On a March morning in 1945, Linus and Ava Helen Pauling’s young son Peter ran into the house and told his parents, "You’ve
got to come out here and look. Someone’s painted stuff on our garage." The Paulings were appalled by what they saw. Someone
had defaced their home, scrawling "AMERICANS DIE BUT WE LOVE JAPS" below a crudely drawn Japanese flag. "JAP" was grafittied
on their mailbox. When police and reporters arrived, an outraged Pauling told them that the painting was probably a response
to the Japanese-American man the Paulings had hired as a gardener for a weekend, a gesture of friendship for a young soldier
on his way to report for duty in the Army. Pauling then compared the vandalism, "this un-American act," as he called it, to
the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. It was the beginning of a major change in his life. The World War II battle against
Japan was still being fought, and many Americans were dying. After the newspaper published his thoughts, the Paulings started
to receive hate mail and whispered, anonymous death threats over the phone. The family was frightened. When a local sheriff
refused to post an armed guard around his house when Pauling was away, Ava Helen called the local chapter of the ACLU (a group
with whom she’d been working in the fight against the internment of Japanese-Americans during the War) and asked for help.
ACLU pressure resulted in the posting of a guard, and things soon calmed down.
There were no more incidents. But Pauling was deeply affected by this threat to his family. He was a patriot and a supporter
of the US government. He had helped fight against his country’s enemies in World War II by leading research projects to develop
better explosives and rocket propellants. But now he had seen a different side of America. Now he had seen intolerance first-hand.
He had seen a lawman who had to be forced to uphold the law. He had seen a liberal legal group, the ACLU, successfully spur
positive change. His wife Ava Helen had always said that there were pressing issues of social justice in the nation that needed
more attention. After the incident Pauling began to listen to her ideas more closely.
Click images to enlarge
"Jap Flag Painted on Garage Door." March 7, 1945.
Transcript of an anonymous letter sent to Linus Pauling. March 9, 1945.
"December 8, 1941 was a memorable day on the normally quiet Caltech campus....At 10 a.m. we dutifully assembled in Culbertson
Hall where our registrar, in full National Guard uniform complete with pistols, gave a most intemperate speech about the dastardly
‘Japs’....Linus Pauling was standing in the back of the hall...and interrupted the speech by bursting out with the question,
‘By what authority have you called this impromptu convocation?’ He then proceeded to remind the registrar that Caltech was
known for being a place of thoughtful and factual reason, but the registrar had turned it into a place of pure hysteria.
The student body stood up and clapped for Linus. The registrar dismissed the meeting and retreated in some disarray."