Censored Photos From Inside U.S. Japanese Concentration Camps

Cover-Up, History, Injustice, Military, Race and Ethnicity, Racism and Hate Groups, War

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Dorothea Lange, best known for the famous Migrant Mother photograph below, was hired by the U.S. government during World War II to make a photographic record of the internment of Japenese-American citizens.

 

Migrant Mother
Migrant Mother

Lange was against the War Relocation Authority (WRA) plan but agreed to the job in because she felt a photographic record of the “evacuation” would have future value.

Upon reviewing Lange’s photographs, military leadership determined the work did not fit into their wartime narrative. The photographs were seized in 1942 and quietly hidden away.

The photos were stored in the National Archives and away from public view for 64 years.

“A photographic record could protect against false allegations of mistreatment and violations of international law, but it carried the risk, of course, of documenting actual mistreatment.”

— Linda Gordon, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment

 

San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry appear for registration prior to evacuation. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
San Francisco, California. Residents of Japanese ancestry appear for registration prior to evacuation. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.

“We couldn’t do anything about the orders from the U.S. government. I just lived from day to day without any purpose. I felt empty.… I frittered away every day. I don’t remember anything much.… I just felt vacant.”

— Osuke Takizawa, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

 

San Francisco, California. Dave Tatsuno and his father, merchants of Japanese ancestry in San Francisco prior to evacuation.
San Francisco, California. Dave Tatsuno and his father, merchants of Japanese ancestry in San Francisco prior to evacuation.

“We went down Pine Street down to Fillmore to the number 22 streetcar, and he took the 22 streetcar and went to the SP (Southern Pacific) and took the train to San Jose. And that was the last time I saw him.”

— Donald Nakahata, describing when his father, a journalist, left San Francisco to help Japanese Americans in San Jose on December 8, 1941

Hayward, California. Grandfather of Japanese ancestry waiting at local park for the arrival of evacuation bus which will take him and other evacuees to the Tanforan Assembly center. He was engaged in the Cleaning and Dyeing business in Hayward for many years.
Hayward, California. Grandfather of Japanese ancestry waiting at local park for the arrival of evacuation bus which will take him and other evacuees to the Tanforan Assembly center. He was engaged in the Cleaning and Dyeing business in Hayward for many years.
Byron, California. These field laborers of Japanese ancestry at Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Station are receiving final instructions regarding their evacuation to an Assembly center in three days.
Byron, California. These field laborers of Japanese ancestry at Wartime Civil Control Administration Control Station are receiving final instructions regarding their evacuation to an Assembly center in three days.
Original caption: Hayward, California. Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags are used to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweet peas. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Original caption: Hayward, California. Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus. Identification tags are used to aid in keeping the family unit intact during all phases of evacuation. Mochida operated a nursery and five greenhouses on a two-acre site in Eden Township. He raised snapdragons and sweet peas. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.

“As a result of the interview, my family name was reduced to No. 13660. I was given several tags bearing the family number, and was then dismissed…. Baggage was piled on the sidewalk the full length of the block. Greyhound buses were lined alongside the curb.”

