Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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On December 15, 1942, shortly after the outbreak of violence at Manzanar, Ralph P. Merritt, who had assumed his position as project director at the camp on November 24, reorganized the entire WRA administrative staff at Manzanar. The streamlined organization, which provided for more efficient operation of the center, consisted of three divisions, each led by an assistant project director, directly supervised by the project director — operations, administrative, and community management. The operations division was placed under the supervision of Robert L. Brown, who had functioned as the center's reports officer, while the administrative division was placed under Edwin H. Hooper, an experienced federal government administrator who had been supervising officer of administration under the old organization. The community management division was placed under the supervision of Lucy W. Adams. Although this organization was not approved at the Washington level until May 13, 1943, it functioned at Manzanar from the date it was established.

In the new organization, the office of the project director supervised the reports and legal divisions, while the administrative management division was comprised of the supply, finance, office services, personnel records, and statistics sections. The supply section supervised mess management, procurement, and the postal service units. The finance section consisted of the budget and accounts and cost accounting and property control units, the latter unit including warehousing. The statistics section included the former employment and housing division, known as the occupational coding and records section. The balance of the former employment and housing division was placed under the direct supervision of the project director. The community management division supervised the health, education, community enterprise, and welfare sections. The operations division oversaw the internal security agriculture, fire protection, manufacturing, public works, and transportation sections. [2]

As part of the staff reorganization in early 1943, a list of job classifications, definitions, and ratings was prepared by Arthur H. Miller, employment officer at Manzanar, to establish uniformity in job titles for project work for both appointed personnel and evacuee personnel. The U.S. Department of Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles was used as a basis for the job titles and descriptions. [3]

Although some minor staff realignments would be implemented periodically, this organizational framework would remain until a final reorganization of the WRA staff at Manzanar on October 1, 1944. Under this new organizational set-up, which would remain in effect until the center closed on November 21, 1945, the office of the project director (Ralph P. Merritt) supervised the legal, reports, and relocation divisions. The administrative management division, under the direction of Assistant Project Director Edwin H. Hooper, supervised the supply, finance, mess operations, statistics, evacuee property, personnel management, and office services sections. The community management division, under the direction of Assistant Project Director Lucy W. Adams, was charged with planning, direction, and coordination of the activities of sections dealing with the total program of the center — internal security, health, education, community activities, welfare, housing, community analysis, community government, and business enterprise sections. When Robert Brown, assistant project director of the operations division, left Manzanar on July 18, 1944, to work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, Merritt decided that his vacated position would not be filled. Rather, the various sections of the former operations division, consisting of the engineering, motor transport and maintenance, agriculture, and fire protection sections, were parceled out to the administrative and community management divisions for overall direction, while the section chiefs operated somewhat independently. [4] The salary structure for the WRA administrators at Manzanar during late 1944 and 1945 was: Merritt $6,500; assistant project directors and principal medical officer, $5,600; and divisional chiefs and sectional chiefs, $3,800 - $4,600. Several chiefs of smaller sections, such as statistics and office services, were paid $2,000 to $3,200. [5]

Appointed Personnel

During 1943-45, one of the chief problems facing WRA administrators at Manzanar, according to the Final Report, Manzanar, was the "education of the appointed personnel staff and the evacuees in the methods used by the government in its business operations." Most of the appointed staff at Manzanar had never worked for the government before and only a few of the evacuees had. Consequently, both WRA staff members, as well as evacuee employees, repeatedly suggested operational procedures and occasionally conducted policies that violated "either government regulations or law."

At the time of appointment, new WRA employees were provided a considerable amount of information on the purpose, organization, and policies of the WRA. Despite this effort to orient the new employees, however, there was never time to arrange for more than one such conference with each new employee because of inadequate staff personnel.

Recruitment of appointed personnel continued to be a problem throughout the 1943-45 period, since recruitment had to be approved by the 12th Civil Service District which covered the entire Pacific coast from its headquarters in San Francisco. Aside from an acute manpower shortage on the west coast during the war, other factors that contributed to difficulties in recruiting appointed personnel to Manzanar were: (1) high rates of pay, plus overtime and double-time, in west coast war-related industries; (2) isolation of the relocation center; (3) the adverse climate of Owens Valley with its hot dry summers, cold winters, and numerous sand and dust storms; (4) the temporary nature of the employment as many felt that the project would close long before it did; and (5) the fact that a significant portion of the nation's population did not wish to work with persons of Japanese ancestry.

Manzanar was from two to three days by mail service from the San Francisco office of the Civil Service Commission, which made it virtually impossible to obtain approval on an assignment in less than one week. High paying jobs were so plentiful on the west coast that a number of applicants stated that they did not care to wait a week to learn if they were to be approved for employment and accepted other jobs instead. Although the Civil Service Commission offered the project "its wholehearted cooperation,' it was never able to recruit a sufficient number of well-qualified or even reasonably well-qualified applicants interested in working at Manzanar. Thus, the burden of recruitment was left largely to WRA project administrators and personnel. Recruitment was primarily conducted by the assistant project directors through their 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 any persons they could interest in employment at the center.

The project staff was credited with securing a high percentage of the 224 persons who were hired after August 1, 1944. Between that date and closure of the project on November 21, 1945, the average number of appointed personnel at Manzanar per month was 155. Some 69 promotions were awarded, almost all of which were for personnel assigned as "War Service Indefinite" employees. The policy of the WRA at Manzanar was to promote wherever possible, thus enhancing the morale of the staff and enabling it to retain the expertise of as many experienced employees as possible.

