1943 January 07
Newspaper article discussing a dispute among workers at the Jerome Relocation Center construction site.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9022, creating the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The WRA selected ten sites in which to imprison more than 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, over two-thirds of whom were American citizens. Two of these centers were in the Arkansas Delta, one at Rohwer in Desha County, and the other at Jerome in sections of Chicot and Drew counties. Over 16,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated in these two centers between October 1942 and November 1945.
Commercial Appeal Reporter Says
Denson Relocation Center Torn By
Suspicion, Waste, Strikes, Turmoil
Charges WRA Using "Silk Gloves"
Quoting several residents of Der-
mott as well as officials of the War
Relocation Authority, the Memphis
Commercial Appeal carried a story
Sunday by Eugene Rutland, charg-
ing that extreme waste and unrest
exists at the Denson Relocation
According to the Memphis report,
dreams of an ideal relocation cent-
er where some 8,000 Japanese-Amer-
ican West Coast evacuees would be
almost self-supporting for the dur-
ation have turned into a nightmare
of confusion, waste food, slow-down
strikes, refusal to work and threats
against construction workers at the
The information was obtained
after Rutland investigated reports of
"deplorable conditions and silk glo-
ve handling of evacuees" from high
officials of the Rifle Construction
Co. and the U.S. Engineers, the
Commercial Appeal stated.
By making his investigation, the
Commercial Appeal writer said he
found the following: "Three truck-
loads of Japanese evacuees recently
cornered H.H. Hobbs, assistant
area engineer, United States Engine-
ers, and Leonard Ball, foreman, and
threatened to kill them during a
"cussfest" in an isolated spot in the
camp before military guards who
were helpless to intervene inside
Refusal to Work Charged
War Relocation Authority offic-
ials are having difficult getting
coal unload from railroad cars and
trucked to the block kitchen be-
cause the Japanese Americans do
not like the handle coal. The coal
is used to fire the stoves used in
preparing meals for the evacuees.
"Japanese-American cooks and
their assistants are wasteful or
careless in preparation of food
throwing away much food that is
edible. An inspection of garbage
pails showed evidence of this.
"Reputable officials of the con-
struction company reported that one
of the men hailing garbage from
the camp found partial sacks of
potatoes, quantities of oranges, ap-
ples, and grapefruit in good con-
dition in the garbage pails.
"Construction officials reported
that the evacuees "knock off" when-
ever they like to have then. "The Com-
munique (camp newspaper) said.
"The serving of hot tea to men on
the wood detail was started yester-
day, December 17.
"The American Association of
Railroads, has protested the delay
in unloading carloads of lumber at
the center. Reports from construc-
tion officials were that the demur-
rages charge on the lumber totals
more than $3,000. Evacuees refused
to unload the lumber at first but fin-
ally agreed to unload the cars. They
threw the lumber into water filled
ditches along the tracks instead of
stacking it. The lumber, is for the
construction of schools at the camp.
"WRA has had to issue a special
contract for clearing a space for a
drainage ditch. A crew of 90 evacuees
felled six trees in a day.
Union Labor Protests
"Carpenters Union No. 690 has
protested to Senators Caraway and
McClellan and Representative No-
rell and WRA Director Myer over
plans to use Japanese Americans in
the construction of buildings total-
ling $120,000 at the Center.
"Thefts of materials from contra-
ctors have been reported to WRA
authorities and no action has been
Paul Taylor, project manager,
denied at first that there were any
difficulties between the workers and
evacuees but when told of the thre-
ate against Hobbs, admitted that
there had been a misunderstanding,
the Memphis story said.
The report further quoted Hobbs
as saying "When a truck driver
didn't get out of the way, I go out
to see what was the matter and two
other Japanese truck drivers load-
ed with evacuees cornered our trick.
They jumped out of the truck and
began shouting "kill them, kill
them." Mr. Hobbs is reported to
have said that the incident took
place in full view of the Military
Police, put that they are not permit-
ted to come within the center pro-
per without a request from the pro-
Says Owens Deplores Waste
The Memphis paper quoted O.E.
Owens of Dermott, who pays the
center approximately $25 a wheel for
the privilege of hailing the garbage
from the center, as saying that he
had found partial sacks of food
int he garbage pails. The waste
there is terrible and something
ought to be done about it. They
waste enough there every day to
feel the town of Dermott." Mr.
Owens is reported to have stated.
Rutland reported that he and
Jack Maddox, superintendent of
construction for the Rife Company
and Dick Yount also with the Rife
Company had seen in several gar-
bage pails, vegetables that had been
mutilated and thrown away.
Criticizing the construction ef-
forts of the evacuees. Rutland re-
ported that in five weeks, a crew of
at least 30 men had succeeded in er-
ecting the framing of one building
and the floor on a second. The
foundation were laid by the Rife
Company at the WRA request. Con-
struction officials reported to Rut-
land that the buildings could be
erected in a few days by trained
workmen at a savings to taxpayers.
Says Other Conditions Worse
Rutland also said that there were
other reports which the WRA or
construction officials should turn
over to the Army intelligence so
that they could be proven false or
the dangerous conditions removed.
Mr. Taylor laughed off these re-
ports, he said.
Evacuation of civilians; Military assistance; Military camps; Camps; War; Japanese; Japanese Americans; World War, 1939-1945--Concentration Camps--United States--Arkansas; Internment camps; Relocation camps; Jerome Relocation Center (Ark.)
Dermott, Chicot County (Ark.)
MFILM News 000131, Roll 10
Newspaper microfilm collection: Dermott News, MFILM News 000131
Arkansas State Archives
Arkansas State Archives
Newspaper article, "Commercial Appeal Reporter Says Denson Relocation Center Torn By Suspicion, Waste, Strikes, Turmoil", Newspaper microfilm collection: Dermott News, Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.
Use and reproduction of images held by the Arkansas State Archives without prior written permission is prohibited. For information on reproducing images held by the Arkansas State Archives, please call 501-682-6900 or email at email@example.com.
United States History
Hazel Retherford papers, MS.000643; Amon Guy Thompson papers, MG04582-MG04586; Austin Smith papers, 1942-1945, MG04350; Beauty Behind Barbed Wire: The Arts of the Japanese in Our War Relocation Camps, MG01299; Community Analysis Reports and Community Analysis Trend Reports of the War Relocation Authority, 1942-1946, MG03846-MG03847; Japanese Camp papers, MG03848-MG03869
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