— Mine Okubo, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

Hayward, California. Baggage of evacuees of Japanese ancestry ready to be loaded on moving van. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Hayward, California. Baggage of evacuees of Japanese ancestry ready to be loaded on moving van. Evacuees will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Byron, California. Field laborers of Japanese ancestry from a large delta ranch have assembled at Wartime Civil Control Administration station to receive instructions for evacuation which is to be effective in three days under Civilian Exclusion Order Number 24. They are arguing together about whether or not they should return to the ranch to work for the remaining five days or whether they shall spend that time on their personal affairs.
Byron, California. Field laborers of Japanese ancestry from a large delta ranch have assembled at Wartime Civil Control Administration station to receive instructions for evacuation which is to be effective in three days under Civilian Exclusion Order Number 24. They are arguing together about whether or not they should return to the ranch to work for the remaining five days or whether they shall spend that time on their personal affairs.
Byron, California. Field laborers of Japanese ancestry in front of Wartime Civil Control Administration station where they have come for instructions and assistance in regard to their evacuation due in three days under Civilian Exclusion Order Number 24. This order affects 850 persons in this area. The men are now waiting for the truck which will take them, with the rest of the field crew, back to the large-scale delta ranch.
Byron, California. Field laborers of Japanese ancestry in front of Wartime Civil Control Administration station where they have come for instructions and assistance in regard to their evacuation due in three days under Civilian Exclusion Order Number 24. This order affects 850 persons in this area. The men are now waiting for the truck which will take them, with the rest of the field crew, back to the large-scale delta ranch.
Oakland, California. Kimiko Kitagaki, young evacuee guarding the family baggage prior to departure by bus in one half hour to Tanforan Assembly center. Her father was, until evacuation, in the cleaning and dyeing business.
Oakland, California. Kimiko Kitagaki, young evacuee guarding the family baggage prior to departure by bus in one half hour to Tanforan Assembly center. Her father was, until evacuation, in the cleaning and dyeing business.
Byron, California. Third generation of American children of Japanese ancestry in crowd awaiting the arrival of the next bus which will take them from their homes to the Assembly center.
Byron, California. Third generation of American children of Japanese ancestry in crowd awaiting the arrival of the next bus which will take them from their homes to the Assembly center.
San Francisco, California. A young evacuee arrives at 2020 Van Ness Avenue, meeting place of first contingent to be removed from San Francisco to Santa Anita Park Assembly center at Arcadia, California. Evacuees will be transferred to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
San Francisco, California. A young evacuee arrives at 2020 Van Ness Avenue, meeting place of first contingent to be removed from San Francisco to Santa Anita Park Assembly center at Arcadia, California. Evacuees will be transferred to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Hayward, California. Baggage of evacuees of Japanese ancestry stacked at public park as evacuation bus prepares to leave for Tanforan assembly center. Evacuees will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will spend the duration.
Hayward, California. Baggage of evacuees of Japanese ancestry stacked at public park as evacuation bus prepares to leave for Tanforan assembly center. Evacuees will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will spend the duration.
Centerville, California. This farmer rearranges his personal effects as he awaits evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for duration.
Centerville, California. This farmer rearranges his personal effects as he awaits evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for duration.

“A Caucasian farmer representing a company was trying to get his workers to continue working in the asparagus fields until Saturday when they were scheduled to leave. The workers wanted to quit tonight in order to have time to get cleaned up, wash their clothes, etc.”

— Dorothea Lange

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 the commencement exercises at which President Robert Gordon Sproul said, "He cannot be here with us today. His country has called him elsewhere". Mr. Itano hopes to enter the field of medicine and has taken his books with him to the Center where he is spending the duration.
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 the commencement exercises at which President Robert Gordon Sproul said, “He cannot be here with us today. His country has called him elsewhere”. Mr. Itano hopes to enter the field of medicine and has taken his books with him to the Center where he is spending the duration.

“The Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on American soil, possessed of American citizenship, have be come ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted.

…It, therefore, follows that along the vital Pacific Coast over 112,000 potential enemies, of Japanese extraction, are at large today. There are indications that these are organized and ready for concerted action at a favorable opportunity.

The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will be taken.”

— General John L. DeWitt, head of the U.S. Army’s Western Defense Command

“What arrangements and plans have been made relative to concentration camps in the Hawaiian Islands for dangerous or undesirable aliens or citizens in the event of national emergency?”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, August 10, 1936 in a note to the military Joint Board

“Go ahead and do anything you think necessary… if it involves citizens, we will take care of them too. He [the President] says there will probably be some repercussions, but it has got to be dictated by military necessity, but as he puts it, ‘Be as reasonable as you can.’”

— Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson, summarizing instructions from President Franklin D. Roosevelt given February 11, 1942
San Francisco, California. Many children of Japanese ancestry attended Raphael Weill public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets, prior to evacuation. This scene shows first- graders during flag pledge ceremony. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration. Provision will be effected for the continuance of education.
San Francisco, California. Many children of Japanese ancestry attended Raphael Weill public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets, prior to evacuation. This scene shows first- graders during flag pledge ceremony. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration. Provision will be effected for the continuance of education.
San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets. Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education.
San Francisco, California. Flag of allegiance pledge at Raphael Weill Public School, Geary and Buchanan Streets. Children in families of Japanese ancestry were evacuated with their parents and will be housed for the duration in War Relocation Authority centers where facilities will be provided for them to continue their education.

