The War Relocation Authority created a policy explaining that the camps were not to be permanent and would be guarded by barbed wire and military police (Daniels, 1972). While waiting for some of the camps to be completed, a large amount of evacuees stayed in temporary centers, stables, and local racetracks (Japanese-American Internment, 2012). There were ten WRA relocation camps set up between 1942 and 1946 on the West Coast, which included Heart Mountain in Wyoming, Minidoka in Idaho, Tule Lake and Manzanar in California, Topaz in Utah, Poston and Gila River in Arizona, Granada in Colorado, and Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas (Daniels, 1972).
All of the camps were set up in deserted and unpopulated areas and the temperatures in the western camps would range between below zero during the winter and 120 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer (Robinson, 2010). The western camps were situated in dry high altitudes that caused the soil in the camps to turn to mud when it rained and dust during droughts. The dust would often result in sandstorms. During the summer, camps in Arkansas were plagued with swarms of chigger bugs and mosquitoes (Murray, 2008).
There were varying conditions across the camps, but the budget for the food was kept at 50 cents a day per inmate (Robinson, 2010). There were no meat products other than some Vienna sausage and organ meat and until the inmates began cultivating their own vegetables, they ate mostly starches. Japanese internees were allowed to work in different jobs, such as digging irrigation canals, raising farm animals, and taking care of acres of fruits and vegetables (Davenport, 2010).
Several of the camps were completely inadequate for holding and serving the high numbers of Japanese internees that were sent to them (Robinson, 2010). In the Poston, Arizona camp, internees were
packed into 14 barracks that were separated into four or six rooms. At one point in the Gila River camp in Arizona, 7,700 internees were living in an area that was only designed to hold 5,000. Numerous internees were forced to live in recreation buildings, mess halls, and latrines. Many of the camps lacked cooking and hospital supplies which resulted in illness and death.
Forced to leave their homes and jobs behind, the Japanese Americans had no choice but to abandon their lives and, for some, become separated from their families (Satsuki, 1999). Internees were only allowed to bring what they could carry with them and sell their other
property for less than its real value (Murray, 2008). “Studies estimate total property and income losses, adjusted for inflation and lost interest, at between $1.2 billion and $3.1 billion in 1982 dollars” (Murray, 2008, p. 60).
Some internees were allowed leave clearance to attend school or to work in the food crops (Davenport, 2010). Internees were only allowed leave clearance if they passed a loyalty questionnaire developed by the War Relocation Authority, which was given to all Japanese Americans that were 17 or older had to take (Robinson, 2010). The leave clearance questionnaire emerged in 1943 (Davenport, 2010). If anyone refused to take the questionnaire or incorrectly answer two crucial questions, they would be considered disloyal. The questionnaire was actually developed in a way that sought internees to join the army. The two important questions asked internees if they were willing to serve in the Armed Forces and if they would “foreswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor or any
other foreign government, power, or organization,” (Robinson, 2010, p.186). This did allow some internment members to enlist in the United
States Army and leave the concentration camps (Ross, S. & Villanueva, R, 2007).
There were reports of discriminatory and even violent acts committed by staff within the camps. At Heart Mountain there were reported occurrences of discrimination and brutality between Caucasian staff and internees (Daniels, 1972). For some of the Japanese Americans, their lives would end while detained in the internment camps (Satsuki, 1999). Some deaths resulted from improper medical care, while others were simply killed for supposedly resisting orders, by American military guards.
In Hawaii immediately following the Pearl Harbor attack, those who were arrested had to be held in local jails and holding cells (Japanese Cultural Center of Hawaii, n.d.). On December 9,1941 the Sand Island camp was opened in Honolulu Harbor, which all internees had to go through. Similar to the mainland internees, those who were detained in Hawaii were mostly leaders in the Japanese community. Though some were released soon after their detainment, the majority remained in camps throughout the war and transferred to camps on the mainland.
Barracks at Granada in Colorado.
Japanese Internment mess hall.
Internee tents at Sand Island in December 1941.
Internee barracks at Honouliuli Internment camp.
Statistics from http://www.pbs.org/childofcamp/history/camps.html