Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Clayton E. Triggs was assigned by the WCCA as the first manager of Manzanar. According to Brown and Merritt, he had "a background of large scale camp administration, and years of administrative experience in the W. P. A. [Work Progress Administration]." Triggs brought "seven men who had been under his supervision on other jobs." The seven men opened the project and did all the work for the first few days. From the day the camp opened, Triggs administered Manzanar with the aid of what he called the "Strategy Board." This group, which determined all matters of policy for the camp, included Brown, the assistant director, chief engineer, and head of community services. The staff grew gradually with most of the individuals recruited from the WPA, a large-scale Depression-era national works program for jobless employables that was closing down.

One of Triggs' first goals, according to Brown and Merritt, was improvement of relations with Owens Valley residents. He worked closely with the Citizens Committee led by Merritt, and he, along with Brown, spoke at many service club and community meetings in the valley, outlining the work going on within the center. As a result of these public relations initiatives, some of the early hostility by local residents began to dissipate. Brown and Merritt observed that Triggs' efforts "began to bear fruit almost immediately." They noted that the

more members of the community began to feel that he was bringing the community in to having a part in the operation of the Center, the more the people began to take an interest in what was going on. The rumor-mongers found their audience dwindling away. The alarmists were laughed at openly. The change in community reaction was almost a complete right-about-face from the day of the first news announcement to the day of full operation some two months later.

This new feeling of acceptance and tolerance, however, would "change again back to resentment and distrust" later in the year. [17]


The first service for evacuees at Manzanar was established on March 24, three days after the first evacuees arrived at the camp. This service, organized by Brown, took the form of an Information Office designed to issue, interpret, and translate the instructions and orders given by the camp administration to the evacuees. The office was staffed by five bi-lingual evacuees who were among the first volunteers to arrive at Manzanar. A bulletin board was erected in front of the office on which announcements, schedules, news, rules, and regulations were posted. It was also suggested, according to Brown and Merritt, that at a regular time each morning, "an assembly should be held at which "managers could make statements or give lectures to keep the boys informed and in good morale."

A messenger system, staffed by ten young evacuees, connected the evacuee barracks with the Information Office. These "runners rounded up workers" as they were needed for various jobs and facilitated communication between administrative officials and new evacuees.

According to Brown and Merritt, the Information Office was "the first attempt to organize and control the camp by self help." When evacuees arrived at Manzanar, they were registered and assigned to barracks. Their employment history was scanned by an employment officer, and those with basic skills needed to keep the camp running "in the emergency period" were assigned to supervisors and put to work. Such jobs included cooks, kitchen help, yard workers, garbage, and trash crews. There "was never any difficulty," according to Brown and Merritt, "in getting people to work even in the first days of the camp.

On March 25, the day after the Information Service was established, the first rules and regulations for the operation of Manzanar were issued in a memorandum by the Chief of the Service Division. These rules and regulations were posted on the bulletin board and concerned such issues as room occupation and food. Friends of the same sex over 18 years of age were allowed, with the permission of their parents, to live together. Males could not change their rooms without written permission granted by a designated administrative officer. Individual cooking in the barracks was not permitted because of the fire danger. At the same time, necessary bedroom equipment was promised to the evacuees, and it was announced that rice would soon be available in the mess halls. [18]


According to Brown and Merritt, the Information Office was the "switchboard" for channeling administration information to the evacuees as well as communicating questions and complaints from the evacuees to the administration. The first sampling of troubles voiced by evacuees was submitted to the administration on March 26 in a report prepared by the Information Office. The report included a list of 19 topics for which the Information Office sought information or clarification. Most of the queries centered around financial problems and concerns of the evacuees, what jobs would be available for evacuees at Manzanar, and what wages they could expect.

During the early days at Manzanar mail, money orders, checks, radios, telephone, telegraph, and other contact with friends and relatives outside Manzanar were topics of constant concern for the evacuees. Problems with expected or overdue baggage, lost or undelivered parcels, and requests for supplies needed in occupying the barracks, such as brooms, maps, buckets, and soap, took up much of the time of the Information Office. Problems and questions relating to cleanliness and health, recreational activities, and children's education were matters of continuing concern for the evacuees from the first days of the center's operation. As a result of these identified needs and concerns, many services and programs would not only be initiated at Manzanar but would also be incorporated "in regular operating charts for all the centers."

Brown and Merritt listed six primary problems faced by evacuees at Manzanar during the camp's early days of operation. These problems were: adjustment to center life, housing, latrine usage, financial concerns, vocational worries, and wages.

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002