When my dad, Allen Spencer and his brother, Bill Spencer were young boys going to school, their dad, Allen Luther Spencer worked for the Great Northern Railway. Because they lived a good distance from school, the boys and their sister, Ruth Wolfe had a dependent pass to ride the train to school. That pass didn’t stop the boys from “hopping” the train…in true Hobo fashion. Of course, we know that “hopping” a train is illegal now, but back then it wasn’t. My dad, Uncle Bill, and Aunt Ruth had passes however, so while they weren’t supposed to hop the train, it wouldn’t have been illegal anyway, because they had a pass…just not to hop the train.
During the Depression years, there were a lot of Hobos. The railroad was a quick way to get to jobs far away…and it wasn’t technically illegal…just frowned upon. President Roosevelt even created the 1933 Federal Transient Service, which built 600 shelters alongside the trains, to provide food, board, and medical care for working migrants…aka hobos, or at least part of them. As organized crime began using the railway for it’s own purposes, these services were shut down, and “hopping” a train became illegal. Nevertheless, illegal or not, there are actually tons of resources online to help hobos, and most hobos carry smart phones, and even laptops, so they can take advantage of the online forums and Facebook pages available to them. I looked at these online sites, and I found that they call themselves misfit travelers.
Over the years, hobos have developed their own code and language. I found that to be very interesting. Life on the streets, and especially train hopping can be a very dangerous kind of lifestyle. Sometimes, people living on the streets and traveling by hopping trains, need help…even if they find themselves in a position whereby they have to bend the law a little. Th codes and the language they developed help them maneuver this world in a little bit more safe way. I’m not condoning breaking the law, but these people are already there. They just took a wrong turn, and now they need help to make it, and hopefully make it back.
After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the people of the United States were justifiably nervous about the Japanese American citizens. Many of these people had family in Japan, and their loyalty was in question. No one felt safe, so on February 19, 1942, just 10 weeks later, President Franklin D Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the removal of any or all people from military areas “as deemed necessary or desirable.”
The feeling of panic that had been simmering since the attack wasn’t going away when it came to the Japanese, or the Japanese Americans, so the military defined the entire West Coast, home to the majority of Americans of Japanese ancestry or citizenship, as a military area. What began as a plan to protect the military areas, quickly escalated, and by June, more than 110,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to remote internment camps built by the United States military in scattered locations around the country, where they would remain for the next two and a half years. Many of these Japanese Americans endured extremely difficult living conditions and poor treatment by their military guards. It wasn’t what we would expect of our own military, but it was a tense time. It almost seemed like “guilt by association” or in this case, by race. They were Japanese, and that made people wary of them…and no one was in the mood to listen to their side.
The internment of these loyal Japanese Americans was, at the very least, unfair, and at worst, just short of criminal. It was only short of criminal because it was approved by the President of the United States. Finally, after two and a half years, United States Major General Henry C Pratt issued Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that, effective January 2, 1945, Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes. The nightmare was over. Of course, being over doesn’t mean that everything went immediately back to the way it was before. These people had to find new jobs and homes, because their jobs, and possibly their homes, were no longer there for them to return to.
During the course of World War II, ten Americans were convicted of spying for Japan, but not one of them was of Japanese ancestry, which is disgusting…not that no Japanese Americans were part of that, but that any American would betray their country in this way. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to recompense each surviving internee with a tax-free check for $20,000 and an apology from the United States government.
It seems that whenever something goes wrong in our world, someone must be to blame, and I believe that is often the case. The problem with playing The Blame Game, is that all too often, the person where the real blame should go is not the one who ends up taking the fall. Scapegoats have been around since Bible times, when the sins of the people were placed on a goat and it was sent into the windernesss. That isn’t the type of scapegoat that we see today, however.
Don’t get me wrong, we all play The Blame Game, but politicians seem to be particularly adept at it. A good example is the forced retirement of Rear Admiral Husband E Kimmel, who was relieved of his command of the United States Pacific Fleet on December 17, 1941, just ten days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I don’t say that he bore no blame at all, but in reality, he had no more reason to think that an attack on Pearl Harbor was imminent, than anyone else had. And in reality, the blame needed to fall on our President at the time, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, because he was soft on the Japanese, and basically asked us to trust them, when they were not at all trustworthy. President Roosevelt’s actions…or lack thereof, left us sitting ducks when the Japanese made their move.
Basically, Rear Admiral Kimmel was chosen to take the blame because of his lack of imagination…or so it was said. Kimmel was a creature of habit, and he had expected an attack on Midway Island or Wake Island, and even went so far as to request extra antiaircraft artillery be sent there. None could be spared, and so was not sent. It never occurred to him that the Japanese might attack Pearl Harbor, and therefore he took no special action there. Unfortunately, Kimmel was an easy read by the Japanese, and when he chose not to protect Pearl Harbor, that was where the Japanese made their attack. But, as I said, he had no more reason to expect an attack at Pearl Harbor than anyone else had, and for that reason he should not have born the brunt of the blame.
Kimmel could have faced court martial…a second and even more severe injustice…but in the end, when he requested early retirement, his request was granted. The American people were outraged at this breach in security, so someone had to take the blame. I really find that to be an unfair way to handle this situation, but it was how it was done anyway. When Admiral Kimmel’s Story, which was an “as told to” autobiography, was published in 1955, the admiral made it clear that he believed President Roosevelt sacrificed him, and his career, to take suspicion off himself. Although there was no evidence to prove it, Kimmel believed Roosevelt knew Pearl Harbor was going to be bombed. I’m not sure Roosevelt could have known that either, but I think he was just as much or more to blame than Kimmel was. There always seems to be enough blame to go around, but in reality, trusting our enemies will always bring bad results. We need to be watchful and strong in military might to keep this nation safe.