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.

Living conditions (278)

278 items
Letter to Kinuta Uno at Fort Missoula (ddr-densho-324-17)
doc Letter to Kinuta Uno at Fort Missoula (ddr-densho-324-17)
Correspondence from Kinuta Uno's wife and daughter discussing life at Pinedale Assembly Center.
Information sheet about the Tanforan Racetrack/Detention Center (ddr-janm-4-22)
doc Information sheet about the Tanforan Racetrack/Detention Center (ddr-janm-4-22)
Information sheet about the history of the Tanforan Racetrack/Detention Center.
Newspaper clipping
doc Newspaper clipping "Tanforan Assembly Center Plaque Dedication" (ddr-janm-4-43)
Newspaper clipping titled "Tanforan Assembly Center Plaque Dedication". The article was written by J.K. Yamamoto on September 25, 1991 for the Hokubei Mainichi newspaper.
View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-344)
img View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-344)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. This scene shows 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, of which, has no outside door nor window. The center has been in operation about six weeks and 8,000 persons of Japanese ...
Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-74)
img Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-74)
Original WRA caption: Sacramento, California. View of barracks in block 2 during first week of occupancy of this Center. The entire Japanese population of the City of Sacramento are now here. The space under the trees seen in the background is reserved for the use of mothers and young children.
Nisei friends inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-460)
img Nisei friends inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-460)
Original caption: Sacramento, California. Masamichi Suzuki, and Bill Sugiyama, roommates of Harey Itano, at the Assembly center. Both boys have attended the University of California and Mr. Sugiyama was accepted by the University of California Medical School prior to evacuation, but is now unable to attend.
Assembly center new arrivals (ddr-densho-151-6)
img Assembly center new arrivals (ddr-densho-151-6)
Original WRA caption: Stockton, California. Arrival at Assembly center at 12:45 pm. This assembly center has been open for one week. This group was evacuated from their homes in the Lodi district (grape area) this morning. Their identification numbers and family groups are checked by officials as they get off the bus. They are then directed ...
Sacramento Assembly Center, California (ddr-densho-151-75)
img Sacramento Assembly Center, California (ddr-densho-151-75)
Original WRA caption: Sacramento, California. This Center has been open for about a week. It has a capacity for 5000 persons. The people seen walking across the field toward the barracks are mothers and children of Japanese ancestry who have been in the playground and are coming back to the messhall for lunch.
Baggage inspection (ddr-densho-151-29)
img Baggage inspection (ddr-densho-151-29)
Original WRA caption: Stockton, California. Hand baggage is being inspected for contraband upon the arrival of evacuees of Japanese ancestry to this Assembly Center.
View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-336)
img View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-336)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. A close-up of the exterior of a family unit. These barracks were formerly horse-stalls. Each family is assigned two small rooms. The interior one has neither outside door nor window.
Henry Sakamoto Interview Segment 5 (ddr-one-7-33-5)
vh Henry Sakamoto Interview Segment 5 (ddr-one-7-33-5)
Adjusting to lack of privacy 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.

Yoichi
vh Yoichi "Cannon" Kitayama Interview Segment 13 (ddr-one-7-46-13)
Living conditions at 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.

Alice Matsumoto Ando Interview Segment 4 (ddr-one-7-73-4)
vh Alice Matsumoto Ando Interview Segment 4 (ddr-one-7-73-4)
A child's memories of the 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.

Taylor Tomita Interview Segment 12 (ddr-one-7-61-12)
vh Taylor Tomita Interview Segment 12 (ddr-one-7-61-12)
Building furniture out of scrap lumber

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.

Tatsukichi Moritani Interview Segment 9 (ddr-densho-1001-2-9)
vh Tatsukichi Moritani Interview Segment 9 (ddr-densho-1001-2-9)
First sight of Manzanar concentration camp: "sure is a desolate-looking place"
Chizuko Iyama - Ernie Iyama Interview Segment 2 (ddr-densho-1012-5-2)
vh Chizuko Iyama - Ernie Iyama Interview Segment 2 (ddr-densho-1012-5-2)
First impressions of camp: "the camps were certainly not good for families" (audio only)

This interview is audio-only. It contains raw footage used by Steven Okazaki in his 1985 film Unfinished Business.

This material is based upon work assisted by a grant from the Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Any opinions, finding, and ...

George S. Matsui Segment 7 (ddr-densho-1008-2-7)
vh George S. Matsui Segment 7 (ddr-densho-1008-2-7)
Bad food in camp

Members of the National Japanese American Historical Society (NJAHS) arranged for and conducted this interview in conjunction with Densho.

Tsuguo
vh Tsuguo "Ike" Ikeda Interview I Segment 10 (ddr-densho-1000-123-10)
Memories of the Portland Assembly Center, Oregon: working to distribute dairy products, help people settle

As a teenager prior to World War II, began keeping scrapbooks with newspaper articles and memorabilia, a lifetime habit.

Gene Akutsu Segment 8 (ddr-densho-1000-1-8)
vh Gene Akutsu Segment 8 (ddr-densho-1000-1-8)
Mass removal, and conditions in Puyallup Assembly Center: cleaning septic tanks
May Y. Namba Interview Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-171-15)
vh May Y. Namba Interview Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-171-15)
Spending twentieth birthday in camp: receiving a birthday cake from a military police officer
Roy H. Matsumoto Interview Segment 41 (ddr-densho-1000-153-41)
vh Roy H. Matsumoto Interview Segment 41 (ddr-densho-1000-153-41)
Memories of mass removal: traveling to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, becoming head of the "vegetable department" at Santa Anita

Although Mr. Matsumoto does not identify himself as a Kibei (American-born person of Japanese ancestry sent to Japan for formal education and socialization when young and later returned to the U.S.), some of his life experiences ...

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