The Japanese Assembly Centers

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by carlinmae
Last updated 7 years ago

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The Japanese Assembly Centers

The Japanese Assembly Centers

Living Conditions :

When Executive Order 9066 was passed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the year 1942,no evacuation places for Japanese existed. The order was passed because Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor during World War Two and Roosevelt felt the Japanese living in the U.S.posed a threat(History 5/17/14). Therefore, they had to be relocated into secure facilities. The Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) had to quickly build camps, called assembly centers, to temporarily relocate the Japanese and allow time to build the larger, more permanent relocation camps. It took 28 days to build the first 17 assembly centers. Of these 17 centers, nine were fairgrounds, including Washington State’s Puyallup Fair Grounds, two were horse race tracks, two were migrant worker camps, one was a livestock exhibition hall, one was an abandoned mill, and one was an old Civilian Conservation Corps Camp (United 5/18/14) The WCCA had little time to convert these fair grounds and animal pens into living quarters before the Japanese arrived. The Japanese who were maliciously forced out of their homes in cities, could take only the belongings they could carry, and had to endure tough, bumpy disheartening bus rides to the assembly centers. When the Japanese arrived, they were greeted with soldiers intently watching over the only entrance through the barbed wire. The living conditions were even more disheartening for the Japanese. In one of the assembly camps in California, up to 4,978 people had to be cramped into one camp leaving each person approximately four by two feet which is a little over half of a twin bed (Assembly 5/17/14). In another California camp, half of the interned Japanese’s barracks were horse stables. In fact, a stable which normally accommodated one horse, was occupied by three to six people (Assembly 5/17/14)! Families would share 20 by 100 feet barrack which could be broken into five apartments (housing six people per apartment) or ten small apartments with three people per apartment. The apartments came with a light bulb, a few army cots (depending on the size of the apartment), and blankets (Assembly 5/17/14). Apartments were only used for sleeping. The other sanitary needs were taken care of in communal facilities. Bathrooms, for the first few years, lacked partitions. Washrooms, however, did contain partitions but had no doors or curtains. For every 23 interned Japanese, there was approximately one shower (Assembly 5/17/14). The showers and laundries constantly ran out of hot water and long lines formed. Also, the medical care was available but didn’t have the resources to treat all of the Japanese patients. Most of the Japanese constantly had a cold and skin or digestive problems suffering large outbreaks due to the constant close contact between the interned. In other words, the living conditions of the Japanese was very inadequate and unacceptable.

Example of a assembly center barrack that isn't separated into apartments Click on image to enlarge.

Interned Japanese arriving at the Puyallup Fair Assemply Center in Washington State. Click on image to enlarge

Schools And Employment :

The increasing costs of running and creating enough assembly centers to intern the Japanese were tough for the WCCA to handle. In order to cut down the costs, one third of the inmates who were between the ages of 18 and 65 were employed (Assembly,5/17/14). Jobs obtained by the Japanese greatly varied. Most Japanese seeking a job were employed as kitchen help or maintenance. However, once the in-camp jobs were filled, the desperate Japanese left their family to perform jobs. Jobs outside of camp included working on farms nearby to assembly camps were often acquired along with jobs constructing the permanent internment camps. On average, employers required 44 hours of work per week from each employee. The employees earned from eight to sixteen dollars a month which was at most ten cents per hour (Camp 5/18/14). Families needed the income because assembly camps only gave out monthly coupons to buy necessities such as soap and clothing. The children, and eventually adults, who didn’t work went to make shift schools. Initially, no schools were established because the WCCA didn’t have enough money to fund an education (pay teachers and buy essential supplies). The interned Japanese pushed for classes and programs to be established in order to teach kids growing up in assembly camps. With help from outside organizations, schools and churches in certain assembly camps were lucky enough to open and informal version of nursery schools, elementary classes, high school classes and sometimes even classes on history, civics or English were established (Assembly 5/17/14). Employment and school classes took up most of the interned Japanese's time.

