Tulare (detention facility)

This page is an update of the original Densho Encyclopedia article authored by Konrad Linke. See the shorter legacy version here .

US Gov Name Tulare Assembly Center, California
Facility Type Temporary Assembly Center
Administrative Agency Wartime Civil Control Administration
Location Tulare, California (36.2000 lat, -119.3333 lng)
Date Opened April 20, 1942
Date Closed September 4, 1942
Population Description Held people from California: Los Angeles and Sacramento Counties and the Southern California coast.
General Description Located in the southern San Joaquin Valley of California.
Peak Population 4,978 (1942-08-11)
Exit Destination Gila River
National Park Service Info

Tulare was a temporary detention camp, located in the Southern San Joaquin Valley, half-way between Fresno and Bakersfield, on the outskirts of the city of Tulare (pop. 10,000). It was built on grounds formerly used by the Tulare-Kings County Fair. The camp was occupied from April 27 to September 4, 1942, a total of 131 days. It housed 5,061 Nikkei (with a maximum at one time of 4,978), mostly from the coastal counties north of Los Angeles. There were about 100 barracks within the fairgrounds and another 55 barracks to the south of the fairgrounds adjacent to the county hospital. After spending about four months in the camp most Nikkei were deported to the Gila River camp in Southern Arizona. The grounds were thereafter occupied by African American soldiers of the 7th Army Corps. [1]

Site History/Layout/Facilities

The fairground site started as a small "sales ring" during the First World War and subsequently became one of California's most important agricultural fairs. Around 1915, several Tulare area farmers interested in cattle and hog raising wanted to promote better cattle and hog sales in the area. They formed the Tulare Livestock Association, purchasing five to ten acres of land at the southeast corner of Alpine and K Streets. The first livestock fair was held in September 1919. In 1924 or 1925, two parcels of land east of the original site were obtained. One, the site of a baseball park, was given to the Chamber of Commerce by the city. The other was purchased by the payment of delinquent taxes on the land.

In 1936, the name was changed from the Tulare Livestock Association to the Tulare-Kings County Fair. A year later, the grounds were leased to the 24th Agricultural District Association with the stipulation that payments of $1.00 a year rental be made to the chamber and that the Agricultural Association would pay all of the taxes. As state money from horse racing became available for fair purposes, a horse race track was built on the fairgrounds. Livestock exhibitions and horse racing provided a steady income throughout the depression years. [2]

The army leased the site in March 1942 and immediately began converting the fairgrounds to accommodate approximately 5,000 civilians of Japanese ancestry. The compound was about half a mile long and a quarter mile wide. It was bordered in the North by M Street, in the West by Highway 99, (today South K Street) and in the east by South Street. On April 15, the army engineers handed the site over to the WCCA . Construction costs until May 25 totaled $500,000, approximately $100 per inmate. [3] Construction continued until mid-June.

The camp was cut into a northern and a smaller southern section by a street leading to the County Hospital. During the daytime the street was closed so that the inmates could move unhindered between the two camp sections. [4]

The camp was surrounded by a 6 1/2 foot high fence topped with barbed wire. By the end of May eight watchtowers had been erected. A company of the military police, about 100 soldiers, was stationed in the northeastern corner next to the main entrance. There were thirteen soldiers on active guard duty during the day and eleven at night. The administrative buildings were located under the bleachers. [5]

The army built 152 barracks for housing, each measuring 20 x 100 feet. In addition, nineteen stalls and sheds, previously used for housing livestock, were also assigned as living quarters. [6] The new barracks had eight-foot high plywood partitions dividing the long structures into multiple family compartments. A four-person apartment had 330 square feet, five persons were allotted 390 square feet and six persons 460 square feet. Living space per person was 77 square feet on average, well below the WCCA standards of 200 square feet per couple, but more than in the other temporary detention camps. The roofs were covered with tarpaper, causing the barracks to heat up during the hot summer months. The rooms were empty except for army cots and a single light bulb. Using crates and plywood, the inmates built makeshift chairs, tables and shelves. Unlike in Tanforan, Santa Anita, or Puyallup, there were sufficient cotton mattresses for all inmates. Still, as in other WCCA camps, substandard living conditions and confined space exacerbated the physical and mental stress of the incarceration. [7]

Sanitary facilities included eight barracks with showers (each with fifteen shower heads), thirteen wash rooms, thirty latrines, and five laundries. Long lines in front of the sanitary facilities were a common sight. "If this were designed by the Army engineers, it was certainly a crude job. I expected simple constructions [...] but just ordinary common sense would have made this sort of planning ridiculous," an inmate commented. [8] Many mothers washed their infants in the laundry barracks suspicious of the hygienic conditions in the wash rooms.

