Tulean Dispatch (newspaper)

Publication Name Tulean Dispatch
Camp Tule Lake
Start of Publication June 15, 1942
End of Publication October 30, 1943
Successor Tule Lake Newell Star

The Tulean Dispatch (June 15, 1942 to October 30, 1943) was the newspaper of the Tule Lake camp. It was the shortest running of the concentration camp newspapers, covering the period prior to Tule Lake becoming a "segregation center" in 1943. Following the transition, the Tulean Dispatch evolved into the Tule Lake Newell Star newspaper.

Background and Staffing

The War Relocation Authority camp newspapers kept incarcerated Nikkei informed of a variety of information, including administrative announcements, orders, events, vital statistics, news from other camps, and other necessary information concerning daily life in the camps. (See Newspapers in camp .) Story coverage was comparable to what one might typically expect of a small town newspaper, with nearly identical coverage in all ten camps of social events, religious activities (both Buddhist and Christian), school activities and sports , crimes and accidents, in addition to regular posts concerning WRA rules and regulations. Nearly every paper included diagrams and maps of the camp layouts and geographical overviews to allow residents to get a bearing of their locations; payroll announcements, instructions on obtaining work leaves and classified ads for work opportunities; lost and found items; and some editorial column that was reflective of its Japanese American staff editor. Reporters and editors were classified as skilled and professional workers respectively and received monthly payments. The wage scale was set at $12 or $16 a month for assistants and reporters and $19 for top editors, although no labor was compulsory. All ten camps had both English and Japanese language newspapers. Despite its democratic appearance, the camp newspapers in reality were hardly a "free" press. All newspapers were subject to some sort of editorial interference, in some cases even overt censorship, and camp authority retained the power to "supervise" newspapers and even to suspend them in the event that they were judged to have disregarded certain responsibilities enumerated in WRA policy. [1]

The Tulean Dispatch newspaper was published by the War Relocation Authority in Newell, California, at the Tule Lake Relocation Center, which the paper termed the "Tule Lake Colony" in its articles and headings. It had the shortest lifespan of the ten WRA camp newspapers, a run of seventeen months. The paper started out as a crude one-sheeter, evolving into a twice-weekly six pager with a circulation of over 3,000. It also experimented for a time with publishing as a two-page daily. According to an article from July 1942, each week the Dispatch used a total of twelve stencils, sixteen cans of ink, and forty reams of paper, and was published using two mimeograph machines.

During its lifespan, the newspaper staff included Frank Tanabe, editor; Howard Imazeki , city editor; George "Jobo" Nakamura, Tom Soto, and Eugene Okada, features editors; and Iwao Hamasaki, art editor. Staff for the Japanese section included Toiho Hashida, editor; Shuichi Fukui, senior translator; Mary Oshiro and Tsutomu Hagiwara, technicians. [2]

The Tulean Dispatch has been criticized as the least professional of the camp newspapers, featuring "little that could be called journalism," according to Lauren Kessler. She goes on to note that the "writing and editing were minimal because the majority of the 'stories' were reprints of official announcements. The production quality was so poor that many issues are almost unreadable." [3] The Dispatch did not include a Japanese language portion until September 2, 1942, nearly three months after starting publication, despite a population of nearly 6,000 Japanese nationals. Even then, the Japanese section appeared only three times a week.

Coverage Highlights

As the first issues of the Dispatch rolled out in the Summer of 1942, one of the main topics of coverage was the issue of food. According to a number of urgent stories that appeared in August 1942, despite a generous food budget and inventories that were done of each mess hall, it had been brought to administrative attention that many residents were going hungry and cooks were short on food. Medical and health issues were another area of emphasis, with the paper reporting on illnesses and treatment performed at the Tule Lake Base Hospital. The Dispatch also posted regular articles on preventive health and nutrition, such as diet stations for special patients such diabetics, ulcer cases, and those with children's diet and nutrition needs. [4]

Other topics covered throughout the fall included a census of Tule Lake residents, education, work-related travel permits for Nisei , and as winter approached, the danger of frost damaging the 2,500 acre Tule Lake farm's crop of twenty-eight varieties of vegetables.

