WC supposes that every family has its mortifying member, the one we’d all like to pretend never existed. The one no one wants to talk about.
WC certainly has such a clump of mistletoe parasitizing his strange family tree: General John L. DeWitt. The General would be the man who was in charge of locking up the Japanese on the west coast at the start of World War II.
“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.
…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity.
The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”
— General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command
Happily, the General is a fairly distant relative. He was the oldest son of a younger brother of WC’s great-great grandfather. Still, that’s not really a distant enough relationship for WC’s comfort. The General was the man who authored the report recommending President Roosevelt lock up the Japanese. The report is an appalling piece of racist scapegoating, even by the standards of the time. And as the quotation above makes clear, the General was a racist as well as a champion of illogic: the absence of sabotage was proof there would be sabotage.
And he enforced the internment of thousands of innocent persons with a kind of lip-smacking glee. The great Dorthea Lange documented the internment, but her photos were to strong for the General, so he caused them to be seized for the duration of World War II, even writing “Impounded” across some of the prints. The photos were quietly deposited into the National Archives, where they remained largely unseen until 2006.
Racist, bigot, censor and serial liar. There are couple of horse thieves in WC’s family tree who look like saints in comparison to General John L. DeWitt. On behalf of his family, WC apologizes to all of the victims of exclusion and internment on the West coast. We cannot choose our ancestors.
WC’s bucket list includes a visit to Arlington National Cemetery, where the General is buried. The visit will involve, at the very least, hawking a loogy on his grave.