Thirty smaller barracks were used as latrines, which were barely more than "four walls and a roof over the eight holes." An inspection report read: "They are metal trough affairs with automatic flush. However, this trough will not clean properly. Will have to be scrubbed daily. No partitions in women's latrines. No water connection to flush urinals. Recommend here as in other centers, that partitions be placed between seats in women's toilets." Women did eventually receive partitions but men did not. Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Study researcher James Sakoda observed that men got used to the situation, citing an informant who told him that after initially feeling uncomfortable, "he [now] feels a congeniality, sitting and talking together." [9]

Ten of the newly built barracks served as kitchens and mess halls, each serving 500 people. With a 160-seat capacity (twenty picnic tables each seating eight persons), people ate in three shifts, each shift being allowed 20 minutes. On May 31, meal tickets were introduced to prevent people from eating at another district's mess hall. By the end of June, the wooden floors had been replaced with concrete. Conditions for the mess hall workers were probably the worst in camp. Four people had to wash dishes for 500 in a tiny kitchen adjoining the dining area. Due to the coal-heated boilers, temperatures reached 100°F as early as 7 in the morning. [10]

Feeding a population made up mostly of women and children was a task new to the army. During the first week, "B-rations" were served—food from cans and dehydrated meals that needed no cooking facilities (chili beans, wieners, and corned beef). In the third week of May the diet was changed to garrison rating. The average army budget was 33¢ daily per inmate, but it was raised after widespread discontent and criticism by Red Cross inspectors. Eventually, the average rate in the temporary detention camps was 39¢ per person. In Tulare, 28¢ were spent in the month of May. This was increased to 46¢ in June and went back to 42¢ in July. Overall the inmates agreed that the food had vastly improved by June and complaints subsided. [11]

The Japanese American detainees devoted considerable effort into making the camp more habitable. Tulare had several florists and landscape gardeners who had fertilizer and seeds sent in by their Caucasian friends. Lawns were planted and flowerbeds with marigolds, sunflowers, petunias and zinnias laid out. The fence was painted white. After four months, the works division counted about 13,800 inmate labor hours for "improvements," not counting the work done outside the works division. [12]

Camp Population

Between April 27 and May 14, 1942, some 4,800 Japanese Americans arrived at the site. All came from Southern or Central California: about 600 from Ventura, 450 from Santa Barbara, 800 from Guadalupe, 400 from Santa Maria, 200 from Arroyo Grande, 1,300 from Pasadena and 1,100 from Torrance and Gardena. 2,700 arrived by bus, 2,000 by train and about 100 by car. [13] The population peaked at 4,978 (August 11-14). Altogether 5,026 Japanese Americans were inducted in the camp, as some arrived later from internment camps or were transferred from other WCCA camps.

Arrivals by Exclusion Order
Exclusion Order Number Deadline Town (Counties) Civil Control Station Nikkei Affected/Sent to Tulare
12 April 30 Ventura (Ventura) 332 South California Street, Ventura 598/592
13 April 30 Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara) 112 West Cabrillo Blvd., Santa Barbara 489/486
14 April 30 Guadalupe, Santa Maria (Santa Barbara); Arroyo Grande (San Luis Obispo) Arroyo Grande High School Gym 1,380/1,374
29 May 7 Torrance, Gardena (Los Angeles) 16522 South Western Avenue, Torrance 710/698
30 May 7 Los Angeles (Los Angeles) 7412 South Broadway, Los Angeles 371/369
54 May 14 Pasadena (Los Angeles) 38 East California Street, Pasadena 1,599/1,292

Source: John L. Dewitt, Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Army, Western Defense Command), 363–66. Exclusion orders with fewer than twenty inductees not listed. Deadline dates come from the actual exclusion order posters, which can be found in The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b016b01_0001_1.pdf and http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b016b01_0001_2.pdf .

Arrivals at Tulare
Arrival Date Number Origin Total Population After Induction
April 20 5 Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo 5
April 27 166 Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo 171
April 29 1,243 Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo 1,416
April 30 1,028 Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo 2,444
May 6 676 Los Angeles 3,121
May 7 415 Los Angeles 3,536
May 12 247 Pasadena 3,795
May 13 528 Pasadena 4,323
May 14 508 Pasadena 4,813

Source: NA II, RG 499, WDC, Classified Correspondence, Box 15.

The Japanese Americans arrived through the main entrance at the northern border. There was no medical check, as in some other temporary WCCA camps. Instead there were physicians who had lists of persons needing medical attention. The arrivals were handed a woolen blanket and an apartment number, for example H-20-5, denoting the district (of which there were ten), barrack, and room number. Soldiers checked the baggage for contraband such as cameras, flashlights, tools, and liquor. The army also confiscated larger quantities of chinaware and cutlery.

Tulare was open for a total of 131 days. The population peaked at was 4,978 between August 12 and 15. There were 18 births and 5 deaths.

Population Gains and Losses Other than through Exclusion Orders
Births Deaths Jails, INS Internment Camps Other WCCA Camps Hospitals, Nursing Homes Other
Entering 18 164 [14] 14 30 6
Leaving 5 2 31 22

Source: DeWitt, Final Report , 373-74; Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, Statistical Bulletins, Bulletin No. 12.

Almost all of Tulare's detainees were assigned to the Gila River "relocation camp" in southern Arizona. Deportation to Gila River began on August 20. Each transfer included approximately 500 Nikkei. After the last train had left, on September 4, only six persons remained in the County Hospital to be moved once their condition improved. On September 12 the guards were pulled out while the last civilian administrators left the camp on September 16. Shortly after, an African American troop contingent of the VII Army Corps arrived to convert the grounds into a training facility.

