John L. DeWitt

Infobox Military Person
name=John Lesesne DeWitt
lived= birth date|1880|1|9 – death date and age|1962|6|20|1880|1|9
placeofbirth=Fort Sidney, Nebraska
placeofdeath=Washington, D.C.


caption=LTG John L. DeWitt
nickname=
allegiance= United States of America
branch= United States Army
serviceyears=1898-1947
rank= General
commands=Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army; Commandant of the Army War College; Fourth Army Commanding General; Commandant of the Army and Navy Staff College
battles=
awards=Distinguished Service Medal

John Lesesne DeWitt was an American Army general, best known for his role in the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. In the course of carrying out policy, he issued military proclamations that applied to American men, women and children who happened to have Japanese ancestry, restricting their civil rights and directing that they be moved from their homes and to government-operated detention camps.

Military career

DeWitt was born at Fort Sidney, Nebraska on January 9, 1880. On October 10, 1898, he was appointed as a Second Lieutenant with the U.S. Army infantry. He would go on to serve nearly fifty years within the U.S. Army in various posts.

World War I

In 1918, he set out with the 42nd Infantry Division to the battlefields of World War I. At this time, he was already a Lieutenant Colonel, and continued duties as a Quartermaster in the General Staff Headquarters. In July 1918, DeWitt was promoted to full Colonel, and continued Quartermaster duties for the 1st Army. He received the Distinguished Service Medal at the end of World War I.

Post World War I

Between 1919 and 1930, DeWitt served in various Quartermaster positions at posts such as Assistant Commandant of the General Staff College, Chief of the Storage and Issue Branch, and the supply division. In 1930, he was promoted to the rank of Major General, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army. As well as his regular duties as Quartermaster General, DeWitt also assumed control of the Gold Star Mothers Pilgrimage. General DeWitt was responsible for all logistics involving this Congress-approved event.

After returning to the Infantry, DeWitt assumed control of the Philippine Division. In July 1937, he became Commandant of the Army War College. Two years later, in December 1939, DeWitt was promoted to Lieutenant General, and then assumed command of the Fourth Army as well as the Western Defense Command with responsibilities for the West Coast area of the United States.

World War II

From December 5, 1939 to June 15, 1943, DeWitt was assigned the Western Defense Command. One week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, DeWitt was in San Francisco when air raid sirens were sounded. On the evening of December 14, 1941, an estimated 35 Japanese warplanes were erroneously sighted above San Francisco Bay on a reconnaissance mission. DeWitt ordered American planes and antiaircraft defense not to fire without his order. "People called me up and asked why I didn't start to shoot. It's none of their damn business!" DeWitt was furious at the lack of blackout precautions and blasted city leaders the next day. "If I can't knock it into you with words, we'll have to turn it over to the police to knock it in with clubs. They were enemy planes and I mean Japanese planes. Put out your lights and take it! If you can't take it, get out of San Francisco now!" [ "GEN. DeWITT SCATHES BAY AREA APATHY", "Oakland Tribune", December 16, 1941, p1 ] It was DeWitt who recommended that the 1942 Rose Bowl, normally played in Pasadena, California, be moved. [ "ROSE BOWL GAME CALLED OFF", "San Antonio Light", December 14, 1941, pB-1 ] For the first and only time in its history, the Rose Bowl took place in North Carolina.

