Relocation Centers of Japanese-Americans
Throughout the spring and summer of 1942, the United States Government
planned and carried out without serious incident, one of the largest controlled migrations
in history. This was the migration of almost 110,000 men, women, and children of
Japanese decent from their homes on the Pacific coast into ten wartime communities
constructed in remote areas between the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and the Mississippi
According to the United States Government, relocation centers were never
intended to be internment camps or places of confinement. Under United States law at that
time, “Aliens of enemy nationality who are found guilty of acts or intentions against the
security of the Nation are to be confined in internment camps.” Internment camps were
administered by the Department of Justice unlike relocation centers which were
administered by the War Relocation Authority.
The physical standards of the relocation centers were never much above
the bare subsistence level. For a small portion of the Japanese evacuees, these standards
were an improvement to their normal quality of living. But for the majority of the
evacuated people, the relocation centers, despite all efforts to make them livable, remained subnormal. Evacuees had
few leave privileges and had to meet certain criteria to do so.
The movement of residing evacuees was somewhat restricted and the feeling of isolation
The tarpaper covered barracks of simple frame construction served as
housing in the relocation centers. None of the barracks had plumbing or cooking
facilities of any kind. A normal family of five or six received a single room about
25 by 20 feet. Unattached evacuees, for example, bachelors lived in large, one room
dormitories. Army blankets, cots, and small heating stoves were the only furnishings
provided by the government. One bath, laundry, and toilet room was provided for each
block of barracks housing 250 plus people.
Food was provided by the government for the evacuee residents. Meals
were provided for evacuees costing no more than 45 cents per resident per day (the actual
cost averaged at about 40 cents). Food was prepared by evacuee cooks and served in mess
halls large enough to accomodate atleast 300 people. Evacuees worked on farms which
were government-owned or -leased farmlands. Resident farm workers produced most of
the food consumed in the relocation centers. Most centers included farm program which
Medical care was also provided by the government free of charge to all
residents. This was thought to help prevent serious epidemics from spreading. Hospitals
were built at all relocation centers. Simple dental and optical services were also provided.
Any special medical services which were not available were to be paid for by the
Able-bodied evacuees were to work in jobs essential to community
operations. Residents worked in mess halls, in hospitals, on farms, internal police, and
in construction, and road maintenance work. Most residents who work were paid on
average 14-16 dollars for a 44 hour week.
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 on February
19, 1942. His order called for the eviction and internment of all Japanese-Americans.
It is horrifying to recall that through the “Japanese recollection program”, a tragic event
that brought heartbreak to many, was justified on the ground that the Japanese were
potentially disloyal, the record does not disclose a single case of Japanese disloyalty or sabotage during the whole war.