When the War Relocation Authority assumed administration of Manzanar
on June 1, 1942, George H. Dean, a Senior Information Specialist in the
WRA's office in San Francisco, undertook assessment of conditions at the
relocation center. After his inspection, he issued a lengthy report
describing both the administrative operation and the physical conditions
of the camp which then housed 9,671 evacuees. Among his observations on
the physical conditions and status of construction at Manzanar were the
The War Relocation Authority, in acquiring the Manzanar project, took
over a plant consisting of 724 wooden barracks buildings, a hospital
group and a children's center. . . .
In many instances, especially on those days when heavy arrivals of
evacuees occurred, assignments to the barracks have been made perhaps
inevitably in an indiscriminate manner, resulting in serious
overcrowding in some of the buildings. Many cases existed of eight and
ten persons of various ages being housed in a single apartment,
sometimes two and three separate family units. This has resulted in a
health and sanitation problem, and in some scattered instances in an
unsatisfactory moral situation.
Floors and walls of the barracks reflected considerable
deterioration, large cracks developing from the drying out of the lumber
under the heat and low humidity in this area. They were, and are, rough
and difficult to keep clean, and on some days as high as nine complaints
have been received at the engineering office on floors giving way.
Linoleum and felt padding had been ordered for installation in all
barracks and mess halls, and the installation in the messes had been
completed on June 1. The remainder of the work of laying the linoleum in
the barracks will be performed by Japanese labor, but this had to be
postponed as white union labor would not work on the project
simultaneously with Japanese labor.
Barracks were turned over to the evacuees without steps and it has
been necessary to construct 2,232 sets of steps on which work was about
75 percent complete when lumber supplies were shut off. Considerable
difficulty has developed from plumbing valves sticking. Because of the
peculiar type of valve used, it is hard to replace them. On the whole,
however, the amount of plumbing disorder is not abnormal for a community
of this size.
Electrical installations and overloading of the lines because of the
large usage of electrical devices, such as irons, heaters and radios, by
the evacuees have created a serious fire hazard in all of the barracks.
Wiring is openly strung in the buildings. The evacuees have more than
five and a half miles of electrical cord connected to electrical
accessories. Most of this cord is in good condition at the present time,
but with continual overloading of the wires it will deteriorate
abnormally quickly. Numerous daily blowing of fuses is evidence of the
overloading. . . .
The water supply is not entirely completed. . . . Tests conducted in
May revealed a rather high degree of pollution and a trace of E. coli.
There has been a comparatively high incidence of dysentery within the
project and studies were being made to determine whether this was
attributable to pollution of the water supply. . . .
Dishwashing equipment was inadequate and unsanitary. Additional
equipment had been ordered prior to June 1 and is in the process of
installation. Dr. Harrison, chief of the 5th Public Health District,
described the dishwashing situation as the most serious health menace in
the project. The supply of hot water, both in the kitchens and wash
rooms is adequate under normal usage but is insufficient to meet peak
Sewage from the project is siphoned under the aqueduct east of the
camp and spread out over the open land. A disposal plant was commenced
by the army prior to June 1 and is under construction. Sectional
drainage problems exist and water collects under some of the barracks.
Garbage collection generally is handled satisfactorily. It is dumped in
an open pit east of the project, burned and buried. No attempt is made
to use the wet garbage but plans were being drawn for hog and chicken
projects to utilize this waste. . . .
On June 1, no provision had been made for buildings to house the
carpenter shop, repair shops, plumbing shops, equipment sheds, or a
lumber yard. The shops are being temporarily housed in warehouse
buildings. . . . No landscaping work had been done prior to June 1,
except for a limited, voluntary improvised project in front of the
guayule experiment and plant propagation stations. The absence of
landscaping was due to the lack of both equipment and stock. In this
respect, the project was substantially as it was when the land first was
cleared of the native sagebrush growth. Neither had steps been taken
looking towards dust palliation. The project possessed no sprinkler
wagon and a limited amount of hosing was done by hand. With the
destruction of the natural ground cover, the dust problem is acute on
windy days. . . .
The men and women's lavatories were without partitions. . . .
In operation on June 1, were twenty mess halls, each accommodating
approximately 500 persons. Sixteen additional block mess halls,
completed insofar as physical construction is concerned, were
inoperative because of the lack of plumbing facilities and mess
equipment. The hospital, personnel and high school messes had not been
built. . . .
The hospital facilities at Manzanar on June 1, consisted of a 10-bed
improvised hospital in one of the barracks buildings, an isolation ward,
an out-patients' clinic and a children's ward. . . .
. . . . Manzanar has a single 500-gallon fire engine borrowed from
the United States Forest Service. The fire department crew consisted of
a fire chief, three Caucasion [sic] captains and thirty Japanese firemen
split among three eight hour shifts. The camp is without a fire alarm
system or an inter-barracks telephone system over which the ocurrence
[sic] of fires might be reported. There is not a telephone to the
hospital. During the night, the camp is patrolled by one Japanese for
each area of three blocks. For the patrolman to report a fire it would
be necessary for him to go by foot to the fire station. Each squad is
drilled one hour daily in the use of the fire equipment and
Foamite extinguishers have been installed in the hospital units, each
boiler room, laundry building and mess kitchen. Buckets of sand have
been placed in the boiler room in each block; all available water
barrels with buckets have been placed at strategic locations throughout
the center, and residents have been instructed in the use of the
improvised equipment until the fire department arrives. Locks have been
ordered for fuse boxes to prevent solid fusing with pennies or other
devices. Open fires are not allowed without a permit and no permits are
issued on windy days after 2 p. m.