Written by Randall Henderson.
September 1942 issue of DESERT MAGAZINE
September 1942 issue of DESERT MAGAZINE
When it was announced in February that Japanese evacuees from the Pacific coast would be relocated on tribal lands of the Colorado River Indians, there were protests, both from the Indians and from sympathetic white sources. But it was a war measure, and the objections were overruled. Largest of the Japanese relocation communities is on the Colorado River Indian reservation near Parker, Arizona, where housing for 20,000 evacuees has been erected in the heart of a desert mesquite forest. And if you want to know how this project is working out, here are some of the answers.
"I wish you would write an editorial against putting the Japanese on Indian reservations. That is one of the most unforgivable things we have ever done to the Indians. They are defenseless, therefore they are saddled with the Japs."
This paragraph is from a letter written to me by a friend in Washington several weeks ago. That is where I went for information.
With permits from the War Relocation Authority and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I visited the Colorado River Relocation Center early in July. There I found Americans and Japanese working in close cooperation and doing a job that has many amazing aspects.
Consider the task of building a city of 20,000 people—the third largest city in Arizona—with all the problems of housing, water, power, sewerage, policing, fire control and transportation, within a period of three months. And keep in mind that the city is located 7 miles from the nearest railroad and more than 300 miles from its wholesale distributing center, in the heart of a desert wilderness, where there were neither roads, power nor communication lines, nor any organizations set up to provide these essentials. It was truly a gigantic undertaking.
The Japanese Center on the Colorado River is named Poston, honoring Charles D. Poston, first territorial delegate and often called the "Father of Arizona." The name Poston really covers three towns. Camp 1 is built to house 10,000 Japanese plus several hundred Anglo-American officials who are directing the project. Camp 2, three miles farther down the valley accommodates 5,000 people, and Camp 3, another three miles south is the same size as Camp 2.
From Parker, I drove over a paved road to Silver City where the administration and school buildings of the Colorado River Indian Reservation are located. Beyond this point, a well-maintained gravel road extends to the three Poston camps.
Army engineers laid out the townsites and directed the construction. The building job was done by the Del E. Webb Construction company under contract. The Army Signal Corps strung the communication lines. The Provost Marshal’s office provided two companies—less than 500 soldiers—for guard duty. The Indian Service receives the evacuees and operated the relocation centers which popularly are referred to as "camps". The erection of housing and facilities for a community of 20,000 was not a new problem for army engineers or for private construction companies. Jobs of no less magnitude were done both in World War I and again in the present emergency. But they were built to house soldiers, adults whose loyalty to the American flag was never in question, and who moved in under long-established rules of order and discipline. They set up camp under veteran officers trained for such an emergency.
But here was a new problem in human relations: Twenty thousand Japanese, ranging in age from a few days to 80-odd years, the older generation aliens, the younger people Americans—all of them members of a race whose national leaders had been guilty of an atrocious act of treachery against their adopted country. In occupational pursuits they ranged from laborers in the vegetable fields to highly successful merchants. Some of them could not speak English. Others had graduated with honors from American colleges. Some of them had sons serving in the United States Army and Navy. Others formerly had been members of the Japanese military caste—may still be, for that matter. They all came to Poston on a common level.
It was a mass movement that has no parallel in American history, nor any precedent on which to base a new code of rules.
As project director, to handle this unknown problem, the Indian Service brought in W. Wade Head, agent for the last six years on the Papago Reservation at Sells, Arizona. Head is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a fine record both in and previous to his federal service. He has youth, a cool head, and a fine understanding of human nature. Every hour of every day, he has important decisions to make—decisions that never before confronted an Indian Service official.
As assistants, the Indian Bureau brought specialists from many places—Nell Findley from Honolulu where she has been doing educational work among the Japanese for many years, to direct the department of health, recreation and education; H.A. Mathieson to assume the huge task of making the colony self-supporting on the thousands of acres of rich silt land that surrounds Poston; Russell Fister to organize and manage the cooperatively owned and operated Japanese stores and shops to serve 20,000 people; Dr. Leo Schnurr to establish a hospital and direct medical work; Ted Haas, attorney, to help the Japanese set-up their own self-government; Norris James, a San Francisco newspaperman to take over as press officer and sponsor the publication of a daily newspaper, written and edited by the Japanese in the English language.
There are a score or more of these departmental directors and assistants, each a specialist in one of the many fields of community activity. They are there to lead and organize the Japanese in a self-contained community in which the Japanese themselves will supply the manual effort and fill subordinate positions. They have a versatile army of workers to draw from.
