Conard Collection: Japanese Evacuation Report #7

Conard Collection: Japanese Evacuation Report #7

Japanese Evacuation Report #7 Joseph Conard, Collector. Box 4. Hoover Institution Archives.


Seattle Office
American Friends Service Committee
3959 - 15th Ave., N.E.
Seattle, Washington
March 26, 1942


Dear Friends:

As we put Emma Cadbury on a train last Sunday night we were confronted with the newspaper headlines announcing the first specific evacuation of Japanese from a northwest area; ARMY ORDERS EVACUATION OF JAPAS FROM BAINBRIDGE. (A typewriter can't convey the drama of two-inch, black-ink capital letters.) Within seven days, all 274 Japanese residents (about 50 families) of Bainbridge Island will be moved by the Army in a train down to Owens Valley Reception Center in Southern California. They are allowed to take with them only what they can carry: suitcases (two per person) and a roll of bedding. All autos, trucks, tractors, furniture, sewing machines, refrigerators, household effects, china, silverware, pictures, etc., etc., must be abandoned or sold. The Federal Reserve Bank has opened a warehouse where the Japanese may deposit such articles at their own risk. Since there is no assurance that the warehouse won't be burned or destroyed, most of the Japanese are spending their last week selling their goods as best they can or storing them in sheds or homes of their Caucasian neighbors. In some cases Japanese farmers have leased their farms to Filipino friends whom they trust. In others they have given powers of attorney to the canning companies to whom they usually sell their crops and whom they have come to trust over the years, the canning companies to make the best arrangements they can after the Japanese leave. Others may give the Farm Security Administration similar powers of attorney. It is interesting that the Japanese trust the people they know and have worked with previously: their Filipino neighbors, the canning companies, but they tend not to have confidence in theFSA and the other Civilian Governmental agencies appointed to try to help them. Curiously enough, they have complete faith inthe Army, which is by far the best organized of the governmental agencies concerned. They say, "The Army will take care of us. Don't worry. They're going to treat us fine."

On Monday morning early, after bidding bon voyage to the group of 15 college boys and girls going over to Vashon Island for our Spring Vacation Work Project among the Japanese farmers there, George Kahin, one of our volunteer visiting-team workers, and I went over to Bainbridge and spent the whole day floating around, talking with Japanese and Caucasian leaders and observing what was going on. On the first ferry Tuesday morning we went back and I had the surprise of my life as I stepped off the ferry to have a bayonet thrust at my chest. Seems the Army had arrived and was checking up on persons arriving and leaving the Island to make sure no Japanese either came or went. As an Army major with whom we had a long and friendly talk said, "We've frozen the island; that's why it's so cold here this morning." (Snow storm in the early morning: phenomena for Seattle). On Tuesday we came back from Bainbridge about 4 P.M. and I went over to Vashon to have supper with the Work-Projecters and talk with the leaders of the Japanese community there to tell them what was happening on Bainbridge (Vashon Japanese may be the next to move, so they were eager for news and suggestions).


There are approximately twenty boys and girls (14 boys, 6 girls) now over on Vashon. They are living in a large summer home, under the splendid care of Cook-Chaperone Mrs. Clara Schwiese, member of the University Friends Meeting and secretary of the University Y.W.C.A. Each morning early the workers to out to the fields, spending their time at a different farm each halfday, so city folk who joined their Caucasian friends in volunteering to......*
the Vashon farmers. The girls work in the fields with the boys, and I understand put in as good a day's work as the fellows. (!) Sometimes they spend their time weeding strawberry plants, a backbreaking job. Other times they put up poles for pea plants. (They've discovered that planting poles in even symetric rows is no cinch). In the evenings the Work-projecters huddle around a fireplace and sing songs and talk about the Japanese and the evacuation problem and have devotional periods and listen to people like myself tell them news about Bainbridge Island Evacuation and like Woodie Woodbury of the Y.M.C.A. who had just come back from a meeting in San Francisco, and brought new [sic] from over there.


