Camp

"Questions and Answers for Evacuees: Information Regarding the Relocation Program" pamphlet, 1942, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Norio Mitsuoka (91.19.6B)

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

This is part of a pamphlet the War Relocation Authority distributed to Japanese Americans as it was preparing to remove them from their homes. As you read the definitions, pay close attention to word choice, noting phrases such as “convenient gathering point”; “opportunity for orderly, planned movement”; and “pioneer community with basic housing and protective services provided by the Federal Government.”

  • What would you say is the purpose of this pamphlet?
  • What message and/or feeling is it trying to convey?
  • What is the tone of this pamphlet?

Knowing what we now know about America’s concentration camps:

  • Do you think this pamphlet accurately conveys to Japanese Americans what they should expect upon being removed from their homes and incarcerated?
  • Do you think this pamphlet made Japanese Americans feel more comfortable about what they were experiencing?
  • Would you replace any words in the pamphlet with more accurate terminology? What words would you replace and what would you replace them with?

 

Miné Okubo, Untitled (Preparing wreaths for Wakasa memorial, Central Utah Relocation Project, Topaz, Utah, 1942–44), c. 1942–44, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Miné Okubo Estate (2007.62.179)

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

Examine this drawing by Miné Okubo.

  • What event is being depicted in this image and what evidence do you see that communicates this?
  • What is the mood of this drawing?

This is a depiction of the funeral service for 63-year-old James Wakasa, an inmate at Topaz War Relocation Center. On April 11, 1943, Mr. Wakasa, an Issei, was fatally shot by a guard while walking his dog on the inside of the fence at the Topaz War Relocation Center. According to the guard, Mr. Wakasa was walking too close to the edge of the camp’s barbed-wire fence and, despite verbal warnings, he didn’t move away or turn around. People who knew Mr. Wakasa said he was hard of hearing and most likely didn’t respond to the guard because he didn’t hear him, not because he was disobedient. The guard, Private First Class Gerald Philpott, was found not guilty in a court-martial trial.

George Hoshida, Untitled (Looking Towards Indian Village 3-25-45), 1945, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of June Hoshida Honma, Sandra Hoshida, and Carole Hoshida Kanada (96.117.354)

This object is part of the story , which is about Justice & Democracy.

Look closely at this drawing.

  • What do you notice in the foreground, middle ground, and background?
  • What kind of climate is depicted?
  • Where do you think this drawing was made?
  • When was this drawing made?
  • What questions do you have about this drawing?
George Hoshida, Untitled (Entrance to Gila R. C. Butte Camp 11/19/44), 1944, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of June Hoshida Honma, Sandra Hoshida, and Carole Hoshida Kanada (96.117.350)

This object is part of the story , which is about Justice & Democracy.

  • What is the first thing you notice when you see this drawing?
  • Who might live here?
  • What kind of community could this be?

The Gila River War Relocation Center was one of the two Japanese American incarceration sites located on Native American reservations in the Sonora Desert in Arizona. The Bureau of Indian Affairs had jurisdiction over the Gila River and its 13,348 inmates. The land was leased by the Bureau of Indian Affairs from the Akimel O’otham (Pima) and Pee-Posh (Maricopa) Indians of the Gila River Indian Community. The summer temperatures were over 100 degrees and the barracks were poorly insulated; many inmates made swamp coolers to find relief from the heat.

George Hoshida, Untitled (Mama Feeding Carole 1-14-44 8AM), 1944, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of June Hoshida Honma, Sandra Hoshida, and Carole Hoshida Kanada (96.117.345)

This object is part of the story , which is about Justice & Democracy.

This is a drawing of the artist’s wife and young daughter.

  • What is happening in this picture?
  • What details are you most drawn to?
  • Where could this scene have taken place?

This sketch captures a mother feeding a young child on a typical morning at the concentration camp in Gila River. Despite the circumstances of incarceration, parents tried to make life normal for their families. This included making do with the food served at the mess hall to feed to small children.

George Hoshida, Untitled (Special Block Meeting 8-22-45 Gila Rel. Center),1945, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of June Hoshida Honma, Sandra Hoshida, and Carole Hoshida Kanada (96.117.357)

This object is part of the story , which is about Justice & Democracy.

  • Have you ever sketched the people around you?
  • Who might these people be?
  • What do they have in common?
  • What is different about all of them?
  • At the top of the paper, the artist has written: “Special Block Meeting.” What do you think this special block meeting might be?

