The Poston Strike (Different versions)

Military Police Quell Revolt of Japs Held in Internment Camp
     Parker, Ariz. (UP)-A 5 day rebellion at the Poston Japanese relocation center which followed the jailing of two men on charges of assault to kill was ended Monday by military police.
      W. Wade Head, superintendent of the camp--largest of the centers to which west coast Japanese were evacuated--said the revolting group flew banners bearing Japanese characters Monday night and played Japanese martial music.
     "A small but well organized pro-Axis group took advantage of the situation to seize control of the largest of the three Poston units and create a general strike, " he said.
     The recalcitrants had been barricaded in the community jail since Wednesday. They forced their city council to resign, Wade said, and had caused a stoppage of all work in unit No. 1.
     Head said about a third of the 20,000 Japanese in the Poston camp were affected by the work walkout. He gave no details of the methods used by a "strong force" of military police in quieting the Japanese but indicated there was no blood shed or damage to property.

(Source: Journal Final-Milwaukee, Wis., Monday, November 23, 1942)

November 14, 1942
      A group of men described by various witnesses as numbering from 5-15 persons entered the barracks occupied by Kay Nishimura and attacked him with pieces of pipe. It should be noted that this individual is the same person mentioned above as having been assaulted on September 12, 1942. The nature of the second assault was such that it was apparent that there was an attempt to kill Nishimura. He suffered a brain concussion and numerous stitches were necessary on various parts of his body. XXX later stated that he recognized one of his attackers as having appeared in various Judo tournaments in Los Angeles, and he believed that this assailant was a ranking jiu jitsu artist. 
     As a result of this assault the Camp Police arrested [George Fujii] and [Isamu Uchida] and lodged them in the jail at Unit No. 1. Uchida is an instructor in the Judo school at Colorado River, and is considered by the Japanese as ranking very highly as a jiu jitsu artist. XXX was taken into custody by virtue of the fact that he was a former brother-in-law of XXX. Both Fujii and Uchida are Kibei.

November 18, 1942
      As a result of the arrests of Fujii and Uchida mentioned above, a petition was presented to the Project Director by certain Japanese at the Center requesting that Uchida and Fujii be immediately released and the charges against them be dropped. Two other similar petitions were later presented to the Project Director. When it becomes apparent that the prisoners would not be released, a general strike occurred about noon of November 18, 1942. This resulted in all Japanese quitting their work with the exception of a few Japanese boys and girls working in the Caucasian mess hall, and a very limited number of others on individual jobs. Some of the Japanese quitting work stated that they were quitting through fear, as they had been indirectly threatened. 
     It is reported that the Japanese took possession of the food warehouses and 26 Government-owned trucks and motor vehicles which had been used on the various work projects in the camp. At the same time a mob reported to number as high as 1,000 persons gathered in front of the camp jail, where they played Japanese martial music on the public address system. Spokesman for this mob stated that they would not permit the removal of the two prisoners from the camp, and during the afternoon, in conference with Mr. Evans, the Acting Project Director, the release of the prisoners was requested with the assurance that charges would not later be brought against them. 
     During the later afternoon on November 18, 1942, Mr. Townsend, an official of the camp in charge of transportation, was threatened by the mob with personal violence, and he was verbally abused. The gasoline tanks of several white employees' automobiles were drained. By night the Japanese has complete control of the camp except for the small portion where white citizens resided. It is reported that his mob stayed around the jail continuously, day and night, until the prisoners were released on November 24, 1942.
      In connection with this case, facts concerning XXX were reviewed by the United States Attorney at Phoenix, Arizona, on December 19, 1942. The United States Attorney declined prosecution because of the unsettled conditions at the camp, the impossibility of conducting logical investigation at the time, and because of insufficient evidence. 
     As noted above, XXX were released on November 24, 1942, at which time the strike was called off.

