Research: Tule Lake Relocation Camp
Question 28 of the relocation camp registration questionnaire,
filled out by all internees, confronted imprisoned Japanese Americans with
a pledge of loyalty to the United States. In 1943, Tule Lake was selected
as the "Segregation Center" where dissidents who would not pledge
their loyalty to the US were to be isolated from the rest of the Japanese
Location: Klamath Falls Basin
in Northern California, just south of the Oregon border. The closest town was Newell,
California. Tule Lake is located just across the road from Lava Beds National
Monument and the site of the Modoc War of 1972-73.
Land: Federal reclamation project
Size: 26,000 acres.
Climate: Relatively mild, for
a WRA camp site; the land was a dry lake bed covered with sagebrush 4,000
feet above sea level.
Sacremento County, CA (4,984)
King County, WA (2,703)
Placer County, WA (1,807)
Pierce County, WA (946)
Yuba County, OR (476)
Hood River County, OR (425)
The population was a rough split between rural and uban.
Peak population: 18,789; peak
population occurred after Tule Lake had become a "Segregation Center"
Date of peak: December 25,
Opening Date: May 27, 1942.
Closing Date: March 20, 1946.
Project director(s): Elmer Shirrell, Harvey
Coverly, and Raymond Best.
Community Analysts: Marvin
Newpaper(s): Tulean Dispatch
(June 15, 1942 to October 30, 1943).
% who answered question 28 of the loyalty questionnaire
Number and percentage of eligible citizen males inducted
directly into armed forces: 57 (0.5%); Tule Lake
had the lowest percentage of eligible citizen males inducted into the armed
Industry: Tule Lake had a cabinet
shop and a bakery which produced goods for internal consumption.
Tule Lake Relocation Center, 1942 to 1943: Tule Lake experienced much unrest. A farm laborers strike occured
on August 15, 1942 over the lack of promised goods and salaries. Packing
shed workers struck in September, while a mess hall workers protest took
place in October, 1942. This culminated with large numbers of people refusing
to register for the draft.
With the decision to segregate the "loyal" from
the "disloyal" on the basis of the 1943 loyalty questionnaire,
Tule Lake was chosen as the camp where the "disloyals" would be
isolated. Tule Lake became the "Tule Lake Segregation Ceneter"
in the fall of 1943.
Tule Lake Segregation Center, 1943 to 1946.
Tule Lake "Segregation Center" was created following
disturbances associated with loyalty questionnaires administered by the
War Department and WRA during February and March, 1943. The negative reponses
by many Japanese Americans, were in reality protests against their own removal
and incarceration. The WRA was pressured by Congress, the Army, the Japanese
American Citizens Leage, and its own project directors, to isolate the "disloyal"
in a separate center.
On July 15, 1943, the WRA announced that the following
people would be sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center: aliens and American
citizens of Japanese descent who had applied for repatriation or expatriation
to Japan (7,222 persons); those who had answered the loyalt y questions
in the negative, or had refused to answer (4,785 persons); those who had
been denied clearance to leave the centers; and paroled aliens from from
Department of Justice internment camps who were recommended for detention.
The WRA also included all persons in their centers it believed to be anti-administration
or "troublemakers," as well as their family members. 6,000 original
residents of Tule Lake Relocation Center chose to remain in the camp rather
than undergo another forced move. The move to Tule lake took place during
September and October, 1943.
A newly erected heavy wire mesh "man proof" fence
held them inside, while elevated block houses and watch towers with armed
sentries prevented escape. Outside the fence, a battalion of military police
with armored cars and tanks stood in full view of the residents. Permission
to resettle was denied for all regardless of loyalty status. Self government,
as establioshed in other centers, was not allowed, although an advisory
council to the administration was formed.
In October, 1943, project director Raymond Best refused
to negotiate with the internee community organization (the Daihyo Sha Kai)
and its Negotiating Committee. A meeting followed in which national director
Dillon Myer and other administraters were surrounded by thousands of peaceful
residents/internees who came to support their representatives.
The U.S. Army entered Tule Lake Segregation camp on November4,
1943, and martial law was declared nine days later. The center was not returned
to civilian control until January 15, 1944. A curfew kept people indoors,
and ended recreational activities. The Army arrested anyone suspected of
being anti-administration without hearings or trials. A stockade was constructed
to house these people.
Of the 18,422 persons isolated in the center, more than
one fourth, including 4,517 citizens, were classified as loyal. Many of
those classified as "disloyal" were there as a result of protest
rather than actual loyalty to Japan. Wayne Collins, attorney for those who
later renounced their citizenship, argued that even the most fanatically
pro-Japanese were once loyal Americans, but changed their allegiance because
of injustices suffered during and after the forced evacuation from their
homes in 1942.
In July 1944, the renunication law was passed. It allowed
for the internees to renunciate their U.S. citizenship. On December 17,
1944, the government announced that all WRA centers would close within the
year. Tule Lake residents had developed an almost pathological fear of violence
they believed awaited them in West Coast communities. They saw the segregation
center as a safe haven from the hostility of other Americans on the outside.
Renunciation of citizenship was seen as the only means to prevent forced
resettlement. 5,589 Nisei gave up their citizenship. Only a small
number were actually deported; 5,409 Nisei asked for their citizenship
Source: Japanese American
History: An A to Z Reference, 1868 to the Present,
by Brian Niiya. New York: Facts on File, 1993. This information is provided
with the permission from the Japanese American National Museum and Brian