In the camp are highly skilled Japanese in every trade and business and profession.
Isamu Noguchi is a noted Japanese sculptor. He came to Poston from New York-- came voluntarily. He wanted to help America solve this problem. When I visited his apartment he was working on an exquisite bust in marble. That is his recreation. His project job is landscape planning for the new city on the desert. On the walls at the administration building is a beautifully designed sketch of the Poston of the future with parks, gardens, and vine-covered cottages—if there is time and the means to carry out the project. Noguchi drew the plan.
"Tets" Iwasaki is a graduate of California School of Technology. His diploma hangs on the wall of his one-room apartment in Poston. He is the city’s new electrician.
Shigeru Imamura was a trusted employee of the Imperial Irrigation District in California, largest in the United States. Now he is water-master for the irrigation project at Poston.
Mabel Ota was an assistant librarian in Los Angeles. She and a group of helpers have nearly 4,000 books and hundreds of magazines—all donated—classified according to approved library methods on rough board shelves in the long barracks room that has been set aside for the purpose. There are 500 library patrons a day.
Marvel Maeda, a graduate of San Diego State Teachers College, is secretary to Director Head. She will join the teaching staff when school opens this fall.
Harvey Tanaka was a paper salesman in Imperial Valley—and he has been assigned to the marketing organization in Poston. And so it goes. There are skilled and willing workers for every job.
There is a well-equipped hospital at Poston now. But during the first few days, before all the medical supplies arrived, the hospital cases were handled in temporary barracks. When the first appendectomy came in Dr. Schnurr happened to be away on an important mission. It was an emergency case and the American nurses were in a quandary. Could they trust the Japanese surgeons newly attached to the staff with so important a surgical operation—or should they wait for instructions from Dr. Schnurr?
Drs. Y. Wakatake and Henry Sumida calmly assured the head nurse they could do the operation. Relunctantly, she gave consent. They did not have much with which to work. But they did a job that won the respect of the entire staff, Americans and Japanese alike.
At the time I visited the settlement there were 9,000 Japanese in Camp 1 and 2,000 in Camp 2. They are still arriving from assembly centers all over California—Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Merced, Fresno, Salinas, Imperial Valley.
Five hundred recruits arrived from San Joaquin Valley one day while I was there. They came by special train from Parker. They were met with a fleet of trucks loaned by the CCC. Arriving at Camp 2 they waited in line for their assignment to quarters. A cot was issued to each one, and a tick to be filled with straw for a mattress. They came with only the personal belongings they could carry with them.
Quarters consist of long barracks buildings, each 20 x 100 feet, built of wood, sealed outside with roofing paper and inside with plasterboard. There are three partitions in each building, making four 20x25-foot rooms. From five to nine persons occupy a room. The normal is six, but where the family is large they are permitted to remain together. The Japanese form their own housing groups. It is the policy of the administration to keep regimentation to a minimum.
Five hundred soldiers are stationed at Poston but their duties scarcely touch the lives of the Japanese. They stand guard at the incoming roads to make sure visitors have proper permits and they patrol certain areas where contractors’ materials are stored.
There is no guard line around the camps as a whole. It would take an army division to do an effective job of picketing any one of the camps. The Japanese understand they are to remain on the reservation—but the reservation is nearly 50 miles long and 14 miles wide. There really is nothing to keep an internee from running away if he wants to go—that is, nothing except many miles of hot arid desert extending in all directions beyond the forest of mesquite, cottonwood and willows which covers the valley.
They are not treated as prisoners. Nor do they regard themselves as such. So far, not a single desertion has been recorded. Openly, there is no evidence of hostility. The great majority of those in camp discuss their plight in a philosophic tone: "We are here. It probably is for the best. And so we will accept it as cheerfully as we can."
Soon after arrival each Japanese 16 years and older is given an opportunity to enlist in the War Relocation Work Corps.
After enlistment they are assigned to work groups and paid a monthly wage of $12 for unskilled, $16 for skilled workers and $19 for executive and professional services. The doctors who performed the appendectomy are in the $19 class. Among the Japanese there is some criticism of the wage differentials. Administration officials are discussing the feasibility of a flat rate for all.
In addition to this pay, which covers a 44-hour week, they receive their food, water, electricity, heat in winter, and it is planned to issue work clothes to certain types of laborers where wear and tear is severe.