Source: FBI  Memorandum RE: War Relocation Authority-Riots, Strikes, and Disturbances in Japanese Relocation Centers.  1943
The Poston Strike

     On Saturday night, November 14, (1942) a group of unidentified evacuees entered the quarters of a Kibei (American born, but educated in Japan) resident at the Colorado River Relocation Center and beat him into unconsciousness.  On the following day the Internal Security force picked up 2 young men in the center as suspects and held them in detention.  Then on Monday morning, the 16th, the FBI in Phoenix was asked by the center staff to send in a couple of agents for a spot investigation.

     Meanwhile, the story had been thoroughly spread over Unit One (Poston camp I) of the Colorado River Center and had already aroused some ominous rumblings.  As it happened, the beaten Kibei was widely suspected of being an informer and was unpopular on other grounds, while the 2 suspects were quite generally respected and admired.  Against this kind of background, the whole incident soon became the focus for a community-wide expression of all the grievances and resentments that had been piling up since the time of evacuation.

     Within a few days after the arrest a committee of 7 residents called upon the Project Director to vouch for the good character of the detainees and ask for their release.  By this time, however, the "prestige" of the administration and its ability to maintain a well-ordered community seemed to be rather clearly at stake.  Consequently, even though the administration realized that the evidence against the 2 suspects was very substantial, it felt almost compelled to reject the request rather than run the risk of weakening its position irreparably.  Sometime later, after the committee members reported this decision back to the community, a crowd of about a thousand residents gathered outside the project jail--for the ostensible purpose of preventing the removal of the 2 prisoners from the center--and word was passed throughout the community that there would be a strike of all but the most essential services.

     In this situation the administration faced 3 possible courses of action: (1) it could give in to the evacuees' demand and release the suspects; (2) it could call in the Army troops stationed on the exterior of the center and turn the community over temporarily to military administration; or (3) it could attempt to negotiate with the evacuees and work out a reasonably satisfactory compromise.  The first course was rather quickly rejected as wholly impractical and was never seriously urged by any of the leading staff members.  The question, therefore, boiled down to a choice between the other 2 alternatives.  Summoning of the troops was most strongly advocated by several staff members and by the representatives of the FBI who had been called into the center in connection with the arrests.  Other staff members, however, stood firmly for the third course as the only properly democratic way of meeting the situation.  At a rather crucial staff meeting held in the administration building while the crowd was gathered around the project jail, the Acting Project director heard both sides fully and then decided that the Army would not be called in.

     Immediately after this decision was reached, the FBI agents refused to take any further part in investigating the disturbance and promptly left the center.  After their departure, the administration released one of the two suspects (against who there was practically no substantial evidence) but prepared to  file charges against the other in the county court.  Before taking final action, however, the Acting Project Director first sought the advice of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs--the Colorado River center was technically administered by the Office of Indian Affairs at this time--and then ultimately conferred by long distance telephone with the Secretary of the Interior.  Pointedly refusing to issue any orders on the question, the Secretary nonetheless expressed his opinion that the matter could probably best be settled by releasing the one remaining prisoner to the custody of the community.  On November 23 (1942) just 9 days after the original beating incident, an agreement on this basis was reached between the administration and an emergency committee of the residents which had been representing the community after resignation of the temporary council.  This brought the incident more or less officially to an end.

     The Poston demonstration, which was confined entirely to one of the three communities making up the center, was probably the least serious of the three major incidents which occurred at WRA centers during the life of the program.  Although emotions occasionally ran high and the atmosphere was almost constantly tense, there was no physical violence whatever and no destruction of government property.  On the whole, the incident probably provided a healthy release for pent-up emotions and qualified observers are generally agreed that Poston emerged as a stronger and more stable community after it was over.  At the same time, however, it provided the newspapers with a large number of over-simplified stories and headlines about "pro-Axis" activity at the center, tended to deepen and corroborate the widespread public attitude of suspicion toward the evacuated people, and thus set in motion a train of events which ultimately made segregation of the evacuees into 2 groups almost inescapable.

Source: WRA. A Story of Human Conservation.  U.S. Department of the Interior.  J.A. Krug, Secretary.  War Relocation Authority D.S. Myer, Director. 1946