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Stephens City, Va.

Correcting the Corrector

A friend has just e-mailed me the letter you published by Capt. Lawrence J. De Meo (Book World, Dec. 19) about the responsibility for incarcerating Japanese Americans during World War II. Only rarely have I seen such congealed historical misinformation outside of students' examination papers. Capt. De Meo's "Joe Clark" [referred to as the father of Ramsey Clark] was really Tom C. Clark of Texas; he was not "Attorney General of California" but a ranking member of the Department of Justice. Earl Warren, who De Meo thinks was governor of California, was, in 1942, its attorney general. His statement that those two thought up putting Japanese Americans away is nonsense. The key document, Executive Order 9066, was drafted in the War Department, and sent to Roosevelt by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson. Roosevelt approved it, telling Stimson only to "be as reasonable as you can." It gave Stimson the authority to delegate authority to subordinate commanders. Lt. Gen. John DeWitt -- urged on by such figures as Provost Marshal Gen. Allen W. Gullion and his subordinate, Maj. Karl R. Bendetsen and, most importantly, Assistant Secretary of War John J. McCloy -- formally requested the authority to move out the West-Coast Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. Such a step had been previously urged by the combined congressional delegation of the three West Coast states, and a federal statute that made it a crime for a civilian not to obey DeWitt's order was passed without dissenting vote by the Congress and later upheld by the U. S. Supreme Court in Hirabayashi v. the United States. The mass incarceration seems to have been supported by most Americans who had heard about it. The blame can be spread around, but it seems clear that without the impetus from high-ranking serving officers and the civilian leadership of the Army, no such mass incarceration would have taken place.

_____Special Report_____
Census 2000


Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History

Univ. of Cincinnati

A Series of Unfortunate Errors

I am a fourth-grade student who enjoys reading the "Series of Unfortunate Events" books by Lemony Snicket. I recently read your snippet about the new one, The Grim Grotto (Book World, Washington Is Also Reading, Dec. 12), where I found some errors. You wrote, "Ah, the poor Baudelaire twins. This 11th installment of Snicket's positively bleak and astonishingly droll series finds the twins clambering aboard a submarine, hoping its odd crew can help them in their quest to outwit the monstrous Count Olaf." There are two problems with this. One: There are three kids, not two, so they can't be twins. Two: They are all different ages. Sunny is a baby, Klaus is 13, and Violet is 14. The reader would only have to read the first chapter of the first book, The Bad Beginning, to know their ages. Just letting you know.


Annandale, Va.

Acts of War

The two reviews of books on Iran (Book World, Nov. 28), fail to point to two critical failures of President Carter. First, he did not treat the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran as an act of war against the United States, which it was. Under international law, the embassy was U.S. territory, hence the Iranian seizure was an act of war. Carter should have presented the Iranian government with an ultimatum, and if Tehran refused, he should have been prepared to take military action.

Carter's second failure was his choice of plan designed to rescue the trapped Americans. He rejected the plan most likely to succeed because it called for seizure of the Tehran airport, with likely cost of some Iranian lives. Instead he accepted the ill-fated Desert One, which resulted in the crash of two American helicopters, failure of the mission and the death of American servicemen. Another result was the death of Carter's re-election hopes; I voted for him in 1976 but not in 1980.

President Carter was no doubt strongly influenced by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, who opposed any military action.


Professor Emeritus, Vanderbilt University

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