Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo



Organizational Structure

The War Relocation Authority assumed full administrative responsibility for the Manzanar War Relocation Center on June 1, 1942, with a skeleton staff, consisting only of a project director, assistant project director, administrative officer, supply and transportation officer, procurement officer, and telephone operator. At that date, the WRA had not made a decision as to what staff was necessary for the operation of the center. Thus, the WCCA agreed to leave some of its employees at Manzanar until June 15 to permit the WRA time to determine its administrative needs and recruit a staff.

On June 1 there were approximately 55 WCCA employees at Manzanar, most of whom had come from the Works Projects Administration. Twenty-five were temporary as work foremen (6), Caucasian police (10), Caucasian firemen (4), and truck drivers (5). Of the remaining 30, Nash recommended the employment of 14, five of which were approved by the WRA office in San Francisco by June 6. [3]

On June 6 a master chart for the administrative organization each of the relocation centers was issued by the WRA. This chart provided for a project director as the chief administrative officer of each center. He was assisted by an assistant project director who had direct supervision of the transportation and supply, maintenance and operations, employment and housing, and administrative divisions. The transportation and supply division included motor pool, mess management, and warehousing sections. [4] The maintenance and operations division included building and grounds maintenance and garage sections. The employment and housing division supervised the occupational coding and records, quarters, and placement sections. The administrative division included procurement, property control, personnel records, office services, and budget and finance (cost accounting, fiscal accounting, and audit units) sections. [5]

This organizational chart remained in operation until October 1, 1942, when an agency reorganization plan was implemented. At that time three divisions at each center — employment and housing, transportation and supply, and administration — were placed under the supervision of the assistant project director. The maintenance and operation section was discarded and the motor pool, warehousing, equipment maintenance, and moss operation units were placed under transportation and supply. The building and grounds maintenance section was transferred to the public works division which was under the direct supervision of the project director. This organization remained in effect until December 15 when the entire staff at Manzanar would be reorganized in the wake of the "Manzanar Riot." [6]

Appointed Personnel

The WRA encountered serious problems in recruiting administrative staff for Manzanar throughout 1942. Aside from an acute manpower shortage on the west coast during the war, other contributing factors included: (1) higher rates of pay, plus overtime and double-time, in west coast war-related industries; (2) isolation of the project; (3) adverse climate; (4) temporary nature of employment (Many felt that project would close long before it did); and (5) the fact that some people did not wish to work with persons of Japanese ancestry.

Staff recruitment at Manzanar "was made extremely difficult" since prospective employees had to be approved by the 12th Civil Service District that administered the entire west coast. The center was from two to three days by mail service from the San Francisco office of the Civil Service Commission, making it virtually impossible to obtain approval of an assignment in less than one week. The Civil Service Commission offered Manzanar its cooperation, but it often did not have applicants interested in working at Manzanar.

Thus, the burden of recruitment was left largely to center management. Recruitment of Manzanar staff was conducted by the assistant project director through personal contacts, by the personnel officer through contacts principally in Los Angeles, and by soliciting the cooperation of project staff members who referred to the personnel management section persons they could interest in employment at the center.

Despite these problems, the WRA recruited a total of 229 employees during 1942. Of this number, 209 were new employees and 20 were transferred from other government agencies. The staff at Manzanar averaged about 200 during its first six months under the WRA.

At the time of their appointment new employees were given considerable information on the purpose and philosophy of the WRA. However, there was never time or sufficient personnel staff to arrange for more than one such conference with each new employee "to learn how they were adjusting to their assignments and their new surroundings, and whether they were properly placed."

Recruitment for various positions was difficult because salaries established by the organizational chart in accordance with Civil Service classification procedures were inadequate when compared with salaries being paid for similar work on the west coast. This problem was illustrated by the position of elementary teacher. In an attempt to staff the elementary school, Manzanar camp administrators wrote letters to every known teacher placement bureau in the United States. The majority of the elementary teaching staff was recruited from the South and Middle West where the salary scales were less than that established on the Manzanar organizational chart. Most of these teachers, however, taught for only several months at Manzanar and then transferred to public school systems in California where the pay scale and living conditions were more attractive.

Housing for appointed personnel also posed a problem for recruitment and retention at Manzanar during 1942. On August, housing quarters for administrative staff at Manzanar consisted of nine housekeeping apartments and 16 bachelor quarters. The latter were adequate for two single employees each. It was obvious that the quarters provided were not sufficient for a staff of approximately 200 people. The problem was met during 1942 by the decision to house employees and their families in the evacuee barracks, thus exacerbating the already overcrowded housing conditions in the camp. Families of three or more persons were assigned to two-bedroom apartments, while two-person families received one-bedroom apartments. Single women were housed in dormitories, and single men in bachelor quarters two to an apartment. The only exceptions were for single section heads who received one-bedroom apartments and single employees who secured medical certificates from the Principal Medical Officer showing that they required diets different from those served in the administrative mess. The latter were assigned to one-bedroom apartments with the understanding that each share the same with another single person.

