Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo


During the period from March 21 to June 1, 1942, Manzanar was administered as an assembly/reception center under the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA), the civilian arm of the Western Defense Command. Pursuant to an memorandum of agreement signed on May 17, administration of the Manzanar camp was turned over to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) on June 1. Henceforth, Manzanar would be operated as a war relocation center under the WRA, an independent agency established to administer the ten relocation centers and implement the government's relocation program. During the first six months of WRA administration of the relocation center, the agency attempted to establish a stable working community amid increasing tensions that reached a violent climax in what would become known as the "Manzanar Incident" or "Manzanar Riot" on December 6.


Organizational Structure

On March 11, 1942, DeWitt established the Wartime Civil Control Administration as part of the Civil Division of the Western Defense Command to oversee the evacuation of persons of Japanese descent from the west coast and to operate the assembly and reception centers. The WCCA was composed of Army personnel, former Works Projects Administration staff, and Public Health Service personnel (all on loan), as well as other personnel employed directly by the WCCA. The first persons of Japanese descent entered Manzanar on March 21, 1942. These evacuees, commonly known as the volunteer group, were of the opinion that because they had volunteered to help establish the center, certain concessions would be made to them in its operation.

Shortly after its establishment, the WCCA requested Central Administrative Services of the Office for Emergency Management to assume its administrative services. The Central Administrative Services office was located in the Furniture Mart Building in San Francisco. Consequently, it took considerable time for administrative functions at Manzanar to be performed, thus tending to reduce efficiency and foster misunderstanding. To operate the assembly and reception centers under WCCA administration, it was necessary that most of the operational functions be performed by evacuees. Because of the distance between the WCCA main office and Central Administrative Services from Manzanar, numerous administrative decisions were delayed. For instance, it was not until mid-May before evacuees were advised of the salaries they would be paid. Furthermore, the center was in operation for nearly two months before a uniform time keeping system was adopted. As each supervisor had been keeping his own time in his own way, there was considerable dissatisfaction on time reporting. Although the volunteer group went to work in March 1942, no payment for services was made until June 1942.

During the 10-week period that the WCCA operated Manzanar, the camp was operated "by practically two separate and distinct staffs." The first group of administrators, known as appointed personnel, was sent from San Francisco. After a short time, however, the WCCA decided to recruit another group of administrative personnel from southern California to handle the supervisory functions of the center. In addition to this "one practically entire change of personnel," there were continual changes in personnel. Because of the instability in the WCCA staff, few of the appointed personnel were able "to give intelligent answers when questioned by evacuees." Thus, when the WRA assumed control of the center on June 1 it had the formidable task of organizing "a Center rilled with evacuees who had become disillusioned, confused, and incredulous." [1]

Status of Center Operations on June 1

When the WRA assumed administrative control of Manzanar on June 1, George H. Dean, a WRA Senior Information Specialist, visited the center and prepared a report, entitled "Conditions at Manzanar Relocation Area, June 1, I942." This report, which was referred to in Chapter Eight of this study, provides an overall review of Manzanar's administration and operation during its first ten weeks of existence. The report, according to Dean, was "designed to be factual and objective," and there was "no intention of casting reflection or criticism upon any individual or agency." Rather, it was "intended to be a guide post by which we can gauge our own progress in fashioning and operating this community for the best interests of the commonwealth and of the 10,000 Japanese evacuees for whom this will be home for the duration of the war."

Dean observed that evacuee morale "generally speaking, was very good." Among those who were working at occupations for which they had been trained or had a particular aptitude or liking, it was excellent. For those who had not yet found a satisfactory niche for themselves in the camp's activities or occupations for one reason or another, it could be rated as somewhat belter than fair.

With few exceptions, the evacuees, according to Dean, had "shown a strong desire to improve their surroundings to the best of their abilities.

At Manzanar, the WRA, according to Dean, had acquired "a plant consisting of 724 wooden barracks buildings, a hospital group and a children center" to accommodate the total evacuee population of 9,671. In many instances

especially on those days when heavy arrivals of evacuees occurred, assignments to the barracks have been made perhaps inevitably in an indiscriminate manner, resulting in serious overcrowding in some of the buildings. Many cases existed of eight and ten persons of various ages being housed in a single apartment sometimes two and three separate family units. This has resulted in a health and sanitation problem, and in some scattered instances in an unsatisfactory moral problem.

