Tule Lake Segregation Center
Those who answered "no" to the loyalty questions were considered "disloyals." In response to public and congressional criticism, the WRA decided to segregate the disloyals from the "loyals." One of the Poston camps 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 half of 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. But 4,000 loyals at Tule Lake chose to stay; some didn't want to leave California and others were just tired of being pushed around (Myer 1971:77), so the loyal and disloyal remained together. The 1,800 disloyals at Manzanar could not be moved to Tule Lake until the Spring of 1944, when additional housing was completed.
Ray Best, who had run the Isolation Centers at Moab and Luepp, was named the new director of Tule Lake. The 71 inmates at Luepp were transferred to Tule Lake (Myer 1971:77). Additional troops were assigned to Tule Lake, including eight tanks (Drinnon 1987:110). A "manproof" fence around the relocation center perimeter and more guard towers were eventually added as well.
The Tule Lake Segregation Center maintained the same internal democratic political structure as at the relocation centers, and the new arrivals became active in center politics (Figure 3.15 and 3.16).
A tragic accident set off a chain of events that fueled dissension in the center, and culminated in the Army taking over control of the Tule Lake Segregation Center. On October 15, 1943, a truck transporting evacuees from agricultural fields over turned, killing one evacuee. The center administration was blamed since the driver was underage, and evacuees were outraged that the widow's benefits amounted to only two-thirds of $16, the deceased's monthly wage.
A massive public funeral was conducted without administration approval and ten days later agricultural workers decided to go on strike. The strikers did not want to harvest food destined for other centers. They saw themselves as the "loyals" and the pro-U.S.Japanese Americans at the other centers as traitors to Japan.
The administration brought in 234 Japanese Americans from other relocation centers to harvest the crops. For their protection, the "loyals" were housed outside the center at a nearby former CCC camp. Further inciting the strikers, the strike breakers were paid $1 per hour rather than the standard WRA wages of $16 per month (Weglyn 1976:162).
When WRA Director Dillon Myer made a routine visit to Tule Lake on November 1, a crowd assembled in the administration area. During the assembly a doctor was beaten and some cars were vandalized. A group-appointed "Committee of 17" met with Myer, but all of their demands (including removal of director Best) were rejected. Further, future evacuee meetings in the administration area were forbidden. On November 4 the administration began work on a fence between the administration and evacuee areas.
That evening a crowd of around 400 tried to prevent trucks from being used to take food to the strike breakers (Weglyn 1976:163) and later the mob headed to wards the director's residence. The Army, arriving with tanks and jeeps mounted with machine guns, used tear gas to disperse crowds throughout the center. Many evacuees were arrested and a curfew was established. The next day schools were closed and most work was stopped.
When an assembly called by the Army on November 14 was boycotted, more evacuees were arrested and martial law was declared. On November 26 a center-wide dragnet was conducted to find the leaders, who had been hidden by sympathetic evacuees.
A stockade was built in the administration area to house those arrested. The stockade had 12-ft-high wooden walls to obstruct the view and prevent communication with the rest of the center population. By December 1 the last of the leaders turned themselves in to authorities in a show of solidarity with those already arrested. On January 1 those incarcerated in the stockade initiated the first of three hunger strikes.
Within the rest of the center, however, the protests waned. On January 11, while over 350 dissident leaders were in jail, the center residents voted to end the protests. The vote was close (and one block refused to vote) but the moderates had retaken control. In response to the vote martial law was lifted on January 15. The center administration, except for the stockade, was returned to the WRA.
The April 18 Tokyo Declaration, in which the Japanese government officially protested the treatment of the disloyals, provided some recognition to those within the stockade. Shortly thereafter, 276 were released from the stockade and on May 23, 1944, Army control of the stockade was turned over to the WRA.
Eventually, over 1,200 Issei were removed from the Tule Lake Segregation Center to Justice Department internment camps at Bismarck, North Dakota, and Santa Fe, New Mexico (Culley 1991; Myer 1971:90). But tension still ran high. On May 24, James Okamoto 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 murdered.
On August 19, 1944, soon after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) demanded to see those in the stockade, all were suddenly released and the fence removed. The stockade jail was used again for a short period in June 1945 when five teenagers were sentenced by the center director to the stockade for blowing bugles and wearing Japanese-style clothing.