Japanese and Japanese Americans must cooperate and that if they did not, the Army would come without notice, "with bayonets drawn, backed by tanks and artillery to force them out of their homes or hiding places one by one."

The allegation that such order was ever issued by WDC is totally false. The truth is that to their eternal credit all such persons cooperated from the beginning.

I cannot bring myself to believe that Mike Masaoka would himself fabricate such a falsehood; most certainly not one as base and demeaning as this. If it is true that he has made such an allegation, I would be compelled to conclude that someone has deceived and misled him for mischievous purposes.

Falsehoods about this regrettable episode abound in the books of self-appointed historians, of which there are several.

Bendetsen was courteous even generous to Masaoka, without revealing that he had appointed Masaoka an intelligence agent of Army G-2 on December 17, 1942, in a three page PLAN FOR IMMEDIATE SEGREGATION OF JAPANESE EVACUEES because, thanks to Masaoka “all such persons cooperated from the beginning.”

The three page long PLAN FOR IMMEDIATE SEGREGATION OF JAPANESE EVACUEES was signed Gen. DeWitt the Commanding General of the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, and initialed by Major Karl Bendetsen, Chief of Aliens Division; to the Chief of Staff, on December 17, 1942. This is the plan that Mike Masaoka inflates into a “contingency plan,” to take all the Japanese Americans out of their homes with “tanks, guns, and bayonets,” within 24 or 48 hours.

Actually the plan consisted of DeWitt’s cover letter (page 1) a page of the Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) designating individuals “R” for repatriation, “P” for parolee, “G-2” for Army Intelligence, “S” for WCCA Subversive; and “Gr” for WCCA Police” (page 2); and “LIST OF DETAINEES” by number of projected prisoners in each camp(page 3).

No “guns” no “tanks” no “bayonets” to drive the prisoners running for the protection of camp. All the Army had to scare the Japanese Americans into obeying Army orders, was agent Mike Masaoka’s mouth that said anything he wanted public, because he was (shhhhh!) Army G-2. Besides being two “Confidential Informants” to the FBI. T-11, to spy on the Japanese Americans, and SLC-167 to spy of on his own JACL.

Below is the whole of Bendetsen’s speech that Masaoka and Frank Abe claim contains the “contingency plan” as published by the Commonwealth Club.

"The Story of PACIFIC COAST JAPANESE EVACUATION: An Address Delivered Before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, on May 20, 1942, by COLONEL KARL R. BENDETSEN, G.S.C. United States Army, Assistant Chief of Staff, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army."

From: "Proclamations, Exclusions, Restrictive Orders and Collateral Documents." Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. Office of Assistant Chief of Staff, Civil Affairs Division, Wartime Civil Control Administration. San Francisco, California. 1942

The problem of evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the Pacific coastal frontier is one that interests the people of the United States. Especially is it one that interests members of the Commonwealth Club, as well as all persons resident in this coastal area.

First, I should like to tell you something of the reasoning behind the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from this coastal frontier.

There are three principal dangers--hence, the three principal problems bearing upon internal security in time of war. These problems, and the methods used to combat them are described, ordinarily, in these terms: Anti-sabotage, counter-espionage and counter-fifth column. By the latter is meant action in concert by well-organized groups under raid or invasion conditions.

The relationship of the Japanese population to these dangers, following the outbreak of the war, became a problem peculiar to the West Coast. The Japanese community presented a group with a high potential for action against the national interest—

By design, or by accident, substantial numbers of the Japanese coast frontier communities were deployed through very sensitive but very vital areas.

Now, if you and I had settled in Japan, raised our families there and if our children and grandchildren were raised there, it is most improbable that during a period of war between Japan and the United States, if we were not interned, that we would commit any overt acts of sabotage acting individually. Doubtless, in the main and irrespective of our inner emotions, you and I would be law abiding.

But when the final test of loyalty came, if United States forces were engaged in launching an attack on Japan, I believe it is extremely doubtful whether we could withstand the ties of race and the affinity for the land of our forebears, and stand with the Japanese against United States forces.