Departures from Tulare to Gila River
Date Number Remaining Population
August 20 506 4,463
August 21 529 3,930
August 25 514 3,410
August 26 485 2,915
August 30 523 2,414
August 31 516 1,897
September 1 501 1,328
September 2 521 860
September 3 447 413
September 4 400 0

Altogether 4,942 were sent to the Gila River WRA camp. The remaining 40 were distributed as follows: 17 to Manzanar, 12 to Tule Lake, 7 to Heart Mountain, 3 to Minidoka and one person to Poston. [15]


As was true at many of the temporary concentration camps, a good portion of the staffing came from the ranks of the WPA, including Camp Director Nils Aanonsen. Aanonsen had come to the United States from Norway as a child and had first worked as a civil engineer. In 1935 he entered public service, heading the construction division of the WPA in Sacramento. In 1942 he accepted the job as director of the Tulare WCCA camp. Aanonsen was an energetic and understanding administrator. He treated the inmates as equals, showing sympathy for their plight without patronizing them. Moreover, unlike many of his civilian colleagues he did not shy away from conflicts with his army superiors when it came to improving the situation of the Japanese Americans. In his first staff meeting he stressed that their charges were "not enemies" but "good Americans." [16] Inmates described him has "tolerant, humane, and understanding." An Issei women wrote about him: "He is quiet. He is reserved. People say he is a thinker. [...] There is not the slightest trace of a sharp diplomat, nor a thick-blooded influential businessman in him. [...] That fact that Mr. Aanonsen is reserved in his ways, only seems to attract the respect of the people." [17]

Other key staff: [18]
Police Chiefs: Lester G. White, replaced by Marc L. Campbell July 15
Chief Steward: Donald R. Parkinson (WPA Stockton), replaced by Max Armstrong in July
Service Division Supervisor: Harwood P. Stump (WPA Oakland), succeeded by Corlies R. Carter after Stump's May induction
Chief of Property Accounts: Edward Dolch (WPA Oakland)
Chief of Personal Records: Robert E. Caviness (WPA Merced)
Housing and Feeding Supervisor: Louis J. Wilkins (WPA Portland)
Works and Maintenance Supervisor: Edwin E. Pixley (WPA Oakland)
Recreation Supervisor: Harold A. Leach (WPA Bakersfield)
Supplies Supervisor: Arthur Duerkson (WPA Bakersfield)
Store executive: Harlan D. Turpin
Fire Chief: Eugene P. Hoyt
Newspaper Censor: Robert Whiteside

Institutions/Camp Life

Community Government

While the WCCA never had plans for any kind of community government, there were considerable efforts taken at Tulare to have the inmates participate in the management of camp life. These attempts were eventually cut short by the army. By August the looming transfer ended all efforts for participatory community government.

In the May 6 issue of the Tulare News camp newspaper, the camp manager promised the inmates their own civil government. At that point Aanonsen had appointed twelve community leaders (all Nisei who had approached him) who served as advisors and mediators. [19]

The self-government process was devised by the service division's head, Harwood Stump. He suggested electing two councilmen for each of the ten districts. Councilmen had to be 23 years of age and needed fifteen signatures from their district. Voting rights were conferred to all inmates at least 18 years of age, regardless of nationality. In addition, on May 30, Aanonsen appointed five commissioners (increased to ten in June) who served as mediators between the inmates and the administration.

Elections were held on June 8, 1942. Forty-one candidates (among them one woman) were vying for 20 positions. Out of 3,843 eligible voters 71 per cent went to the polls. After run-off elections in five of the ten districts, Aanonsen confirmed the new "evacuee council" on June 15. Despite the concerns of some Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) leaders that the election of Issei would "make things hard to manage," four of the twenty councilmen were Issei. [20] The council nominated Tsuneo Noguchi as its chair and formed ten committees to improve camp conditions. The committees were led by commissioners who had been appointed by Aanonsen and not part of the council. The council also wrote a constitution, which was confirmed by Aanonsen on June 24. [21]

The council was active in organizing camp life, meeting several times a week and mandating compulsory schooling, prohibiting ball sports in certain areas, ordering hygiene supplies, and contracting laundry and shoe repair services. Although a May 31 memo by the army prohibited the inmates from being involved in administrative matters, Aanonsen usually gave the Nikkei a free hand in organizing everyday life. By contrast, requests that required the consent of the military—be it the improvement of housing and sanitation; the return of dishes, silverware and of confiscated Japanese-language books; the selling of beer; or the creation of a Tulare Assembly Center JACL chapter—were almost always refused by the WCCA. [22]

In the face of continuing inmate participation, the army pressed the Tulare administration to stick more closely to its restrictive stipulations. Aanonsen managed to circumvent these stipulations and kept the council alive and working until August 5, 1942. By that time the move to Gila River was only two weeks away, so the dissolving of the council had little consequence. [23]


In the absence of a formal education program––the army expected the "assembly center" period to last no more than two months––the inmates took it upon themselves to organize schools in order to keep children and teenagers occupied and to allow them to receive their diplomas. In addition, the education program included various adult classes. Twenty inmates worked as primary school teachers, six as pre-school teachers, and six in adult education. The education program was headed by Helen Osaka, a UCLA graduate who had been a high school teacher prior to her incarceration. [24]