An opportunity had been given to all Japanese to sign up for return to Japan if and when transportation can be arranged. So far 120 members of the camp have asked for repatriation.
The unit of administration at Poston is the block. In each block there are 14 apartment houses, a dining room, recreation hall, latrine buildings with showers for men and women, laundry and ironing room. Wide parking area surrounds each unit for four blocks, designed as a fire break. Each block has its Japanese manager who represents it in matters of community administration.
Original block managers were appointed by the official staff, but on July 21, the first election was held in Poston Camp 1 at which managers were elected by secret ballot by the Japanese themselves. The 36 block managers now form an Administrative Council with mayor, fire chief, police chief—all the functionaries of a normal American city.
Each day a long caravan of trucks rolls into camp, bringing the many tons of food required for so large a population. Most of the food supplies are bought through the army quartermaster department in Los Angeles. A cook and helpers are named in each block. As far as possible the Japanese are given what they want to eat, within the limitations of a plain substantial menu. An Anglo-American dietician would be appalled at the amount of starch they consume. Rice of course is the staple, with tea the most popular drink.
Good cooks are notoriously tempermental, and the Japanese are no exception. Earl Best, chief steward is often called upon to referee the disputes that develop in the mess halls. Sometimes the argument is between the chef and his dishwashers. At other times it springs from menus that do not suit all the customers. Bring together a group of American merchants, farmers, auto-mechanics and day laborers and set them down at a table to eat the same family style dinner, and you would have the same problems. Best has to deal with in the community mess halls at Poston. The average cost of food for one person is 37 cents a day. Cooks, waiters, and flunkeys are all on the camp payroll at $12 or $16 a month, according to rated skill.
At one corner of the townsite Frank Kuwahara, head nurseryman is pampering 55,000 baby guayule plants shipped from Salinas for test planting in Parker Valley. They are now taking root in hastily built arrowweed ramadas, but as soon as irrigation laterals are completed, will be planted in various types of soil in experimental fields. Guayule is a native in the Chihuahua desert and no one knows yet just how well it will grow and produce rubber in the bottom lands along the Colorado River.
Army engineers found a fine stratum of water at a depth of 118 feet in Parker Valley. Huge tanks were built and Poston is well supplied with domestic water.
Irrigation water arrived in a newly constructed canal from Parker diversion dam July 4. Additional canals are being laid out for the reclamation of as much of Parker Valley’s 100,000 acres as time will permit. Time in this case will be determined by the duration of the war. There is no finer soils than the sandy loam of these Colorado River bottom lands. It is the same silt that grows huge crops of cantaloupes, lettuce, alfalfa and flax in Palos Verde and Yuma valleys.
The first 40-acre field had been cleared and leveled for planting July 15. Mammoth bulldozers were yanking mesquite trees out by the roots and the leveling crew was following close behind. There is plenty of man-power and skill for a speedy job of reclaiming this valley, but tractors and tools are limited, and progress will depend of the availability of farm machinery. The goal is 20,000 acres the first year.
First plantings will be vegetables to supply the table needs of the colonists. They are eager for the day to come when they will be growing their own food. Some of the Japanese who arrived in camp the latter part of May already have little patches of radishes growing around their quarters, watered by hand from the domestic faucet.
Church services are conducted by Japanese and American missionaries of the Christian, Catholic and Buddhist denomination. Japanese may worship where and how they please—with the exception that Shintoism, the pagan creed of the warrior clan in Japan, is barred.
Stores and shops, still limited in stock and crude in fixtures, are being operation by Poston Community Enterprises. Russelll Fister, director of these commercial enterprises has two stores and three cold drink huts, beauty parlors, barber shops, and is organizing shoe, radio and watch repair shops. From the Japanese population he had drawn managers, clerks, soda jerks and all the help necessary for operation. These commercial projects are on a non-profit basis. That is, the profit goes into the Japanese Community Fund where it is expended for recreational and civic activities. The first store opened May 11 and did a gross business of $11.75 that day. Average receipts now exceed $2,000 a day. Since the total merchandise on the shelves seldom exceeds $5,000 this is a merchant’s dread of fast turn-over.
Dr. Willard Beatty, director of education in the Office of Indian Affairs at Washington spent July in camp getting facilities organized to take care of 6,000 school students this fall. Plans include elementary, high school and college.
The Indian Department hasn’t enough teachers to fill so great a need. Japanese girls with normal school training are being enlisted to supplement the Anglo-American instructors. Since most of the Japanese came from California, the state board of education in that state is lending books for the class rooms.
