Living conditions

The "assembly centers" were hastily erected quarters located throughout the West Coast at fairgrounds, racetracks and other similar facilities. Conditions at these locations were appalling. People were housed in animal stalls and barracks with communal bathrooms and mess halls. Privacy was next to nonexistent. Most families lived in a 20-by-20-foot room separated from the next "apartment" by wood partitions that did not reach the ceiling. Shortages of food and deplorable sanitation were common. Overcrowding, uncertainty, and stress created tension in the "assembly centers," even as the demoralized camp inmates tried to improve living conditions.

World War II (27)
Temporary Assembly Centers (57)
Living conditions (232)

232 items
George Nakata Interview Segment 13 (ddr-one-7-29-13)
vh George Nakata Interview Segment 13 (ddr-one-7-29-13)
First impressions of the Portland Assembly Center

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

Min Tonai Interview II Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1000-302-6)
vh Min Tonai Interview II Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1000-302-6)
Coping with difficult conditions in camp

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of the Interior.

Tom Matsuoka Segment 25 (ddr-densho-1000-47-25)
vh Tom Matsuoka Segment 25 (ddr-densho-1000-47-25)
Joining family at the Pinedale Assembly Center, California: "So doggone hot..."
Harry Kawahara Interview Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-368-5)
vh Harry Kawahara Interview Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-368-5)
Vivid memories of camp at age ten: "that made an impact"

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ...

Shigeko Sese Uno Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-98-15)
vh Shigeko Sese Uno Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-98-15)
Caring for a newborn baby in Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington
Masao Watanabe Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-103-15)
vh Masao Watanabe Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-103-15)
Attitude towards incarceration: "all this liberty and crap was all crap"

At the time this interview was taped, Mr. Watanabe was recovering from a recent series of cancer treatments.

Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview Segment 17 (ddr-densho-1000-294-17)
vh Hank Shozo Umemoto Interview Segment 17 (ddr-densho-1000-294-17)
Living conditions in camp: better than farm at home

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, finding, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of ...

Yukiko Miyake Segment 26 (ddr-densho-1000-49-26)
vh Yukiko Miyake Segment 26 (ddr-densho-1000-49-26)
Challenging the guards at Puyallup Assembly Center: "What are you going to do? Kill us?"
Japanese American in front of barracks home (ddr-densho-151-47)
img Japanese American in front of barracks home (ddr-densho-151-47)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, Calfiornia. This assembly center has been opened for two days. Busload after busload of evacuated Japanese are arriving this day. After going through the necessary procedures, they are guided to the quarters assigned to them in the barracks. This family newly arrived, are in the process of settling down. The old ...
Horse stalls at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-30)
img Horse stalls at Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-30)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. Near view of horse-stall, left from the days when what is now Tanforan Assembly Center, was the famous Tanforan Race Track. Most of these stalls have been converted into family living quarters for Japanese.
Racetrack at Stockton Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-28)
img Racetrack at Stockton Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-28)
Original WRA caption: Stockton, California. Noon on a hot day at the Stockton Assembly Center, which is a converted fairgrounds. This photograph shows the old race track. This center has been opened a week and evacuees will arrive daily until the capacity of 5000 is reached.
View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-357)
img View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-357)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. Shown here is one type of barracks for family use. These were formerly the stalls for race horses. Each family is assigned to two small rooms, the inner one with no outside door nor window. The center has been in operation about six weeks. 8,000 evacuees are now assembled here.
Remodeled horse stalls (ddr-densho-151-59)
img Remodeled horse stalls (ddr-densho-151-59)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. This center is a converted race track. Here are shown what were horsestalls remodeled into living quarters for families. Photograph was made at noon on the third day after the center had been opened.
Assembly center new arrivals standing in lines (ddr-densho-151-60)
img Assembly center new arrivals standing in lines (ddr-densho-151-60)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. This assembly center has been open for two days. Bus-load after bus-load of evacuated persons of Japanese ancestry are arriving on this day after going through the necessary procedures, they are guided to the quarters assigned to them in the barracks. Only one mess hall was operating today. Photograph shows ...
Japanese American next to barracks (ddr-densho-151-352)
img Japanese American next to barracks (ddr-densho-151-352)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. Many evacuees suffer from lack of their accustomed activity. The attitude of the man shown in this photograph is typical of the residents in assembly centers, and because there is not much to do and not enough work available, they mill around, they visit, they stroll and they linger to while ...
Assembly center gate (ddr-densho-151-56)
img Assembly center gate (ddr-densho-151-56)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. A sign at the main entrance of the Tanforan Assembly center, through which all traffic passes. The gate is guarded and controlled by United States soldiers.
Baggage inspection (ddr-densho-151-8)
img Baggage inspection (ddr-densho-151-8)
Original WRA caption: Turlock, California. Baggage is inspected as families arrive at Turlock assembly center. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will spend the duration.
Barracks interior (ddr-densho-36-39)
img Barracks interior (ddr-densho-36-39)
Barracks apartments were small--approximately 8 by 10 feet or 15 by 20 feet--and offered little privacy. Japanese Americans tried hard to make the stark apartments homier. They made furniture, such as the vanity table in this redecorated barracks apartment, which was constructed by hand from scrap lumber.
Baggage arrival at assembly center (ddr-densho-36-41)
img Baggage arrival at assembly center (ddr-densho-36-41)
The Puyallup Assembly Center, also known as "Camp Harmony," was located at the Puyallup fairgrounds. The center was open from April 28, 1942, through September 23, 1942. Most camp inmates were from Seattle, Washington.
Toru Sakahara - Kiyo Sakahara Interview II Segment 4 (ddr-densho-1000-77-4)
vh Toru Sakahara - Kiyo Sakahara Interview II Segment 4 (ddr-densho-1000-77-4)
Gambling in the Puyallup Assembly Center

This interview was conducted over two days at the Sakaharas' home.

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