Hillcrest Sanitarium

Sanitarium in La Crescenta, California, that housed Japanese American tuberculosis patients during World War II. Hillcrest was one of a number of facilities run by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) for patients who were either too ill to be removed to concentration camps or who needed to be segregated due to having readily communicable diseases. Of the 500 Japanese American tubercular patients in Los Angeles County before the war, the ones deemed too ill to be moved to concentration camps were moved to two facilities: Hillcrest Sanitarium and Maryknoll Rest Home in Monrovia. Hillcrest held between 100 and 200 patients. [1] An armed sentry guarded the inmates despite their illnesses. In mid 1943, Los Angeles County called on the WRA to remove the Japanese American patients, since it claimed it needed the beds for "our own citizens." [2] In the summer of 1944, Japanese American patients at Hillcrest published a sixteen page booklet titled "The Time," which included stories of the patients and staff. [3] Rev. Herbert Nicholson and his wife Madeline were frequent visitors to Hillcrest, where he described the patients as having "become one large, generally happy family," while also reporting that he officiated at 35 funerals of Hillcrest patients/inmates during the war. [4] Hillcrest continued as an exclusively Japanese American sanitarium even after the war. [5]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Nicholson, Herbert. Valient Odyssey: Herbert Nicholson In and Out of America's Concentration Camps . Edited by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mitson. Introduction by Michi Weglyn. Upland, Calif.: Brunk's Printing, 1978.


  1. Citing accounts of Rev. Herbert Nicholson, who visited the inmates at Hillcrest, Tetsuden Kashima lists the population there as 123; in another account, Nicholson gives a figure of 156. In his oral history account, Rev. Newton Ishihara, briefly a patient there, lists the population at 168, while a July 1944 Pacific Citizen article claims a figure of 126. The population no doubt fluctuated as patients were moved to and from the concentration camps run by the WRA or passed away. Tetsuden Kashima, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 175; Herbert Nicholson, Valient Odyssey: Herbert Nicholson In and Out of America's Concentration Camps , edited by Michi Weglyn and Betty E. Mitson (Upland, Calif.: Brunk's Printing, 1978), 51; Pacific Citizen , July 15, 1944, p. 8.; Rev. Newton Ishiura oral history, Japanese American Archival Collection, California State University Sacramento, http://library.csus.edu/collections/jaac/oralhist.html#REV.%20NEWTON%20ISHIURA .
  2. "Not All Japanese Evacuated From Los Angeles Area," Pacific Citizen , Jan. 28, 1943, p. 3; "Act to Move Japanese from Two Hospitals," Pacific Citizen , May 20, 1943, p. 6; "Removal of Patients From Institutions Ordered by Board," Pacific Citizen , June 6, 1943, p. 3. In the last article, Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gordon L. McDonald is quoted as saying, "Our own citizens are being denied hospital care because there Japanese patients now occupy beds now sorely needed." Accessed online on Jan. 12, 2018 at http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-pc-15-4/ , http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-pc-15-20/ , and http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-pc-15-22/ .
  3. Pacific Citizen , July 15, 1944, p. 8.
  4. Nicholson, Valiant Odyssey , 52.
  5. Tom Sasaki, Report #33, "Social Organization: Hillcrest Sanitorium," Aug. 13, 1946, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, University of California, call number BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder W 2.11:1, accessed on Jan. 22, 2015 at http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b315w02_0011_1.pdf

Last updated Jan. 12, 2018, 6:55 p.m..