A city of 20,000 without a newspaper would be strange phenomenon in United States—and Poston has its Press Bulletin. It is just a two-page mimeographed journal, comes out every day except Monday and has a staff organization which is counterpart of a full-fledged daily paper.
Director of the journalistic activities at Poston is Norris James, affable young man whose title is assistant in charge of project reports, but who performs the usual duties of a Press and Intelligence officer. He has assembled an enthusiastic staff of young Japanese reporters and columnists, and is holding in reserve a crew of linotype operators, printers and pressmen for the day when the Poston Community Enterprises may be able to undertake the printing of a newspaper.
What do the Indians of the Colorado River Indian reservation think about this invasion of their tribal lands?
They do not like it!
There are 900 Indians on the reservation, which extends along the Colordo River from Monument Peak on the north to old La Paz on the south. Most of it is on the Arizona side. The reservation, ceded to the Indians by treaty with United States, includes three tribes. About 60 percent are Mojaves, 35 percent Chemehuevis and 5 percent Yumas. Only a small fraction of their rich valley has been reclaimed.
In 1910 the federal government allotted 10 acres to each man, woman and child, and installed a pumping plant to lift water from the Colorado River for irrigation. This allotment plan would have been fine if no Indian ever died. But after a few deaths and marriages had taken place the Indian Service officials found themselves hopelessly involved in trying to divide fractional tracts between heirs and in-laws. The arithmetic became too complicated even for the white man. And so Congress amended the plan and gave each family 50 acres.
For the most part, Colorado River Indians are not energetic farmers, and few of them ever developed the full area for their allotments. Some of them were permitted to lease to white tenants, but the greater part of Parker Valley has remained virgin mesquite land, not even accessible by road. The Japanese centers are many miles from the nearest Indian ranchero.
I do not know what passed between Secretary Ickes, John Collier of the Indian Bureau, and officials of the War Relocation Authority when confronted with the problem of putting a Japanese relocation camp on these reservation lands—but it was a problem that called for a prompt decision. Gen. John L. DeWitt of the West Coast Military Zone had to have a place for Japanese evacuees without delay.
The answer was a memorandum agreement between the Department of Interior, representing the Indians, and the WRA, which gave the latter authority to move in and take possession of underdeveloped portions of Parker Valley. In behalf of the Indians it was stipulated that the WRA must vacate the land within six months after the war ended—and that all buildings, improvements, canals and appurtenances of the project should revert to the Indians without cost.
Under this agreement the Indians appear to have everything to gain and nothing to lose. You and I would figure it that way. It would have been a gift from heaven if the early settlers in Palo Verde or Yuma or Imperial or Salt River valleys could have moved in on lands already leveled and under irrigation—without cost to themselves.
But the Indian mind has a somewhat different slant. There is historical basis for his feeling that once the white man moves and takes possession, his holdings are gone forever.
And what does he want with all that farmland anyway? He can raise what he needs on his five-acre patch. He would rather have the mesquite forest—the original valley of the Colorado where his ancestors hunted and fought and lived and were content—in its natural state.
Right or wrong, he is against this whole deal. The white man and his Japanese protégés are cluttering up his reservation with roads and power lines and telephone poles and buildings. They are chopping down the trees of his ancestral hunting ground. They are bringing smoke and noise, and for all he knows eventually there will come a parade of tourists prying into his humble dwelling and trying to take pictures of everything in sight.
That is the Indian’s side of the story.
It is a 1942 version of the same conflict that has been going on since the first white settlers landed on the New England coast.
One thing can be said in behalf of the white men who came to this part of the New World. He never at any time enslaved the Indian. And perhaps that is a better fate than would befall him if American and its allies were to lose this war.
If the lands are returned to the Colorado River Indians, in accordance with Secretary Ickes’ agreement, they will have made no greater sacrifice than other Americans are making in this emergency.
Generally speaking, I found a friendly atmosphere prevailing at Poston. Wade Head and his associates are strongly imbued with the pioneer spirit. They are out on a new frontier reclaiming virgin land. It is a task that has always brought out the best in Americans—courage, patience, energy, enthusiasm. They are putting all these things into their job.
They are dealing with two very distinct groups of Japanese: The Issei, the older generation of men and women born in Japan who have never acquired American citizenship. Most of them are past 50. The larger group is the Nisei, the second generation who by reason of their birth in United States are American citizens. A majority of them are under 35. They seldom speak Japanese except when talking with their elders. They are the product of American schools and have adapted themselves to a rather remarkable degree to American ways.