Floors and walls of the barracks reflected considerable deterioration. Linoleum and felt padding had been ordered for installation in the barracks and mess halls, and these materials had been completed in the messes. About three-fourths of the barracks had been supplied with steps before lumber supplies were shut off. There were no partitions in the men's and women's lavatories. Considerable difficulty had developed from sticking plumbing valves. Improper electrical installation and line overloading because of the large usage of electrical devices by the evacuees were creating an extensive number of daily fuse blowouts as well as serious fire hazards in the barracks. The center's fire protection apparatus, however, consisted of one 500-gallon fire engine loaned to the camp by the U.S. Forest Service.

The center's water supply system was not completed. Tests conducted in May had revealed a "rather high degree of pollution and a trace of E. coli." There had "been a comparatively high incidence of dysentery within the project," and studies were underway "to determine whether this was attributable to pollution of the water supply." Dishwashing equipment was "inadequate and unsanitary," and because of an inadequate supply of hot water, the "dishwashing situation" was considered to be the "most serious health menace in the project" by the chief of the "5th Public Health District." New dishwashing equipment had been ordered, and its installation was underway on June 1.

Sewage was siphoned from the camp under the Los Angeles Aqueduct east of the camp and spread over open land, pending completion of a disposal plant. Sectional drainage problems existed, and water was collecting under some of the barracks. Garbage was "dumped in an open pit east of the project, burned and buried." No attempt was "made to use the wet garbage but plans were being drawn for hog and chicken projects to utilize this waste." Paper was "baled for future sale." Tin cans were "segregated, some being used in handicraft and plant propagation projects."

In all phases of the project, Dean reported that there "existed a serious shortage of equipment." Equipment shortages included

the mess halls, the farm and other project operations. In preparing 100 acres of land for cultivation only one plow was available and it was necessary for the evacuees to work three shifts in order to make maximum use of the limited equipment, and to supplement this with a high proportion of hand tilling, to get the planting done before too late in this comparatively short growing season.

Prior to June 1, little landscaping work had been accomplished with the exception of "a limited, voluntary improvised project in front of the guayule experiment and plant propagation stations." The absence of landscaping was due to the lack of both equipment and stock. In this respect, according to Dean, the project was

substantially as it was when the land first was cleared of the native sagebrush growth. Neither had steps been taken looking towards dust palliation. The project possessed no sprinkler wagon and a limited amount of hosing was done by hand. With the destruction of the natural ground cover, the dust problem is acute on windy days. Plans have been drawn for the restoration of the ground cover with alfalfa and other grasses.

Of the 9,671 evacuees at Manzanar on June 1, nearly one-third (3,165) were employed in "operations, services and functions within the project." About 125 were employed in agriculture, while only seven were involved in "industrial projects, with the exception of the staff in the economics planning section."

The "great bulk of the project employment was in community services" which were "being handled on June 1 by an all-Japanese corps working under J. Mervyn Kidwell." Incoming inductees were met "by members of the Volunteer Service Corps who escorted them to their barracks and informed them of the essential facts regarding the camp." Recent "arrivals of evacuees" had been handled smoothly and with little confusion, "though earlier inductions left much to be desired."

Residents of the center were kept informed of announcements "by bulletins posted on boards in each block and each mess hall," and published in the Manzanar Free Press, a six-page mimeographed camp newspaper issued tri-weekly. Bulletins, all signed by the project director or assistant director, were posted both in English and Japanese.

All "inquiries, complaints and suggestions" were made to a "Japanese-staffed information department." This staff held daily morning conferences to handle "simple" matters, while "policy" matters were referred to the project director who attempted to settle all questions promptly. Complaints were made by the camp residents to the Japanese information service, and verbatim copies were made and transmitted to the proper project section. The information service also took care of personal matters for the evacuees, such as writing letters, aiding them in filling out forms, selective service questionnaires, and other documents. This service maintained a principal office and five sub-offices throughout the camp.

Recreational activities were conducted "under severe shortages in equipment." No funds had been "expended up to June 1 for the purchase of athletic or other equipment," and activities "were conducted with facilities which had been donated to the project or had been provided by the evacuees themselves." Although there was "no dearth of desire to participate in athletics, arts and crafts, music, dancing and other such pursuits" among the evacuees, the "limitation was the absence of sufficient means to keep them engaged."

