Monday, March 18, 2013


Imagine that one day you received notice that you and your whole family must be ready to move within 48 hours. You could take only the possessions you could carry and no one would tell you when you would be permitted to return home. Sound like a bad dream? This happened to over 100,000 United States citizens and legal residents during World War II. Your job is to find out why." ~ Martha Daly

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed an order "Establishing the War Relocation Authority in the Executive Office of the President and Defining its Functions and Duties." Also known as Order 9066, this order started plans of 10 internment camps where more that 110,000 Japanese Americans would be relocated to. Click here to see the document.

Life in Japanese Internment camps was not a pretty picture. When the United States of America decided to take all Japanese-Americans and put them in internment camps, people were taken away from the places, things, and people that they loved in life. These camps were called America's Concentration Camps, and the U.S. did not realize that they were doing the exact same thing as the nazis.

The camps were fenced, and in each fenced camp there were block arrangements. Each block contained 14 barracks, 1 mess hall, and 1 recreational hall on the outside. On the inside was the ironing, laundry, and men and women's lavatories. Other places in the camp included: dry and cold warehouses, a car and equipment repair and storage, an administration, schools, canteens, a library, religious services, hospitals, and a post office.

Anonymous Poem
Circulated at the Poston Camp


They've sunk the posts deep into the ground
They've strung out wires all the way around.
With machine gun nests just over there,
And sentries and soldiers everywhere.
We're trapped like rats in a wired cage,
To fret and fume with impotent rage;
Yonder whispers the lure of the night,
But that DAMNED FENCE assails our sight.

We seek the softness of the midnight air,
But that DAMNED FENCE in the floodlight glare
Awakens unrest in our nocturnal quest,
And mockingly laughs with vicious jest.

With nowhere to go and nothing to do,
We feed terrible, lonesome, and blue:
That DAMNED FENCE is driving us crazy,
Destroying our youth and making us lazy.

Imprisoned in here for a long, long time,
We know we're punished--though we've committed no crime,
Our thoughts are gloomy and enthusiasm damp,
To be locked up in a concentration camp.

Loyalty we know, and patriotism we feel,
To sacrifice our utmost was our ideal,
To fight for our country, and die, perhaps;
But we're here because we happen to be Japs.

We all love life, and our country best,
Our misfortune to be here in the west,
To keep us penned behind that DAMNED FENCE,
Is someone's notion of NATIONAL DEFENCE!

Poem from University of Arizona Library

The people in the camps had to face other hardships. Many of the camps were located in the desert, and faced unbearable temperatures. The average summer temperatures were over 100 degrees and winter was no better with winter temperatures falling to minus 30 degrees in one of the camps.

Meals in the camps, contained meager portions. Fruit and vegetables were cultivated on the land. They used these to feed the people in the camp. They also used this for commercial consumption. The had livestock that was bred and raised on the land. This was used for food, also.

Sue Tokushige was a young mother of 20, with a 10-day-old baby, when she was sent to a camp in Arizona with her husband. She said the government did not supply milk for her baby. Because she was unable to breastfeed, she fed her daughter only water for 10 days. She recalls with glassy eyes how a doctor told her that, for a person who seemed well-educated, she did not take good care of her baby. 'My daughter still pays for it today, health-wise, for the way our government treated us.'

Some Japanese Americans died in the camps due to inadequate medical care and the emotional stresses they encountered. Several were killed by military guards posted for allegedly resisting orders.

But life did go on in the camps. Children had to be educated, yet the government did not supply teachers. Instead, they looked to the camp members to fill these types of positions and paid them at extremely low wages. If you had two or more years of college you might become an "assistant teacher" who in some cases assumed a full teaching load.

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