After Pearl Harbor: Population Data Use in Time of War

Download 32.99 Kb.
Date conversion20.04.2016
Size32.99 Kb.

After Pearl Harbor:
Population Data Use in Time of War

Margo Anderson,

History & Urban Studies

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

The evacuation and incarceration of the West Coast Japanese ancestry population during World War II

  1. Explore how the 1940 Census of Population became the “most important single source of information prior to the evacuation.”

  2. Illustrate a small piece of the story and issues of race…

Issues of Race

How “race” and “racism” work;

How state based population data systems may be deployed for human rights abuses and the contradictory demands for data on race and ethnicity;

How social science and official statistical practice can collect and use data on race and ethnicity without endangering vulnerable population groups.


  1. December 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor Attack

  2. February 19, 1942: Executive Order 9066

  3. March 1942: Voluntary Evacuation of Japanese Aliens and Citizens from West Coast

  4. March 29, 1942: Start of Forced Migration and Incarceration of Japanese Aliens and Citizens from the West Coast in Relocation Camps

  5. December 1944: Legal End of Incarceration

  6. 1946: Closing of Camps

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Citizens Findings, 1982

  1. “The promulgation of Executive Order 9066 was not justified by military necessity, and the decisions which followed from it - detention, ending detention and ending exclusion - were not driven by analysis of military conditions.”

  2. “The broad historical causes which shaped these decisions were race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership.”

Current Project: Interrogate Issues of Race

  1. How did military and civilian officials come to conceive of “the West Coast Japanese” as a coherent and identifiable population group

  2. How did they come to believe that the group represented a military threat in the early months of World War II

  3. How did they decide that it was logistically possible and appropriate to evacuate the group.

  4. How did the officials come to believe and act upon the position that Japanese American children, or elderly Issei, for example, represented a national security threat?

  5. How did officials come to believe that, even granting that threat, that the most appropriate policy for protecting the coast was to remove 111,000 people from their homes and incarcerate them inland for the duration of the war?

  6. Why were surveillance and arrests of suspected fifth column agents within the community not the policies chosen?

Formal Administrative Background

  1. Presidential Proclamation defining alien enemies (December 7, 1941)

  2. Interagency Agreement between Justice and War Departments for control of enemy aliens

  3. Data System: Alien Registration of 1940 (Smith Act)

  4. No role for Commerce Department and Census Bureau

Designation of Enemy Aliens (Proclamation 2525)


  2. …And, acting under and by virtue of the authority vested in me …I do hereby further proclaim and direct that …all natives, citizens, denizens or subjects of the Empire of Japan being of the age of fourteen years and upwards who shall be within the United States …and not actually naturalized, …are termed alien enemies.

Enemy Aliens

  1. Non naturalized immigrants from an enemy nation

  2. Age 14 and older

Implementation of Control of Enemy Aliens

  1. Week of December 8, 1941: FBI arrested aliens on surveillance lists

  2. December 22, 1941: Justice Department sets up an Enemy Alien Control unit

  3. December 1941: Western Defense Command declared a theater of operations

  4. Provost Marshal General Office (Washington, DC) and Justice Department began coordination of enemy alien control

Without a Mandate, The Census Bureau Began to Produce Tabulations from the 1940 Census

Tuesday, December 9, 1941, P-3, No. 23

  1. “There were 126,947 Japanese in the continental United States on April 1, 1940, of whom 47,305 were foreign-born, and therefore alien and ineligible for citizenship, Director J. C. Capt of the Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, announced today on the basis of the 1940 Population Census returns....”

  2. Thursday, December 11, 1941, P-3, No. 24

  3. “Los Angeles had 23,321 Japanese residents, more than any other American city according to figures announced today by Director, J. C. Capt, Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, based on the 1940 Population Census returns.....”

  4. Thursday, December 11, 1941, P-3, No. 25

  5. “The Japanese population of the Pacific Coast States was largely concentrated in counties containing, or located near, important industrial and shipping centers, Director J. C. Capt of the Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce, announced today....”

The Tabulations Produced for Germans and Italians…

  1. Friday, December 12, 1941, P-9, No. 1

  2. In New York City there were 224,749 white persons born in Germany and 409,489 born in Italy, as of April 1, 1940, according to Population Census returns announced today by Director J. C. Capt, Bureau of the Census, Department of Commerce....