The Japanese Americans at each camp were separated by blocks and divided in the barracks by family. By the fall of 1942, despite this undemocratic situation, they organized themselves by electing representatives for temporary community councils. However, the War Relocation Authority imposed a rule that only US citizens could serve on these councils. This favored the American-born Nisei, many of whom were in their teens or early twenties, and not the actual community leaders. To circumvent this issue, each block democratically elected one block manager; those elected were often Japanese-speaking Issei or bilingual Kibei. The block managers were tasked with distributing supplies, handing out mail, and communicating the inmates’ concerns to the management.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dave Tatsuno in memory of Walter Honderick (91.74.1–8)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dignity.

Watch this short video clip.

  • What is she doing?
  • Where do you think she might be? Why do you think that?
  • How might you describe her mood?
  • Who do you think recorded this video?
  • What else do you observe?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dave Tatsuno in memory of Walter Honderick (91.74.1–8)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dignity.

Watch this short video clip from the Topaz War Relocation Center.

  • How is the environment similar to or different from where you live?

The Topaz War Relocation Center was located in Millard County in West Central Utah, 16 miles northwest of the town of Delta and 125 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. Situated at 4,600 feet of elevation, the camp occupied 19,800 acres of extremely flat terrain in the Sevier Desert. Dust was a major problem, as were extreme temperatures that ranged from 106 degrees in summer to below zero in winter.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Dave Tatsuno in memory of Walter Honderick (91.74.1–8)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dignity.

Watch this video and think about what it might have been like to live in this community.

At its peak, Topaz housed 8,130 Japanese Americans. Most of those held in Topaz were from the San Francisco Bay area in California: Alameda, San Francisco, and San Mateo Counties.

Each residential block had twelve housing barracks, a dining hall, a bathroom, a laundry facility, a recreation hall, and a block manager’s office. Each block also had a community mess hall, where almost everyone ate their meals. Some inmates were able to get jobs as cooks, dishwashers, or other staff positions within the camps, but many did not work. For the Issei, who often worked six or seven days a week, this was the most free time they ever had since immigrating to the United States. The inmates kept themselves busy taking classes like English and citizenship, or working on gardens; many did arts and crafts to pass the time. If they wanted to buy things they couldn’t get at the camps, they ordered them from catalogs for Sears or Montgomery Ward. At Topaz, some ordered ice skates by mail to use at the camp rink.

"War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement Series 16: Resettlement" (Volume 81, Section K, WRA no. 215), courtesy of The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

This object is part of the story , which is about Dignity.

The person who took these home movies was Dave Tatsuno (1913–2006). Mr. Tatsuno was well known within the Bay Area’s Japanese American community for operating the Nichi Bei Bussan stores in San Jose and San Francisco, California. The Tatsuno home movie collection documents activities in Topaz concentration camp as well as pre-WWII festivals, sporting events, family outings, holidays, celebrations, and the Tatsuno family business, the Nichi Bei Bussan.

In 1942, Mr. Tatsuno and his family were incarcerated at the Topaz War Relocation Center in the Utah desert. Over the next three years, shooting covertly with a contraband camera, he recorded everyday life in the dust-blown barracks community that at its height was home to more than 8,000 Americans of Japanese descent. Mr. Tatsuno’s haunting footage was later compiled into a 48-minute silent film, Topaz. In 1996, Topaz was placed on the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress. Mr. Tatsuno’s film was only the second home movie to be included in the registry, which is primarily dedicated to Hollywood classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca. The first home movie to be included in the registry was Abraham Zapruder’s film of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Charles and Lois Ferguson (94.180.7)

This object is part of the story , which is about Identity.

Look closely at this image.

  • How would you describe what is happening?
  • Where might this picture have been taken?
  • How would you describe the children in this picture?
  • About how old are they?
  • How would you describe the expressions on their faces?
  • How would you describe the adult in this picture?
  • Who do you think he might be?
  • What other questions arise when you examine this image?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Charles and Lois Ferguson (94.180.7)

This object is part of the story , which is about Identity.

This is written on the back of the photograph you just saw.

  • What is the name of the man in the photo?
  • What was he in charge of?
  • What do you think the “Children’s Village” was?
  • Who are the children in the picture?

At the time World War II broke out, there were three orphanages within California to care for children of Japanese descent (including mixed-race Japanese children) and to serve the needs of the Japanese American community. Two of these orphanages, the Shonien and the Maryknoll Catholic Home, were in Los Angeles; the Salvation Army Children’s Home was in San Francisco.

The children in these orphanages were there for various reasons. Sometimes their parents died or were too ill to care for the children because of mental illness or contagious diseases like tuberculosis. Other children were there temporarily while their parents could get back on their feet again financially.