It was Raymond Booth's suggestion to us that we be careful not to actually assist in the evacuation and that we do nothing that might destroy the Japanese confidence in us. So we have only acted as "observers" and as errand-boys. Since it was not possible for the Japanese except with special permission to come over to Seattle, we were able to do them a number of small favors: we got bank withdrawal slips and bank affidavits so that they could draw money out of savings bank accouts [sic] where technically they were supposed to appear in person, we have arranged with a wholesale flower merchant to accept the current crop of a little Japanese greenhouse owner and today three of our volunteers are going over to help the fellow pack his plants and flowers for shipment over here, we have studied the problmes of four Japanese University of Washington students. Two of them are unable to continue their studies because they are the oldest nisei in their families and feel they must go along with their parents when they are evacuated next Monday, one is a girl who had already made plans for continuing her studies in an eastern college and is already on her way there, and the last one wanted to finish out his four year course by staying through the next quarter; so we began arranging through one of the University Deans to make this possible and plans were going forward when the boy received a notice from his Draft Board summoning him for his final physical. So he figures that if the Army doesn't get him one way (Evacuation) they'll get him another (The Draft), so he has decided not to try to finish out his University course. Then we helped some Seattle Japanese who happened to be over on Bainbridge on a friendly visit and had gotten caught over their by the freezing order and were in fear they might be evacuated with the Bainbridge Japanese. We had long and wonderful talks with the Bainbridge High School principal and his school superintendent, both marvelous fellows. They know the Japanese well and like them and are working on a plan to help the 13 high school seniors continue their studying by correspondence and receive Bainbridge diplomas next June. While we were in his office, we watched the Japanese students file in to turn in their text books. One of the books was entitled: THE PROBLEMS OF AMERICAN CULTURE. (!) Half the school's baseball team is being evacuated, and the coach was very blue about it, bluer than the boys themselves, who were singing "California, here we come". The Parent Teachers Association at the school is rounding up old suitcases and duffle bags to give to the Japanese so that they won't have to buy new ones. The Caucasians on the Island have been wonderful: you should have seen the ladies visiting their Japanese friends yesterday bringing bon voyage gifts wrapped in gay papers. At some houses (It looked like a New England auction), the Japanese selling off their things for what they could get, and often getting much more than the things were worth (one Caucasian man bought a pile of window frames and paid $15 for them. He said to us "I haven't any use for these things, but Takayoshi needs the money and if he ever comes back I'll give these back to him"). And everywhere soldiers with drawn bayonets and jeep cars scurrying around like......*
are a sell bunch (from Philadelphia!), and look a bit Gilbert-and Sullivanish. Their struggles to salute properly and carry their bayonets without getting them stuck in branches and look imposing down on the ferry dock were delightful. While the Japanese families were registering yesterday, the soldiers often looked after the little children and proved to be pretty good nurse maids. I shall always remember the picture I saw of a soldier encumbered by his bayonet bending down to pick up a little Japanese girl, no bigger than a doll, and the little girl and the soldier beaming merrily at each other all the while.

Generally speaking, our share again has been merely one of standing by, extending spiritual handshakes.

In her letter to me of March 17th, Mary Rogers asks what is being done to help Japanese University students remain in school despite the evacuation. Here in the northwest it has not proved possible to arrange for any special exemption for students from the evacuation orders as yet. Therefore what we and others have been working on is trying to find openings in colleges and universities to the east where those students who wished to continue might go. Bob O'Brien, assistant Dean at the U. of Wash. has been heading up the work in this area and has had the active cooperation of all sorts of people, from President Sieg of the U. of Wash. down to us. There are approximately 800 students of Japanese ancestry in the states of Oregon and Washington. 450 at the U. of Wash. 50 at a Catholic college here, 18 at the College of Puget Sound, 38 at Oregon State, 20 at the University of Oregon, 12 at Willamette College, 8 at Reed, etc. President Sieg wrote letters to about 30 State Universities and has had 12 replies, ten of which definitely stating that they would take in a certain number of West Coast Japanese students. We wrote to half a dozen Quaker colleges (small ones) and each has agreed to take one or two Japanese. President Sproul of the U. of Calif. had also written a lot of letters east on behalf of the students. So it was felt by us up here that coordination of the effort was very important. And so we helped call a meeting in Berkeley last weekend and sent two representatives down (Bob O'Brien and Woodie Woodbury from the University Y.H.). It turned out Raymond Booth was there, so doubtless you have had a report from him as to what transpired. It is hoped that the World Student Service Fund will release money that can be used to hire a coordinator and set up his office and pay his travel expenses. I believe a budget of $3600 is suggested, and that Joe Conard has been proposed as coordinator. I don't know what the Government's share in or attitude toward all this is; perhaps Raymond Booth will have reported it.

We are consumed with curiosity to know what is happening down in Los Angles. We received Esther Rhoades news letter of March 3rd and brief letters from Raymond dated March 7th and 17th, but no details and nothing recently. What have you been doing? Have you visited Owens Valley? When the Japanese arrive there, will you be in contact with them? Can we refer the principal of the Bainbridge Island High School to you in case he wants some direct contact with the Japanese at Owens Valley to expedite and facilitate his scheme of helping the high school seniors get their diplomas? Do you want a list of the names of the leaders of the Bainbridge Island Japanese and the names of one or two of the families we have been helping so that you might go call on them for us? Do you know anything more than we do (almost nothing) about the resettlement project in Arizona and New Mexico?



In response to our appeal for funds to continue this office we have receive [sic] only ten dollars so far; pretty discouraging. But Beatrice says not to be down-hearted; it's a new idea and Seattleites have to get used to it. At the end of one letter enclosing a small sums, appears the sentence "May your tribe increase." (!) I wonder what the donor thinks quakers are, a type of Indian?

Because of the Japanese curfew (8 P.M.) the one Japanese member of the University Friends Meeting was not going to be able to attend Monthly Meeting tomorrow night. So to show our sympathy and suffer with him, we are going to hold the Monthly Meeting at His home. (the University Y.M.C.A.)

Thomas R. Bodine


* It appears that a line or two are missing from the report at the page breaks.


22 December 1998