Tule Lake isolation center (detention facility)

US Gov Name Tulelake Center
Facility Type Additional Facility
Administrative Agency War Relocation Authority
Location Tulelake, California (41.9500 lat, -121.4667 lng)
Date Opened March 1943
Date Closed October 1943
Population Description Two different groups of men were put in this camp: more than one hundred men from the Tule Lake concentration camp who refused to answer the "loyalty questionnaire," and later, the WRA brought in men from other camps whom they paid higher wages in order to break a strike by Tule Lake farm workers.
General Description Located 5 miles west of the Tule Lake concentration camp in the Tulelake-Butte Valley of Siskiyou County in northeastern California. Tulelake is southeast of Klamath Falls and northeast of Mt. Shasta.
Peak Population
National Park Service Info

Tule Lake isolation center became a part of the Tule Lake concentration camp history in March 1943, after several hundred men imprisoned at Tule Lake refused to answer the infamous loyalty questions . Dozens of protesters were imprisoned in county jails in Klamath Falls and Alturas, but within days they were removed from the jails because they could not be held indefinitely for refusing to answer a questionnaire. The Block 42 protesters and other protesters were sent to Tule Lake isolation center where the rule of law did not apply, and imprisoned for months under armed military guard.

Tule Lake isolation center was put to use again after Tule Lake became the segregation center, as housing for Nikkei strikebreakers brought in to undermine Tule Lake inmates seeking improved working and living conditions. Following a truck accident where an inmate died, Nikkei inmates at Tule Lake went on strike, refusing to harvest ripening crops as leverage for demands made on behalf of the prisoners at Tule Lake. To break the strike, Tule Lake Project Director Raymond Best summoned 243 inmates from other War Relocation Authority camps to bring in the harvest. To protect the strikebreakers from the hostility of inmates who supported the strike, the strikebreakers were sheltered away from Tule Lake, at nearby Tule Lake isolation center.

In late 1944 to 1946, Tule Lake isolation center was a POW camp for 800 German soldiers who were sent by the U.S. government in response to a plea from the Tulelake Growers Association seeking farm labor. These German POWs were welcomed and given relative freedom to travel without guards to their paid farm jobs, and earned more than the American citizens imprisoned at the Tule Lake concentration camp less than 10 miles away. This episode offered a powerful example of the perverse logic of racism—the locals welcomed the white POWs from the German Army as helpmates, while American citizens with Japanese faces were treated as dangerous enemy aliens

Tule Lake isolation center was constructed in 1935 to house Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) recruits. Originally, it was a complex of 30 wooden structures that included an administration building, garages, a hospital, mess hall and barracks. The four remaining buildings are the barracks structure (undergoing restoration), the mess hall, the garage and the paint shop. The site is located on Hill Road, north of East-West highway and two miles south of State Highway 161, approximately ten miles from the Tule Lake Concentration Camp site. The site is part of the Tule Lake Unit of the WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, and is being reviewed for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. GPS coordinates: N 41 58.160 W 121 33.929.

Authored by Barbara Takei , writer/researcher

For More Information

Burton, Jeffery F., Mary Farrell, Florence B. Lord, and Richard W. Lord. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites . Report number 74, Publications in Anthropology. Tucson, AZ: Western Archeological and Conservation Center, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, 1999.

Drinnon, Richard. Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.

Nakagawa, Martha. "Taking a Stand: Block 42." Rafu Shimpo , December 16, 2009.

Takei, Barbara, and Judy Tachibana. Tule Lake Revisited: A Brief Guide to the Tule Lake Concentration Camp Site . 2nd ed. San Francisco: Tule Lake Committee, 2012.

Last updated Oct. 16, 2020, 4:22 p.m..