After stock had been taken of the number of prospective students, three barracks each with five rooms were set aside for various educational activities. Classrooms were equipped with picnic tables and benches, a blackboard and an American flag. Alarm clocks served as school bells. Four of the twenty Nikkei teachers had passed a state examination, and the others had at least one year of college or university education. Classes for grades seven to twelve started on May 25 and for grades one to six one week later. After a survey showed that only two-thirds of the fifteen- and sixteen-year old attended school, the inmate council made school attendance until the tenth grade compulsory. Altogether 800 students attended school and another 50 pre-school. One hundred fifty high school and college graduates received their diplomas in an open-air ceremony on July 9, led by the Visalia County school commissioner. [25]

Adult education classes included "English for beginners" taught by Charlotte Susu-Mago, a Caucasian who had followed her Nisei husband into the camp, and Americanization classes taught by Fujiko Sakiyama. About 200 adults attended origami, painting, Spanish and music theory classes. Even an entomology class was offered. [26]

Medical Facilities

Medical treatment was provisional, as in all temporary WCCA camps. Three standard barracks were set aside as hospitals, each equipped with 30 beds. The hospital barracks lacked medical equipment, furniture—except the ubiquitous picnic tables and army cots—and even running water. Daytime temperatures in the barracks were between 95 and 109°F. Lack of medical supplies was the most serious problem, the only available medication during the first weeks being aspirin. Fever and digestive problems were the most widespread medical conditions due to the unbalanced diet and the unfamiliar heat. To fight dehydration, salt tablets were given as universal remedies against all sorts of medical conditions. By the end of May, 3,179 persons received inoculations against typhoid and small pox. The dentist John Koyama, who had brought his own equipment into the camp, treated some 50 patients until he ran out of medical supplies. Patients with serious conditions were sent to the neighboring Tulare County Hospital. The WCCA had to approve each transfer and tended to be strict. Of ten Nikkei sent to the county hospital during the first month, two died. [27]

The number of inmates needing hospitalization rose from a daily average of 10.5 per day in May to 28 in June, to 42.5 in July, to 46.5 in August. The number of house visits also rose steadily. Another threat unique to Tulare was the San Joaquin Valley fever caused by the spores of an endemic fungus. To lower the risk of infection through the dust, the grounds were watered daily with 75,000 gallons. Eventually three persons were infected each week on average, though none died of the infection. The threat was largely contained thanks to Dr. Charles Smith from Stanford University who shared his expertise with the camp physician, Dr. Howard Suenaga. Ironically, the spores were also endemic in the Gila River concentration camp area, where about 30 persons had to be treated at the hospital for the malady each month. [28]

While medical supplies and equipment were scarce, there was no shortage of medical personnel. By the end of June four MDs, three dentists, two trained nurses, five paramedics, and forty orderlies had volunteered. The number of hospital workers increased to over 100 by July. Tulare had no Caucasian hospital manager, presumably due to the proximity to the county hospital and the fact that there were several experienced Nikkei physicians incarcerated at in the camp. The first hospital manager, Tetsui Watanabe, left for Tule Lake in June and was replaced by Howard Suenaga. [29] Administratively the hospital belonged to the service division.

Police and Unrest

The first police chief, Lester White, was a recently retired police chief from Los Angeles. Originally there were eight policemen patrolling within the compound, supported by a volunteer "Center Police Force" of about forty inmates. When Aanonsen informed the army that "[policing] is turned over almost entirely to the Japanese police force," the WCCA sent another sixteen Caucasian policemen. This brought the ratio to one policeman for 200 inmates, as in all temporary detention camps. In addition to patrolling the grounds the police checked incoming parcels for contraband, monitored the visitors' room, and escorted inmates to the hospital. [30]

There was one escape attempt documented for Tulare. Twenty-one-year-old Shaw Koyaku crawled beneath the fence on the night of July 2–3 when he was spotted by a guard. He immediately crawled back into the camp where he was apprehended by a Nikkei police patrol. Questioned by the inmate commissioners, he stated that he only wanted to catch some fresh air. The commissioners recommended Koyaku's release but he was handed over to camp police. Koyaku was more outspoken towards White, confessing that his girlfriend had left him that night. Although White concluded that Koyaku was "just so love sick and didn't care," the WCCA called in the FBI to start a criminal case against the Nisei. [31]

Statistically, Tulare registered 23.2 offenses per 1,000 persons per year, slightly above the WCCA camp average of 20.6. However, the vast majority of cases were delinquencies such as "suspicion" and "disorderly conduct." The FBI's crime report registered 36 offenses for Tulare. [32]

There were some conflicts between Euro-American personnel and Japanese American workers, though none at the scale of the Santa Anita riot. These happened mostly in the mess halls and warehouses where white overseers tended to patronize the Japanese American workers who were often more qualified than their superiors. Two strikes were recorded at Tulare after inmate workers were fired for disobedience. Both were quickly settled after Aanonsen intervened, personally talking to the Nikkei workers and naming representatives for each occupational group who could contact him if workers felt treated unfairly. [33]


One 20 x 100 feet barrack, set aside for "quiet games and reading," eventually evolved into the camp's library. It was headed by Sumire Sugita and Yuki Tanaka, who had studied literature at UCLA. Starting with twelve books, the collection soon comprised 5,000 textbooks and 100 novels. Seven hundred books alone came from the Reverend Herbert Nicholson of the Pasadena Society of Friends. Inmates petitioned the Tulare county government to create a branch of the county library in the camp but the county refused the request. The library also had subscriptions to the Los Angeles Times , Los Angeles Examiner , Santa Maria Times , Ventura Free Press , Pasadena Independent and the JACL's Pacific Citizen . The library was open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. It closed on August 15. Its collection was transferred to the Gila River camp. [34]