“It is said, and no doubt with considerable truth, that every Japanese in the United States who can read and write is a member of the Japanese intelligence system.”

— FBI Report

Centerville, California. This youngster is awaiting evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
Centerville, California. This youngster is awaiting evacuation bus. Evacuees of Japanese ancestry will be housed in War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.

“A viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched—so a Japanese-American, born of Japanese parents—grows up to be a Japanese, not an American.”

— Los Angeles Times, February 2, 1942

San Francisco, California. A young evacuee looks out the window of bus before it starts for Tanforan Assembly center. Evacuees will be transferred to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.
San Francisco, California. A young evacuee looks out the window of bus before it starts for Tanforan Assembly center. Evacuees will be transferred to War Relocation Authority centers for the duration.

“We were herded onto the train just like cattle and swine. I do not recall much conversation between the Japanese.… I cannot speak for others, but I myself felt resigned to do whatever we were told. I think the Japanese left in a very quiet mood, for we were powerless. We had to do what the government ordered.”

— Misuyo Nakamura, Santa Anita Assembly Center, Los Angeles, & Jerome Relocation Center, Arkansas

Woodland, California. This staff of Wartime Civil Control Administration workers have completed their job and stand on the platform awaiting the departure of the special train which has been loaded with evacuees of Japanese ancestry bound for the Merced Assembly center, 125 miles away.
Woodland, California. This staff of Wartime Civil Control Administration workers have completed their job and stand on the platform awaiting the departure of the special train which has been loaded with evacuees of Japanese ancestry bound for the Merced Assembly center, 125 miles away.
Woodland, Yolo County, California. Ten cars of evacuees of Japanese ancestry are now aboard and the doors are closed. Their Caucasian friends and the staff of the Wartime Civil Control Administration stations are watching the departure from the platform. Evacuees are leaving their homes and ranches, in a rich agricultural district, bound for Merced Assembly Center about 125 miles away.
Woodland, Yolo County, California. Ten cars of evacuees of Japanese ancestry are now aboard and the doors are closed. Their Caucasian friends and the staff of the Wartime Civil Control Administration stations are watching the departure from the platform. Evacuees are leaving their homes and ranches, in a rich agricultural district, bound for Merced Assembly Center about 125 miles away.
Woodland, California. Families of Japanese ancestry with their baggage at railroad station awaiting the arrival of special train which will take them to the Merced Assembly center, 125 miles away.
Woodland, California. Families of Japanese ancestry with their baggage at railroad station awaiting the arrival of special train which will take them to the Merced Assembly center, 125 miles away.

“Although we were not informed of our destination, it was rumored that we were heading for Missoula, Montana. There were many leaders of the Japanese community aboard our train.… The view outside was blocked by shades on the windows, and we were watched constantly by sentries with bayoneted rifles who stood on either end of the coach. The door to the lavatory was kept open in order to prevent our escape or suicide.… There were fears that we were being taken to be executed.”

— Yoshiaki Fukuda, Konko church minister in San Francisco, apprehended December 7, 1941

San Bruno, California. This assembly center has been open for two days. Bus-load after bus-load of evacuated persons of Japanese ancestry are arriving on this day after going through the necessary procedures, they are guided to the quarters assigned to them in the barracks. Only one mess hall was operating today. Photograph shows line-up of newly arrived evacuees outside this mess hall at noon. Note barracks in background, just built, for family units. There are three types of quarters in the center of post office. The wide road which runs diagonally across the photograph is the former racetrack.
San Bruno, California. This assembly center has been open for two days. Bus-load after bus-load of evacuated persons of Japanese ancestry are arriving on this day after going through the necessary procedures, they are guided to the quarters assigned to them in the barracks. Only one mess hall was operating today. Photograph shows line-up of newly arrived evacuees outside this mess hall at noon. Note barracks in background, just built, for family units. There are three types of quarters in the center of post office. The wide road which runs diagonally across the photograph is the former racetrack.
Stockton, California. Young mother of Japanese ancestry has just arrived at this Assembly center with her baby and she is the last to leave the bus. Her identification number is being checked and she will then be directed to her place in the barracks after preliminary medical examination.
Stockton, California. Young mother of Japanese ancestry has just arrived at this Assembly center with her baby and she is the last to leave the bus. Her identification number is being checked and she will then be directed to her place in the barracks after preliminary medical examination.