  3. Not all persons born in Germany and Italy are enemy aliens, however, since a great many of them are naturalized citizens of the United States. The number of naturalized persons born in Germany and Italy is not available from census tabulations. All aliens were required to register, however, under the provisions of the alien Registration Act of June 28, 1940, and a register of such persons is kept by the Alien Registration Division of the Immigration and Naturalization Service....”

Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1941

  1. Coast's Japanese Problem Disclosed”

  2. WASHINGTON, Dec. 11 - The importance of maintaining close check on the activities of both foreign-born and American-born Japanese on the Pacific Coast was emphasized today by revised Census Bureau figures disclosing Los Angeles has nearly 16,500 more Nipponese than any other city in the nation and California, Washington and Oregon have a combined Japanese population of 112,363.

Character of the Releases

  1. In the releases on the “Japanese” population, the text discussed the numbers for the “racial” or “ancestry” group. They included American citizens and enemy aliens.

  2. For the release on Germans and Italians, the release was for “foreign-born” Germans and Italians, not for people of German or Italian ancestry or parentage. It contained the caveat that the “foreign - born” included naturalized citizens.

Character of the Releases

  1. The text in the Japanese releases did not mention the INS registration lists. The text for the German and Italian release did.

  2. The text of the P-25 Japanese release alluded to the “concentration” of the “Japanese population” “near” “important industrial and shipping centers.” There was no evidence identified from the census to support the statement. There was no similar evaluation in the release on the German or Italian foreign-born population.


  1. The “Japanese” releases reported on a population that was not the same as the one as designated by the President’s Proclamation. The releases did not make the distinction clear.

  2. The text of the releases on the “Japanese” made further claims about the implications of the “concentration” of the population that were not supported by the evidence in the data.

  3. The Los Angeles Times claimed the releases supported surveillance of American-born Japanese: “The importance of maintaining close check on the activities of both foreign-born and American-born Japanese on the Pacific Coast was emphasized today by revised Census Bureau figures....”

  4. The article used the passive voice. A sensible reading would infer that the Census Bureau was the authority for the need for surveillance of American born Japanese.


  1. The Census Bureau also sent the releases to the military and the intelligence agencies

  2. The Justice Department did not ask for administrative or technical help from the Census Bureau in the control of enemy aliens.

  3. J.C. Capt offered to provide data from the census for enemy alien control, and he lobbied for repeal of the confidentiality protections of the Census Act.

Justice Department approach

  1. Used existing lists and surveillance to control enemy aliens

  2. “F.B.I. Scrutiny Reported to Be Centered Largely on Suspected Fifth Columnists,” Los Angeles Times, December 12, 1941

  3. “The Department of Justice today turned its attention to disloyal Americans - potential Benedict Arnolds.

  4. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is understood to be scrutinizing particularly persons suspected to be fifth columnists, those who have been propagandizing on Axis behalf and those whose loyalty is questionable.

  5. “In an initial sweep against alien enemies. Attorney General Biddle announced yesterday 2303 Japanese, Germans, and Italians have been arrested. Biddle said the total eventually may reach 2500; other officials estimate the number at 3000.”

  1. “Immigration Officials Holding 178 Aliens,”

  2. SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 11 (AP) Department of Immigration authorities today reported that 178 aliens from Northern California are in custody at immigration headquarters here. The group includes 101 Japanese, 59 Germans, and 18 Italians.

Census Bureau Tabulations

  1. Led to a “populationist” approach, e.g., seeing the population as a threat, rather than individual enemy aliens.

  2. Led to a conceptualization of a much larger threat, since the numbers published included citizens.

Later Developments

  1. January 8, 1942: Census Bureau began production of meso data tabulations, tract level, for Los Angeles (Navy request)

  2. January 8-9, 1942: J.C. Capt announced his willingness to supply microdata to the military

  3. February 4, 1942: Census Bureau and Commerce Department introduced amendment to Second War Powers bill repealing census confidentiality.

  4. February 6, 1942: House Judiciary Committee included the provision in the bill; became law late March 1942.

  5. February 26, 1942: Calvert Dedrick, chief of the Census Bureau Statistical Research Division, deployed to the Western Defense Command to assist in evacuation.

  6. He remained to administer the data needs of the evacuation until 1943.

Thank You

  1. For further information and papers, see the website:


  3. Office of War Information Film available at:


The database is protected by copyright © 2016
send message

    Main page