Feb 04

Japanese internment announced World War II week by week

Internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II is announced on the same day as President Franklin Roosevelt's 60th birthday in the Telegram-Tribune newspaper January 30, 1942.

The Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce surprised the county and city of San Luis Obispo on January 29, 1942 by announcing they would be happy to have a federally constructed airport. City leaders had been in negotiations with the Civil Aeronautics Authority for two months as the San Luis Obispo city and county avoided committing to buying land for an airport. The north county field was proposed near Estrella where land was available in the $50-60 per acre range. The city had already purchased the land for the present Sherwood field and local leaders stood ready to buy the other land for a second airport.

Otto Kuehl, president of the Paso Robles chamber of commerce said, “There is definite opposition here to the county buying an airport for San Luis Obispo. If San Luis Obispo doesn’t want the airport and isn’t willing to furnish the land, then we’ll step in and donate property here.”

January 30, 1942

The San Luis Obispo chamber of commerce passed a resolution to remove Japanese from the Central Coast area to inland sections outside the war zone. The meeting was chaired by president J.R. Paulson who was also editor of the then Telegram-Tribune.

Fear of a second Pearl Harbor sneak attack was cited as a motivation and that fear extended to the federal level. The same day the Justice Department set in motion a plan to remove 186,000 resident enemy aliens in eight western states. Chairmen Martin Dies, D-Texas of the house committee on un-American activities in a speech two days earlier had predicted a “tragedy on the west coast that will make Pearl Harbor sink into insignificance.”

The fear was an air attack like the one at Pearl Harbor combined with saboteurs on the ground could wreak havoc on a city like Los Angeles that was critically dependent on imported water and power.

Fear was about to trump civil liberty strictly on the basis of ethnic background.

Also in this issue:

Paso Robles leaders were served with a superior court lawsuit attempting to shutter the antiquated jail. [Dave Skinner offers a correction on the jail location, see comments below.] Apparently while they were willing to open the purse strings for an airport, law breakers were a little lower on the list.

The suit charged that the city jail occupies only 140 square feet, with two cages in one room. As many as 53 people were held at one time in the facility making separating prisoners a problem. A sleeping drunk could be forced to occupy the same cell with a violent murderer.  It is unclear from this article where women were held when arrested. The plaintiffs charged that the building lacked proper toilet facilities and was filthy. The suit named the city council, mayor and police chief as defendants.

January 30, 1943

Editor J.R. Paulson would show better judgement when a rare front page editorial took San Luis Obispo city and county leaders to task for failing to come up with a plan to buy land for an airport. He applauded Paso Robles for their can-do spirit but saw an opportunity in the federal funding. He argued that the entire county would benefit from an airport and to back the point up a related news article on the page said that United Air Lines was interested in extending service here if the runways on the existing airstrip were long enough for commercial airliners to land.

After outlining why and how the airport could be financed he said the site was ready and finished with a stern admonition.

“This is a matter that trancends any petty personal considerations.
“Any person in the county who for reasons of personal gain, sectional jealousy or political profit, should place any obstacle in the path of the project, should hide his head in shame.
“This is a time when men grow tall.”

Related posts:

  1. Japanese internment resolutions, Baywood Park gets electricity-World War II week by week
  2. War declared on Germany, Japanese internment, World War II week by week
  3. Postal Service grows, airport woes – World War II week by week
  4. Japanese expansion in Asia – World War II week by week
  5. Carole Lombard dies in plane crash, World War II week by week