“We went to the stable, Tanforan Assembly Center. It was terrible. The Government moved the horses out and put us in. The stable stunk awfully. I felt miserable but I couldn’t do anything. It was like a prison, guards on duty all the time, and there was barbed wire all around us. We really worried about our future. I just gave up.”

— Osuke Takizawa, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

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 evacuation is complete.
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 evacuation is complete.
San Bruno, California. A sign at the main entrance of the Tanforan Assembly center, through which all traffic passes. The gate is guarded and controlled by United States soldiers.
San Bruno, California. A sign at the main entrance of the Tanforan Assembly center, through which all traffic passes. The gate is guarded and controlled by United States soldiers.
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 away the hours.
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 away the hours.

“We walked in and dropped our things inside the entrance. The place was in semidarkness; light barely came through the dirty window on the other side of the entrance.… The rear room had housed the horse and the front room the fodder. Both rooms showed signs of a hurried whitewashing. Spider webs, horse hair, and hay had been whitewashed with the walls. Huge spikes and nails stuck out all over the walls. A two-inch layer of dust covered the floor.… We heard someone crying in the next stall.”

— Mine Okubo, Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno

Stockton, California. Noon on a hot day at the Stockton Assembly center, which is a converted fairgrounds. This photograph shows the old race track. This center has been opened a week and evacuees will arrive daily until the capacity of 5000 is reached.
Stockton, California. Noon on a hot day at the Stockton Assembly center, which is a converted fairgrounds. This photograph shows the old race track. This center has been opened a week and evacuees will arrive daily until the capacity of 5000 is reached.
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 ancestry are now assembled here.
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 ancestry are now assembled here.
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.
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.

“When we got to Manzanar, it was getting dark and we were given numbers first. We went down to the mess hall, and I remember the first meal we were given in those tin plates and tin cups. It was canned wieners and canned spinach. It was all the food we had, and then after finishing that we were taken to our barracks.

It was dark and trenches were here and there. You’d fall in and get up and finally got to the barracks. The floors were boarded, but the were about a quarter to half inch apart, and the next morning you could see the ground below.

The next morning, the first morning in Manzanar, when I woke up and saw what Manzanar looked like, I just cried. And then I saw the mountain, the high Sierra Mountain, just like my native country’s mountain, and I just cried, that’s all.

I couldn’t think about anything.”

— Yuri Tateishi, Manzanar Relocation Center

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Street scene of barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority Center. The windstorm has subsided and the dust has settled.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Street scene of barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority Center. The windstorm has subsided and the dust has settled.

“Good manners eroded as meals were always hurried, reducing the ritual and elegance of Japanese cooking and serving to mere feeding the body. Maintaining personal cleanliness was difficult due to chronic shortage of soap and hot water. Lack of insulation and ventilation made the cubbyholes in which they lived freezing in winter and sweltering in summer. No decent provision for washing diapers. Dust. Mud. Ugliness. Terrible food—definitely not Japanese—doled onto plates from large garbage cans. Nothing to do. Lines for breakfast, lines for lunch, lines for supper, lines for mail, lines for the canteen, lines for laundry tubs, lines for toilets. The most common activity is waiting.”

— Linda Gordon, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A chef of Japanese ancestry at this War Relocation Authority center. Evacuees find opportunities to follow their callings.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A chef of Japanese ancestry at this War Relocation Authority center. Evacuees find opportunities to follow their callings.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Mealtime in one of the messhalls at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Mealtime in one of the messhalls at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
San Bruno, California. Supper time! Meal times are the big events of the day within an assembly center. This is a line-up of evacuees waiting for the "B" shift at 5:45 pm. They carry with them their own dishes and cutlery in bags to protect them from the dust. They, themselves, individually wash their own dishes after each meal, since dish washing facilities in the mess halls proved inadequate. Most of the residents prefer this second shift because they sometimes get second helpings, but the groups are rotated each week. There are eighteen mess halls in camp which, together, accomodate 8,000 persons three times a day. All food is prepared and served by evacuees.
San Bruno, California. Supper time! Meal times are the big events of the day within an assembly center. This is a line-up of evacuees waiting for the “B” shift at 5:45 pm. They carry with them their own dishes and cutlery in bags to protect them from the dust. They, themselves, individually wash their own dishes after each meal, since dish washing facilities in the mess halls proved inadequate. Most of the residents prefer this second shift because they sometimes get second helpings, but the groups are rotated each week. There are eighteen mess halls in camp which, together, accomodate 8,000 persons three times a day. All food is prepared and served by evacuees.