When the Japanese Americans were removed from the West Coast, Japanese American children in these three orphanages were removed and placed in the Manzanar Children’s Village. The children ranged in age from infants and toddlers to 18-year-olds, and their experiences at Manzanar varied greatly. Nearly 20 percent of the Japanese American children were of mixed race.

Lillian Matsumoto, from “Memories of the Children’s Village at Manzanar,” public program, January 14, 2007, Japanese American National Museum

This object is part of the story , which is about Identity.

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) appointed Harry and Lillian Matsumoto, husband and wife, as superintendent and assistant superintendent of the Manzanar Children’s Village. Before departing for Manzanar, the Matsumotos had worked at the Shonien, a Japanese American children’s home in Los Angeles, alongside the Shonien’s founder, Rokuichi Kusumoto. The State of California Department of Welfare recommended to the WRA that the Matsumotos, who had graduate-level education in business (Harry) and social welfare (Lillian), be placed in charge of the children at camp.

In this video clip, Lillian Matsumoto remembers taking the bus to Manzanar with the orphans. Watch the clip to hear her tell you which song one of the girls sang.

Manzanar Free Press (August 18, 1945), Japanese American National Museum, Gift in Memory of Joe H. Kishi (99.107.1)

This object is part of the story , which is about Identity.

The headline of the Manzanar Free Press newspaper on August 18, 1945, reads: “Children’s Village Slated to Close End of August.” Read the article to learn more about the closing of the Children’s Village.

According to the War Relocation Authority’s final accountability roster on the Children’s Village, approximately half of the 101 orphans were reunited with one or both parents, and “nearly 25% were divided among institutions and wage homes. Only a few were adopted or placed in foster homes.”*

*Lisa Nobe, “The Children’s Village of Manzanar: The World War II Eviction and Detention of Japanese American Orphans,” Journal of the West 38 (April 1999): 70.
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Miyaoka Family (94.55.5)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dissent.

Read this letter excerpt.

  • Who is the letter being sent to?
  • What do you know about the writer(s)?
  • The writer(s) chose each word carefully. What might be the reasons this letter says, “American Citizens of Japanese ancestry?”

In 1944, three years after the United States entered World War II, the federal government reclassified Japanese Americans as eligible for the military draft. This meant young men living in Japanese American concentration camps and previously considered unfit for service began to be drafted to serve in racially segregated US military units. Imagine the impact this had on those who were in the camps.

Japanese American National Museum (2015.100.408a)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dissent.

Look closely at this photograph.

  • What is the first thing you notice?
  • How would you describe the emotions of the people in this picture?
  • Why do you think everybody is so formally dressed?
  • Which country do you think this is?

This is a ceremony that took place in all of America’s concentration camps. In this picture, mothers are receiving special gold star pins to signify that their sons were killed in action while fighting in World War II.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Miyaoka Family (94.55.5)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dissent.

Read this letter carefully.

  • What is the name of the group that wrote this letter?
  • What are some reasons the members of this group don’t want their children to be drafted into the US military?
  • Do you notice the small typos in this letter?

This letter was written by mothers incarcerated in Minidoka Concentration Camp in Hunt, Idaho, who were still learning English. For the first draft of the letter, they asked for help from a Japanese American lawyer but ultimately felt his draft was too weak and overly emotional. They then worked together to write this letter, which they sent to President Roosevelt.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Miyaoka Family (94.55.5)

This object is part of the story , which is about Dissent.

This is one of the official responses that the Mother’s Society of Minidoka received.

  • Who is this letter from?
  • What is your reaction to this letter in light of the issues raised in the previous letter?
  • How might the mothers have felt when they received this letter?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Walter Muramoto Family (97.292.3P)

This object is part of the story , which is about Loyalty.

Walter Muramoto was an amateur photo enthusiast and unofficial camp photographer at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas, where many people asked him to photograph events and groups in the camp.

Mr. Muramoto was incarcerated at Rohwer from September 30, 1942, to September 7, 1945. Born in California, he lived in Redondo Beach before World War II and resettled in Lodi, California, immediately after the war ended.

Look closely at this snapshot that Mr. Muramoto took in 1945.

  • How would you describe the two people?
  • About how old do you think they are?
  • What are they wearing?
  • Does the instrument he’s strumming provide any hints about the influences in their lives?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Walter Muramoto Family (97.292.2Q)

This object is part of the story , which is about Loyalty.

This is another snapshot taken by Mr. Muramoto in the concentration camp in Rohwer, Arkansas, during World War II.