Japanese arts and crafts instructors worked with their own tools and material and in some instances furnished them to their pupils. The baseball and volleyball equipment in the camp was donated, as were the equipment and toys for the nursery schools. Simple toys, small benches, and tables were made from scraps of wood gathered around the newly-erected barracks. Definite locations for softball and baseball diamonds were impossible to establish. They had been laid out in the firebreaks, but had to be moved frequently just ahead of farm or maintenance equipment which had come to level and prepare the ground for planting. Notwithstanding these obstacles, the evacuees quickly organized a variety of recreational activities.

The overcrowded conditions existing "in a large number of the barracks had fostered many problems in family relationships," which, according to Dean, were "being handled by a Japanese evacuee, Mrs. Kikuchi." Juvenile situations, however, "were comparatively few and most of the cases coming to the attention of Mrs. Kikuchi involved child disobedience and recalcitrance apparently arising out of the changed surroundings, the lack of education facilities to occupy them and the heterogeneous composition of the people residing in the same apartments."

Self government by the evacuees at Manzanar was, according to Dean, "little more than an embryonic state." Block leaders had been elected, and they had organized a project council which, in turn, had elected its officers. A constitution for community government was being prepared, but no evacuee-conducted judicial system had been established to deal with "offenses of a comparatively minor character."

Dean observed that Manzanar housed "an undetermined number of professional and other gamblers." Fifteen evacuees were arrested and pleaded guilty on June 1 before Justice of the Peace C. H. Olds of Inyo County Township who held court in the center's police building. Olds had been brought from Lone Pine "in the absence of any internal judicial setup in the project." This development was the "only instance since the opening of the camp in which evacuees were involved in an offense sufficiently serious to justify the services of a civilian justice." Each of the 15 evacuees was fined $25 and sentenced to 30 days in the county jail. All but $5 of each fine was suspended, subject to good behavior. Olds indicated that his lenience was due to the fact that it was the defendants' first offense, but he warned that in the future punishment would be more severe. According to Dean, no "liquor nor narcotics have been in evidence in the area."

Considerable criticism, according to Dean, had been voiced by evacuees relating to the "procedure followed in permitting evacuees to receive visitors." Outside visitors, mostly white, were allowed by the WCCA to "see the Japanese only on Saturday afternoons and Sundays and then in the police headquarters in the presence of a police officer." On June 1 the WRA issued new visitation policies "permitting the evacuees to receive visitors in their quarters, after automobiles are parked in the police area."

In response to evacuee complaints that they had been "separated from their furniture and other family possessions," the WRA promptly asked evacuees to prepare inventories of their belongings and conducted a survey to determine the amount of warehouse space available. Of the 40 warehouses constructed at Manzanar, eight or nine were available for this purpose. Many of the warehouses, however, were not being utilized to their fullest capacity "because of the danger of overloading the flooring and causing it to collapse."

Dean observed that the WCCA's "evacuation and resettlement program" did not provide for the inauguration "of a full education program for the Japanese until this autumn." Although no "regular" schools were in operation on June 1, classes in English and in arts and crafts and music were underway. Americanization classes had been organized with an enrollment of about 250 aliens.

Dean noted that under the WCCA, passes to outsiders for admittance to the camp were handled by both the police department and the project director. When the WRA assumed control of the camp, however, orders were issued immediately that all passes must be signed by the director. All passes issued to Japanese on errands outside the camp were signed by the project director and the Japanese were required at all times to be accompanied by a Caucasian.

Twenty mess halls were in operation on June 1, each accommodating approximately 500 persons. Sixteen additional mess halls, although constructed, were inoperative because of the lack of plumbing facilities and mess equipment. Messes had not been built for the hospital or appointed personnel.

Dean found the rate of flow of supplies from the warehouses to the mess halls was satisfactory, the menus adequate, and the food well prepared. Food and other supplies, however, were frequently "issued from the warehouses without proper requisitions resulting in a large amount of confusion in accounting and inventories."

