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 (267)

267 items
Japanese American washing clothes (ddr-densho-36-36)
img Japanese American washing clothes (ddr-densho-36-36)
The Puyallup Assembly Center was composed of a number of blocks. Each block had a communal washroom, such as the one shown here.
Japanese Americans eating in a mess hall (ddr-densho-37-482)
img Japanese Americans eating in a mess hall (ddr-densho-37-482)
Original WRA caption: Arcadia, California. Meal time, cafeteria-style, for these children at Santa Anita assembly center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
Japanese Americans serving food (ddr-densho-37-484)
img Japanese Americans serving food (ddr-densho-37-484)
Original WRA caption: Arcadia, California. Cafeteria-style assures promptness in serving meals at Santa Anita assembly center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. Evacuees are transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Assembly center check-in (ddr-densho-37-584)
img Assembly center check-in (ddr-densho-37-584)
Original WRA caption: Salinas, California. Seated in family groups, evacuees of Japanese ancestry check in at Armory before moving into the Salinas Assembly Center. They will later be transferred to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from June Yoshigai (May 30, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-84)
doc Letter (with envelope) to Molly Wilson from June Yoshigai (May 30, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-84)
Handwritten letter to Molly Wilson from June Yoshigai (May 30, 1942). Envelope is postmarked but does not give a date from Chicago, Illinois.
Newspaper clipping
doc Newspaper clipping "Tanforan, 1942" (ddr-janm-4-42)
Newspaper clipping titled "Tanforan, 1942". The article was written by Soji Kashiwagi on December 17, 1984.
Horse stall at the Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-20)
img Horse stall at the Tanforan Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-20)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. A near- view of a horse stall left from 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 evacuated Japanese.
Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-25)
img Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-25)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. Barracks for family living quarters. Each door enters into a family unit of two small rooms. Tanforan Center was opened two days before this photo was made. The truck seen coming down the dirt road is bringing bed-rolls and baggage to evacuees who have just arrived and are occupying these ...
Japanese American inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-50)
img Japanese American inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-50)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. A close-up of an entrance of a family apartment. Note that the windows in this unit have been enlarged. Five people occupy two small rooms, the inner one of which is without outside door or windows.
Gene Akutsu Interview Segment 2 (ddr-densho-1016-4-2)
vh Gene Akutsu Interview Segment 2 (ddr-densho-1016-4-2)
Preparing for mass removal

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.

Lillian Horita Interview Segment 7 (ddr-densho-1000-441-7)
vh Lillian Horita Interview Segment 7 (ddr-densho-1000-441-7)
Feelings upon first arriving in camp, and receiving a visit from a former teacher
Jim Hirabayashi Interview Segment 9 (ddr-densho-1002-5-9)
vh Jim Hirabayashi Interview Segment 9 (ddr-densho-1002-5-9)
Memories of Pinedale Assembly Center: playing sports, attending school

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 life histories, instead primarily ...

Mits Koshiyama Interview Segment 3 (ddr-densho-1002-6-3)
vh Mits Koshiyama Interview Segment 3 (ddr-densho-1002-6-3)
Memories of Santa Anita Assembly Center: feeling "confused and dumbfounded"

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 life histories, instead ...

Shizuko
vh Shizuko "Suzie" Sakai Interview Segment 5 (ddr-one-7-4-5)
Memories of the Portland Assembly Center: "Life there was just a noisy terrible confusion"

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 ...

George Azumano Interview Segment 16 (ddr-one-7-32-16)
vh George Azumano Interview Segment 16 (ddr-one-7-32-16)
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.

Louise Kashino Segment 12 (ddr-densho-1000-31-12)
vh Louise Kashino Segment 12 (ddr-densho-1000-31-12)
Leaving Seattle: packing extra food just in case; first impressions of the Puyallup Assembly Center

For the first hour of this interview, an additional camera crew from KCTS Television was also present.

Nobu Suzuki Interview I Segment 24 (ddr-densho-1000-84-24)
vh Nobu Suzuki Interview I Segment 24 (ddr-densho-1000-84-24)
Memories of Puyallup Assembly Center: setting up a makeshift hospital without medical equipment

References are made to several of Nobu Suzuki's personal papers, which are currently available for public perusal at the University of Washington's Manuscripts and University Archives.

Bill Hosokawa Interview Segment 14 (ddr-densho-1000-129-14)
vh Bill Hosokawa Interview Segment 14 (ddr-densho-1000-129-14)
Impressions of the Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington: "What the hell are they trying to do to us?"; controversy over Jimmie Sakamoto's role in Puyallup, and being sent to Heart Mountain concentration camp, Wyoming
API