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 16 (continued)
Assembly Centers

Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington

Oblique aerial view of the Puyallup Assembly Center
Figure 16.30. Oblique aerial view of the Puyallup Assembly Center.
(from DeWitt 1943)
Used from April 28 to September 12, 1942, the Puyallup Assembly Center was located in a small rural community about 35 miles south of Seattle. Also known as "Camp Harmony," the assembly center was built on the grounds and surrounding acres of the Western Washington State Fairgrounds. In addition to the usual stables, racetrack, and other buildings common at the other assembly centers, there was a rollercoaster (Figure 16.30). The assembly center housed a total of 7,628 Japanese American evacuees from Washington and Alaska, with a maximum of 7,390 at a time.

Construction of the assembly center, which would effectively double the city's population, was reported as a major event in the local paper:

"With a suddenness that marks all U.S. military moves these days, construction of housing facilities on a scale large enough to accommodate 8,000 Japanese was begun Saturday morning on the 40 acre parking lot of the Western Washington Fair here, after an order for building the project had been given out by the army officers just a few hours previously. Approximately 1,000 men are now employed on the job, which has been ordered completed within a month. Yesterday afternoon more than 40 of the 15 by 40 foot buildings were nearly completed. According to one source, approximately 165 such structures will be needed to house evacuated Japanese who will be brought here from areas designated by the army." (Puyallup Press, 4/3/42).

Another contemporary observer was not impressed with the quality of construction or design:

"At the Puyallup fairgrounds ... all was a madhouse of swarming carpenters. Boxlike buildings were being thrown together on a large field that was formerly the parking lot. First the grass was scraped off the surface of the field with steam shovels. Then 2 by 4s were laid on the ground and planks nailed onto them. Then walls with one tiny window every twenty feet in the rear wall, no windows on the side, and a small door (no window in it) at the front. Over all a tarpaper roof. There will be approximately 40 rows of these rabbit hutches. Four hutches to a row, six rooms to a hutch. Each room is about 20 feet square and separated from the next room by a partition that runs up part way to the roof. Each room is to house a Japanese family. If there is an average of 5 persons to a family, our arithmetic says 4800 people will be living in these boxes this summer." (Conard 1942).

Barracks filled all available space at the fairgrounds, including beneath the grandstand, within the circle of the racetrack, and in parking lots that extended into adjacent neighborhoods. The assembly center was divided into four distinct and separate areas designated Districts A-D. Movement between the districts, which were divided by fences, was restricted. District A was the first to open and housed about 2,000 people, District B housed 1,200, District C housed 800, and District D, which included the racetrack, administration, and bachelor's barracks, housed 3,000.

Sculpture at the Puyallup Fairgrounds
Figure 16.31. Sculpture at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
Commemorative plaque at the Puyallup Fairgrounds
Figure 16.32. Commemorative plaque at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.

The assembly center site, still used as a fairgrounds, is in continual use for exhibits, trade shows, and concerts, as well as the annual Puyallup Fair. The fairground administration building is in the same location as in the 1940s, but is apparently recent as the current building is much larger and taller. Sculpture and two plaques in a courtyard outside the fair administration building honor the evacuees (Figures 16.31 and 16.32). The plaques, on a short concrete pedestal, indicate the monument was dedicated by the governor and lists contributors. The sculpture, by George Tsutakawa, is a steel cylinder about 10-foot high which depicts several human figures. Within the fairgrounds the barracks and horse racetrack are gone. The grandstand burned in the 1970s, and was replaced by the present concrete and steel grandstand. The infield now has a covered stage for shows and concerts (Figures 16.33 and 16.34).

View from the grandstand of barracks at the Puyallup Assembly Center
Figure 16.33. View from the grandstand of barracks at the Puyallup Assembly Center.
(National Archives photograph)
Cover of the Souvenier Edition of the Camp Harmony Newsletter
Figure 16.35. Cover of the Souvenier Edition of the Camp Harmony Newsletter.
(University of Washington, Special Collections)
View from the grandstand at the Puyallup Fairground today
Figure 16.34. View from the grandstand at the Puyallup Fairground today.

Wooden frame roller coaster at the Puyallup Fairground today
Figure 16.36. Wooden frame roller coaster at the Puyallup Fairground today.
Other former barracks areas outside the fairgrounds, now parking lots, show no evidence of their former use. The southern end of the original site, where the assembly center hospital was located, is now completely obliterated by State Highway 512. The grading to accommodate this freeway-sized multi-lane road changed the topography completely. The wooden frame roller coaster, along the western boundary of the fairgrounds next to 5th Street, is still in use (Figures 16.35 and 16.36).

Continued Continue


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

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