Today’s post is written by Jana Leighton, an Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.
On February 19, 1942, two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 that allowed the Secretary of War to designate military areas and order evacuation of all persons deemed a threat to national security.[i] On March 13, 1942, the Portland Branch of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank’s Evacuee Property Department was established in response to this executive order and was part of the Evacuee Property Program. The program originally fell under the control of the Wartime Civil Control Administration. However, President Roosevelt then issued Executive Order 9102 establishing the War Relocation Authority, and the Evacuee Property Program ultimately came under that agency’s organizational authority.
The Series “Portland Branch Evacuee Files” is part of Record Group 210: The Records of the War Relocation Authority. It contains the documents created by or for the branch while fulfilling its role as fiscal agent for properties and goods (other than farms and farm machinery) of Germans, Italians, Japanese, and Japanese Americans affected by the evacuations from the west coast of the United States of America during World War II. The Reserve Bank was to assist evacuees in disposing of property holdings, protect them from fraud, forced sales, and unscrupulous creditors, in addition to arrange for orderly liquidation of business and property interests while coming under the authority set out by the establishment of the War Relocation Authority.[ii]
This meant the bank representatives regularly interacted with those being affected by the evacuation orders. Many of these interactions dealt with trying to navigate liquidation, leasing, and giving general financial information. While the series contains reports, interviews, and case files pertaining to the property of individuals, families and businesses impacted by the involuntary evacuation and relocation due to their foreign national status or Japanese ancestry, I believe the correspondence brings into focus the people who lived through this period.
Shown below is a series of letters between Hood River Valley resident Ray Sato (evacuated to Pinedale Assembly Center and interned at Tule Lake Relocation Camp)[iii] and Federal Reserve Bank Portland Branch employees (Mr. S.A. MacEachron and R.E. Everson) before the ordered evacuations of Oregon. In his letters Sato describes the uncertainty his family felt about when they would be ordered to leave their home and livelihood as well as specific questions concerning property.
(The images appear in a different order within the catalog)
In his role as his father’s orchard manager, Mr. Sato writes to the bank to explain his circumstances, ask questions about setting up lease agreements or share cropping options, and depict the restrictions he faced in trying to find suitable tenants. Both Mr. S.A. MacEachron and Mr. R.E. Everson write to Mr. Sato to explain the options that might work best for his situation. Although, they themselves don’t always have the answers they do show their willingness to help Mr. Sato as much as possible. The letters go into specific details surrounding Mr. Sato’s property concerns as well as that of his former neighbor who left the United States for Japan before the sale of his property was finalized.
These records illustrate what it was like to be affected by the evacuation and relocation authorized by Executive Order 9066 and are only a few of the many interesting records available for viewing and download on the National Archives Catalog that belong to this series. I would also suggest looking at the multitude of other records that cover the subject of Japanese Relocation and Interment that can be found within the National Archives and Records Administration’s holdings. Please view the series Portland Branch Evacuee Property Files, 3/18/1942 – 6/30/1946 and the Japanese Relocation and Internment resource page to explore more on the topic!
[i] Executive Order 9066 dated February 19, 1942, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt Authorizes the Secretary of War to Prescribe Military Areas, Executive Orders 9041-9070, Executive Orders, 1862-2011, Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778-2006. The National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
[ii] Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco: Evacuation Operations Pacific Coast Military Areas 1942 (40974894) [Electronic Record]; Portland Branch Evacuee Property Files, 3/18/1942-6/30/1946; Record Group 210: Records of the War Relocation Authority, 1941-1989. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
[iii] [Japanese-American Internee Data File], 1942 – 1946 (413420) [Electronic Record]; Records About Japanese Americans Relocated During World War II, created, 1988 – 1989, documenting the period 1942 – 1946; Record Group 210: Records of the War Relocation Authority. The National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. Also accessible via the Access to Archival Databases (AAD) at www.archives.gov/aad.
All images in this post are from: [B1.34] Alphabetical File: S (40974958) [Electronic Record]; Portland Branch Evacuee Property Files, 3/18/1942-6/30/1946; Record Group 210: Records of the War Relocation Authority, 1941-1989; The National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. The images may be seen in a different order within the catalog.