Introduction

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A bird's-eye-view of the Granada Japanese Relocation Camp in Amache, Colorado, 1942. Courtesy of the University of Southern California Libraries. 

At War Relocation Centers, administrators allowed families to live together but assigned them cramped, poorly equipped quarters. A 1943 War Relocation Authority report describes internee housing as "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." Most of the camps were built quickly during the summer of 1942 and their design was based on military barracks. Throughout many camps, twenty-five people were forced to live in space built to contain four, which gave no privacy.

Family apartments were typically single twenty by twenty-four foot rooms with external bathrooms, showers, and laundry shared by a larger group. These rooms had little insulation save wood stoves in cold weather, and poor ventilation in the heat. In such close quarters, diseases like typhoid, dysentery, and smallpox spread quickly across the camp and forced understaffed and undersupplied medical centers to put most of their resources toward vaccinations. High incidence of food poisoning and other illnesses also contributed to unsanitary conditions in shared bathroom facilities.

Though families attempted to cope with their situation, when later surveyed about their experiences, “living conditions” was the number one response to the question asking what the most difficult part of the experience was.