The Ringle Report

Kenneth D. Ringle was a naval intelligence officer who was the Navy's leading specialist on Japanese Americans. Ringle spent from 1928 to 1931 in Japan learning the Japanese language, and in 1940 was assigned to Los Angeles where he investigated the “Japanese question.” His report, the Ringle Report, was addressed to the chief of Naval Operations, and bore no date but must have been written after January 20, 1942. Ringle's report agreed with other intelligence reports of the time, and it contends, before the mass eviction of Japanese Americans from the West Coast, that the removal and detention of some 120,000 Japanese Americans was unjustified on the basis of “military necessity.”

That within the last eight or ten years the entire “Japanese question” in the United States has reversed itself. The alien menace is no longer paramount, and is becoming of less importance almost daily, as the original alien immigrants grow older and die, and as more and more of their American-born children reach maturity. The primary present and future problem is that of dealing with these American-born United States citizens of Japanese ancestry, of whom it is considered that [at] least seventy-five per cent are loyal to the United States. The ratio of these American citizens of Japanese ancestry to alien-born Japanese in the United States is at present almost 3 to 1, and rapidly increasing.

That of the Japanese-born alien residents, the large majority are at least passively loyal to the United States. That is, they would knowingly do nothing whatever to the injury of the United States, but at the same time would not do anything to the injury of Japan. Also, most of the remainder would not engage in active sabotage or insurrection, but might well do surreptitious observation work for Japanese interests if given a convenient opportunity.

That, however, there are among the Japanese both alien and United States citizens, certain individuals, either deliberately placed by the Japanese government or actuated by a fanatical loyalty to that country, who would act as saboteurs or agents. This number is estimated to be less than three per cent of the total, or about 3500 in the entire United States.

That of the persons mentioned … above, the most dangerous are either already in custodial detention or are members of such organizations as the Black Dragon Society, the Kaigun Kyokai (Navy League), or the Heimusha Kai (Military Service Men's League), or affiliated groups. The membership of these groups is already fairly well known to the Naval Intelligence Service or the Federal Bureau of Investigation and should immediately be placed in custodial detention, irrespective of whether they are alien or citizen.

That, as a basic policy tending toward the permanent solution of this problem, the American citizens of Japanese ancestry should be officially encouraged in their efforts toward loyalty and acceptance as bona fide citizens; that they be accorded a place in the national effort through such agencies as the Red Cross, U.S.O., civilian

defense, and even such activities as ship and aircraft building or other defense production activities, even though subject to greater investigative checks as to back-ground and loyalty, etc., than Caucasian Americans.

That in spite of paragraph … above, the most potentially dangerous element of all are those American citizens of Japanese ancestry who have spent the formative years of their lives, from 10 to 20, in Japan and have returned to the United States to claim their legal American citizenship within the last few years. These people are essentially and inherently Japanese and may have been deliberately sent back to the United States by the Japanese government to act as agents. In spite of their legal citizenship and the protection afforded them by the Bill of Rights, they should be looked upon as enemy aliens and many of them placed in custodial detention. This group numbers between 600 and 700 in the Los Angeles metropolitan area and at least that many in other parts of Southern California.

That the writer heartily agrees with the reports submitted by Mr. Munson …. [N.B. Curtis B. Munson was a businessman who served as an intelligence agent for the White House. His report of November 1941 was submitted to President Franklin Roosevelt, who received a summary, and Secretary of War Henry Stimson, who received the entire report. Munson agreed with Ringle's assessment of Japanese American loyalty, except to contend a few were disloyal and could sabotage vital installations like dams, bridges, and power stations.]

That, in short, the entire “Japanese problem” has been magnified out of its true proportion, largely because of the physical characteristics of the people; that it is no more serious than the problems of the German, Italian, and Communistic portions of the United States population, and, finally that it should be handled on the basis of the individual, regardless of citizenship, and not on a racial basis.

[In retrospect, on February 21, 1952, Ringle wrote: “The service intelligence services, local police, immigration and other Federal agencies had been observing these people for many years and compiling records on many individuals. In the Los Angeles area, where there was the greatest concentration in the United States, some four hundred and fifty dangerous persons, including all the pro-Japanese leaders so far as was known, were arrested as individuals before midnight on 7 December 1941 and were interned. Where then was the potential danger that made it necessary to intern every other person of Japanese ancestry in the Spring of 1942? This I can say with authority. In later careful investigations on both the West Coast and Hawaii, there was never a shred of evidence found of sabotage, subversive acts, spying, or fifth column activity on the part of the Nisei or long-time local residents …. I reported officially in 1941 that it was my considered opinion that better than 90% of the Nisei and 75% of the original immigrants were completely loyal to the United States.” ( Cited in Roger Daniels, Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850, 210–11. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.)]

Source: Lieutenant Commander K. D. Ringle to The Chief of Naval Operations. Subject: Japanese Question. Japanese Internment and Relocation: The Hawaii Experience. University of Hawai'i, Hamilton Library, Special Collections, Box 1.