Another problem that hindered recruitment and retention of appointed personnel was related to the issue of recreation at Manzanar. The camp was located 5 miles from Independence and 12 miles from Lone Pine. Those employees who had their own transportation, even with gas rationing, had access to various forms of recreation in these small towns. However, many employees had no means of transportation, and no recreational facilities were available to them, thus contributing to their sense of isolation and low morale. [7]

New Manzanar Administrator

On May 20, 1942, Roy Nash, former superintendent of a large Indian agency in California, arrived at Manzanar to assume the office of Project Director for the War Relocation Authority, replacing Clayton E. Triggs, the former WPA administrator who had served in that position under the WCCA since inception of the camp in March. This change of administration, while the camp was still being constructed and evacuee contingents were still arriving, was, according to the "Project Director's Report" in the Final Report, Manzanar, prepared by Brown and Merritt, "a confusing time to 'switch horses.'" The evacuees, beset by scores of petty, as well as fundamental, problems and worries, and the camp management struggling to help resolve those problems and cope with administrative issues, were "just beginning to understand one another and to understand a few things which should be done to put the machinery of management in high gear."

The War Relocation Authority brought in new organizational ideas and new managers who, according to Brown and Merritt, had "no knowledge of the road already traveled." Although not the "best strategy," this operational methodology was "understandable when one remembers WRA set up new centers, ready for occupancy, and staffed before any evacuees were sent there, in all instances except Manzanar." While the WRA had "a new start with each other group of people," at Manzanar it "took over a going institution, stopped most of the wheels at one stroke, and started off on a new track." The abrupt change in camp administration would have repercussions for both camp management and the evacuee population during the coming months. [8]

Only six persons in supervisory or managerial capacity were carried over from the WCCA management to the WRA management. The WCCA managers who were replaced were generally bitter about being terminated, and they spread rumors about the WRA in nearby Owens Valley towns. The rumors left the impression that the WCCA, as a result of its connection to the Army, knew how to handle "Japs," but the WRA was a "social welfare outfit who will coddle 'em'." Before leaving Manzanar, some of the outgoing WCCA employees destroyed "valuable records" and sowed seeds of dissension, stirring up their evacuee assistants and helpers by spreading other rumors — "especially one they would not get paid by WRA for what they had done." According to Brown and Merritt, the WCCA employees "left the place in a bad state of confusion." [9]

According to Brown and Merritt, the decision by Nash to remove virtually all WCCA employees, even though there were no immediate replacements, was indicative of his "determination and ability to make quick decisions." Nash, a dynamic personality, had a "tendency to make fast decisions" and a determination "to carry these out in the face of any amount of difficulty." Some of his decisions "were faulty and some excellent," but "no course could be charted by any regularity of goodness or badness from that time out." Two other developments early in Nash's tenure as Project Director illustrated his tendency to make snap decisions that would have repercussions for camp operations during the ensuing months. [10]

In his first public address, Nash informed the evacuees at Manzanar that they could take advantage of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, some ten miles west of the center. This statement was received "with loud cheers by the evacuees who had their eyes on the streams and lakes of the region," but it was also received "with loud cries of protest by the local people who feared more than anything lax control by the new management." Individuals and organizations immediately telegraphed DeWitt and the Western Defense Command, and "a reprimand came flying back to the new Director — who had acted in good faith, but blindly — which made him countermand his order of allowing visits to the mountains." Describing the impact of this matter on the evacuee population, Brown and Merritt observed:

Although many of the residents understood the situation, still it was a bad start for the new management. To have the green fields of heaven thrown open with unrestricted invitation on one week, and then to have these same fields barred forever the next week was a bitter pill to swallow . . . and even those who understood were heard to mutter,' I wonder if it was done on purpose?" [11]

According to Brown and Merritt, the rumor started by the fired WCCA employees on wages began "to bear fruit shortly after the new management took over." Many evacuees had money in savings accounts, but they were running out of available cash needed to purchase "simple incidentals." Some who had lost most of their possessions in the evacuation, such as those from Terminal Island, were "in acute need for simple necessities such as toothpaste, soap, tobacco, and cosmetics." The lack-of-pay rumor, starting first as a whispering campaign but later growing to a rumbling storm, disturbed the new WRA administrators. As continuing discussions at the highest levels of the federal government resulted in no immediate solution to the amount and method of pay checks for the evacuees, Nash "on his own responsibility made an agreement with the Canteen to honor script to the extent of five dollars per person, the script to be redeemed later when these persons received their first pay checks." Nash immediately had "five-dollar script coupons printed in the local printing establishment and 'paid' all workers the five dollars on account," thus temporarily relieving tensions and placing the "new management back in the confidence of the people." [12]