The camp's newspaper was the Tulare News . Published twice weekly, six to eight pages in length, it had a print run of 1,400. Delivered free of charge to the inmates, it contained administrative announcements, disseminated information regarding services and daily activities, and promulgated normalcy and optimism. A Japanese-language section was announced on May 23 but never printed, as it was against army orders. Nevertheless, the paper fulfilled two very important tasks, as the chief of service division argued, "to build morale and to provide a controlled channel of information [...]. No one single service has done and is doing more [for these goals] than the newspaper." [35]

The army approved a staff of eleven journalists: three at $8 per month, seven at $12 per month and an editor-in-chief at $16 per month. The latter, 44-year old Brownie Furutani, had worked several years for a Nikkei newspaper on Hawai'i. In addition there were about 15 Nikkei working without payment. The average age of the staff was 19 years. Starting with the July 15 issue the paper included a comic strip featuring the fictional character Danny O'Nishi, very likely inspired by the Santa Anita Pacemaker' s "Li'l Neebo" (little Nisei boy).

Service division head Harwood Stump and Robert Whiteside, a local journalist appointed as "press relation representative" (i.e. censor) were responsible for making sure "that news items were confined to those of actual interest of the evacuees." [36] Unlike in other camps, interference of camp administrators in the work of the inmate editors was minimal. [37] In one instance, the WCCA contacted Aanonsen because a sketch of the Sierra Mountains was deemed a representation of Mount Fuji. The camp director took the blame for not censoring the image and convinced the Fourth Army that a "considerable stretch of imagination would be necessary" to conclude the mountains in the Tulare News represented Mount Fuji. Nevertheless, the Fourth Army henceforth forwarded a copy of the Tulare News to the Office of Naval Intelligence for scrutiny. [38]


Religious freedom was one field in which the army interfered little. The only major restriction was that the camp director had to give permission for Japanese language services. Kanmo Imamura, a former Bishop of Hawai'i and a minister for the Hawaii Kyodan and the Buddhist Churches of America (BCA), conducted his ceremonies in both English and Japanese. [39] There were also two Protestant ministers. The army allowed outside ministers to visit the camp for Sunday service if they had had prewar connections to the Nikkei and as long as they were not paid. Among the more prominent visiting clergymen were Dr. Herron Smith and Bishop C.S. Reifsnider from the Western Area Protestant Church Commission (WAPCC). Reifsnider had lived for over 30 years in Japan and held his service in Japanese. Reifsnider later visited various WRA camps. [40]

The Protestant Sunday service was held outside and attended by 1,500 Japanese Americans. The Buddhists mobilized around 750 followers. Both denominations had a Sunday school and a choir. The religious groups held at least two ecumenical services, both initiated by Buddhists (James Sadoka and John Koyama.) The first was held on June 21, with guest speaker Reverend Raymond Booth from Pasadena, the second on July 25 with guest speaker Reverend Wendell Miller from the University Methodist Church, Los Angeles. [41]


Recreational activities, including many different kinds of sports, were enthusiastically organized. According to a survey, there were baseball and softball games watched by 900 spectators daily, followed by sumõ (500), judo (200) and basketball (150). There was an "A" league containing teams from former home towns (Pasadena, Guadalupe, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Oxnard, Ventura and others) and a "B" league in which different professions played each other "Brooklyn style." The games started 6 p.m. after the worst heat had abated. 350 inmates, mostly Issei, convened each morning for calisthenics. For the more cerebrally inclined there were go, shogi, and chess classes. The recreation program was headed by Albert Ikeda. [42]

Starting in mid-July there were occasional movie screenings. The projector's rent of $51 was paid with donations. The shows were open-air affairs with whitewashed chipboard panels serving as the screen. On the program were contemporary musicals, such as One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937) and The Great Victor Herbert (1939) as well as comedies such as Buck Benny Rides Again (1940). [43]

Participants and Spectators in Recreational Activities, July 1942 (Estimated)
Participants per day Spectators per day Participants per week Spectators per week
Softball/Baseball 100 900 700 6,300
Sumo 70 500 490 3,500
Judo 70 200 490 1,400
Basketball 200 150 1,400 1,050
Volleyball 90 80 630 560
Badminton 20 40 140 280
Croquet 100 25 700 175
Horseshoe pitching 50 20 350 140
Indoor activities (ping, pong, chess, go) 600 4,200
Total 1,300 1,915 9,100 15,405

Source: NA II, RG 499, WDC, Microfilm Copy of the Assembly Center Records, Box 13, Reel 150.


While private enterprises were generally prohibited by the WCCA, all camps had licensed canteens run by Caucasian businessmen. Tulare's first canteen opened on April 30, carrying toilet articles, newspapers, cigarettes, sweets and occasionally even ice cream. At first, payment could be made in cash only, though after the introduction of coupon books by the end of May, they could be used as well. Although goods were often sold out, there were usually long waiting lines. In June, a second store was opened to cope with the demand. By August, the stores registered some 1,200 transactions daily. [44] The two local newspapers sold were the Visalia Times-Delta and the Fresno Bee .


