Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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As soon as the Manzanar site was selected, the Western Defense Command hurriedly began development of plans and specifications for construction of the camp. [1] Bids for the general contract to build the camp were opened by the U.S. District Engineer's Office in Los Angeles on March 5, approximately one week after the site for Manzanar was selected. The following day, Griffith and Company of Los Angeles received the general contract for construction of the temporary buildings and structures that would form the core of the camp at Manzanar, including installation of plumbing equipment and fuel oil lines.

During subsequent weeks, other contracts were let by the Corps of Engineers for construction of basic facilities at Manzanar, including water and sewage disposal systems, electrical, telephone, fire, and police signal systems, and buildings and structures (military police, administration, hospital, warehouses, industrial, oil storage, observation or watch towers, and fencing). Each of these contracts was supervised by the U.S. District Engineer's Office in Los Angeles. Funding for the construction was provided from the President's Emergency Fund. [2]

While construction of the Manzanar facilities was underway, the War Relocation Authority and the War Department reached an agreement on May 18, 1942, for administrative transfer of the camp from the WCCA to the WRA effective June 1. The construction program originally conceived by the WCCA and the WRA for relocation or reception centers was based on the requirements of Sections 5 and 7 of the Memorandum of Agreement that had been negotiated by the WRA and the War Department on April 17, 1942. Section 5 of the agreement stated that construction "of initial facilities at Relocation Centers (Reception Centers)" would be "accomplished by the War Department." The initial construction would include "all facilities necessary to provide the minimum essentials of living, viz., shelter, hospital, mess, sanitary facilities, administration building, housing for relocation staff, post office, store houses, essential refrigeration equipment, and military police housing." War Department construction would not include "refinements such as schools, churches and other community planning adjuncts." Section 7 of the agreement provided that after taking over existing reception centers, such as Manzanar, the WRA would operate them and "be prepared to accept successive increments of evacuees as construction " was "completed and supplies and equipment" were delivered. [3]

Thus, while Manzanar came under WRA administration on June 1, construction of the basic facilities at the camp continued under the Corps of Engineers in order "to meet minimum living requirements." After the basic facilities were completed, the WRA undertook various construction and remodeling projects at Manzanar within its Construction and Improvement Program, primarily using evacuee labor to conduct the work "under a force account system." The WRA construction projects included new buildings and structures, additions to existing structures, utility extension, remodeling, and refrigeration improvements.

Some the initial land improvements at Manzanar, including land clearing and development and construction of irrigation and drainage facilities, streets, roads, and bridges, were carried out by contract under the supervision of the Corps of Engineers. Most of these improvements, however, would be conducted later by the WRA using evacuee labor.

On June 8, 1942, about one week after the WRA assumed administration of Manzanar, Lieutenant General DeWitt and Colonel L. R. Groves of the Office of the Chief of Engineers agreed on "Standards and Details — Construction of Japanese Evacuee Reception Centers." [4] The standards were issued to provide "uniformity of construction" and "to obviate the necessity of miscellaneous correspondence in connection with construction of Reception Centers in Relocation Areas." The standards were to be followed "in all future construction and to the extent possible in current construction of Japanese Evacuee Reception Centers." This document, along with its several supplements, outlined the basic general facilities to be provided by the Corps of Engineers. Although many of the basic facilities at Manzanar were completed or in process of construction by the time that the standards were approved, they influenced the completion of the basic construction at Manzanar under the Corps of Engineers. [5]

Virtually all construction under the Corps of Engineers was conducted by contract. In some cases, delays in the delivery of building materials slowed construction projects. Because the Engineers' services were needed elsewhere, arrangements were made whereby WRA forces assumed responsibility for construction when the materials were finally received. Short and hurried time schedules, employment of inexperienced workmen, inclement weather, and use of lower grade materials all made "for a low standard of construction, which, it soon developed, raised many problems in connection with operation and maintenance." [6]

The Final Report, Manzanar contained an "Engineering Section" which detailed the "story of the construction of the Manzanar War Relocation Center, its maintenance, and operation from March 1942, to November 1945." The section was prepared by Arthur M. Sandridge, senior engineer at Manzanar from June 16, 1942 to February 15, 1946, and Oliver E. Sisler, Superintendent, Maintenance and Construction, from October 12, 1942 to February 15, 1946. The report divided the construction story of the camp into three sections: (1) the "basic construction" of camp facilities, including buildings and structures, water, sewage disposal, electrical, telephone, and fire/police signal systems, and initial land improvements, constructed under the supervision of the Corps of Engineers of the Los Angeles District; (2) WRA construction, including major new construction, utility extension, remodeling, and refrigeration improvements, performed under a force account system primarily using evacuee labor; and (3) land improvements, including clearing and development, irrigation and drainage, streets and roads, bridges, and fencing. Except where otherwise noted, this chapter will be based largely on the information found in the "Engineering Section" of the Final Report, Manzanar. [7]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002