  • What do you notice about the sweater this individual is wearing?
  • Does this type of sweater communicate anything to you about him? If so, what does it tell you?

In 1942, approximately 14 percent of the 112,000 incarcerated people of Japanese descent were high school students.*

* Dorothy Swaine Thomas, The Salvage: Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1952), 580.
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Walter Muramoto Family (97.292.4AI)

This object is part of the story , which is about Loyalty.

Look closely at this picture.

  • What do you think this is a picture of? Why do you think so?
  • What do you notice happening in the foreground and the background?
  • Does this snapshot make you curious about the relationship between culture, tradition, and community?

As seen in this snapshot, Japanese cultural traditions like Kabuki were performed in the camp. Sumo, baseball, Japanese flower arranging, Japanese dance, and Japanese calligraphy were also practiced in camp.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Walter Muramoto Family (97.292.13M)

This object is part of the story , which is about Loyalty.

Look closely at this photograph.

  • Who might be the oldest person in this picture?
  • Who might be the youngest?
  • How might they be related to each other?
  • Where do you think the picture was taken? Why do you think so?
  • Do you think family ties would have been strengthened or weakened by life at the camp?

This picture was taken in front of the barracks where families lived in Rohwer, Arkansas.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Frank S. Emi (96.109.27)

This object is part of the story , which is about Citizenship.

Look closely at this photograph taken in Federal District Court in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 1944.

  • How old might the men depicted here be?
  • What do they communicate to you with their expressions and body language?
  • Why might so many of them have been in court?
Fair Play Committee bulletin, 1944, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Frank S. Emi (96.109.5C)

This object is part of the story , which is about Citizenship.

The young men in the photograph were members of the Fair Play Committee (FPC), and this document is one of their bulletins. Look closely at it.

  • What is it called?
  • Which parts of the Bill of Rights does it quote?

At the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming, the FPC formed under the leadership of Kiyoshi Okamoto. Growing to nearly 60 members, the FPC represented the most organized response to the military draft among the 10 camps. In addition to paying a $2 fee, FPC members had to affirm that they were US citizens, loyal to the United States and willing to serve in the US Army upon restoration of their legal rights. In other words, the FPC advocated that incarceration violated the constitutional rights of its members, US citizens who would gladly fight in the military upon restoration of their freedom and civil liberties.

The end of the second paragraph of this document states:

The FPC believes that unless such actions are opposed NOW, and steps taken to remedy such injustices and discrimination IMMEDIATELY, the future of all minorities and the future of this democratic nation is in danger.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Frank S. Emi (96.109.20)

This object is part of the story , which is about Citizenship.

As you can see from this newspaper clipping, the FBI arrested the leaders of the FPC.

  • Is there a clue that might tell you when this event happened?
  • What were the names of the people arrested?
Frank S. Emi video interview (May 9, 2006), Japanese American National Museum, DiscoverNikkei.org

This object is part of the story , which is about Citizenship.

In this video clip, you’ll hear from Frank Emi (1916–2010), one of the leaders of the FPC.

  • Does he say he would take the same action again? Why or why not?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Norio Mitsuoka (91.4.1)

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

Look closely at this artifact.

  • What is the first thing you notice about it?
  • What do you think it is?
  • Where do you think it’s from?
  • What type of person would have worn it?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Norio Mitsuoka (95.54)

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

A community’s internal security threats are less complex than external community threats. Nonetheless, everyone has a basic need to be safe. The War Relocation Authority created fire departments to ensure standard protections like safety for the Japanese American prisoners. Japanese Americans had opportunities to work in the camps, and some chose to be firefighters.

Watch this video of the fire crew.

  • How did the crew practice fighting fires?
  • What animal appears here?
  • How is this video footage from the World War II period different from videos now?
Courtesy of Densho and the Bigelow Family Collection

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

This is an article from Information Digest, a publication for War Relocation Authority (WRA) staff. Information Digest contained short news articles about the happenings in all of the WRA camps.

Read this briefing from Information Digest #41 (April 3, 1943).

  • What types of fires did the fire crew in Minidoka fight?
  • Who was the fire crew working with?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Norio Mitsuoka (91.19.9)

This object is part of the story , which is about Security.

  • What type of document do you think this could be?
  • What does it tell you about the owner?
  • What do you think is most interesting about this?

 

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Eiichi Edward Sakauye (96.147.1)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

Watch this home movie shot by Eiichi Edward Sakauye, who documented inmates arriving at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Most of the camp’s 10,767 inmates came from California, Washington, and Oregon.