On June 1, a visitor building consisting of two barracks was finished, located by the gate in the E district. Visitors had to register at the entrance on M Street and were escorted to the visitors' building by a police officer. Visiting hours were daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During weekdays there were 20 visitors on average, and on Sundays around 50, much fewer than in other WCCA camps. [45] The main reason was that the Nikkei's former homes were much farther away. From Arroyo Grande a one-way trip was 150 miles, from Pasadena 170 miles and from Santa Barbara some 200 miles.

Caucasian policemen patrolled the visitors' room. There was no body search for visitors but shortwave radios, cameras and alcoholic beverages could not be brought in. Due to the low number of visitors the procedure was more relaxed than in other camps such as Tanforan and Puyallup, which had a much higher visitor load. Altogether there seems to have been little to no complaints by guests and inmates regarding the visiting procedure.


A third of the inmates between 18 and 65 years of age were employed. Of the 1,200 employed, 500 worked in the mess halls and kitchen, 200 in the works and maintenance section (including 28 firemen) and over 100 in the hospitals. The wage scale was $8 per month for unskilled workers, $12 for skilled workers, and $16 for professionals.

The first barbershop had three seats and opened on June 12 in one of the laundries. Eventually there were six barbershops in the camp, serving 80 customers daily. The military ruled that only government-issued coupons could be used and priced haircuts at 20¢ and a shave at 10¢. Despite army orders, inmates often used cash. [46]

There were three Boy Scouts chapters in the Tulare camp that included nine Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in the program. They organized a daily flag raising ceremony and a wood workshop that built tables, benches and flagpoles from scrap wood. [47]

Tulare's daily head count was conducted at six o'clock each morning. Another interference with the Nikkei's rights was the confiscation of contraband, ordered on June 20. Despite protests, over 4,500 Japanese-language books—all except dictionaries and bibles—as well as records, were confiscated. As in other WCCA camps, the army-mandated curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. was not strictly enforced at the Tulare camp. [48]

The army refused to sanction a JACL chapter, and a "Nisei and Kibei Organization" was formed instead. In informal meetings, former community leaders and representatives of the camp's community government met to foster "fellowship and Americanization" as well as "friendship and close understanding" between Nisei and Kibei. Eventually Issei were included as well. [49]

The camp's post office opened on April 29, operating Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The management was eventually transferred to a long-term Nikkei postal clerk. Each of the ten districts had a mailman who distributed the mail in his district. Each weekday, about 650 parcels, 1,000 letters, 300 national newspapers and 100 magazines arrived. In the other direction, 2,500 letters and 15 parcels left the camp daily. Checking parcels was a major task for the Caucasian police officers. In July the police chief announced that "food by outside merchants will be confiscated without compensation," but it appears that this rule was not enforced. Colonel Karl Bendetsen , the director of the WCCA, suggested circumventing postal secrecy by declaring martial law on the camp grounds but his plan was scrapped by the War Department. [50]

There were eventually four pianos in the camp. The first was lent by the Protestant church of Pasadena, the second was organized by the Buddhist church, a third was privately purchased by the Fuyuume family for piano lessons, and the fourth was a loan by the Pasadena Society of friends. [51]

Seven detainees with spouses from the U.S. and allied or neutral nations, including Switzerland, Sweden, Korea, the Philippines and Mexico, applied for release. According the Final Report , two Nisei with Caucasian spouses were released from Tulare. [52]

Only one student was allowed to leave Tulare. Carol Ikeda, a Ph.D. student who had previously studied at Cal Tech, was allowed to transfer to the University of Wisconsin to continue his studies in biochemistry. [53]


April 27
The camp opens, 166 people arrive.

May 6
First issue of the Tulare News camp newspaper is published.

May 9
Typhoid inoculations are started.

May 10
First Buddhist service takes place.

May 14
First baby born in camp.

May 25
Middle and high school classes begin.

May 30
Camp Director Nils Aanonsen appoints five commissioners to mediate between inmates and administration.

June 1
Elementary school classes begin.
Visitors' barrack is finished.

June 8
First round of elections for 20 councilmen positions.

June 12
First barbershop opens.

June 15
Camp Director Aanonsen confirms the newly elected "evacuee council."

June 24
Banking service opens.

July 9
Graduation ceremony for 150 high school, junior college and university graduates.

July 12
Handicraft exhibit opens.

July 13
Second Schick test for diphtheria for children between six and twelve.

July 20
Daily morning calisthenics classes commence.
Camp inspection by the American Red Cross.

July 22
The army explains the procedure for Issei who want to repatriate to Japan. Within the next ten days, 110 applications are made.
First movie shown.

August 2
Buddhist Obon festival is celebrated.

August 5
Tulare's community government is dissolved.

August 7
Third and final talent show takes place.

August 11
Population peaks at 4,978.

August 15
Final issue of the Tulare News is published.
The camp's library closes.

August 20
First group of 501 leaves the camp for Gila River.

September 4
Last contingent of 400 leaves for Gila River. Six remain in the County hospital.

September 9
Guards are withdrawn from the camp.

September 16
The last civilian administrator leaves the camp.


