Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo



Establishment and Operation

During 1942 and early 1943 evacuee property concerns were handled at Manzanar by the legal division or the welfare section, although other sections occasionally were also involved. As time passed, however, it became clear to project administrators that a separate administrative office should be established to assist the evacuees with problems, such as storage and transportation of personal property, lease or sale of real or other property, collection of rents, and related issues.

The Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco took charge of evacuee-owned personal property during the evacuation, and a considerable amount of this property was shipped to the project in 1942. The welfare section was provided a small crew of warehouse workers, and warehouse space was provided for storage of this property. The crew inventoried all property items, and delivered it to the evacuee owners whenever possible. The owners, however, had little room in their quarters, so a considerable amount remained in storage.

On February 13, 1943, an evacuee property officer was appointed at the camp, and offices for the new evacuee property section were established near the center's Administration Building. The officer reported directly to the assistant project director in charge of the administrative management division. The employees who had been employed by the welfare section to handle evacuee property, as well as the property records, were transferred to the new office. David S. Bromley became the evacuee property officer in January 1944 and remained at Manzanar until after the center closed.

A second office was established in a receiving and shipping warehouse under the supervision of an evacuee who would remain with the section until the fall of 1945. The section began operation with an evacuee crew of 14, but this staff gradually expanded until February 1944 when 44 evacuees were employed by the section. After the segregees were transferred to Tule Lake, the evacuee force was reduced to 22 and later to 13. Early in 1945, the staff was gradually increased as the relocation program progressed, reaching a final peak of 37 in midsummer of 1945.

Six warehouses were assigned to the section. Dead storage, such as the property shipped to the center by the Federal Reserve Bank, was kept in two warehouses. Three warehouses were used for receiving and shipping. One warehouse was used as a lumber storehouse, from which lumber was issued to relocating evacuees who crated their own property.

The evacuee property section, working closely with the project attorney's office, offered advice when requested and assisted evacuees with property questions dealing with real estate, personal property, collections, sales, and shipping. Evacuees were assisted with preparation of forms needed to ship their property to government warehouses for storage or to have property removed from private storage to WRA warehouses, as well as with regard to requests for return of contraband from the Department of Justice. Approximately 85 percent of the cases were settled at Manzanar, but those cases which could not be closed at the center were referred to the San Francisco and Los Angeles field area offices for further attention.

Property Shipment

WRA authorities believed that more personal property had been shipped to Manzanar than other centers because it was situated nearer to the homes of most of the evacuees. Many families had all their furniture in their quarters in the camp, with the "possible exception of cooking ranges." Upon relocating, it was "not unusual for one family to have 60 or 70 crates of personal property to ship to their relocation point."

Most evacuee property was shipped from Manzanar warehouses via Western Truck Lines or the Pacific Motor Trucking Company, a subsidiary of the Southern Pacific Railroad that offered daily service. If shipment was made by rail in carload lots, the property was hauled to Lone Pine, either by government truck or by the Pacific Motor Trucking Company. After the railroad discontinued "door-to-door" delivery service, all shipments to California points were made via Western Truck Lines.

In late 1943 and early 1944, the evacuee property section had charge of the shipment of personal property and baggage for the more than 2,000 segregees who were transferred to Tule Lake. As families were listed for transfer, the section checked on their needs for lumber and packing material and delivered this material to them. Three evacuee property crews were formed to call on each family, list their property on appropriate forms, and have the forms signed by the family head. Pick-up crews followed, accompanied by military police who inspected each crate for contraband, and delivered the property to assigned warehouses. As soon as property was stored in a warehouse, it was placed under military guard until the segregees and their property left the center. Personal baggage was picked up the day before the segregants were to leave, tagged, and placed in warehouses guarded by military police. On the morning of departure, this baggage was loaded on trucks and delivered to the Lone Pine train station by evacuee employees with special passes. After the segregants left, arrangements were made with Lyon Van and Storage Company to send three "expert car loaders" to Lone Pine to ensure full utilization of the freight cars.

Arrangements were made with Pacific Motor Trucking Company to haul the goods from Manzanar to Lone Pine train station A crew of evacuee workers from Manzanar was sent to Lone Pine on special passes to assist in unloading the trucks. A carload a day was shipped for 17 days, reaching a total aggregate weight of 700,000 pounds.