To withstand such pressure seems too much to expect of any national group, almost wholly unassimilated and which has preserved in large measure to itself, its customs and traditions--group characterized by strong filial piety.

It is doubtless true that many persons of Japanese ancestry are loyal to the United States. It is also true that many are not loyal. We know this. Contrary to other national or racial groups, the behavior of Japanese has been such that in not one single instance has any Japanese reported disloyalty on the part of another specific individual of the same race.

There has been no substantial evidence of manifestation of nationalistic fervor exhibited by any Japanese group in the United States since the outbreak of the war. Even on the Emperor's birthday there was no visible evidence that the day was remembered in evacuee centers.

This attitude--well illustrated, I think, by the fact that there has not been a single instance when any Japanese has reported disloyalty on the part of another of the same race--may be, and can be a most ominous thing. Chasing specters of fear is merely exhausting. It accomplishes nothing. The Army least of all will expend its energies in that direction. But it must be realistic--the nation must be realistic. The real contingencies must be taken into account. The contingency that under raid for invasion conditions there might be widespread action in concert--well-regulated, well-disciplined and controlled--a fifth column, is a real one. As such, it presented a threat to the national security and therefore a problem which required solution.

Here, in brief, is a timetable of how that problem was met.

On February 19th the President of the United States delegated to the Secretary of War the power to exclude any person, alien or citizen, from any area which might be required on the grounds of military necessity. This delegation of power included the authority to carry out an evacuation program.

The following day these powers were delegated by the Secretary of War to Lieutenant General J.L. DeWitt, Commanding the Western Defense Command and Fourth Army. Responsibility for a solution of the problem relation to Japanese along the frontier became his.

The development of a program depended in part on enactment by Congress of the necessary sanctions, upon which enforcement could be predicated. This was done on March 21st with the approval of Public Law 503, 77th Congress, making it a misdemeanor to violate any published regulations made applicable by Commanding General under the Executive Order to the right to enter, remain in, or leave the military areas.

On March 2nd, General DeWitt by Public Proclamation Number One designated the West half (roughly) of Washington, Oregon, California and the South half of Arizona as Military Area No. 1. There were created certain prohibited and restricted zones. In establishing these military areas, General DeWitt announced that Japanese aliens and American born persons of Japanese lineage would be the first required to evacuate certain critical points to be designated. At this time it was also indicated that following the evacuation of critical areas there would be a gradual clearance of all the coastal area and all prohibited zones.

By order of the Commanding General on March `10, the Civil Affairs Division of the General Staff of Western Command and Fourth Army was created. It was charged, under the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Affairs, with the responsibility for formulation of plans and directives for "control and exclusion of civilians, including the designation of military areas." On March 11, 1942, the Wartime Civil Control Administration was created by order of General DeWitt. It is the operating agency of Civil Affairs Division under command of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil Affairs to carry out such plans and directives.

On March 18, a Presidential Order established the War Relocation Authority. It is charged with responsibility of selecting, preparing and operating permanent centers where evacuees may live and work for the duration of the war, and to supervise all work and employment of evacuees both in and out of such centers.

On March 29th an order was issued by General DeWitt prohibiting voluntary migration by the Japanese. This date marked the beginning of planned, supervised evacuation.

On May 31st the interim evacuation of the Japanese population to temporary Assembly Centers will have been completed, except for 2000 who will be evacuated by June 6th.

This timetable represents the highlights of the undertaking.

The evacuation program itself consisted of three interim steps and a final solution.

The first step was designation of military areas from which the Japanese were to be excluded and the voluntary migration which followed....

The second interim step was a plan for immediate evacuation if developments required. The Army needed time to prepare a permanent program and the situation called for an emergency plan. It was impossible, of course, at this time for the Army to reveal the fact that it was prepared to affect a complete evacuation, practically overnight, in the event of an emergency. Plans were made to move the 113,000 Japanese into already established Army cantonments in a Mass Movement which could have been undertaken immediately. Prepared in this way against the possibility of fifth column activity, or for any outbreaks of anti-Japanese feeling, the Army continued with its plans for a permanent program.