As at other camps, the harsh conditions and incarcerated population led to unrest and inter-inmate conflict, some covered by the paper and some not. On August 15, 1942, a farm laborer's strike occurred in the camp over the lack of promised goods and salaries, which was not reported in the Dispatch . Several articles did appear in a special issue on August 17, 1942, addressing increasing concern over food shortages and the administration's attempts to investigate the problems. On September 6, 1942, under the title "Law and Order" an editorial ran describing one of the editors of the Dispatch being attacked by a gang of five persons due to a misunderstanding of regulations concerning the night kitchen. The conflict was apparently settled by the Community Council , finding the men guilty. However, the Dispatch had no coverage of two protests that fall: a strike by packing shed workers in September 1942 and a mess hall workers' protest that took place in October 1942. [5]

On December 11, 1942, the Dispatch carried two stories of unrest in other camps. "No Violence in Poston Incident" explained the origins of the Poston Strike and reported that no major services in Poston were interrupted by the protest. The story, "Boy Scouts Guard Flag in Manzanar Rioting," was reprinted from the San Francisco Chronicle , focusing on the patriotic efforts of fourteen Boy Scouts who kept "pro-Axis" sympathizers from mobbing the American flag and ended with the report that one man was killed and eight injured when soldiers fired into the crowd. The Manzanar incident earned an editorial the following day, which further chastised the "surging, fanatical mob" as "stupid and irresponsible" and hoped that the majority of Nisei would keep their "heads cool for clear thinking."

Loyalty Questionnaire and Segregation

Coverage of the controversial loyalty registration program tended to reflect administration views. The project director announced via the Tulean Dispatch on February 17, 1943, that those who interfered with registration would be fined up to $10,000 and/or imprisoned up to 20 years under the Espionage Act. Arrests of residents accused of attacks and beatings increased substantially, and on March 1, 1943, thirteen men were removed from Tule Lake awaiting trial. In keeping with the pro-American administrative agenda, the article cast suspicion on a " kibei gang that have terrorized colonists during the registration program," further exacerbating a community divided over the questionnaire. Meanwhile, information for residents on repatriation or expatriation increased substantially, in both English and Japanese bulletins.

On July 20, 1943, the WRA announced its segregation policy, naming Tule Lake as the designation "for those considered disloyal" in the paper's headline, without disclosing any details on the segregation program and exactly what it meant. On August 3, 1943, the paper ran a statement by WRA director Dillon Myer that gave four principal reasons why Tule Lake was appointed as a segregation camp. This was followed by a two-page supplement with instructions on segregation procedures excerpted from pamphlets directly from the WRA. Reporting focused only on those leaving Tule Lake beginning in August 1943 and continued throughout the month in articles that filled the Dispatch pages: "Residents Face Physical Exams before Leaving," What Tuleans Say of the Outside," "Family Groups May Yet Apply for Move Together," and "Editorial: Opportunities in Relocation." Beyond instructions to be photographed and fingerprinted immediately, news and information in the Dispatch for those who would remain at the camp was scant or non-existent.

The Tulean Dispatch published its Farewell Issue on September 13, 1943, claiming that with "the announcement of segregation, the final chapter of the Tule Lake Relocation Center was written." However the newspaper did continue to be printed and distributed until October 30, 1943. On October 16, the paper reported on two accidents and informed the strikers that failure to gather the remaining vegetables would have a devastating effect on the lives of all Tule Lake residents. The October 28 issue ominously announced that all farmers who had failed to report to work for the harvest would be immediately terminated and required to turn in their work badges, foreshadowing future troubles at Tule Lake.

The actual final issue of the Tulean Dispatch included articles that previewed the continuation of the camp as a segregation center, announcing the intent of the WRA to construct an additional ten blocks, while the farm labor issues were still yet unresolved and emotions still ran high over the controversial segregation policies. Between October 31, 1943 to February 21, 1944, Tule Lake had no functioning newspaper, but beginning March 9, 1944 the Tule Lake Newell Star was conceived to replace the Tulean Dispatch to distribute WRA information to the residents of the high-security "Tule Lake Segregation Center," which closed after much turmoil and strife, on March 28, 1946.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information

Kessler, Lauren. "Fettered Freedoms: The Journalism of World War II Japanese Internment Camps." Journalism History 15.2-3 (summer/autumn 1988): 60-69.


  1. Takeya Mizuno, "The Creation of the 'Free Press' in Japanese American Camps," Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.3 (2001), 514.
  2. Other staff listed in the Tulean Dispatch mastheads included Stanley Sugiyama, Mas Inada, Dick Kurihara, promotion managers; and Hilo Hasegawa, Alyse Hijiki, Toki Kumata, Bryan Maeda, Tsuyoshi Nakamura, Ken Hayashi, Yuri Kobukata, Rose Ichikawa, reporters. In addition to the Tulean Dispatch , a monthly art and literary magazine was published within the Adult Education department for eleven issues, with George Nakamura as editor.
  3. Lauren Kessler, "Fettered Freedoms: The Journalism of World War II Japanese Internment Camps," Journalism History 15.2-3 (summer/autumn 1988), 76.
  4. Specific issues referred to in the text can all be found by searching the Densho Digital Repository at http://ddr.densho.org/ddr-densho-65/ .
  5. "Tule Lake 'Relocation Center,'" in Encyclopedia of Japanese American History: An A-to-Z Reference from 1868 to the Present, Updated Edition , ed. Brian Niiya (New York: Facts on File, 2001), 395.

Last updated Dec. 21, 2023, 2:07 a.m..