John Collier vs Dillon Myer

      On 18 March 1942, President Roosevelt created the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and appointed Milton Eisenhower, a minor official in the in the Department of Agriculture, as its director.  Earlier that year, Vice President Henry Wallace had recommended at a cabinet meeting that President Roosevelt appoint John Collier director of the War Relocation Authority, in charge of the Japanese-American internment, "because of his expertise in community living".  (1)

Collier was Roosevelt's Commissioner of Indian Affairs.  When Roosevelt appointed Milton Eisenhower instead of Collier, Collier was placed in charge of 20,000 Japanese-American inmates incarcerated at the Colorado River Indian reservation near Poston, Arizona.  Eventually Collier had a falling out with Eisenhower's successor, Dillon Myer, who became director of WRA on 17 June 1942.  Myer envisioned the eventual dispersal of all Japanese-American prisoners throughout America to prevent their return to the "Little Tokyos" on the West Coast. (2)

Collier had his own plans to use the Japanese-Americans at Poston in "social experiments."  They were to convert 25,000 acres of land into productive farm land that would produce surplus food to feed American troops.  Collier told the internees that this experiment in communal living could raise their morale and restore their faith in democracy, and at the same time it would demonstrate to other Americans "the efficiency and splendor of the cooperative way of living".  (3)

On another level, Collier envisioned Poston becoming a "social science research  laboratory,  which might yield "scientific results" which could then be applied to "American administration of former Japanese islands in the Pacific Ocean." (4)

Primary source: Francis Feeley. The Idealogical Uses of JAs in US Concentration Camps".

Available at:
References cited: 
1. Kenneth Philip. John Collier's Crusade for Indian Reform. (Tucson, AZ., 1977) pp. 208-209.
2. Ibid., p. 209.
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.

Planning Before the Evacuation Orders

      "As of February 25, 1942, Thomas D. Campbell, a top expert in the Department of Agriculture, had written a letter to Assistant Secretary of War, John J. McCloy encouraging mass evacuation and the use of West Coast Japanese for their "farming wizardry."  

     The Japanese-Americans, he argued, should not be allowed to live "near any factory, dock, warehouse, public utility, railroad, bridge or reservoir." 

     He recommended to the Assistant Secretary of War that the Japanese-Americans be used as "seasonal migratory harvesters in sugar beets, cotton, and perishable crops." 

Source: Francis Feeley. Francis. The Idealogical Uses of Japanese Americans in U.S. Concentration Camps".  See page 53 "Economic Uses", available at: