The Daily Californian, the student-run newspaper at UC Berkeley, was heavily involved in aiding Japanese American students during World War II. The editors used the publishing platform to help students protest, find safe storage for belongings, fundraise, and even to find a new home for a student’s pet dog before she had to evacuate to a relocation camp. But the student newspaper’s role in aiding Japanese Americans went beyond running ads for the affected students. At UC Berkeley, the Daily Cal played a major role in shaping discourse around the issue of Japanese Internment, promoting voices of Japanese American students, and exposing the racist views held by some in the student body, as well as investigating potential discrimination within the school’s official student organizations. It also voiced strong opposition to bigoted, unjust statements from influential public organizations such as the American Legion, providing commentary on the injustice against Japanese Americans on a state-level when most major newspapers were silent or biased against Japanese Americans throughout California.

Letters to the ICE BOX

The Daily Cal’s “Letter to the Ice Box” section published letters written to the editor. Often, they were pieces written by Japanese-American students that offered their perspectives on what was happening as they prepared for their forced relocation. Marii Kyogoku criticized the discriminatory nature of the government’s treatment of Japanese-Americans, pointing out that Italian and German immigrants did not receive such harsh treatment despite their ancestry and would remain on campus. The chairman of the Council for the Welfare of American Students of Japanese Descent offered a more optimistic perspective, expressing gratitude for “the decent and courteous treatment” of Japanese American students at UC Berkeley, hoping that the school would maintain its “democratic ideals” in the forthcoming years. He also urged Japanese American students to not harbor bitter feelings and that “if the security of the nation rests upon our leaving, then we will gladly do our part.”

The Daily Cal also served as a public forum where discriminatory arguments against Japanese Americans were exposed, debated, and publicly criticized by students. In February 1942 The Daily Cal published a letter by an anonymous person under the pseudonym “Loyal American ‘42” in which the person criticized the school’s decision to provide loans and funds to Japanese American students to ensure the completion of their studies during their mass disruption. The anonymous author accused Japanese American students of being traitors who did not deserve financial assistance and should instead be kicked “into the bay.” The next day, the Daily Cal printed rebukes from students and alumni in its “Letters to the Ice Box” section, lambasting the intolerance and bigotry of “Loyal American ’42.” One student pointed out the similarity in attitude between “Loyal American ‘42” and the Axis Powers: “The deplorable attitude of students like “Pseudo-American ‘42” is proving the real menace to our society in this day of false rumors and witch-hunts. Such attitudes, furthermore, raise and emphasize barriers which are just what the Axis ordered in causing national disruption and disunity.”

The Daily Cal also played an active role in investigating potential discrimination against Japanese Americans on the UC Berkeley campus. The ASUC Executive Committee, an official student organization at UC Berkeley that operated as student government, passed a resolution that asked for “courteous treatment of Japanese students who may be evacuated” in March 1942. However, a student noted that the resolution passed only by a 5-3 vote, and asked the Daily Californian to release the names of those who voted against the “perfectly reasonable and decent measure.” The Daily Cal, instead of simply releasing the names or ignoring the request, investigated the cause behind the dissenting votes and released a short article with responses from two of the three people who voted against the resolution. It surmised that the dissenting votes were not due to discrimination, but “protests against the form, working, and procedure which the resolution represented.” This incident showed how the Daily Cal took on the responsibility of reporting potential discrimination within influential student bodies at UC Berkeley.

But the role of the Daily Cal as an advocate for Japanese Americans extended beyond the campus and included race relations in California more broadly. On August 19, 1943, the American Legion, a patriotic veteran’s organization, held its convention in San Francisco. American Legion leadership made bigoted remarks about Japanese Americans promoting their incarceration. For example, Department Commander Leon Happell remarked that “We must look at this problem as of 100 years from now, when 150,000 Japanese will have multiplied and multiplied. This is not the time to take the Japanese out of the camps and put them back into universities.” The American Legion advocated for army control of the relocation centers, employment of “investigated” Japanese Americans supervised by the army in forced farm labor, and discontinuation of Japanese American enlistment in the United States Army. The Daily Cal immediately published an editorial castigating the bigotry and intolerance of the American Legion, characterizing the “Americanism” that the Legion touted as an American version of Fascism. “The group in control has laid down a policy which is rampantly nationalistic, intolerant of other nations and other peoples, intolerant of minorities within the United States, lacking in regard for the rights of citizens,” the Daily Cal wrote.

What the Daily Cal wrote was important because at the time, none of the major newspapers in northern California criticized the American Legion for its racist advocacy or words. Instead, as noted by the Daily Cal, there were only “statements in praise of the Legionnaires by public officials. Everywhere they are welcomed, honored, congratulated.” This was, perhaps, not surprising as most major newspapers in Northern California at the time were biased against Japanese Americans, even though they largely maintained a neutral, professional tone when reporting on concentration camp news. For instance, an editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that all “enemy aliens,” referring to Japanese and Japanese Americans, must be subject to suspicion because it would be not practical to determine the loyalty of each individual. The Daily Cal, therefore, provided a voice that could rarely be found in other newspapers in the region.