Military Inspection

Until April 1944, all incoming shipments for evacuees were inspected by the military police, and any contraband articles were removed. The ruling on contraband was subject, in part, to the interpretation placed upon it by the commanding officer of the military police detachment at each relocation center. At Manzanar, for instance, kitchen knives and potato parers were confiscated. Sharp tools, such as hatchets and chisels, were taken, as were cameras and short-wave radios. As contraband was accumulated by the military police, it was boxed and shipped to the Lyon Van and Storage Company in Los Angeles, where it was stored for the Army. A complete record of confiscated contraband was kept after establishment of the evacuee property section. Late in 1944, when the government lifted most restrictions on contraband, the confiscated articles were returned to the WRA for distribution to the owners upon their request. Military inspection was discontinued in April 1944, and no more contraband was seized after that date.

Final Phases

After the exclusion orders were lifted on January 2, 1945, it was anticipated that a large number of evacuees would make plans to relocate to their former homes on west coast. A Manzanar planning committee was appointed to assist the evacuee property officer to arrange for the orderly movement of evacuee-owned property. This committee, which included the relocation officer, senior engineer, property control officer, and supply officer, developed plans for expediting the movement of property.

Additional evacuee personnel were hired, and a crating, or box-making, plant was established in a warehouse where all property would be crated preparatory to shipment. New forms were developed to tally itemized property picked up from evacuees' residences and crated. The general rule was two boxes for three persons, but if a family indicated that it needed more they were issued additional boxes.

As the relocation program continued, it became increasingly difficult to obtain adequate evacuee help, thus making it necessary to issue lumber to individual evacuees so that they could do their own crating. The small crating crew crated property that belonged to sick relocatees or to women who were left in camp and unable to do their own crating. After all evacuee craters had relocated, a few Caucasian carpenters were employed to complete the job.

Individual evacuees were requested, whenever possible, to pick up their lumber and deliver their goods to the warehouses. Some borrowed trucks from various sections in the center to haul their lumber and deliver their property. Others, who were unable to do so, were asked to lock their belongings in their quarters, and leave the key with the evacuee property officer who would pick up their belongings as quickly as possible.

Finally, it became necessary to deliver truck loads of lumber to the block manager's offices. They in turn issued the lumber to evacuees in their blocks according to need.

The Terminal Islanders, located primarily in Blocks 9 and 10, presented special problems for the evacuee property section. Early in October 1945, the relocation office began negotiating for the mass movement of all Terminal Islanders to a single housing project in the Los Angeles area. On a Friday afternoon, the evacuee property officer was advised that this group must be prepared to move the following Tuesday morning to a temporary housing project at Long Beach. Since some 73 families were involved, the section was faced with the almost impossible task of getting all of the Terminal Islanders' property picked up and stored before they left.

The block managers and the evacuee property officer agreed that volunteer labor would pick up and deliver all goods to the if the WRA would furnish the trucks. Two mess halls were set aside for storage of the Terminal Islanders' belongings. Starting on Sunday noon, Terminal Island men turned out in masse and worked until 10:00 P.M. that night, finishing the work the next morning. When the evacuees had completed their work, two mess halls were "crammed full of property, all properly marked and numbered."

When the last evacuee departed from Manzanar on November 21, 1945, approximately 100 family lots of property which had not been picked up were still left in the barracks or warehouses. These lots were soon picked up, the work being completed in approximately two weeks.

The property of the Terminal Islanders, as well as that of other evacuees who left the center during its final months of operation, had not been weighed. After this was accomplished, letters were sent to the Terminal Island evacuees who had goods in project storage beyond the 60-day limit. By January 17, shipping instructions had been received on all but two of the 73 lots stored at Manzanar.

In January 1946, it was estimated that about 30 lots of property would have to be shipped from Manzanar to the government warehouse in Los Angeles, because of the inability of their owners to accept them. In addition, there were ten unidentified items, for the most part of negligible value, and four small lots of property which had belonged to deceased evacuees without heirs, which would probably also be shipped to the warehouse.


The evacuee property section at Manzanar handled a total of 1,260 cases relating to evacuee property during its three years of existence. These cases, which amounted to nearly $180,000, included sales of real (farm land, hotels and apartments, residences, stores and shops, and industrial property) and personal (farm machinery, automobiles, trucks, store fixtures and equipment, and household furniture) property, real estate leases (farm land, hotels and apartments, residences, stores and shops, and industrial property), debt adjustments, and collection of old accounts. A total of 3,080 lots of family goods were received at Manzanar, while 4,262 lots were shipped to relocation points and 796 lots were shipped to other relocation centers. [72]

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

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002