Because of the sixteen inoperative mess halls, there was "considerable overloading of the messes" in operation. It was necessary for the evacuees to stand in line for 20-45 minutes in temperatures averaging around 90 degrees. Thus, the WRA immediately took steps "to evolve a staggered system of meal hours until such time as the additional mess halls can be opened."

Dean reported that there was no system of identification in effect which would require persons to take their meals in the mess hall in their particular blocks. Menus in the operating mess halls were not standardized. Thus, there was a "considerable 'shopping around' for the mess hall that served the meal most to their liking, resulting in overcrowding of some messes and slight underloading in others." There were numerous cases "of persons doubling up on their meals from one mess hall to another, particularly at breakfast."

Different menus were in effect for the appointed personnel's "Mess No. 1." This mess "was obviously much better than the menus served to the evacuees," resulting in "considerable dissatisfaction on the part of the Japanese who observed the fact or were informed of it by the white personnel." Steaks and other elaborate dishes were served at a cost of 25 cents per meal. Accordingly, the WRA took immediate steps to standardize the mess menus "between the Japanese and the staff personnel."

Dishes, utensils, and cooking equipment were in short supply. Table service was generally satisfactory, although "greatly overstaffed." There were an insufficient number of sinks and occasional shortages of hot water. Two more sinks were necessary in each mess hall for the proper disposition of dishwater. Careless disposal of dishwater resulted in an unsanitary condition in the vicinity of the mess kitchens.

On June 1 the hospital facilities at Manzanar consisted of a "10-bed improvised hospital in one of the barracks buildings, an isolation ward, an out-patients' clinic and a children's ward." Ninety-two patients were hospitalized. Of these, there were 42 cases of "uncomplicated measles," three cases of "German measles," and nine cases of "chickenpox." Under normal circumstances and with proper residential facilities, these cases "might have been treated outside a hospital." The other 38 cases "in the professional judgment of Dr. James M. Goto, chief of the medical staff, hospitalization was absolutely necessary."

Syphilis and tuberculosis "were known to exist among the evacuees, probably in about the same proportion as among the general Japanese population." No personnel with sufficient training, however, were available to conduct a comprehensive survey. No syphilis nor typhoid tests had been given to any of the persons employed in the mess halls. Immunization of all evacuees for smallpox had been nearly completed by June 1, but diphtheria immunization had just begun and no vaccine for whooping cough, which was "quite prevalent" in the camp, had been received. Immunization for other communicable diseases was not contemplated because of the lack of sufficient staff and facilities.

Respiratory ailments "showed a tendency to spread among families housed in overcrowded apartments." In some instances, "where eight or ten persons" had been housed in the same unit, "severe respiratory diseases" had "afflicted as high as five or six members of the family."

Manzanar did not have a trained dietician or sanitarian as of June 1, although several students had received some training and were acting as "sanitary inspectors under the direction of Dr. Togasaki." Prenatal and post-natal work was carried on by the hospital staff, and formula and immunization was provided for babies under two years of age and special diets for children under five years.

"A rather high incidence of athlete's foot existed" at Manzanar, the source of "infection apparently being in the shower rooms." Dysentery "was occurring at a sufficiently high rate to indicate there was some contamination of the water supply." Investigations by the state health department indicated the "probability the contamination occurred east of the intake." The water supply line traversed "an area through which pass bands of sheep on their way to the mountains." A chlorinator had been installed prior to June 1, but it apparently had not been in constant operation.

Since its opening, Manzanar had "had three deaths." The deaths included "one from advanced tuberculosis, one from a heart attack probably attributable to the altitude, and a third from a kidney ailment of long standing." This number was "considered low for a community of this size."

According to Dean, approximately 100 acres had been prepared for cultivation and about 75 acres had been planted "to diversified vegetable crops, including fifteen acres of tomatoes." "Crops on sixteen acres were above ground." Some 125 Japanese were employed in the plowing and planting, working three shifts a day with a single Fordson tractor and plow." "About 1,000 fruit-trees, mostly apple and pear, which were on the property when it was taken over by the government" were "being revived and will bear some fruit this fall, though they had not been watered for nearly fifteen years except by the ordinarily scant precipitation of the area."

A propagating nursery was in operation at Manzanar, "chiefly with plantings from native seeds, and seeds brought into the relocation center by the evacuees themselves." Seeds for landscaping stock were on order. [2]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002