This voice was not merely provincial. Within days, the San Francisco Chronicle and The Fresno Bee (a newspaper in Fresno, CA) reprinted parts of the Daily Cal’s article, circulating the Daily Cal’s criticism of the American Legion throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley. Readers across the Bay Area, from San Francisco to Livermore, wrote to the Daily Cal and the San Francisco Chronicle in response, with some of these letters being reprinted. Most of these responses agreed with the Daily Cal’s criticism of the Legion and thanked them for raising awareness about this issue.

The Daily Cal editors talked directly with around 100 American Legionnaires. They pointed to the injustice of the actions that the Legion proposed, such as the call for army supervision of Japanese Americans in farm work. It was not well-received, with one past commander going on a tirade and suggesting that they were the “child of a man who didn’t join the Legion” suggesting they were entitled and had never sacrificed for the country themselves. Other Legionnaires respected their freedom of speech and commended their bravery but ignored their arguments. Their efforts to raise awareness within the Legion of their unjust propositions, however, were not in vain, for there were some Legionnaires who later thanked them for laying out the problem, saying “all of us may not have heard, but there are some who did.”

The Daily Cal’s coverage of the American Legion’s bigoted statements went beyond the typical duties of a student publication. It demonstrated that the Daily Cal served not only as a local news source for UC Berkeley, but also as an advocate for Japanese American rights within larger political debates in California. They were heard: newspapers in northern California such as San Francisco Chronicle and The Fresno Bee reported about their statements, and many people around the Bay wrote responses, mostly in support for Japanese-Americans, to the newspapers. At a time when most newspapers remained silent on the injustice committed against Japanese-Americans, it was important that bigotry, whether from students on campus like “Loyal American ‘42” or from veterans in the Legion, be addressed squarely to prevent irrational fear or hatred against Japanese-Americans from festering. The Daily Californian undoubtedly worked hard towards that goal.

References

  • Duerr, Fred. 1943. “Legion Urges Army Control for Japanese.” San Francisco Chronicle, August 18, 1943. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.52:3. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b8581/?brand=oac4.
  • “History.” n.d. The American Legion. Accessed April 23, 2020. https://www.legion.org/history.
  • Kyogoku, Marii. 1942. “Letters to the Ice Box: Why Discrimination?” The Daily Californian, March 31, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:11. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b2q8d/?brand=oac4.
  • San Francisco Chronicle. 1942. “Realism Must Govern: Alien Enemy Issue,” February 9, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:04. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk001397w2n/?brand=oac4.
  • San Francisco Chronicle. 1943a. “‘Daily Cal’ Editorial: Student Newspaper Blasts Views of American Legion,” August 20, 1943. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.52:3. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b8581/?brand=oac4.
  • San Francisco Chronicle. 1943b. “Safety Valve,” August 24, 1943. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.52:3. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b8581/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1942a. “Loan Fund Plan for American-Born Japanese Students to Insure Completion of Studies,” February 9, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:04. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk001397w2n/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1942b. “The Other Side,” February 10, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:04. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk001397w2n/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1942c. “Japanese Students Merit Consideration,” March 20, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:10. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b1x6x/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1942d. “Letters to the Ice Box: About That Japanese Resolution,” March 20, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:10. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b1x6x/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1942e. “For the Dissent,” March 20, 1942. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.51:10. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b1x6x/?brand=oac4.
  • The Daily Californian. 1943. “The Public Examines the Legion,” September 15, 1943. SC/WRA Box 1, Folder 11. Delmar T. Oviatt Library, California State University, Northridge. http://digitalcollections.archives.csudh.edu/digital/collection/p16855coll4/id/8414/rec/21.
  • The Fresno Bee. 1943a. “Legion Proposes Army Guard and Bar on Japanese,” August 19, 1943. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.52:3. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b8581/?brand=oac4.
  • The Fresno Bee. 1943b. “Daily Californian Attacks Legion as Fascist Group,” August 20, 1943. BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.52:3. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/28722/bk0013b8581/?brand=oac4.
  • Shibutani, Tom. 1942. “‘We Hope to Come Back.’” The Daily Californian, April 1942. BANC MSS 86/97 c, volume 2. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf3j49n6jd/?order=6&brand=calisphere.
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. 1942. “Letters to the Ice Box: Home Wanted.” The Daily Californian, April 1942. BANC MSS 86/97 c, volume 2. The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/tf3j49n6jd/?order=6&brand=calisphere
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ho Yin Chau is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Physics, Math, and Molecular & Cell Biology. His research interest is in theoretical neuroscience. Currently, Ho Yin Chau works with Bruno Olshausen in the Redwood Center on computational vision but will be doing a Ph.D. in Neurobiology and Behavior at Columbia University starting Fall 2020.