The Fifth Column on the Coast


Infamous and oft-cited February 12, 1942, newspaper column by Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), the content and timing of which may have influenced the decision to remove all Japanese Americans from the West Coast. Perhaps the country's most influential and respected journalist, Lippmann's column appeared after he met with California Attorney General Earl Warren and Western Defense Command head John DeWitt and echoes many of their arguments. In it, Lippmann seemingly advocated removing Japanese Americans citizens and aliens from the coast and repeats Warren's contention that the absence of any sabotage by Japanese Americans was an indication that "the blow is well-organized and that it is held back until it can be struck with maximum effect." Published as the final discussions about mass removal were taking place in Washington, DC—and read by leaders of the War and Justice Departments and likely in the White House as well—Lippmann's was a particularly respected voice added to the growing chorus of those pushing for removing all Japanese Americans, citizen and alien alike.

Authored by Brian Niiya, Densho

For More Information

Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Personal Justice Denied: Report of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1982. Foreword by Tetsuden Kashima. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997.

Daniels, Roger. Concentration Camps, U.S.A.: Japanese Americans and World War II. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

Grodzins, Milton. Americans Betrayed: Politics and the Japanese Evacuation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1949.

Irons, Peter. Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.