Internment and Lodi’s Japanese-Americans

It is easy to misidentify photographs. On page 7 of the San Joaquin Historian for fall 2008-spring 2009, which is devoted to Lodi’s Japantown. I identified the photograph below as being taken in the 1930s. Local historian Ralph Lea was kind enough to correct me and let me know that it was actually taken in 1942, the day after the evacuation of the Japanese from Lodi. If you look closely, you can see the buildings boarded up.

I thought the photograph on Leigh’s blog last week was not of the deployment of the National Guard, but of the evacuation of Japanese Americans from Lodi. (Copies of this and other, related snapshots have been posted online.) The assorted piles of items on the sides of the road looked suspiciously unmilitary in their lack of uniformity and general disorder. The truck on the left looked more civilian than military. These clues encouraged me to research further.

The first question I investigated was what the California National Guard was doing in May 1942. I discovered that it did play an important role in World War II. However, I did not find any evidence that it moved out of Lodi in May. The Guard had been stationed on Oahu before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Along with the Hawaii 288th National Guard and the 299th Infantry, the 251 Coast Artillery from California took part in the defense of Oahu and fired the first American shots of the war.1

In 1941, there was a general mobilization of the National Guard, which included the 184th and the 40th Infantry Divisions. On March 3, 1941, the California Guard divisions moved from Sacramento to San Luis Obispo for training. Within forty-eight hours of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the California guards were redeployed to San Diego, where they waited for the West Coast attack the government was sure would come. Then, in April, the unit moved again, this time to Fort Lewis in Washington.2 By May 1942, the California National Guard was already deployed. I found no further references to the movement of California’s National Guard during May 1942.

Second, I asked when the evacuation of Lodi’s Japanese occurred. We know they were evacuated beginning May 14, 1942, from the National Guard Armory in Lodi and that the process was completed by May 25, 1942.3 The staging was a sizable undertaking; some eight hundred people from Lodi and the surrounding country were evacuated. Photos of the evacuation in other cities show piles of bundles and crates lining the sidewalks as evacuees waited for buses and military transport.4 These photos are similar to the scene in last week’s blog.

Third, I asked about the identity of the soldier in the photograph. I discovered that he was probably from the military police. According to the Lodi News Sentinel, “Lieutenant C. W. Hinamon, of the USA military police, is provost marshal and has a detachment present to make certain that order is maintained and to aid in imparting information.”5

Other photos of the evacuation, including several from Lodi and Stockton, taken by Dorothea Lange, can be found online among the collections of the University of California. For additional information about the Japanese in San Joaquin County, see Chiyo Shimamoto, “The Japanese in San Joaquin County, Past and Present,” San Joaquin Historian, n.s. 6, no. 4 (winter 1992). Gary T. Ono has written a useful blog about the historic importance of family photos, which can be read online.

Notes

1. Michael D. Doubler, The National Guard: An Illustrated History of American Citizen Soldiers, 2d ed. (Washington, D.C.: Palomar, 2007), pp. 77–81.

2. Daniel M. Sebby, “Let’s Go!: Northern California’s 184th Infantry Regiment (2d California) during World War II.”

3. “Registration of Japanese Opened: Staff at Armory Handling Work In Charge of Mrs. Charlotte Hepper,” Lodi News Sentinel, May 15, 1942, p. 1; “Learning How to Pull Up Stakes and Farewell to Lodi Said by Japanese,” Lodi News Sentinel, May 21, 1942, p. 1; “Final Group of Japanese Ordered Out: Seven Counties Including Mother Lode, Are Cleared,” Lodi News Sentinel, May 25, 1942, p. 1.

4. Maisie Conrat and Richard Conrat, Executive Order 9066: The Internment of 110,000 Japanese Americans (San Francisco: California Historical Society, 1972), p 47.

5. “Registration of Japanese Opened,” Lodi News Sentinel, May 15, 1942, p. 1.

Trained as a historian and educator, Suga Moriwaki edited the fall 2008-spring 2009 issue of the San Joaquin Historian, which is titled “Lodi’s Japantown.”

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