Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Japanese Internment Camps

During World War 2, many Americans hated the Japanese imigrants after Pearl Harbor. (This photo can be found HERE.) Supposedly taken in 1941, the picture to the right shows the strong desire for Japanese persons to be eliminated from the streets for "national security," and people of Japanese decent, or in any way Japanese, were said to be a "threat." The world today can see how ridiculous things were back then, just by looking at this picture. The woman pointing to the sign above says that she agrees with the sign, she's afraid of Japanese imigrants, and that she doesn't want them there; as were many American citizens thinking the very same thing. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were hauled off to internment camps, away from the rest of the world in order to keep peace, and ensure safety. Many innocent people went to these camps, and treated horribly, even though they plead not guilty in their examinations.

(This photo can be found HERE.)

Mr. Ansel Adams, a famous American photographer of the period, went to Manzanar War Relocation Center documenting what was happening there with the Japanese-Americans interned there in California. This young man was captured on film in his daily life in 1943. You can see the vast landscape behind him, making it known that camps were far away from any other civilization.

Topaz Internment Camp located in Utah, held 8,000 people when it was at large. In the camp there was an elementary school, a high school, administration buildings, warehouses and multiple other necessary buildings, such as latrines for men and women, were constructed within the 42-block area. The interned families lived in barracks on the rest of camp site. Designed as apartments, each fit families of two and four easily; some larger families were permitted to live in two rooms of the building. Each room was heated by a coal stove, but cooking in the apartments was discouraged. The only furniture they were given were army cots, mattresses, and blankets, although some families constructed a table out of scraps from the other constructions previously built.
Each family was given jobs in the camp, like doctors and other people with such skills. Those employed individuals were given a wage ranging from $16.00 to $19.00. Some were given passes to go to Delta, a nearby town, and found employment there. On January 29, 1943, President Roosevelt made a public announcement that Japanese-Americans were now allowed to volunteer for a combat unit. (This information can be found HERE.)

Miss Breed, a librarian in San Diego, was one of the many Americans against the internment camps. She got to know many of the children who were taken away to stay in the camps with their families. At the train station, before the kids got on, she handed out self addressed postcards and letters, encouraging them to write to her. The letters were just like any other letter you would write to a friend. They told of every day life; talking about classes, family, and extracurricular activities. The letters not only told of the injustice and punishment of living in an internment camp, but of life in the 1940's for the teens who had to make a life there.(One of such letters can be found HERE.)

Some of the younger kids played "Post Office" to entertain themselves. Writing letters to Miss Breed was probably one of the reasons they had the idea to play the game. (This photo can be found HERE.)

Although some Japanese-Americans interned in the ten camps located throughout the USA were treated quite well, most weren't. One anonymous individual gave their view of the internment camps. You can imagine how trapped and intimidated you would feel looking out towards the open land that you weren't allowed to go onto, through a fence with barbed wire wrapped thouroughly around it, a floodlight scanning the grounds constantly throughout the night, and sentries with machine guns sitting in nests along the fence.

(This poem can be found HERE.)

This letter can be found here.

"Dear Miss Breed" letters were sent from occupants from Japanese - Americans inside interment camps to Miss Breed. This letter was written by a ten - year old girl, Fusa Tsumagari, it describes her journey of finding her family while in a camp, with the help of Miss Breed.

These photos can be found here.

The pictures to the left show the hardships children had to go through while trapped at the interment camps. Many children in the camps were separated from family members and left to survive on their own. Children attended schools, that were very poorly equipt and the schools usually didn't have insulation until well after the schools were opened. One student recalled learning a whole years worth of chemistry in one week.

This cartoon can be found here.
The cartoon to the left drawn in March 1942. The artists name was just Rodger. It appeared in the San Fransisco News March 6,1942. It represents the Japanese Americans being "shipped" off to Interment camps all over the country. To ensure American safety after the pearl harbor bombing anyone being affiliated to Japanese heritage was shipped off.

This image can be found here.
The owner of this grocery store was Japanese - American. He put up this banner the after the Pearl Harbor bombing. This picture taken ,by Dorothea Lange, in March 1942 right before he was taken to a camp. The words on the banner read "I am an American" probably strewn to show his national pride for his home country.

"... these people are living in the midst of a desert where they see nothing except tar paper covered barracks, sagebrush, and rocks. No flowers, no trees, no shrubs, no grass. The impact of emotional disturbance as a result of the evacuation . . . plus this dull, dreary existence in a desert region surely must give these people a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, and despair which we on the outside do not and will never fully understand." - Arthur Klienkopf, Superintendent of Education-Minidoka Relocation Center Relocation Center Diary . This diary entry can be found here.
The relocation superintendent in northern Idaho, in 1942, wrote the above quote in his diary. In the entry he describes the hardships of the life in interment camps. You can tell he felt pity, sympathy, and guilt for the Japanese - American prisoners. Arthur Kliendopf worked as the relocator in the Minidoka Relocation Center, the interment camp.

After the Pearl Harbor bombing on Dec. 7, 1941 any person having any affiliation to Japanese heritage was sent off to an interment camp. These camps were much like the concentration camps the Germans used to hold and kill the Jews. Families were separated, children poorly cared for and taught, malnutrition, illness, and cramped living areas are only some of the trials these people had to face. Over 120,000 legal American citizens were shipped off to different camps all over the country and even in Canada, 10 camps total. The police usually sent a notice declaring you had 48 hours to pack all your necessary belongings and then they would pick you up, throw you into a car or train and take you to a new unknown place, usually separated from your family and people you know. The temperatures in the camps were unbearable, many were in the desert with 100 degree weather in the summer and 30 and below in the winter. Due to poor medical care, low food supply, heat, and American military guards many people died in the camps. Americans failed to see the light, they didn't realize the injustice and criminal like way these people were treated, none of the prisoners had ever done any form of illegal act, until 50 years later. In 1988 Congress passed the "Civil Liberties Act" or "Japanese Redress Bill", which sent $20,000 and a signed apology letter from the President for reparations to every single inhabitant of an internment camp. These "reparations" were finally finished in 1998. Even though the interment camps have all gone deserted, the pain, loss, and suffering these people went through will live within them and there loved ones forever.
* A list of these 10 camps with information can be found here.

1. Why were Japanese - Americans taken to internment camps?
2. What was life like living in an internment camp?
3. What happened to camp inhabitants years after the camps were liberated?
4. How big was Topaz?
5. Who was the librarian who wrote to the interned children?
6. What made the fence so intimidating?

Life in Japanese Interment Camps. Feb 28, 2008.

Children of the Camps. Satsuki Ina. 1999. Feb 28, 2008.


  1. Yes that story is hard because I can't understand why people hated immigrants maybe it could be because I've heard they used something similar to Viagra to feel good.