The third interim step was the selection and preparation of eighteen temporary Assembly Centers to which the Japanese could be quickly removed for later transfer to permanent locations. The decision to remove the Japanese to temporary assembly Centers was based upon several important considerations. In the first place, the use of fairgrounds, race tracks and other public properties which provided installations of utilities as well as convenient locations, contributed to greater speed in the evacuation program. The use of these properties also made it easier to protect the evacuees' welfare and property. Moreover, evacuation through these centers could be accomplished with the use of a minimum number of soldiers.

The final step in the program is the settlement of evacuees in the permanent centers operated by the War Relocation Authority. This is the phase of the program that has taken more time than was available considering the necessity for early evacuation. It was primarily to prepare for this concluding phase of the evacuation program that the methods described were employed in the preliminary or interim steps.

The actual operation of the program is under the Civil Affairs Division of the General Staff of the Fourth Army and Western Defense Command. In direct charge of the evacuations operation is the Assistant Chief of Staff who serves as head of the Civil Affairs Division of the Fourth Army Staff and of the Wartime Civil Control Administration.

This brings me to the actual details of how the evacuation is carried on.
There are 64 W.C.C.A. stations on the coast through which the Japanese are given necessary assistance. In each station there are representatives of each Federal agency directly involved. For example, the Federal Security Administration provides a receptionist; a social worker who is prepared to assist in family problems and in preliminary plans for housing. The Federal Reserve Bank provides consultants to advise on property protection, auto and truck transportation, household goods, storage, etc. Representatives of Farm Security Administration advise on crop loans, handling of farm equipment and matters relating to the purchase or management of farm lands.

The exclusion order is the first step in actual evacuation procedure. It has required careful advance planning down to the smallest detail by the Army staff comprising the Wartime Civil Control Administration. The task of each agency, whether civil or military is carefully prescribed to fit the evacuation project involved. Careful synchronizing must be assured by this advance planning. Following this, the order for the evacuation of a given, desirable area is given and the team starts functioning.

Notices are posted advising the Japanese population of the limits of the area to be evacuated and advising them to report to a Civil Control Station and to be prepared to moved by a given date.

Each Civil control station functions about five days in a particular evacuation area. The team which makes up a given "station" then moves on to its next assignment--it spends about 4 days in advance reconnaissance. Such a team comprises civilian agency representatives including a medical examiner from the U.S. Public Health Service and a team captain from the U.S. Employment Service. They have been trained in advance for the job by the Wartime Civil Control Administration.

The next major phase of the evacuation procedure is the transportation of evacuees to the Assembly Centers.

On the date of moving the Army takes full charge of the movement and determines whether the evacuation is accomplished by train, bus or automobile caravan. Evacuees may sell their automobiles to the Government or have them stored temporarily.

Upon arrival at the center the evacuees are registered and assigned living quarters by the civilian personnel. Much of the detail work connected with resettlement in the Assembly Centers is carried on with the assistance of the Japanese themselves. A small army contingent guards the camp but the Army has no other personnel involved in the operation of the Assembly Centers after the evacuees have been brought into the grounds.

The accommodations at each of the Assembly Centers include living quarters for family units, group dining halls, milk stations, show baths, toilets and laundries. A post exchange in operation at each center and a modest program of recreational activities to supplement work projects is being provided. Each center has its own hospital and staff.

The evacuees are supplied with food, housing, hospitalization, medical and dental care and necessary clothing. During their temporary residence in the Assembly Centers, Japanese are given nominal allowances for incidentals. Upon application the evacuees may secure coupon books which may be used for the purchase of merchandize at the center exchanges or stores. These books entitle a single adult to $2.50 merchandise per month, a couple to $4.00, an individual under 16 years $1.00. The maximum allowances for any family is $7.50.