“Each day rolled into weeks and weeks into months and months into years.”

— Ellen Kishiyama, Pomona Assembly Center, Los Angeles & Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Wyoming

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Little evacuee of Japanese ancestry gets a haircut.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Little evacuee of Japanese ancestry gets a haircut.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Grandfather of Japanese ancestry teaching his little grandson to walk at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Grandfather of Japanese ancestry teaching his little grandson to walk at this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Grandfather and grandson of Japanese ancestry at this War Relocation Authority center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Grandfather and grandson of Japanese ancestry at this War Relocation Authority center.

Humor is the only thing that mellows life, shows life as the circus it is. After being uprooted, everything seemed ridiculous, insane, and stupid. There we were in an unfinished camp, with snow and cold. The evacuees helped sheetrock the walls for warmth and built the barbed wire fence to fence themselves in. We had to sing ‘God Bless America’ many times with a flag. Guards all around us with shot guns, you’re not going to walk out. I mean… what could you do? So many crazy things happened in the camp. So the joke and humor I saw in the camp was not in a joyful sense, but ridiculous and insane. It was dealing with people and situations.… I tried to make the best of it, just adapt and adjust.

— Mine Okubo, Tanforan Assembly Center

“It was a terribly hot place to live. It was so hot that when we put our hands on the beadstead, the paint would come off! To relieve the pressure of the heat, some people soaked sheets in water and hung them overhead.”

— Hatsumi Nishimoto, Pinedale Assembly Center, Fresno

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A view of surrounding country flanked by beautiful mountains at this War Relocation Authority center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A view of surrounding country flanked by beautiful mountains at this War Relocation Authority center.

“Meanest dust storms… and not a blade of grass. And the springs are so cruel; when those people arrived there they couldn’t keep the tarpaper on the shacks.”

— Dorothea Lange, at Manzanar

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. More land is being cleared of sage brush at the southern end of the project to enlarge this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. More land is being cleared of sage brush at the southern end of the project to enlarge this War Relocation Authority center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. William Katsuki, former professional landscape gardener for large estates in Southern California, demonstrates his skill and ingenuity in creating from materials close at hand, a desert garden alongside his home in the barracks at this War Relocation Authority center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. William Katsuki, former professional landscape gardener for large estates in Southern California, demonstrates his skill and ingenuity in creating from materials close at hand, a desert garden alongside his home in the barracks at this War Relocation Authority center.

“They got to a point where they said, ‘Okay, we’re going to take you out.’ And it was obvious that he was going before a firing squad with MPs ready with rifles. He was asked if he wanted a cigarette; he said no.… You want a blindfold?… No. They said, ‘Stand up here,’ and they went as far as saying, ‘Ready, aim, fire,’ and pulling the trigger, but the rifles had no bullets. They just went click.”

— Ben Takeshita, recounting his older brother’s ordeal at Tule Lake Relocation Center, where he was segregated for causing trouble

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Making camouflage nets for the War Department. This is one of several War and Navy Department projects carried on by persons of Japanese ancestry in relocation centers.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Making camouflage nets for the War Department. This is one of several War and Navy Department projects carried on by persons of Japanese ancestry in relocation centers.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Making camouflage nets for the War Department. This is one of several War and Navy Department projects carried on by persons of Japanese ancestry in relocation centers.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Making camouflage nets for the War Department. This is one of several War and Navy Department projects carried on by persons of Japanese ancestry in relocation centers.

At Manzanar and at the Santa Anita Assembly Center near Los Angeles, army engineers supervised manufacture of camouflage nets. Huge weavings of hemp, designed to fit over tanks and other large pieces of war matériel, they were constructed from cords that hung from giant stands; the workers usually wore masks to protect themselves from the hemp dust. The army claimed that they were volunteers but they were in fact coerced by camp administrators, who were receiving requisitions for large numbers of nets from the army. (One of the first strikes at the camps occurred when 800 Santa Anita camouflage-net workers sat down and refused to continue, complaining of too little food. They won some concessions.) At Manzanar other internees worked in a large agricultural project to grow and improve a plant, guayule, that could become a substitute for rubber. With rudimentary and often homemade equipment, chemists and horticulturalists hybridized guayule shrubs to obtain a substance of tensile strength with low production costs. These undertakings were illegal under the Geneva Convention, which forbade using prisoners of war in forced labor, and as a result only American citizens were usually employed so that the army could claim that these were not POWs.

