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 (279)

279 items
Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (June 3, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-7)
doc Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (June 3, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-7)
Handwritten letter to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (June 3, 1942). Postmarked June 5, 1942 from the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California.
Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (July 8, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-10)
doc Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (July 8, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-10)
Handwritten letter to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (July 8, 1942). Envelope is postmarked July 8, 1942 from the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California.
View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-230)
img View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-230)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. Barracks for family living quarters. Each door enters into a family unit of two small rooms. The center was opened just two days before this picture was taken. The people shown in this photograph have just arrived and are occupying themselves with building benches, chairs, tables, and shelves, for their belonging, ...
Japanese Americans inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-330)
img Japanese Americans inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-330)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. Old Mr. Konda in barrack apartment, after supper. He lives here with his two sons, his married daughter and her husband. They share two small rooms together. His daughter is seen behind him, knitting. He has been a truck farmer and raised his family who are also farmers, in Centerville, Alameda ...
View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-350)
img View of barracks (ddr-densho-151-350)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. Looking down one of the avenues between rows of barracks. The ones on the right are converted horse stalls, and those on the left are newly constructed and typical of an assembly center and relocation centers throughout the west. They are 100 feet long, covered with black tar paper, contain five ...
Bedding and clothing in front of barracks (ddr-densho-151-456)
img Bedding and clothing in front of barracks (ddr-densho-151-456)
Original caption: San Bruno, California. This assembly center has been open for two days. Bus- load after bus-load of evacuated Japanese are arriving today. After going through the necessary procedure, they are guided to the quarters assigned to them in the barracks. This family had just arrived. Their bedding and clothing have been delivered by truck ...
Bob Utsumi Interview Segment 11 (ddr-densho-1013-8-11)
vh Bob Utsumi Interview Segment 11 (ddr-densho-1013-8-11)
Arrival in the Tanforan Assembly Center: recalling mother's display of emotion
George S. Matsui Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1008-2-6)
vh George S. Matsui Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1008-2-6)
Impressions of Santa Anita Assembly Center

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

Mika Hiuga Interview Segment 9 (ddr-one-7-37-9)
vh Mika Hiuga Interview Segment 9 (ddr-one-7-37-9)
First impressions of the Pinedale 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.

Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga Interview Segment 13 (ddr-one-7-47-13)
vh Lilly Kobayashi Irinaga Interview Segment 13 (ddr-one-7-47-13)
Living conditions in Portland: a medical emergency

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.

Toyoko Okumura Interview Segment 10 (ddr-janm-13-6-10)
vh Toyoko Okumura Interview Segment 10 (ddr-janm-13-6-10)
Terrible conditions upon arrival at Santa Anita Assembly Center: "I thought we were coming to an end"
Hisaye Yamamoto Interview Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1002-10-6)
vh Hisaye Yamamoto Interview Segment 6 (ddr-densho-1002-10-6)
Memories of mass removal; first impressions of Parker Dam Assembly Center, Arizona

This interview was conducted by sisters Emiko and Chizuko Omori for their 1999 documentary, Rabbit in the Moon, about the Japanese American resisters of conscience in the World War II incarceration camps. As a result, the interviews in this collection are typically not ...

Kenji Onishi Interview Segment 16 (ddr-one-7-62-16)
vh Kenji Onishi Interview Segment 16 (ddr-one-7-62-16)
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.

Jim Tsugawa Interview Segment 10 (ddr-one-7-55-10)
vh Jim Tsugawa Interview Segment 10 (ddr-one-7-55-10)
Coping with living conditions in 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.

May K. Sasaki Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-79-15)
vh May K. Sasaki Segment 15 (ddr-densho-1000-79-15)
Feeling like a "caged animal" in Puyallup Assembly Center
Yosh Nakagawa Interview Segment 17 (ddr-densho-1000-172-17)
vh Yosh Nakagawa Interview Segment 17 (ddr-densho-1000-172-17)
Memories of Puyallup Assembly Center as a child: having fun, selling newspapers
Sue Takimoto Okabe Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-74-5)
vh Sue Takimoto Okabe Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-74-5)
Puyallup Assembly Center, mother struggles to adjust, and teenagers learn the latest dances
Marian Asao Kurosu Interview Segment 50 (ddr-densho-1000-118-50)
vh Marian Asao Kurosu Interview Segment 50 (ddr-densho-1000-118-50)
Trip to Pinedale Assembly Center, California; heat and dehydration

During this interview, Mrs. Kurosu alternately speaks in both English and Japanese. As a result, the English translation of the transcript contains [Jpn.] and [Eng.], which indicate whether the original dialogue was spoken in Japanese or English.

Rae Takekawa Segment 21 (ddr-densho-1000-89-21)
vh Rae Takekawa Segment 21 (ddr-densho-1000-89-21)
"An aimless type of existence": Pinedale Assembly Center
Kara Kondo Interview Segment 28 (ddr-densho-1000-139-28)
vh Kara Kondo Interview Segment 28 (ddr-densho-1000-139-28)
Life in the North Portland Assembly Center, Oregon: cramped living quarters, working for the camp newsletter
Toru Sakahara - Kiyo Sakahara Interview II Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-77-5)
vh Toru Sakahara - Kiyo Sakahara Interview II Segment 5 (ddr-densho-1000-77-5)
Working in the judge advocate's office at Puyallup Assembly Center

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

Fumiko Hayashida Segment 21 (ddr-densho-1000-15-21)
vh Fumiko Hayashida Segment 21 (ddr-densho-1000-15-21)
Arrival at Manzanar concentration camp, stuffing mattresses
API