Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
NPS Logo


The historical background of the persons of Japanese descent who were evacuated to the Manzanar War Relocation Center provides a context for understanding the range of experiences and resentments that they brought with them to the camp. The historical development and the socio-economic characteristics of the prewar communities from which the Manzanar evacuees came, as well as the generational, social, economic, and political divisions that emerged in those communities prior to World War II, offer a contextual framework to better understand the strains and stresses that would plague the relocation center's operation, particularly during its first nine months of operation. The backgrounds of the evacuees, in addition to their experiences during the evacuation process, had a significant impact on their reactions and responses to life within the confines of the camp throughout the war.


The military's statistics and the population reports in The Manzanar Free Press, various War Relocation Authority documents, and other academic studies, although offering some conflicting numbers, provide a picture of the extensive evacuee population buildup at Manzanar during its first several months of operation. Following the arrival of some 80 "volunteer" evacuees from Los Angeles on March 21, 1942, the center's population increased rapidly, reaching a total of 3,302 by April 4. In its first issue on April 11, the Manzanar Free Press reported that 800 evacuees, including family members of the "volunteers," arrived from Los Angeles via a military-escorted caravan of private vehicles on March 23. An additional 500 evacuees from Los Angeles and 9 from Palo Alto arrived on March 25. On April 1, 227 evacuees arrived from Bainbridge Island in Puget Sound, near Seattle, Washington, and on April 3 and 4, 1,000 and 900 persons arrived from the Los Angeles Harbor area (primarily the Terminal Island, San Pedro, and Long Beach vicinities), respectively. The Bainbridge Islanders had been evacuated under Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1 and taken by train directly to Manzanar, because the Puyallup Assembly Center on Washington state fairgrounds was not ready for occupancy and Manzanar was the nearest reception or relocation center to their homes that was in operation. Those from Los Angeles Harbor area were evacuated under Civilian Exclusion Order No. 3. [1]

The evacuee population of Manzanar more than doubled as a result of Civilian Exclusion Orders Nos. 7, 8, and 9. On April 29, 1942, the Manzanar Free Press reported:

Within three days Manzanar doubled its population from 3309 to 7181. On 3 consecutive afternoons, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday caravans of busses brought new settlers in groups of 927, 973 and 1972 respectively. [2]

Two earlier issues of the newspaper indicated that the people affected by these three civilian exclusion orders included Japanese/Japanese American communities in western and northern Los Angeles County. The newspaper stated that the affected communities included the "District of Santa Monica Mountains [Santa Monica bay area], [a] portion of Beverly Hills, the San Fernando Valley, Westwood, Sawtelle, Burbank, Glendale, Universal City, Hollywood and N. Hollywood." [3]

Civilian Exclusion Orders Nos. 32 and 33, the exclusion date of both being May 9, 1942, provided for evacuation of persons from southeast central and north Los Angeles, respectively. Most of the evacuees under the former order were sent to the Pomona Assembly Center, but 390 were dispatched to Manzanar. The majority of the evacuees under the latter order were sent to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, but 413 were sent to Manzanar. [4]

Civilian Exclusion Order No. 66 (exclusion date — May 17, 1942) provided for evacuation of between 1,600 and 1,700 persons from the Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights sections of East Los Angeles. Of this total, 865 were sent to Manzanar, the majority of the others being transported to the Turlock Assembly Center in central California. [5]

Civilian Exclusion Order No. 92 (exclusion date — May 30, 1942) provided for evacuation of more than 1,640 persons from the Fair Oaks area (Florin community) in Amador County east of Sacramento. While the majority of these people were sent to the Fresno Assembly Center, 399 were transported to Manzanar. [6]

Civilian Exclusion Order No. 97 (exclusion date — May 30, 1942) provided for evacuation of 164 persons from the French Camp community on the southern outskirts of Stockton in San Joaquin County, California, to Manzanar. [7]

In addition to the arrival of these large evacuee contingents at Manzanar, War Department records indicate that small numbers of evacuees from various prewar communities were transferred to Manzanar from other assembly and relocation centers during the spring and summer of 1942, primarily because their relatives were there. [8]

The last major contingent of evacuees to enter Manzanar was a group of 65 persons sent from the Santa Anita Assembly Center on October 26, 1942, because that center was closing. The Manzanar Free Press reported that this group was transported on two busses. Although "a few of the 65 new residents are relatives of Manzanites," the newspaper noted that "a majority of them are hospital patients and aged people." [9]

A chart entitled, "State, County, and Size of Community Prior to Evacuation, By Center: Evacuees to WRA in 1942," in The Evacuated People: A Qualitative Description, a statistical study of the evacuee population in the relocation centers prepared by the WRA Relocation Planning Division's Statistics Section in 1946, lists the total population of Manzanar as 10,056. Nearly 98 percent of the relocation center's evacuee population was from California. Of the total population, 8,828 (or approximately 88 percent) were from Los Angeles County, and 7,207 (or approximately 72 percent) were from Los Angeles City. Other California counties from which more than 10 evacuees came included: Alameda (20); Fresno (25); Kern (13); Orange (77); Riverside (35); Sacramento (370); San Diego (59); San Francisco (81); San Joaquin (178); San Luis Obispo (18); Santa Barbara (16); and Ventura (14). In addition to the evacuees from California, 226 persons were from Kitsap County, Washington, and one evacuee was from southern Arizona. [10]

The aforementioned WRA publication also includes a statistical chart (a copy of which may be seen on the following page) entitled, "Age by Sex and Nativity: Manzanar, January 1, 1943." As of that date, the evacuee population at Manzanar was 10,121. Of this total, 5,754 (or 56.9 percent) were male and 4,367 (or 43.1 percent) were female. There were 3,573 (or 35.3 percent) foreign born aliens, often referred to as first generation immigrants and known as Issei, of which total 2,304 were male and 1,269 were female. There were 6,548 (or 64.7 percent) American-born evacuees, frequently referred to as second-generation Japanese Americans and known as Nisei, of which total 3,450 were male and 3,098 were female. More than 80 percent of the Issei were between 35 and 64 years of age, while more than two-thirds of the Nisei were between 10 and 29 years old. [11]

TABLE 37g.—AGE AND SEX AND NATIVITY: Manzanar, January 1, 1943 (Number and Percent)

Note: Includes evacuees on short-term and season leave.

TotalMaleFemale TotalMaleFemale TotalMaleFemale TotalMaleFemale TotalMaleFemale TotalMaleFemale
TOTAL 10,1215,7544,367 6,5483,4503,098 3,5732,3041,269 100.056.943.1 64.734.130.6 35.322.812.5
Under 5 808449359 800446354 835 ***
5-9 633325308 631323308 22- **-
10-14 764366398 753364389 129 .1*.1
15-19 1,360703657 1,337697641 22616 .3.1.2
20-24 1,498791707 1,472775697 261610 .3.2.1
25-29 966490476 914471443 521933 .5.2.3
30-34 605254351 394210184 21144167
35-39 659333326 16010654 499227272
40-44 724405319 453213 679373306 .4.3.1
45-49 453236217 291910 424217207 .3.2.1
50-54 470336134 853 462331131 ***
55-59 52445173 --- 52445173 ---
60-64 40037327 11- 39937227 **-
65-69 1761697 --- 1761697 ---
70-74 63576 11- 62566 .7.6.1 **- .7.6.1
75 & over 18162 2-2 1616- .2.2* *-* .2.2-

* Less than 0.05 percent.

Figure 19: Table 37g — Age by Sex and Nativity, Manzanar January 1, 1943

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

Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002