— Linda Gordon, Impounded

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Guayule beds in the lath house at the Manzanar Relocation Center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Guayule beds in the lath house at the Manzanar Relocation Center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A view of section of the lath house at this War Relocation Authority center where seedling guayule plants are propagated by experienced evacuee nurserymen in the guayule rubber experiment project.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. A view of section of the lath house at this War Relocation Authority center where seedling guayule plants are propagated by experienced evacuee nurserymen in the guayule rubber experiment project.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Lawns and flowers have been planted by some of the evacuees at their barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority center.
Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar, California. Lawns and flowers have been planted by some of the evacuees at their barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority center.
Woodland, California. Tenant farmer of Japanese ancestry who has just completed settlement of their affairs and everything is packed ready for evacuation on the following morning to an assembly center.
Woodland, California. Tenant farmer of Japanese ancestry who has just completed settlement of their affairs and everything is packed ready for evacuation on the following morning to an assembly center.

Sources: National Archives, Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment by Linda Gordon, and Anchor Editions.

6 Comments

  1. IS THIS THE “GREAT” TIME IN OUR HISTORY THAT TRUMP AND HIS SUPPORTERS WANT AMERICA TO RETURN TO?

    WHAT IS THE REAL MESSAGE OF “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”?

    https://chiniquy.wordpress.com/2015/12/17/african-americans-have-suffered-from-caucasian-american-terrorism-for-over-100-years/

  2. This “concentration camp” vs “internment camp” debate is raging hotly on Facebook, that oh so reliable source of all news… The term “concentration camp” does not only refer to the WWII German death camps, as it was in place in the Boer War which started in 1899. The dictionary definition of concentration camp is “a camp where persons (as prisoners of war, political prisoners, or refugees) are detained or confined”. “Internment camp” is not defined at all in the dictionary. If you look at the timeline, it is easy to see why America would not call its camps by the same name that was becoming associated with atrocity in German at the same time, but that does not mean that concentration camp ONLY refers to German camps. There is a very good explanation at http://www.npr.org/sections/ombudsman/2012/02/10/146691773/euphemisms-concentration-camps-and-the-japanese-internment

  3. https://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Japanese-Internment-Camp-Liberation/dp/0786465700
    This perhaps puts a tad more perspective on the subject matter. The internment camps in USA were like a Sandals Resort compared to life in Santo Tomas, Manila.
    “Surviving a Japanese Internment Camp: Life and Liberation at Santo Tomás, Manila, in World War II”
    “During World War II the Japanese imprisoned more American civilians at Manila’s Santo Tomas prison camp than anywhere else, along with British and other nationalities. Placing the camp’s story in the wider history of the Pacific war, this book tells how the camp went through a drastic change, from good conditions in the early days to impending mass starvation, before its dramatic rescue by U.S. Army “flying columns.” Interned as a small boy with his mother and older sister, the author shows the many ways in which the camp’s internees handled imprisonment–and their liberation afterwards. Using a wealth of Santo Tomas memoirs and diaries, plus interviews with other ex-internees and veteran army liberators, he reveals how children reinvented their own society, while adults coped with crowded dormitories, evaded sex restrictions, smuggled in food, and through a strong internee government, dealt with their Japanese overlords. The text explores the attitudes and behavior of Japanese officials, ranging from sadistic cruelty to humane cooperation, and asks philosophical questions about atrocity and moral responsibility.”

  4. I know it may seem semantics now that we are several generations out from this story, but I would like to remind you that there is a quantum difference between a Concentration Camp and an Internment Camp. That being said, . I do believe the way the U.S. treated Japanese-Americans is one of the more shameful parts of WW2 history. When I put my mind in the thoughts of the time I do understand the reasons in doing so. Hindsight tells me it was wrong, but during the war years people thought differently. sometimes shamefully.

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