On-line Book
Book Cover
Cover Page


Table of Contents





Brief History

Gila River


Heart Mountain







Tule Lake

Isolation Centers

Add'l Facilities

Assembly Centers

DoJ and US Army Facilities



Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Confinement and Ethnicity:
Barbed wire divider
An Overview of World War II
Japanese American Relocation Sites

by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord

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Chapter 13 (continued)
Tule Lake Relocation Center

Construction of the Tule Lake Relocation Center began April 15, 1942. On May 25, the first Japanese Americans, 500 volunteers from the Portland and Puyallup Assembly Centers, arrived to help set up the relocation center (Jacoby 1996). When the WRA later decided to send the evacuees at the Portland and Puyallup Assembly Centers to Minidoka rather than Tule Lake, some of these first volunteers decided to stay anyway since being the first to arrive they had good jobs. Most of the evacuees at Tule Lake were from the Marysville, Pinedale, Pomona, Sacramento, and Salinas Assembly Centers. In addition, a large number of evacuees were sent directly to the relocation center from the southern San Joaquin Valley without first going to an assembly center.

From the start, the Tule Lake Relocation Center was plagued by problems and discontent. Within 5 months of its opening there was a mess hall strike to protest inadequate food, a farm strike, and a general strike (Kowta 1976). Additional problems arose when, in response to public and congressional criticism, the WRA decided to segregate the "disloyals" from the "loyals" with a poorly-worded questionnaire. Those who answered "no" to the two loyalty questions were considered "disloyal."

When some 35 Nisei from the same block who had applied for repatriation to Japan failed to answer the questionnaire by an arbitrary deadline, the military police surrounded their block and arrested them. Over the next two months over 100 more evacuees were arrested and housed in nearby jails and an old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp 5 miles west of the relocation center (see Chapter 15). Measured by the questionnaire results, Tule Lake had the highest proportion of disloyals of all the Relocation Centers. While the average number of "no-no's" at other centers was 10 percent, at Tule Lake 42 percent did not answer the questionnaire at all, or answered no to both loyalty questions.

In the summer of 1943 the Tule Lake Relocation Center was converted into a maximum security segregation facility. One of the camps at Poston was originally chosen, but eventually, the disloyals were segregated to the relocation center at Tule Lake, which already housed the highest number of disloyals. The original evacuees at Tule Lake who answered "yes" to the loyalty questions were supposed to choose another relocation center to make room for more disloyals at Tule Lake. Some 6,000 evacuees did move out, but the 8,500 "old Tuleans" who remained included some 4,000 loyals who did not want to move yet again.

New barracks were constructed to house many of the new arrivals and Tule Lake became the largest of the WRA-run centers. By the spring of 1944, over 18,000 people were interned there (Figure 13.4). Additional troops were assigned to Tule Lake, including eight tanks (Drinnon 1987:110). A lighted 6-foot-high chain link "man-proof" fence, topped with barbed wire, as well as more watch towers were added around the relocation center perimeter. Fences and watch towers were also built around the outlying farm fields of the center.

Tule Lake Relocation Center, 1946
Figure 13.4. Tule Lake Relocation Center, 1946.
(Bureau of Reclamation, Sacramento, California)
(click image for larger size (~60K) )

Demonstration at Tule Lake
Figure 13.5. Demonstration at Tule Lake.
(from Weglyn 1976)
In October 1943 an evacuee farm worker died in a truck accident. To protest the minuscule compensation offered the victim's widow, agricultural workers went on strike. The administration brought in 234 Japanese Americans from other relocation centers to harvest the crops. For their protection, they were housed at the former CCC camp nearby. But the strikebreakers' presence and the fact they were paid about ten times the standard evacuee wage contributed to general discontent.

On November 1, a large crowd assembled in the administration area to protest the sending of center supplies to the strikebreakers. The military police used jeeps mounted with machine guns and tear gas to disperse the crowd and began the arrest of suspected leaders. Most work at the center stopped, and the evacuees boycotted a WRA-called assembly. On November 14 martial law was declared and the military police took over control of the center from the WRA. A fence and five watch towers were constructed between the administration and evacuee residential areas and a stockade was built to isolate those arrested from the rest of the center population (Figure 13.5 and 13.6).

Fence between the administration and evacuee residential area
Figure 13.6. Fence between the administration and evacuee residential area.
(Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)
Arrests and unrest continued until over 350 dissident leaders were in the stockade and 1,200 Issei had been sent to Department of Justice internment camps. On January 11 the remaining center residents voted to end the protest. In response to the vote, martial law was lifted on January 15 and the center administration, except for the stockade, was returned to the WRA. On May 23, 1944, control of the stockade was turned over to the WRA. However, tensions still ran high. On May 24, an evacuee was shot and killed during an altercation with a guard, and in June the general manager of the Business Enterprise Association, one of the most stable elements in the evacuee community, was found murdered.

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Last Modified: Fri, Sep 1 2000 07:08:48 pm PDT

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