Around the headquarters offices are scores of clattering typewriters, most of them operated by young Japanese-competent, courteous and friendly. There may be resentment in the hearts of some of the elders, but there is little evidence of it among the Nisei.
Pioneering on the desert frontier is never a bed of roses, but the Japanese at Poston are being treated well—and for the most part they are responding with the characteristic politeness of the well-bred Japanese. I can only hope that Americans interned in Japan are faring as well, and that the atmosphere in the American internment camps in Japan is as cordial as at Poston.
This article appeared in the Desert Magazine
By MARGARET STONE
"What do you think of having the Little Brown Brothers on your reservation?" I asked an old Mohave Indian who was loafing in the noonday sun. I had gone to the Colorado River agency to learn firsthand how Indians regarded the Japanese now located at Poston.
"I don’t like. Government take out Indian boys across the ocean to kill Japs. Government bring Japs to our reservation and say we must not kill them!" That was the sum total of his opinion and gifts of candy and cigarettes failed to coax additional remarks from him. Already I had learned that there would be no actual contract between the Indians and Japanese. When it was decided that 20,000 Japanese should be placed on the Colorado reservation my first reaction was consternation. What would it do to the Indians?
The Mohave’s love of his homeland once proved a powerful obstacle to white men coveting that country. The journey of pioneers and explorers often ended abruptly and with finality once they reached the wastes of the Colorado River where the Mohaves have lived since the discovery of the Southwest. This tribe was once the largest and most warlike of all the Yuma Indians and they fought with deathlike tenacity to save their homes from all comers. Barren and arid and desolate as that country looks, they have managed to survive famine and war and civilization. About 800 are left in the once powerful Mohave nation. They have small fields in the Colorado River bottom and raise a little grain, beans, corn and pumpkins, and here and there have a small cotton field. The work for the big cotton growers and pick cotton swiftly and without waste.
After digging an existence from the desert for centuries they saw their land made fertile by the completion of Parker dam in 1939. That stored water would bring life to 100,000 acres, much more land than the Mohaves could ever work. There was a thought of going ahead with the development and making the excess acreage available to poverty-stricken Indians of other tribes, but the Navajo and Hopi and some New Mexican tribes went down and looked it over and chose to remain in their own homelands. The government, however, seeking a safe place for Japanese during the war could find nothing wrong with this location.
I left the old man smoking my cigarettes and drove across the desert to a miserable shack belonging to a very old Mojave. His name was He-re-in-ye, Flash of Lightning That Comes With the Clouds. His wife had a slightly less imposing title, High Heaped Clouds. Even the very names of this desert tribe seem to implore life giving moisture from the skies. With them was the younger wife of their son and she seemed glad to have a visitor. She was a Sherman graduate and really beamed when I gave her an armful of magazines. Life must be dreary for the younger members of the tribe.
Flash of Lightning was quite willing to talk about the alien visitors on his land and with the help of Marianne, the daughter-in-law, we understood each other very well.
"As I grew old I saw my land become more and more worthless and dry, while the water ran down to the ocean by our parched fields. I saw the young men leaving the planting and going to work at Needles for the railroad and on ranches where white men had water ditches. It was a great time when the government built a dam and stopped the water from leaving us. Oh, if I were a young man now what beans and corn and cotton I could grow. I am too old to dig in the fertile fields now." He paused and mentally reviewed the years he had toiled for such little gain.
"Are you displeased that the Japanese are here to live?"
"No. Already I have lived long enough to know that there is good in everything. Also I have learned that what the government plans to do for the Indians can wait. No money, no money, they say. When the dam was built, little land was cleared for planting. Few ditches to carry the water were dug. The water went on to others because we had no way of using it, and we were forgotten once more while we used the small fields the best we could."
"But war came and the enemy must be put somewhere! No white man would give up land. But there was Indian land waiting. No water! Plenty of water in the dam. Spread it over the land. Take big machines—tear out the sage and cactus and yucca and make ditches for irrigation. That takes money and ‘no money’ we were told. Oh, but money when war is here. It is all right. Water will run through the ditches into the land. Cleared fields will still be there when the Japs have gone back to their fishing and flower growing. Maybe Mohaves have watered fields then."
The old wife nodded her head as she listened and the son’s wife added her opinion.
"At least we can’t be worse off than we were before the Japs came. We don’t see them or have to live near them. When the war is over our young people will have those cleared fields to begin living on and they can raise cotton then instead of picking it for white people. We could do nothing by objecting to the Japs. What has an Indian’s protest ever mattered? We will make the best of it!"