  • How did they get to Heart Mountain?
  • When they arrived, who was there to greet them?
  • How old were the inmates?
  • If you were being taken by train to Heart Mountain, what thoughts do you think might be going through your mind?
Miné Okubo, Untitled (Miné and Benji standing with their luggage, Berkeley, California, 1942), 1942, ink on paper, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of the Miné Okubo Estate (2007.62.23)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

Look carefully at this drawing of siblings Miné and Benji Okubo.

  • What is the first thing you notice?
  • How might you describe the expressions on their faces?
  • Their last name, Okubo, is written on one bag. What do you think “13660” is? Why do you think that number is everywhere?

The Okubos are waiting with their luggage to be taken away from their home in California. The government assigned them “13660” as their family number, and they have been instructed to pin that number on themselves and to all of their luggage. They do not know it yet, but they will eventually be incarcerated in Topaz, Utah.

Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Mori Shimada (92.10.2AT)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

Look carefully at this photograph taken by Mori Shimada at Heart Mountain in 1945, when World War II was coming to an end and Japanese Americans were beginning to leave camp.

  • Have you ever been on a train with so many other people? What was it like?
  • What do you think the weather was like on that day?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Eiichi Edward Sakauye (96.147.1)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

This home movie clip was taken by Mr. Sakauye as people were leaving Heart Mountain at the end of World War II.

  • How can you tell that people are leaving camp?
  • How do you think the people leaving might have felt?
  • How do you think the people who remained in camp felt?

 

Clara Breed Collection, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Y. Yamada (93.75.31EW)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

Here are a letter and envelope. Read the text of the letter carefully and note all the signs of migration that are described. Consider the following questions:

  • To whom is this letter written?
  • Where does the recipient live?
  • Who wrote this letter?
  • Where does the writer live?

 

Courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

The United States government kept records for all the individuals who were incarcerated during World War II. This is the record for Fusa Tsumagari, who wrote the letter to Miss Breed.

  • What does the letter reveal about Fusa?
  • Where was she before the war?
  • Where did she go after the war?
  • Fuyu Tsumagari is her mother. Where did Fuyu go after the war?
  • Yukio Tsumagari is her brother. Where did Yukio go after the war?
Tsumagari family migration map

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration.

Japanese American families experienced a great deal of migration and displacement during this period. Many families such as Fusa’s were split up with individual family members going to different places for various reasons. This map shows some of the places that the Tsumagari family members lived before, during, and after World War II.

  • San Diego, California: This is where Fusa and her family lived before the war. It is also where Miss Breed lived.
  • Los Angeles, California: This is where Fusa’s sister and brother-in-law, Fuji and Bill, were living before the war.
  • Crystal City, Texas: Fusa’s father, Takagi, was sent to a Department of Justice camp here in 1942; her mother, Fuyu, joined him upon leaving Poston in April 1944. Fusa also went here with her mother before going to Minneapolis.
  • Santa Anita, California: The Tsumagari family was sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Camp in April 1942.
  • Poston, Arizona: Fusa, along with her mother and her brother, Yukio, were sent to a concentration camp here in August 1942.
  • Amache, Colorado: Fuji and Bill were sent to the concentration camp here in September 1942.
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Yukio left Poston in January 1943 to attend college here at Marquette University. Japanese American college students weren’t able to study on the West Coast, but they could attend school if they could find a college to accept them in a state that wasn’t on the coast.
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota: After leaving Amache, Fuji and Bill went here in April and May of 1943 to work. Fusa joined them after leaving Poston in April 1944 and found a job as a typist at a department store.
excerpt from letter written by Fusa Tsumagari
Clara Breed Collection, Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Elizabeth Y. Yamada (93.75.31S)

This object is part of the story , which is about Migration, Uncategorized.

This is an excerpt from another letter Fusa wrote to Miss Breed. Miss Breed was the children’s librarian at San Diego Public Library from 1929 to 1945. When her young Japanese American patrons were forced into concentration camps with their families in 1942, Miss Breed became their reliable correspondent, sending them books and assisting with requests for supplies. Through her actions, she served as a reminder of the possibility of decency and justice in a troubled world.

When Fusa wrote this letter, she had already left camp in Poston, Arizona, and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her sister and brother-in-law were living.

  • How would you describe the tone of this letter excerpt?

Even without reading the letters Miss Breed wrote to her students, one can find many things revealed in letters the students wrote to her.

  • Based on the content of this letter, what can you conclude about Miss Breed?
  • What evidence brings you to those conclusions?