Community Development :

The interned Japanese didn’t have much free time because they worked and went to classes but those who did have recreational time made the most of it. Activities during their recreational time included religion, which became part of the daily routine, development of a government within the Japanese community, newspapers were created and sports even developed. Recreation was supposed to be free time for the interned, however the WCCA still regulated and controlled the activities possible to do. First, the WCCA remodeled the few extra barracks or open spaces into makeshift, low quality, basketball gyms and baseball fields (Assembly 5/17/14). The Japanese had to continue to clean up the fields, putting together their own leagues and trying to fit games into minimal blocks of time. Other sports such as table tennis, boxing and shogi (a two player board game)were played (Assembly 5/17/14). If the assembly centers got enough donations, old movies would be shown and maybe even libraries with a few books. Most of the interned Japanese were either Buddhist or Protestant. The camps cooperated with outside temples and churches to hold ceremonies on holidays (Assembly 5/17/14) The WCCA allowed religious services to be held from leaders within the camps. Religion allowed for unification and hope within the interned. WCCA liked it when the Japanese felt hope because the interned were less upset and held fewer rebellions. If rebellions were held, the army had no trouble executing anyone who resisted. Once the interned Japanese unified, they began to form a true community. The first sign of a community developing was the newspapers. Assembly centers needed information conveyed such as curfew times, visiting permissions, roll call regulations, disproving rumors and describing scrip book (Assembly, 5/17/14). As a result, newspapers became necessary. Eventually, newspapers began to represent the communities because announcements were made about church services and recreation such as the sports league times. The other sign of community development was the emergence of self-government. The WCCA needed people to work in the Assembly Centers in order to keep them running. The WCCA borrowed as many workers as possible from the Workers Progress Administration as authority figures but had to employ mostly Japanese. The employed Japanese who the authority elected to look over the workers, began to have elevated positions in the camp and respected. Since no government was administered by the WCCA, Japanese decided to create their own governing body. Japanese who were looked up to got elected as evacuee councils and made decisions about organizing everyday business or sometimes even policies (Assembly, 5/17/14). The WCCA let this form of government stand because it helped make the centers run more smoothly.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a book written by Jamie Ford about a Chinese boy named Henry Lee. It starts with Henry as an older man walking by the Panama Hotel where artifacts from interned Japanese are present. The book then jumps to the 1960’s with full grown Henry and then 1940's when Henry is a child. As a child, Henry is living in Chinatown and going to an all-white school, Rainier, on a scholarship. He meets a young Japanese girl named Keiko who also is going to Rainier in the 1940’s. It starts out with Henry feeling bad about becoming friends with Keiko because his dad is a Chinese nationalist and the Japanese are at war with the Chinese. He becomes better friends with Keiko and begins to observe the racism surrounding him. He sees a few Japanese get taken away by the F.B.I., arrested and accused to be terrorists even though Henry knew they were innocent. He also witnesses Japanese burning their belongings that could link them with Japan so if their homes got raided, it would seem that their loyalty falls to the U.S. and not Japan. The book continues with the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the passing of the Executive Order 9066 by Roosevelt in 1842. Keiko gives Henry some of her belongings to hide for her when the order is passed. Keiko and the rest of the Japanese in Seattle are taken to Puyallup fairgrounds. Puyallup was the assembly center for Japanese in Washington. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet relates to my topic of Assembly Centers because Keiko is taken to one during the book. The rest of the book goes on to describe what happened to Henry after Keiko was taken to internment camps and the 1960’s.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Listen to Kiyo Sato recall her childhood during the Japanese internment. The first half of the video is about assembly centers, the second half is the rest of her heart breaking story

Japanese workers employed in the Kitchen Click to enlarge

Learn more about why the Japanese were sent to Assembly Centers and what their life was like in them


All of the Seventeen Assembly CentersInjustice of Assembly CentersPuyallup Fair Assembly Center

Works Cited:

"Assembly Centers." Densho Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2014. . "Camp Harmony Exhibit." UW Libraries. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. .United States. National Park Service. "National Park Service: Confinement and Ethnicity (Chapter 16)." National Parks Service. U.S. Department of the Interior, n.d. Web. 18 May 2014. ."Executive Order 9066: The President Authorizes Japanese Relocation." History Matters. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 May 2014. .

By: Carlin Bills


  • allyhg 7 years ago

    allyhg's avatar

    This Glog is very informative and interesting, but I don't see a name.

  • Porter42 7 years ago

    Porter42's avatar

    This Glog has a ton of information but the red and blue text made it difficult to focus. The Glog has a good layout and is easy to navigate as well as understand.

  • scaryplatypus 7 years ago

    scaryplatypus's avatar

    I really loved your paragraphs! They were informative and easy to read. On thing I might change is the layout; also don't forget a name!

  • coppercrafter 7 years ago

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  • Aqurelle 7 years ago

    Aqurelle's avatar

    Your glog is very well organized and informative.

  • lizziebuoy 7 years ago

    lizziebuoy's avatar

    Your glog was amazing! I loved reading through it, it was very informative and well-written.

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