Compensation is given to those evacuees who work in the Assembly Centers upon this basis: unskilled workers $8.00 a month; skilled workers $12.00; professional and technical workers $16.00 a month. No wage schedule for evacuees who are assigned to administrative and maintenance work has been determined. The wage schedules in Assembly Centers are based on a 44-hour week. The compensation to which I refer is provided only for work done in connection with the operation of the Assembly Centers.

The eighteen temporary Assembly Centers were selected for the accommodation of all Japanese in the Western States. These centers are located in four states as follows:

Arizona: Mayer,

California: Fresno, Marysville, Merced, Pinedale, Pomona, Sacramento, Salinas, Aracadia, Stockton, Tanforan, Tulare, Turlock, Tule Lake, Manzanar.

Oregon: Portland

Washington: Puyallup.
The largest is at the Santa Anita race track in Aracadia, with a capacity of 17,000. Next come Manzanar and Tule Lake with a capacity of 10,000 each and Puyallup and Tanforan with 8,000.

Fresno, Merced Pinedale, Pomona, Sacramento, Stockton and Tulare have capacities of 6,000 each, Salinas and Turlock 4,000 each, Marysville and Portland 3,000 each, and the more less isolated Mayer center, 250.

The complete job of preparing the Assembly Centers and actual removal of the Japanese to these centers will have been accomplished during a period of about two months. During this time housing for 112, 000 people has been erected, supplied and equipped. The construction, equipping and supplying of the eighteen Assembly Centers and the whole evacuation procedure have been accomplished under the direction of only 35 Army officers.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Ruby Chow- Chow Mah Serng Gum died of congestive heart failure the morning of June 4th surrounded by her husband, five children, two brothers, one sister, six grandsons, three granddaughters and three great grandsons.

At her last public appearance last September, at a fund raiser for the new Wing Luke Asian Museum building, her "favorite (and only daughter) daughter" Cheryl read the following for her:

Thank you. Special thanks to my friend Faith Ireland for reasons that take too long to tell, like all long time friendships. But I want say I’m happy be your friend, in public, on the street, anyplace, any time.

Standing up here, among the most prominent citizens of Seattle in the city where the Asians have shone the brightest stars in American politics, entertainment, industry and... restaurants... I only wish my mother were here to see the company I’m in.

Chinese restaurants were --- to be honest --- considered dumps when my mother raised ten children all by herself, in the back room of a Chinatown store.

And sliding down the banister of our building, head first, I realized I wasn’t the brightest of mother’s ten children. But I was the fastest. I crashed into the marble floor with my eyes open, and I saw stars.

I saw Seattle’s Keye Luke become a Hollywood pioneer. Wing Luke become the first Chinese to be elected to office, in America, in 1957. I saw Warren Chan fight newspaper prejudice with dignity and become a distinguished judge of the King County Superior Court. I saw Chinese restaurants rise from slophouses to places of Seattle’s haute cuisine.

I saw Asians rise from copy boys to reporters and anchors on Seattle and the nation’s media. I saw the creation of the Chinese Girl’s drill team, with their own 125 foot long dragon appear in celebrations and parades around the world bearing Seattle’s name. I saw the town erect the beautiful Wing Luke Asian Museum to tell our history. (Your name won’t be forgotten, Mom.) And I saw Seattle’s political stars rise to the highest office in Washington State, with the election of Gary Locke, to Governor. And the end isn’t in sight.

My mother revived me, and I told I had seen stars. Real stars.

And she said something very wise. “You would have seen as many stars if you had come down the banister the other end first.”

I have been up and down many banisters, both ends first, and, you were right Mom. I wish you could see me, now, married to Ping who gave up opera stardom to raise your five grandchildren and cook in my restaurant. The least I could do was take his name…Chow…and take it to the highest banister. We’ll take this one together, Ping.

Thank you, for this evening.

Thank you all for 80 years of Chinatown. Thank you