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DeWitt, John Lesense (1880-1962)


Photograph of John DeWitt

U.S. Army. Via Wikipedia Commons

DeWitt came from a military family but attended Princeton University before joining the Army in 1898. He was given a regular commission in infantry and fought in the Spanish-American War.

Dewitt was the commander of 4 Army, based at San Francisco, at the start of the war. The "excitable, high-strung" (Perret 1991) general was largely responsible for the internment of 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Aside from the civil rights issues involved, this hindered the war effort by closing down the language school then being organized at the Presidio in San Francisco, and by creating resentment among Japanese-Americans who had valuable language skills. DeWitt first proposed the internment on 19 December 1941, vacillated, then agreed to take responsibility on 19 January 1942. Roosevelt signed the executive order authorizing internment on 19 February 1942.

Sight justification for DeWitt's actions is provided by intelligence documents declassified decades after the war indicating that the Japanese were running an active intelligence network on the West Coast. Internment was effective in shutting this down. However, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, no civil libertarian, was opposed to the internment. He believed that his G-men were capable of shutting down the Japanese network through good detective work.

Relieved of command in September 1943, DeWitt became commandant of the joint Army-Navy Staff College. He subsequently commanded 1 Army Group in England, a "phantom army" with no combat units that successfully fooled the Germans into keeping substantial forces in the Pas de Calais. He retired in 1947 as one of the few senior officers who received no promotion during the war.

Service record

1880     

Born
1907

Graduates from Army War College
1917

Quartermaster, 42 Division
1918

Deputy chief of supply, I CorpsGermans
1918

Deputy chief of supply, 1 Army
1930

Quatermaster general, War Department
1934
Brigadier general     
Commander, 1 Brigade
1935

Commander, 23 Brigade
1937
Major general
Commander, Philippine Division
1937

Commandant, Army War College
1939-12-5     
Lieutenant general     
Commander, 9 Corps
1940

Commander, 4 Army
1941-3-17     

Commander, Western Defense Command
1943-9-12    

Commandant, Army and Navy Staff College
1944-7-25

Commander, 1 Army Group
1947

Retires
1962

Dies


References

Boatner (1996)

Generals.dk (accessed 2007-11-17)

Perret (1991)



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