Relocation Centers of Japanese-AmericansThroughout the spring and summer of 1942, the United States Governmentplanned and carried out without serious incident, one of the largest controlled migrations in history. This was the migration of almost 110,000 men, women, and children of Japanese decent from their homes on the Pacific coast into ten wartime communities constructed in remote areas between the Sierra-Nevada Mountains and the Mississippi According to the United States Government, relocation centers were neverintended to be internment camps or places of confinement. Under United States law at thattime, “Aliens of enemy nationality who are found guilty of acts or intentions against the security of the Nation are to be confined in internment camps.
” Internment camps were administered by the Department of Justice unlike relocation centers which were administered by the War Relocation Authority.
The physical standards of the relocation centers were never much abovethe bare subsistence level. For a small portion of the Japanese evacuees, these standardswere an improvement to their normal quality of living.
But for the majority of the evacuated people, the relocation centers, despite all efforts to make them livable, remained subnormal. Evacuees hadfew leave privileges and had to meet certain criteria to do so.
The movement of residing evacuees was somewhat restricted and the feeling of isolationThe tarpaper covered barracks of simple frame construction served ashousing in the relocation centers. None of the barracks had plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind. A normal family of five or six received a single room about 25 by 20 feet. Unattached evacuees, for example, bachelors lived in large, one roomdormitories. Army blankets, cots, and small heating stoves were the only furnishingsprovided by the government. One bath, laundry, and toilet room was provided for eachblock of barracks housing 250 plus people.
Food was provided by the government for the evacuee residents. Mealswere provided for evacuees costing no more than 45 cents per resident per day (the actualcost averaged at about 40 cents). Food was prepared by evacuee cooks and served in mess halls large enough to accomodate atleast 300 people. Evacuees worked on farms which were government-owned or -leased farmlands. Resident farm workers produced most of the food consumed in the relocation centers. Most centers included farm program which Medical care was also provided by the government free of charge to allresidents. This was thought to help prevent serious epidemics from spreading. Hospitalswere built at all relocation centers. Simple dental and optical services were also provided.
Any special medical services which were not available were to be paid for by the Able-bodied evacuees were to work in jobs essential to communityoperations. Residents worked in mess halls, in hospitals, on farms, internal police, andin construction, and road maintenance work. Most residents who work were paid on average 14-16 dollars for a 44 hour week.
Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 9066 on February19, 1942. His order called for the eviction and internment of all Japanese-Americans.
It is horrifying to recall that through the “Japanese recollection program”, a tragic eventthat brought heartbreak to many, was justified on the ground that the Japanese werepotentially disloyal, the record does not disclose a single case of Japanese disloyalty or sabotage during the whole war.
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