In February 1942, DeWitt reported to President Roosevelt that no sabotage by Japanese-Americans had yet been confirmed — but commented that this only proved "a disturbing and confirming indication that such action "will" be taken."cite book |last=Stafford |first=David |authorlink= |title=Roosevelt and Churchill: Men of Secrets |year=1999 |publisher=The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc. |location=Woodstock, New York |pages=151 |isbn=1-58567-068-5] He recommended the evacuation of all Japanese from the coastal areas of California, Oregon, and Washington state. The President agreed, issuing Executive Order 9066, and DeWitt then began implementing a plan for classifying, rounding up, and removal of "undesirables". On March 2, 1942, DeWitt issued "Military Proclamation No. 1" which designated the western parts of California, Oregon and Washington as "military area no. 1", further divided into "prohibited zone A-1" and "restricted zone B". In the first phase of the order, a provision was included directing that "any person of Japanese ancestry, now resident in Military Area No. 1, who changes his place of habitual residence must file a 'change of residence notice' at his local post office not more than five days nor less than one day prior to moving," [ "Army To Ban Aliens From Coast," "Oakland Tribune", March 3, 1942, p1, p5 ] . Days later, DeWitt announced that the Army had acquired convert|5800|acre|km2 of land near Manzanar, California, for construction of a "reception center" which he said was "to be used principally as a clearing house for the more permanent resettlement elsewhere for persons excluded from military areas." [ "Army Takes Over Jap Center Site," "Oakland Tribune", March 8, 1942, p1 ] .

Removal began on March 23, 1942, with the resettlement of citizens living in Los Angeles. On that date, General DeWitt issued new orders applying to Japanese-Americans, setting an 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and banning ownership of firearms, radios, cameras, and other contraband. DeWitt stated, "Let me warn the affected aliens and Japanese-Americans that anything but strict compliance with this proclamation's provisions will bring immediate punishment," [ "New Curfew for Japanese Starts Friday," "Oakland Tribune", March 24, 1942, p1 ] . Northern California followed in April, [ "12,800 Japs Face Quick Coast Ouster," "Oakland Tribune", April 21, 1942, p1 ] , as DeWitt declared that "We plan to increase the tempo of the evacuation as fast as possible." Citizens in specific areas were required to report to their designated "Civil Control Station", where they would then be taken to an "Assembly Center" for relocation. All told, DeWitt ordered the removal and internment of 110,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry (75% of whom were American-born citizens) from their homes to internment camps. He stated, "A Jap is a Jap" [ [http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=940DE0D61438F932A2575AC0A96E948260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=5 "Behind Barbed Wire"] , "The New York Times", September 11, 1988] , whether they were citizens of the United States or not.

Although a federal judge, James Alger Fee of Portland, Oregon, ruled in November, 1943, that American citizens could not be detained without a proclamation of martial law, DeWitt's response was "All military orders and proclamations of this headquarters remain in full force and effect," [ "Judge's Edict Ignored by Gen. DeWitt," "Oakland Tribune", November 17, 1942, p1 ] . After the relocation of Japanese-Americans was complete, DeWitt lifted curfew restrictions on Italian-Americans on October 19, and on German-Americans on December 24. Technically, the curfew was "inapplicable to the Japanese since all members of this group were removed from the affected zones," [ "German Alien Curfew Lifted," "Oakland Tribune", December 24, 1942, p1 ] .

Lieutenant General DeWitt's orders also regulated other areas of life on the West Coast. A proclamation prohibited deer hunting and the playing of outdoor sports at night. [ "Deer Hunting Must Cease, Army Orders," "Oakland Tribune", August 5, 1942, p1 ] An "Alaska Travel Office" was established to issue permits to anyone seeking to travel into or out of Alaska (which was not a state at that time). [ "Alaska Travel Curb Ordered," "Oakland Tribune", June 30, 1942, p16 ] .

Less known is DeWitt's role in supervising the combat operations in the Aleutian Islands, some of which had been invaded by Japanese forces. At the end of his tenure as head of Western Defense Command, he was appointed as the Commandant of the Army and Navy Staff College in Washington. He retired from the Army in June 1947.

Post-retirement

On July 19, 1954, DeWitt became a full General by special act of Congress for his services in World War II. General DeWitt died of a heart attack at the age of 82 in Washington, D.C. on June 20, 1962, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

References

External links

* [http://www.sfmuseum.org/bio/jldewitt.html Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco]
* [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/jldewitt.htm Arlington National Cemetery]
* [http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/0,10987,850350,00.html Time Archive]
* [http://www.qmfound.com/MG_John_DeWitt.htm U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum]


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