The sun was almost down and I asked permission to camp near their home. They were very gracious about it and after my supper was over I walked across to sit beside their fragrant sagebrush fire built in front of the house. Even in that desert country there was a chill when the sun went down and there is always something about an outdoor fire that draws me.
The house was crudely made of railroad ties, roofed with brush, the south side entirely open. There were no beds except quilts and cotton blankets which were spread on the dirt floor at night and rolled into a tight bundle and set in a corner during the day. The chairs were packing boxes from a trading post and the three Indians sat on them holding their enamel plates on their laps while they ate the stew of meat and beans sopped up with fried bread. I had watched the girl cook the bread over the outside fire. I added a can of tomatoes to their fare and sealed our friendship....
This article appeared in the Times Magazine,
Monday, Jun. 25, 1945
Monday, Jun. 25, 1945
Few wartime problems have remained as puzzling to the average U.S. citizen as that of the West Coast's uprooted Japanese. This week, in a new book, "Governing of Men", by Lt.Commander Alexander H. Leighton, a Navy Medical Corps psychiatrist, suggested a key to better understanding. After 15 months at Arizona's vast Poston Relocation Center as a social analyst, Commander Leighton concluded that many an American simply fails to remember that U.S. Japanese are human beings.
The Governing of Men (Princeton University Press; $3.75) is a full report on Poston, which—because of censorship —was the subject of many a wild rumor in the early days of the war. To Commander Leighton's detached eye, the war was only a minor cause of Poston's troubles. Many of those troubles sprang from the universal resentment men feel at being confined against their will, and from the universal conflict which results when different types of people are thrown closely together.
For the 18,000 Japs at Poston were of all types. There were Christians and Buddhists, bankers and fishermen, farmers and shopkeepers. By birth and background they fell into three basic groups:
The oldest, the Japanese-born Issei, were reserved, puritanical people, who clung to an old country belief in hard work, personal integrity and obedience to tradition. They felt a sense of loyalty to Japan and had grave misgivings about the flipness, the new and careless attitudes of U.S.-born Nisei. Pearl Harbor had filled them with indecision. Many wanted Japan to win the war, but they did not want the U.S.—the country in which their children would go on living—to lose.
The Nisei had grown away from the Japanese beliefs that they had been taught as children, felt superior to their parents and a little ashamed of the Issei's bowing manners and broken English. They were full of protest at the idea of evacuation, afraid they were being stripped of their rights as citizens. Their faith in U.S. fairness was shaken. But they were still unconvinced by their parents' talk of the greatness of Japan.
The Kibei, young Japanese born in the U.S. but educated in the old country, found themselves in conflict with both Issei and Nisei. Most older Japanese considered them dissolute, domineering upstarts. Nisei, fresh from U.S. schools, considered them foreign-minded people.
To all the evacuees Poston (a conglomeration of cheerless wooden barracks on the unshaded desert) seemed like a concentration camp. The sun was cruel; dust was everywhere. The hospital had little medicine, food was often badly cooked; there was overcrowding, lack of privacy, discomfort. The camp's overworked administrative staff had been thrown together as hastily as the buildings.
A New Life
Despite all this, the displaced thousands gradually settled into a new pattern of existence. Clubs, baseball teams sprang up. There were parties at which old-fashioned dancing competed with U.S. jitterbugging—under their flowing robes the Japanese girls wore U.S. saddle shoes (see cut). Thousands of residents worked hard at tilling the soil, manufacturing adobe bricks, making camouflage netting—at wages of $12 to $19 a month. But a great part of Poston's people went on feeling insecure, bewildered, resentful. Many an older Japanese was convinced that Nisei and Kibei were "dogs" (informers). Gangs of men began roaming the camp at night beating suspected "dogs" with clubs and canes.
Torn by dissension, the Japs finally struck against their American warders. When the strike was settled after eight days, the air was cleared. But Poston was never a placid place again. By this week, nearly 13,000 of Poston's inhabitants, still uncertain and bewildered, had gone back to their old homes on the Coast.
Commander Leighton, objective throughout, reaches no conclusions on this U.S. experiment in governing another race behind stockades. But his attitude is aptly expressed in the quotation from which he got his title*: Oh, it were better to be a poor fisherman than to meddle with the governing of men.
* A remark made by Danton just before he was guillotined in Paris' Terror (1794).