Ralph Graham

Vigilante Terror Aimed at Japanese-Americans

(20 February 1945)

From The Militant, Vol. IX No. 9, 3 March 1945, pp. 1 & 5.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

LOS ANGELES, Feb. 20 – Vigilante violence, overtly encouraged by the capitalist press and slyly winked at by the local authorities, raised its head in California last week to endanger the lives of Japanese-Americans returning to the West Coast from inland concentration camps into which they were thrust shortly after America’s entry into the war.

Persons hitherto unidentified put the torch to the home of Bob Morishege and his family at Selma, in southwestern Fresno county, and burned it to the ground. None of the inmates suffered death or injury but their furniture and other household effects, together with the possessions of several other Japanese-American families which were stored in the house, were destroyed to a value of about $7,000. Fire Chief Julius Jensen of Selma pronounced the blaze as “plainly of incendiary origin.”

At about the same time, shotgun barrages were directed at the homes of S.J. Kakutani and Frank Osaki on the outskirts of Fresno one evening during the dinner hour. The houses were riddled with lead pellets, but none of the inmates was hurt.

In neither instance have the vigilante thugs responsible for the murderous assaults been arrested.

This is not strange when one considers that acts of violence against Japanese-Americans returning from the concentration camps (called “relocation centers”) have been encouraged and incited by the reactionary press and that local law enforcement officers sympathize with the mobsters.

Incite Violence

When the Army decided to release the Japanese-Americans from the camps, the reactionary press, with the Los Angeles Times in the lead, incited mob violence by "warning” that “trouble” would ensue if the internees were permitted to return to the West Coast where most of them lived before the war. They demanded that the authorities prevent the internees from coming back to their homes here.

Fred N. Howser, district attorney in Los Angeles, stated publicly that he knew of certain people who had threatened to “shoot on sight” any Japanese-Americana they might encounter on the streets of this city.

Knowing the identity of the people harboring these murderous designs, did this law enforcement officer have them arrested and brought to trial for threatening the lives of peaceful citizens? By no means! Instead, the district attorney made his knowledge the basis for an appeal to higher authorities to continue depriving the Japanese-Americans of their civil rights by permanently restraining them from returning to their West Coast homes.

The district attorney’s attitude, combined with the lynch propaganda of the capitalist press, bore its hateful fruit. On Feb. 17, Mrs. Joseph J. Holzman, who lives at 1829 Camino Palermo in Los Angeles, informed the police she had twice been warned by anonymous phone calls to discharge two Japanese servants whom she had hired after their release from the Tule Lake concentration camp.

The man who phoned told her: “Better get rid of them or we’ll get rid of you and take care of them.”


The Japanese-Americans attacked in Fresno county are among thousands of Japanese-Americans who operated vineyards and truck gardens before the war. The big farm interests organized in the Associated Farmers had long wanted to get rid of their successful Japanese farming competitors, The outbreak of war in the Pacific gave them their chance. Aided by the venal press which serves their interests, and with the generous assistance of the authorities, they whipped up an anti-Japanese hysteria. The Army brass-hats, eager to help the reactionary big land owners, herded the thousands of Japanese-Americans, farmers and city dwellers alike, into concentration camps.

For three years these thousands of people, against whom no crime has ever been alleged, have been forcibly deprived of their civil rights, kept prisoners in stockades. The farms and homes of many of them went under the auctioneer’s hammer in forced sales. Those who managed to hold on to their farms and homes through the three years, and who are presently returning to them, are now becoming victims of a campaign of intimidation and violence organized by the self-same reactionary business interests and their vigilante hirelings.

Officials of the organized labor movement in California have uttered, not a word of protest against the murderous doings of last week. Both the CIO and AFL have maintained official silence. Only the Trotskyists are fighting these vile manifestations of race hatred. The struggle against all forms of race prejudice and discrimination, and mob violence directed against any racial and national minority, forms a prominent plank in the election platform of Myra Tanner Weiss, Trotskyist candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles.

Last updated on 19 September 2018