Inadequate housing initially posed an impediment to employment of appointed personnel. On August 1, 1942, the housing quarters for WRA personnel at Manzanar consisted of nine apartments and 17 bachelor quarters. These units proved insufficient for the growing staff, and in order to obtain as well as retain employees, it became necessary until July 1943 to use evacuee barracks in the camp to house them and their families while additional new quarters were constructed. Beginning that month, as new housing units were completed they were made available to the staff living in the barracks.

By January 1944, all appointed personnel housing units were completed. Families of three or more were assigned to two-bedroom apartments, while families of two received one bedroom apartments. [6] Single women were housed in dormitories, and single men in bachelor quarters, two to an apartment. Single section chiefs or above received one bedroom apartments, as did single employees who secured medical certificates from the principal medical officer showing that they required diets different from those served in the administrative mess, provided that they agreed to share the apartment with another single person.

Lack of recreational facilities also contributed to low WRA employee morale at the isolated relocation center. Until the fall of 1944, there were no staff recreation facilities at the camp. Staff members with automobiles were able to go to nearby towns for limited entertainment, but many staffers had no access to transportation. In late 1944, an Appointed Personnel Recreation Club was organized to provide a clubhouse and recreational facilities for staff members and their families. By Christmas, a clubhouse was ready for occupancy. All employees of the WRA and the post office and their family members over 14 years of age were eligible for membership. Dues were set at one dollar per person per month. The WRA furnished dishes, silverware, chairs, and a refrigerator for the use of the club. A piano, lamp, shuffle board and badminton sets, electric and coffee grills, and card tables were purchased by club members at a cost of approximately $150. The clubhouse featured a snack bar that served coffee, hamburgers, and other snacks. The club was organized into sections of special interest, such as music, bridge, and sports. Special occasions were observed with picnics, parties, or dances. Surplus funds from the club were to be presented to Hillcrest Sanitarium for use by evacuees when discharged from the hospital.

The staff at Manzanar averaged slightly less than 200 during the entire operation of the center. Between May 1 and December 1942, 209 new employees were hired by the WRA and 20 additional personnel were transferred from other government agencies to the camp, thus providing the center with an average staff of slightly over 200 persons for that period. In 1943, 234 new appointments were made, and nine employees were transferred from other government agencies. The following year, 86 new appointments and six transferees were added to the staff. In 1945, 223 new appointments and 11 transferees were made. From May 1,1942, to December 31, 1945, 788 personnel were hired or transferred to maintain an average center staff of slightly less than 200. [7]

At the request of Project Director Merritt, Arch W. Davis, who had become reports officer at Manzanar in September 1944, initiated the Manzanar Magpie, a small mimeographed paper designed to boost staff morale and increase communication among appointed personnel. The paper, which was printed on a monthly basis from November 20, 1944, to April 1945, carried information of interest to appointed personnel, as well as amusing articles concerning employees and poems, rhymes, and other articles composed by personnel. [8]

Evacuee Personnel

During 1943-45, evacuee personnel constituted the majority of the work force at Manzanar. Throughout these years, they continued to be paid $12, $16, and $19 per month, depending on skills classification of their work. Employment procedures that were developed during 1942 became more formalized, and on-the-job training programs and efforts to provide for a more disciplined and efficient work force were implemented.

As of February 28, 1943, a total of 4,789 evacuees were employed at Manzanar. This number included:

Project administration119
Mess operations1,638
Transportation Operations87
Health and sanitation386
Internal Security66
Other Community Services435
Building Construction224
Buildings and Grounds Maintenance655
Fire Protection46
Land Clearing140
Community Enterprises201

Of this total, 146 males and 19 females were making $12; 2,989 males and 1,186 females were making $16; and 355 males and 94 females were making $19. [9]

As the relocation of evacuees out of Manzanar accelerated during early 1943, evacuee transfers from one job to another became frequent, thus causing instability in the center's workforce. To correct this problem, the administration took steps to "freeze" many of the employees in their jobs. This freeze, however, was subject to many qualifications as indicated in a memorandum on May 20, 1943:

No worker may transfer from a more essential job to a less essential job, but he may transfer from the less essential job to a more essential one. Transfers may be made between less essential jobs, provided the transferee is not qualified for a more essential job vacancy Thus far, the Employment Office has been able to meet practically all the requirements of the various departments so that no work has really suffered through the shrinkage of population, but this is rapidly becoming more difficult.

Department heads and section heads are encouraged to come to the Employment Office for a frank discussion of any work problems so that every effort may be made to make the necessary adjustments, particularly in key jobs, in order to keep all the work rolling.

The Project Director has designated the following jobs as more essential because they concern the care of the sick, internal security, fire protection, the feeding of the people, the payment of allowances, the planting and harvesting of crops, and the maintenance of utility services:

Hospital professional and technical workers, orderlies, and nurses' aides

Internal Security policemen

Fire Department firemen

Finance Department bookkeepers, clerks, accountants, and typists

Mess Division cooks and workers in food warehouses and storage, food transportation

Agriculture farm workers for planting and harvesting crops Public Works workers necessary for the maintenance and upkeep of utility services and care of government property

Although the WRA relocation program resulted in a declining population at Manzanar during 1943 and 1944, approximately 42 to 51 percent of the employable evacuee population in the camp continued to be employed during those years. Of the 9,170 residents in April 1943, 4,267 or 46.5 percent were employed. By December 1944, 2,448 of the 5,549 remaining residents (44.1 percent) were employed. In March 1945, increasing relocation resulted in a "sporadic job termination movement," and a sharp decline in evacuee personnel began to have a significant impact on center operations during subsequent months, resulting in WRA efforts to recruit every available evacuee still in the center. [10]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002