Deteriorating Morale and Public Relations at Manzanar

On June 6 to 8, at the end of the first week of the WRA's operation of the Manzanar camp, Colonel C. F. Cress, deputy director of the WRA, visited the relocation center to observe its operation and gain firsthand knowledge about the progress of the WRA takeover of the camp. Although he felt that the WRA was making "satisfactory progress," he was concerned about the deteriorating morale both in the camp and the surrounding region. He observed:

that the situation in the Owens Valley Area may suddenly become very unsatisfactory or even dangerous, due to the attitudes of individuals of any one of four groups. These groups are: The civilian residents of Owens Valley, the disgruntled discharged employees of WPA still in the Valley, the employees of WRA and the Japanese themselves. In my opinion, words alone can do immeasurable damage at this time.

Cress observed that the Owens Valley residents felt

that the Federal representatives have not kept their promises that the Relocation Center should cause no additional expense to Inyo County and that the Japanese would be kept under close guard and thus cause little inconvenience to the local inhabitants. In this connection Congressman Leland Ford emphasized to his constituents during his visit on May 5th that the agreement between Congress and the War Department called for 50 Caucasian civilians to be kept as internal police and for a close guard of the Japanese at all times.

According to Cress, the Owens Valley residents also maintained

more than a slight interest in the WPA project personnel who have lived among them for over three months. When WRA assumed control at Manzanar and discharged certain WPA employees, the local paper charged politics. However, the Editor's definition of politics was - the running in of a new gang while using the Civil Service gag and the cut in salary racket to force efficient WPA employees out. This feeling was intensified by the fact that the local residents have strong prejudices against Bureau of Indian Affairs personnel.

At this time the policy of our organization with reference to Owens Valley people should be close mouths and no speeches or loose promises. We should also seek to have WCCA formally declare the Manzanar relocation area a military area and to work out, ourselves, some procedure whereby the expenses to Inyo County will be minimized and the possibility of Japanese voting in this county eliminated.

Cress also commented on the disruptive influence of some discharged WCCA employees that were still in Owens Valley. He noted that some

of them are bitter over the loss of their jobs and have expressed their feelings to both the local residents and the Japanese. They are the potential interpreters of any loose talk by WRA employees, or any untoward incidents.

Cress also described the problems caused by the new WRA employees and managers at Manzanar during the first week of the WRA's administration of the camp. He stated:

Our own WRA employees at Manzanar are not yet an integrated group. Our greatest weakness is a lack of procedures and policies and a tendency to make changes rapidly. There are leaks in our organization. I felt that some of our employees still have a paternalistic attitude rather than the idea of helping the Japanese help themselves. However, this idea is not shared by the Project Director.

One incident, according to Cress, had caused "considerable confusion related to project area restrictions." Echoing the aforementioned observations by Brown and Merritt, Cress noted:

. . . On May 17th at public meeting of the Japanese in Manzanar, Mr. Triggs and Mr. Nash made speeches. Mr. Triggs announced that WRA would make some relaxation of the confining restrictions on the Japanese. Mr. Nash then told the crowd that Colonel Magill, Provost Marshall, Fourth Army, had agreed that there would be a freeing of the limits; that a fence would be erected along the front of the relocation area and half way along each side and that the back area would be left open, although patrolled by military police, so that the Japanese would be free to wander from camp to the mountains if they desired. The following Sunday some of the Japanese went out of camp toward the mountains and were brought back by the military guards. Either the Japanese misunderstood or they were trying out the management. Shortly before, a military police guard had shot a Japanese who attempted to pass beyond the camp limits and who failed to obey his order to halt. These two incidents alarmed the residents of Owens Valley and caused considerable repercussions among the Japanese.

Cress also noted that the Japanese evacuees had been "disturbed by the situation," observing that they "do not understand why the management of their camp was changed, nor why their Caucasian friends were fired." The urgent needs of the evacuees were "relief from the present overcrowding in quarters and the materials to fix up their homes." In addition to these tensions, there was general alarm in the camp because of the "possibilities of an epidemic" "when the fly and mosquito period begins."

Cress sensed that "we have a number of Japanese evacuees sniping at us." This sniping could "easily be turned into active opposition and into positive acts, if we provoke it." On the other hand, the "bulk of the evacuees want their problem of satisfactory living to be solved and will welcome constructive action."

