When ninth-term Republican Congressman Howard Coble of North Carolina defended President Roosevelt’s 1942 decision to relocate all Japanese-Americans from our three West Coast states, both the New York Times and the wire services broadcast the denunciation of Mr. Coble by the national executive director of the Japanese-American Citizens League.
Congressman Coble, chairman of a house subcommittee on domestic security, said it had been appropriate to intern Japanese-Americans during World War II, because this was for their own safety to protect them from a hostile citizenry. “We were at war, under attack by a sovereign nation,” he said.
To which John Tateishi of the JACL retorted: “For the congressman to say it was justified for our own protection begs the question of how the laws in the United States work. When someone is threatened, you don’t lock them up.”
This big media coverage and Mr. Tateishi’s scornful criticism apparently upset Congressman Coble so much that his press secretary, Missy Branson, refused to return repeated phone calls from WorldNetDaily.
On her order, a brief three-paragraph statement was faxed, in which Representative Coble announced on Feb. 10:
“In recent days there has been considerable media attention and interest surrounding comments I made on a morning radio call-in show regarding the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the implications of this policy in today’s society.
“I regret many Japanese and Arab-Americans found my choice of words offensive because that was certainly not my intent. The point I was trying to make during the radio show was that given the circumstances in which President Roosevelt found himself at the time and the information that was available to him, he made a decision which he felt was in the best interest of national security. Today we can certainly look back and see the damage that was caused because of this decision. We all now know that this was in fact the wrong decision and action that should never be repeated.
“It is my sincere hope that this situation will be a reminder to us all that while we have made great strides to improve diversity, acceptance and understanding since 1941, there is much work left to be done.”
Is Congressman Coble aware of the book “All the Laws But One: Civil Liberties in War Time” by Chief Justice William Rhenquist? I tried to ask his press secretary, but she refused to talk or return phone calls. And no one else in his Washington or Greensboro office was allowed to speak.
By way of background, the Japanese-American Citizens League has even tried to make a martyr out of California-born UCLA graduate Iva Toguri, the convicted traitor known to infamy as “Tokyo Rose.”
And after paying many millions of dollars in claims to relocated Japanese-Americans who lost property, Congress more recently voted reparations of $20,000 a piece to those relocated from only the three West Coast states. They were allowed to move anywhere else in the U.S. as thousands did, in going to college or to new jobs. (Contrast this $20,000 to the $2.50 per day paid to U.S. Armed Forces survivors of the living hell of Japanese prison camps).
California’s U.S. Senator S.I. Hayakawa denounced these $20,000 reparations as “shameful.”
Chief Justice Rhenquist’s book, as excerpted in American Heritage magazine, notes the following:
- An FDR-appointed commission headed by Justice Owen Roberts traveled to Honolulu after Pearl Harbor and reported: “It has been discovered that the Japanese consul sent to and received from Tokyo, in his own and other names, many messages on commercial radio circuits. This activity greatly increased toward Dec. 7, 1941 … [The Japanese] knew from maps, which they had obtained the exact location of vital airfields, hangars and other structures. They also knew accurately where certain naval vessels would be berthed. Their fliers had the most detailed maps, courses and bearings, so that each could attack a given vessel or field. Each seems to have been given a specified mission.”
- Chief Justice Harland Fiske Stone quoted another chief justice, Charles Evans Hughes: “The war power of the national government is the power to wage war successfully and it is not for any court to sit in review of the wisdom of their actions [the executive or Congress], or to substitute its actions for theirs.”
- The attorneys general of the states of Washington, Oregon and California (including a future chief justice named Earl Warren) filed a brief with the high court, which noted: “On June 3, 1942, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, was attacked by carrier-based planes. On June 7, the Japanese invaded continental North America by occupying the islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians group. There was an increasing indication that the enemy had knowledge of our patrols and naval dispositions, for ships leaving West Coast ports were being intercepted and attacked regularly by enemy submarines.”
- Chief Justice Stone, in the Hirabayashi case, wrote: “Whatever views we may entertain regarding the loyalty to this country of the citizens of Japanese ancestry, we cannot reject as unfounded the judgment of military authorities and Congress that there were disloyal members of that population, whose number and strength could not be precisely and quickly ascertained. We cannot say that the war-making branches of the government did not have grounds for believing that in the critical hour, such persons could not readily be isolated and separately dealt with, and constituted a menace to the national defense and safety which demanded that prompt and adequate measures be taken to guard against it.”
- Justice Hugo Black, one of the court’s leading liberals, spoke to the charge of racism – with which the imperial Japanese government regularly regaled the U.S.: “To cast this case into outlines of racial prejudice, without reference to the real military dangers which were presented, merely confuses the issue. Korematsu was not excluded from the Military Area [California, Oregon and Washington] because of hostility to him or his race. He was excluded because we are at war with the Japanese empire, because the properly constituted military authorities feared an invasion of our West Coast, and felt constrained to take proper security measures, because they decided that the military urgency of the situation demanded that all citizens of Japanese ancestry be segregated from the West Coast temporarily … there was evidence of disloyalty on the part of some, the military authorities considered that the need for action was great and time was short. We cannot – by availing ourselves of the calm perspective of hindsight – now say that at that time their actions were unfounded.”
- Justice Rhenquist notes: “A May 1941 ‘Magic’ intercept resulting from the Americans having broken the Japanese code, contained a message from the Japanese consulate in Los Angeles: ‘We also have connections with our second generations working in airplane plants for intelligence purposes.’”
If you have never seen any of this reported by major media in their recurrent sob-sistering stories about the Japanese-American relocation, ask your local editor or on-air news director why not. And also ask why there has been a media cover-up of Chief Justice Rhenquist’s long-needed antidote to the defamation of such American leaders as President Roosevelt, Dr. Milton Eisenhower (the general’s brother who headed the War Relocation Authority camps) and the justices of the United States Supreme Court.
Congressman Coble of North Carolina should apologize yet again – this time to President Roosevelt – if his press secretary Missy Branson will allow him to do so.