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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 (215)
Temporary Assembly Centers (175)
Living conditions (364)


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364 items
Letter to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (May 2, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-8)
doc Letter to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (May 2, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-8)
Handwritten letter to Molly Wilson from Sandie Saito (May 2, 1942) from the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia, California. Letter has return address in the upper left hand corner but not stamped nor postmarked.
Postcard to Molly Wilson from Haruko Nagahiro (May 20, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-53)
doc Postcard to Molly Wilson from Haruko Nagahiro (May 20, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-53)
Postcard to Molly Wilson from Haruko Nagahiro (May 20, 1942). It is postmarked May 20, 1942 from the Pomona Assembly Center in Pomona, California.
Letter to Molly Wilson from Chiyeko Akahoshi (May 9, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-101)
doc Letter to Molly Wilson from Chiyeko Akahoshi (May 9, 1942) (ddr-janm-1-101)
Handwritten letter to Molly Wilson from Chiyeko Akahoshi (May 9, 1942) from the Owens Valley Assembly Center in Manzanar, California.
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.
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.
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.
Nisei inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-276)
img Nisei inside barracks (ddr-densho-151-276)
Original caption: Sacramento, California. Harvey Akio Itano, 21, 1942 graduate from the University of California where he received his Bachelor of Science [in] Chemistry degree. He was chosen by the faculty as University Medalist for 1942 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi. Mr. Itano went to the Assembly center prior to …
Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-19)
img Assembly center barracks (ddr-densho-151-19)
Original WRA caption: Tanforan Assembly center, San Bruno, California. Barracks for family living quarters. Each door enters into a family unit of two small rooms. Tanforan assembly center was opened two days before the photograph was made. On the first day there had been a heavy rain. When a family has arrived here, first step of …
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 …
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.
Japanese Americans in mess hall line (ddr-densho-151-44)
img Japanese Americans in mess hall line (ddr-densho-151-44)
Original WRA caption: San Bruno, California. View of the Tanforan Assembly Center, showing a type of barrack peculiar to the center. Also shown in part of a line-up of evacuees waiting for places in the mess hall for their noon meal.
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 …
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.
Letter from Ishi Morishita to Mrs. Charles Gates (ddr-densho-211-5)
doc Letter from Ishi Morishita to Mrs. Charles Gates (ddr-densho-211-5)
Letter explaining the sudden relocation of the Masuda family to Poston, Arizona. Four stamps that match the ones on letters from the Morishitas.
Letter from Kikuye Matsuda to Mrs. Charles Gates (ddr-densho-211-1)
doc Letter from Kikuye Matsuda to Mrs. Charles Gates (ddr-densho-211-1)
Letter from Kikuye Masuda to Mrs. Charles Gates about a house Mrs. Gates is occupying.
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.
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 …
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.
View of Stockton Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-7)
img View of Stockton Assembly Center (ddr-densho-151-7)
Original WRA caption: Stockton, California. Part of the Stockton Assembly center as seen at noon on a hot day. This center has been open to evacuees of Japanese ancestry for one week.
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, …
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.
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.
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 …
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