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:
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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 16
Assembly Centers

Although Executive Order 9066 authorized the evacuation of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, at the time it was signed there was no place for the Japanese Americans to go. When voluntary evacuation proved impractical, the military took over full responsibility for the evacuation: on April 9, 1942, the Wartime Civilian Control Agency (WCCA) was established by the military to coordinate the evacuation to inland relocation centers. However, the relocation centers were far from ready for large influxes of people. For some, there was still contention over the location; for most, their placement in isolated undeveloped areas of the country exacerbated problems of building infrastructure and housing. Since the Japanese Americans who lived in the restricted zone were perceived to be too dangerous to go about their daily business, the military decided it was necessary to find temporary "assembly centers" to house the evacuees until the relocation centers could be completed.

The assembly centers would require open space for housing, the immediate availability of water and power, and a geographic context that would make it easy to confine and separate the evacuees from the general population. In addition, to expedite the evacuation and eventual transfer to the relocation centers, facilities had to be centrally located with access to roads and railroads. Within 28 days, 17 assembly centers were prepared for use. Nine were at fairgrounds, two were at horse racetracks (Santa Anita and Tanforan, California), two were at migrant workers camps (Marysville and Sacramento, California), one was at a livestock exposition hall (Portland, Oregon), one was at a mill site (Pinedale, California), and one was at an abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps camp (Mayer, Arizona). In addition, the "reception centers" under construction near Parker Dam in Arizona (Poston) and in the Owens Valley of eastern California (Manzanar), originally set up to expedite the voluntary evacuation, were also employed as assembly centers. Both would later be designated relocation centers as well.

The assembly centers were surrounded by barbed wire fences. Armed military police, housed in a separate compound, patrolled the perimeter. Existing structures were adapted for use as offices, infirmaries, warehouses, and mess halls. At the racetracks, stables were cleaned out for use as living quarters and at the Portland Assembly Center over 3,800 evacuees were housed under one roof in a livestock pavilion subdivided into apartments. However, housing for the most of the evacuees consisted of hastily constructed "Theater of Operations"-type barracks buildings grouped into blocks with separate communal bathrooms and dining halls.

Most of the barracks were built directly on the ground or supported by wooden foundation blocks; 2- by 4-inch floor joists supported wooden floors. In a few assembly centers, some barracks had concrete or asphalt floors. Walls were made of horizontal boards covered with 30 lb. felt or one-ply roofing paper. Gable roofs (or shed roofs as at the Puyallup Assembly Center) were constructed with 2- by 4-inch rafters sheathed with boards and a single layer of roofing. The barracks buildings were divided into 20 ft by 20 ft rooms with wooden partition walls extending from the floor to the top of the outside wall line, leaving open a space above the interior walls to the roof. Each room had one door and two or more windows (American Red Cross 1942).

Beginning May 26, 1942, some 500 evacuees a day were transferred from the assembly centers to the relocation centers. Slowed by construction delays at the relocation centers and the lack of certain supplies (DeWitt 1943), transfers dragged on over a five-month period and were not completed until October 30, 1942.

Fresno, California | Marysville, California | Mayer, Arizona | Merced, California | Pinedale, California | Pomona, California | Portland, Oregon | Puyallup, Washington | Sacramento, California | Salinas, California | Santa Anita, California | Stockton, California | Tanforan, California | Tulare, California | Turlock, California

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

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