"When I first glimpsed Tulare Assembly Center, I thought that the barracks were like sheds and that we weren't really going to live in them. I kept looking around for the houses but I could not find any. When the truth dawned on me, it was quite a shock and then I got angry for being treated like this."
Yuriko Ekinaka, 1944 [54]

"We were really disappointed when we were assigned to one of the old stables. It was so dark, dirty and smelly. We just dropped our luggage and sat there. I was almost in tears and I didn't know how I would be able to properly care for my baby in such a filthy place. But the next morning we got up early and started to clean up the place and it wasn't so bad after Ben built furniture and we put curtains on the window. Later on we were glad we had this apartment as it was cooler than the tar-papered barracks."
Midori Morioka, 1944 [55]

"The Tulare Assembly Center was mostly a social center to me and I didn't see much else of what was going on then. I met a lot of interesting nisei and we went to all of the dances, shows, and private parties. Gee, we had so many parties and it was a swell time for us. I never went steady with any one boy as it was pretty easy to get dates there. I met a lot of Pasadena kids and I went around with them. My home town group were very unsociable because they were from the farms. I got along better with the city nisei and I made most of my friends among them."
Fay Fusako Nakagawa, 1943 [56]

"The evacuees in Tulare Assembly Center are probably more conservative than those in Manzanar or Sana Anita. Most of the evacuees seem to speak Japanese quite fluently. One does not find any large degree of attempt at seeming American. So far I have seen no flag-waving, and I have heard little emphasis of the practice of democracy inside of the Center. Dancing, weight-lifting, boxing and other American recreations are carried on, but at the same time judo is being practiced every night by a few people. There is a definite lack of concentrated interest in swing music, as one finds among young Niseis in urban districts, one also hears Japanese popular music. While the Pasadena area has been almost overwhelmingly Christian, the other rural areas have had a large number of Buddhists."
James Sakoda, 1942 [57]

"Since the camp consisted of definite Japanese communities like Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Gardena, Torrance, Pasadena, etc. I met a lot of my former nisei acquaintances once more as I had played against them in basketball during the years before the war."
Albert Shigetake Ikeda, 1942 [58]

"'It as my impression that the administration as very good. We heard a lot of rumors about the bad administration and graft in the other camps but we didn't have anything like this so we had no cause for complaint. The administration sympathized with the people and they went out of their way to make us as comfortable as possible. I made a number of friends among the appointed personnel but we did not mix too much socially."
Akira Saruwatari, 1944 [59]


After the war, the Tulare-Kings County Fair returned to the "assembly center" site. It has since been held every year in September. In 1948, Kings County broke away from Tulare County to conduct its own separate fair in Hanford. In 1952, the Tulare County Fair suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed the old pavilion building and adjacent structures. Three new fireproof buildings were constructed to replace those lost in the conflagration. Located at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the Tulare County Fair continues to be the showcase for agricultural products from the region and offers numerous family oriented forms of entertainment. [60]

In August 1977, the site was designated a State Historical Landmark (No. 934, "Temporary Detention Camps for Japanese Americans–Tulare Assembly Center"), along with eleven other WCCA camps. [61] There is no plaque or other sign pointing to incarceration of Japanese Americans during the war. The site is also not among the 25 sites designated by the Tulare County Historical Society.

Authored by Konrad Linke


Yuriko Amemiya: Nisei dancer known for her association with Martha Graham George Aratani : Nisei businessman and philanthropist Jame and Kanmo Imamura: Influential members of American Buddhist community Tetsu Komai: Issei Hollywood actor Gene Oishi: Journalist James Sakoda : Fieldworker for JERS Project Nao Takasugi : Politician

For More Information

DeWitt, John L. Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942 . Washington, D.C.: U.S. Gov't Printing Office 1943. [For the U.S. Army's view.]

Gorfinkel, Claire, ed. The Evacuation Diary of Hatsuye Egami . Pasadena: Intentional Productions, 1996.

Linke, Konrad. Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg . Trier: WVT, 2014.

Tulare County Fair. https://www.tcfair.org/p/about/history

Tulare Historical Museum. http://www.tularehistoricalmuseum.org/ .

Tulare News . [Edited by Brownie Furutani, 32 issues, published from May 6 to August 19, 1942. Is the camp's official newspaper, financed and published by the Japanese-American inmates.]


