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.