Cress was "convinced if WRA stops talking and gives the Japanese a chance to help themselves, the situation will be solved." However, he was "also satisfied that all of the explosive elements are present in Owens Valley for real trouble." Policy changes "must be placed into effect slowly and with due regard to the public reaction of the various groups concerned." [13]

Brown and Merritt also discussed the declining morale in the camp and its deteriorating public relations in Owens Valley in their "Project Director's Report" in the Final Report, Manzanar. According to their assessment, much of the goodwill in Owens Valley communities that had been developed by Triggs during March and April 1942 was dissipated during the early weeks of WRA management as a result of "the failure on the part of the Project Director to understand the position of the local people." During his first week of administration, Nash had a brief visit with Merritt chairman of the Citizen's Committee, but he had no further contacts with that organization. Several months later, after public relations with the valley towns "were completely severed," he asked the committee to meet. When the members "pointed out the true state of affairs and suggested the Committee disband," Nash "was in hearty accord with the decision."

In an effort to restore outside community and camp management relationships, Brown arranged for Nash to speak at several luncheon clubs. The speeches, however, only served to antagonize the communities because the general theme of the talks was that "Most of these people are American citizens and are entitled to all the rights you enjoy, but other American citizens, including you people, want to deny them these rights."

Public relations with Owens Valley communities, according to Brown and Merritt, reached rock-bottom after two incidents which received considerable publicity in the local press. Nash authorized the Chief of Community Services to take a number of evacuees up one of the canyons west of the camp for a picnic. The group was eating lunch on the porch of a cabin owned by a local man who arrived unexpectedly to find it "swarming," to use his words, "with Japs." Later Nash, accompanied by an Army colonel, took Dr. James Goto, the chief evacuee doctor at Manzanar, and his wife to a restaurant in Lone Pine "where a too-obvious display was made of serving cocktails and the "de luxe' dinner." [14]

The deteriorating public relations also resulted from the fact that the Army and WCCA had contracted much indebtedness in the nearby communities, none of which had been paid by June 1. After the WRA takeover, the center finances were handled by Central Administrative Services in San Francisco. Payment of project obligations was so slow that most of the community did not desire to deal with the project, and some merchants went so far as to indicate that they did not desire the business of the appointed personnel. [15]

On June 26, less than a month after the WRA took over administration of Manzanar, George Savage, editor of the Inyo Independent and a member of the original local advisory committee for the camp, wrote a stinging editorial rebuke of Nash and WRA management policies. Prior to this time, his editorials had provided strong support for the Manzanar camp, but Nash's activities had turned that support to disgust and frustration, if not outright opposition. This editorial reflected the growing widespread opposition to Manzanar by the Owens Valley populace, and, according to Brown and Merritt, that disgust was "to be found with the employees at the project and was beginning to infiltrate in the evacuees." Among other things, Savage observed:

Milton Eisenhower, Director of the War Relocation Authority ... is reported to have resigned last week as Director. . . .

We wonder if Mr. Eisenhower hadn't come to realize that the WRA is a hot potato, just a little too warm to handle with bureaucratic tongs.

The WRA, with its social service approach to Japanese problems plus its very evident examples of maladministration, already had two strikes against it. ...

We believe wholeheartedly that the administration of the Japanese, in all camps, whether they be relocation areas or assembly centers, should be under direct charge of the United States Army, with an agency like the WCCA, which was directly answerable to the Army. . . .

In regard to the present administration at Manzanar, we cannot understand how Director Roy Nash can completely ignore the people of this county on the policies he is establishing there.

He is releasing Japanese to go on picnics and parties to points other than in the relocation area. A number of Japanese were taken last Sunday to Seven Pines and Kearsarge Valley. Another group was on George's Creek, fishing.

In view of the fact that federal jurisdiction has not yet been settled, insofar as Manzanar is concerned, and that Army responsibility is being ignored in permitting Japanese to leave the camp, Mr. Nash can hardly expect to have his program welcomed with open arms by the people of Inyo.

We would like to ask why Mr. Nash has not been more cooperative with the Ross Aeronautical School, which is seeking a small water supply for Manzanar airport use? Does Mr. Nash and the WRA think it more important to ignore the training of pilots for Army service in favor of the Japanese who have been evacuated here?.. . .

Mr. Nash promised some time ago to discuss local problems with the Board of Supervisors. To date he had not done so.

We would like also to ask why Mr. Nash hung up the telephone on the Inyo county deputy district attorney recently? A good administrator is at least courteous.

And why is it, Mr. Nash, that a truck laden with Japanese, can go almost a hundred miles round trip from Manzanar to near Darwin to secure a Joshua tree for use in adorning a rock garden being built at Manzanar. And here we are joining with the nation in a scrap rubber drive to secure rubber to keep the needed wheels of our nation moving. Maybe it's more worth while to get Joshua trees by driving many miles on valuable rubber than it is to conserve rubber.

But, this is only one sample of the kind of waste one sees every day in and around Manzanar.

Why is it that Manzanar has to be in such a state of turmoil? Queer, isn't it, that most of this has occurred since Mr. Nash and WRA arrived on the scene.

We are thoroughly disgusted with the whole deal. [16]

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

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002