  1. John L. Dewitt, Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Army, Western Defense Command), 158-160, 184; Jeffrey F. Burton, et al., Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites (Western Archeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, 1999, 2000), section on Tulare available online at https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/anthropology74/ce16n.htm .
  2. Ellen Gorelick, "The History of the Tulare County Fair," Tulare Historical Museum Website, accessed on Oct. 26, 2020 at http://www.tularehistoricalmuseum.org/fair.html .
  3. Konrad Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center: Alltag in einem Lager für Japanoamerikaner im Zweiten Weltkrieg (Trier: WVT, 2014), 68-69.
  4. Nils Aanonsen, Semi-Weekly Report, May 2 & June 9, 1942, Report – Weekly – WCCA, Tulare Center Manager, Tulare Assembly Center General Correspondence File, Reel 149, NARA San Bruno.
  5. There is a map in the Tulare News , May 8, 1942, 4.
  6. These numbers come from an April 20 report when the camp director took stock of the camp's facilities. Five weeks later a housing report lists 163 buildings used for housing: 145 standard barracks (20 x 100 feet) and fifteen existing buildings (stalls and sheds): 1 barrack (36 x 193 feet), 1 barrack (36 x 200 feet), 6 barracks (28 x 200 feet), 6 barracks (38 x 115 feet), 1 barrack (24 x 192 feet). See Housing and Feeding Division Report, L.J. Wilkins, 28. Mai 1942, NA II, RG 499, WDC, Microfilm Copy of the Assembly Center Records, Box 13.
  7. Linke. Das Tulare Assembly Center, 72-73.
  8. Diary, Taki Asakura, p. 11, NA II, RG 499, WDC, Unclassified Correspondence, Box 3.
  9. James Sakoda Diary, May 27, 1942, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive (JAERDA), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder B12.20 (2/2), http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b024b12_0020_2.pdf ; Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 74-75.
  10. Asakura diary, 11.
  11. In June, the chief steward threatened to revert to Vienna sausages and chili beans "if people don't stop squawking about the food." Diary, James Sadoka, June 10, 1942, p. 71, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder B12.20 (2/2), http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b024b12_0020_2.pdf .
  12. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 118-19.
  13. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 64–65.
  14. 121 from Fort Lincoln, Bismarck (North Dakota); 32 from Santa Fe (New Mexico); 6 from Tuna Canyon (California), 4 from Fort Missoula (Montana), 1 from the San Pedro Immigration Station (California).
  15. Evacuee Population Changes of Tulare Assembly Center by Days, April 30 – September 4, 1942, NA II, RG 499, WDC, Classified Correspondence, Box 15.
  16. Asakura diary, 16.
  17. The Evacuation Diary of Hatsuye Egami , edited and with introduction by Claire Gorfinkel (Pasadena, Calif.: Intentional Productions, 1995), 100.
  18. For short biographies of Caucasian personnel see the August 19 issue of the Tulare News camp newspaper.
  19. Tulare News , May 6, 1942, 1.
  20. Diary, James Sadoka, May 31, 1942, p. 37, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder B12.20 (2/2), http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b024b12_0020_2.pdf .
  21. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 114-15.
  22. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 117–20.
  23. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 208–11.
  24. Tulare News , May 27, 1942, 3; Progress Report for June of the Education Department , Helen Osaka, p. 8, n.d., NA II, RG 499, WDC, Microfilm copy of the Assembly Center Records, Box 13.
  25. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 161.
  26. Tulare News, June 20, 1942, 3.
  27. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 78–80.
  28. Letter, Charles E. Smith to Howard Suenaga, June 23, 1942, NA II, RG 499, WDC, Microfilm Copy of the Assembly Center Records, Box 13, Reel 150; Gwenn M. Jensen, "System Failure: Health-Care Deficiencies in the World War II Japanese American Detention Centers," Bulletin of the History of Medicine 73 (1999), 612–13.
  29. Tulare News , June 13, 1942, 5.
  30. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 124–26.
  31. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 183–88.
  32. DeWitt, Final Report , 219-20.
  33. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 95–97.
  34. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 165–66.
  35. Harwood P. Stump, Service Division Report , May 28, 1942, NA II, RG 499, WDC, Microfilm Copy of the Assembly Center Records, Box 13, Reel 149.
  36. DeWitt, Final Report , 213.
  37. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 149.
  38. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 151.
  39. Jane Imamura obituary, Rafu Shimpo , Feb. 2, 2012, accessed on Oct. 28,2020 at https://www.rafu.com/2012/02/jane-imamura-remembered-for-her-contributions-to-buddhism/ .
  40. Tulare News , July 25, 1942, 4 and Aug. 1, 1942, 1, 3.
  41. Tulare News , June 17, 1942, 2 and July 25, 1942, 4.
  42. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 163–65; Tulare News , Aug. 19, 1942, 9-12.
  43. Tulare News , July 15, 1942, 2 and Aug. 12, 1942, 4.
  44. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 97–98.
  45. Tulare News , June 3, 1942, 5 and June 27, 1942, 2.
  46. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 98–99.
  47. Tulare News , May 23, 1942, 6; June 13, 1942, 7; June 17, 1942, 2; and June 24, 1942, 6.
  48. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 126–28.
  49. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 168–69.
  50. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 189–90.
  51. Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 179.
  52. DeWitt, Final Report, 146; Linke, Das Tulare Assembly Center , 192-93.
  53. Tulare News , June 6, 1942, 3.
  54. Yuriko Ekinaka interviewed by Charles Kikuchi, 1944, p. 39, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.965, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b281t01_0965.pdf .
  55. Midori Morioka, interviewed by Charles Kikuchi, 1944, p. 41, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.971, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b282t01_0971.pdf .
  56. Fay Fusako Nakagawa interviewed by Charles Kikuchi, 1943, p. 45, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.951, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b280t01_0951.pdf .
  57. James Sakoda, Tulare Assembly Center Report #3, p. 2, May 24, 1942, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder B8.40, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b023b08_0040.pdf .
  58. Albert Shigetake Ikeda interviewed by Charles Kikuchi, 1944, p. 86, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.963, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b281t01_0963.pdf
  59. Akira Saruwatari interviewed by Charles Kikuchi, 1944, pp. 31–32, JAERDA BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.966, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b281t01_0966.pdf .
  60. Gorelick, "The History of the Tulare County Fair."
  61. Pacific Citizen , Aug. 5, 1977.

Last updated Dec. 21, 2023, 2:11 a.m..