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Army Speeds Shifting of Coast Colonies

Thousands of Japanese in California today had a partial answer to the question of where they may go when they are cleared out of a vast military area extending along the entire Pacific Coast.

Tom C. Clark, civilian alien control co-ordinator for the Western Defense Command, was said to be conducting negotiations to acquire 100,000 acres of land in Owens Valley, Inyo County, as a site for a new Japanese residential and agricultural colony.

The Government plans to build prefabricated homes, schools, churches and other public buildings in the valley, which is east of the Sierra Nevada in one of the most isolated sections of the Southwest. After the war, it is expected, the Japanese will be allowed to return to their former homes, and the valley settlement will be turned over to war veterans for rehabilitation and recreation.

Several other back-from-the-coast areas, also are under consideration, it was said. Each would be self-sufficient, as far as possible, and completely guarded to make it impossible for the Japanese to leave their colonies.

Many details of the Japanese colonies plan remain to be worked out, but it was indicated that within 60 days the project would be a going concern.

Mr. Clark was scheduled to confer shortly with local Treasury Department officials on setting up boards to handle property of aliens who must move from the military area. San Francisco, San Pedro, San Diego and other seaport areas, said Mr. Clark, would be cleared first. No definite deadlines have been set, pending completion of the evacuation program by Lieut. Gen. John L. DeWitt, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army commander.

Problems involved in the relocation of evacuated aliens will be aired tomorrow in Los Angeles when the House committee on defense migration will resume hearings in Los Angeles. Among witnesses summoned by Rep. John H. Tolan, committee chairman, is Governor Olson.

Lone Protest

Only protest voiced so far against the Owens Valley colony was that of Mayor Fletcher Bowron of Los Angeles, for the valley is the source of much of Los Angeles’ water supply. Mayor Bowron proposed that the Government instead take over the Parker Indian Reservation, on the east back of the Colorado River in Arizona, but admitted if the Army had determined on Owens Valley there was nothing he could do to prevent it.

Mayor Bowron said he did not believe the Owens Valley plan practical. He said aliens must be located where they immediately may start raising produce to make themselves self-supporting. Idle land in the Owens Valley, while fertile, would require considerable preparation before first crops could be raised, he said.

Mayor Bowron said the Army was ready to begin erection of prefabricated housing if the Owens Valley plan is adopted. He said plans call for a series of camps, heavily guarded, extending from a point east of Bishop to below Long Pine.

General DeWitt, in commenting on refusal of Western and Mid-western governors to permit Japanese to be evacuated to their states, had noted that “national security comes first.”

May Care for 50,000

Initial plans call for a first unit of 17,000 acres to care for 5000 to 10,000 persons, and eventually the area may care for as many as 50,000.

The Owens Valley, from a military standpoint, is an ideal place for the new Japanese settlement. It lies in Inyo County between the highest and lowest spots in the Continental United States—Mount Whitney, 14,496 feet high, and Death Valley, 279 feet below sea level.

The valley, approximately 75 miles long, was once one of the most fertile in the state, but when Los Angeles went in search of water it bought up large sections of the area to assure a continuous flow. It is now dotted with deserted orchards and farms, all of which can be rehabilitated.

Within the valley lie the towns of Bishop, Lone Pine and Independence, all at an elevation of about 4000 feet, enjoying temperatures ranging from a winter low of 45 to a summer high average of 85 degrees.

Mr. Clark, in announcing initial plans for evacuation first of seaport areas, said the next groups to be moved would be those dwelling near airports and factories, then those near aqueducts, forests and similar establishments.

Meanwhile Atty. Gen. Earl Warren disclosed that maps compiled by county officials had disclosed the “amazing extent” to which Japanese surrounded every important airfield, military camp, naval base, railroad center, war factory and strategic public utility in California.

Mr. Warren called it a “startling coincidence” and said the maps had been submitted to miltary authorities.

“We haven’t the slightest doubt but that the Army will take every precaution,” he said.

He noted particularly that in Santa Barbara County Japanese “encircled every single strategic location—military and essential utilities alike.”

“Water, light, power, highways, telephone centers—all of them had Japanese nearby. Even the oil fields—the Little oil field at Goleta, that a Japanese submarine shelled the other day—had Japanese right inside of it.”

Maps of the Bay Area, said Mr. Warren, showed Japanese lived near the Presidio and vital public utilities installations in San Francisco, entirely around the Newark power station and close to the Hetch Hetchy aqueduct, Mission San Jose, on three sides of the Moffett Field in Santa Clara County and close to the chief beaches in San Mateo County.

The State Personnel Board, meeting in Sacramento, today ordered dismissal of 14 of its employes of Japanese ancestry as a safeguard to the “public and its property from any possible espionage or fifth column activities.”

The Personnel Board was the second state agency to purge its rolls of employes of Japanese ancestry. Last week the State Board of Equalization dismissed 20 employes.

The San Francisco News
March 5, 1942

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