Tule Lake Pressure
five Japs are among 155 trouble makers imprisoned in the stockade
within the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Here they are answering roll
AT THIS SEGREGATION
CENTER ARE 18,000The
Japanese above, photographed behind a stockade within the Tule Lake
Segregation Center at Newell, Calif., are trouble makers. Calling
themselves "pressure boys," they are fantastically loyal to Japan.
Along with some 150 other men in the stockade, they were ringleaders in
the November riots which the U.S. Army, under the command of Lieut.
Colonel Verne Austin, finally had to quell. By their strong-arm methods
they are responsible for Tule Lake's reputation as worst of all
civilian detention camps in U.S. [For more images, see Tule
JAPANESE CONSIDERED DISLOYAL TO U.S.
Most of the
men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, now segregated at Tule
Lake, are quiet, undemonstrative people. About 70% of them are American
citizens by birth. All of the adults among them, however, are
considered disloyal to the U.S. Either they have asked to be
repatriated to Japan, or they have refused to take an oath of
allegiance to the U.S., or they are suspected of being dangerous to
the national security.
In March 1942, some
110,000 people of
Japanese descent were moved out of their homes in strategic areas of
the West Coast. Eventually they were settled in 10 relocation centers.
There the loyal Japanese were separated from the disloyal. The loyal
ones have the choice either of remaining in a relocation camp or of
finding employment in some nonstrategic area. The disloyal ones have
been sent to the segregation center at Tule Lake.
November riots, in which some Americans were hurt, precipitated much
heated discussion about the Tule Lake camp, and the center remains a
political issue. LIFE last month sent Staff Photographer Carl Mydans to
report on conditions there. He had himself just been repatriated from
16 months spent in Jap internment camps. At joint consent of War
Relocation Authority, which has charge of the camp, and the Army, who
guards it, he lived at Tule Lake for a week. His pictorial report, the
first of its kind, follows.
1,032 buildings lie on this flat plain, with Horse Mountain in the
background. In the foreground are lookout towers, manned 24 hours a day
by MP's, and the wire fence which surrounds the camp. The buildings at
the left foreground are where Army troops live and those at the right
foreground are the offices and barracks for the WRA.
ground is in between. Behind it are buildings housing 18,000 Japanese.
Even if the guards were removed, the Japanese probably would not try to
escape. They are afraid of Tule Lake farmers.
[See here for large
panoramic image of site
CAMP IS ON DRAINED LAKE BOTTOM NEARThe
area around Tule Lake in northern California, near the Oregon border,
contains some of the world's richest farmland. Most of it is rockless
bottom land, reclaimed by draining the lake. Originally it was
homesteaded in 60-acre lots by World War I veterans. It is capable of
grossing $1,000 an acre a year, and last month sold for $350 an acre.
OF THE WORLD'S RICHEST FARMLAND
Tule Lake Segregation Center is located on the edge of this rich
California farmland. Its 1,000 acres are not good for cultivation, but
last year the War Relocation Authority leased 2,000 fertile adjoining
acres for Japanese to farm. What happened was nearly tragic. The land
was put to crops of potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, lettuce and peas.
The Japanese diked the land, dug irrigation ditches and produced a rich
crop on virgin soil.
Then at harvesttime trouble
in the center. A Japanese workman was killed when his truck was wrecked
on the way to the farm area. Demonstrations were held. To get more
control of camp government, the Japs proclaimed a policy of status
They would do no work. They would not farm the fields. As a result, to
get the crop in before frost came, loyal Japanese from relocation
centers had to be brought in to do the harvesting. Thousands of dollars
worth of vegetables were almost lost.
the last month has status quo at last been
eliminated. This year, however, to take no chances, only 400 acres will
be planted by the Japanese at Tule Lake.
Disloyal Japanese arrive
from Manzanar Relocation Center. There is no station at Tule Lake
Center,but the train stops 150 yards
from entrance. Army then drives newcomers into camp. Representatives of the
Japanese meet with WRA officials on camp problems. Center: Ray Best,
project manager. After November riots
"negotiating-committee" members, who had made demands
WRA, were put in stockade. A new "coordinating committee" was picked to
This group, shown here, supported a
Roll call for "pressure
boys" is taken by the Army. William and Roslyn
Mayeda, have hearing before a WRA committee. They have been committed
repatriation by their parents. However, they
now want to leave the camp. When they take oath of
to U.S. and the FBI checks them, they will probably be relocated.
Yoshitaka Nakai, 26, has
bought $8,000 in
war bonds. When Nakai was picked up for
his farm crop went bad. Angry, he
refused to take
allegiance oath. Now he wants to.
THEY HAVE EVERYTHING EXCEPT LIBERTYThe
Japanese at Tule Lake have everything they need for happiness except
the one thing they want most -- liberty. That they cannot have. They
are prisoners, even though the War Relocation Authority tries to soften
this fact by using the euphemistic name "Segregees." Because the
problems which have arisen to plague the camp stem fundamentally from
their loss of liberty, those problems can never really be solved. Their
life cannot be made pleasant. It can only be made endurable.
responsibility of WRA is to make life at Tule Lake endurable. This it
has succeeded in doing, in the face of bitter criticism by part of the
press, the public and the government. On the one side it has been
accused of "Jap coddling." On the other it has been accused of
depriving American citizens of their native rights.
accomplishment it has had the tactful help of the Army. Naturally both
of them have made mistakes. At the time of the November riots they
clamped an unwise censorship on the center, thus giving the wildest
rumors the chance to spread across the country. But most important of
all, they have avoided bloodshed.
are not criminals. In peacetime they would be living normal civilian
lives. But this is war and they are loyal to Japan, i.e., disloyal to
the U.S. They must, of necessity, be put in a place where they cannot
hurt the U.S.
But it is too easy to say that
they are all
disloyal and treat them all accordingly. Some 70% of them are American
citizens. In almost every individual case there are conflicting
loyalties. Young men and young women especially have disturbing
sociological problems. They have perhaps been committed to repatriation
by their parents. Yet they have been born and brought up here. What
they know about Japan they have learned only from books and stories.
They are accustomed to the American standard of living. They have gone
to American schools and colleges.
been put in what seems to them a prison. Some of them are bitter. They
feel as if they have no country at all. Carl Mydans talked to one such
boy. The conversation:
Why do you want to leave this country? You have never been to Japan.Other
are not so bitter. They have resolved their conflicting loyalties
between family and the U.S. in favor of the U.S. To them WRA offers a
chance for release from Tule Lake. If they are willing to take an oath
of allegiance to the U.S. and are favorably checked by the FBI, they
can be sent to one of the nine relocation centers. There they will have
the opportunity to seek regular jobs in nonstrategic sections of the
Oh, I don't know. Japanese families always stick together. My mother
and father want to go back.
If you go to Japan, will you want to return here when the war is over?
No, I don't think I ever want to come back. The feeling will be too
much against us.
you have never been to Japan. How do you know you'll want to stay there?
But I don't want to stay in Japan. None of us do.
But then where will you go?
I don't know, really. Maybe Australia. We want to go where there are
new frontiers. I think we'll find them in Australia. (Australia admits
no Oriental immigrants. --ED.)
But this method of release sometimes
does not work.
Recently a young Japanese workman and his wife were cleared for release
into a "safe" area. At the last minute they refused to leave camp
because of a false rumor that a Japanese family relocated on an
Arkansas farm had been killed by an irate anti-Japanese mob.
his report on Tule Lake photographer Mydans made an inevitable
comparison between it and the prison camps he had seen at Manila and
Shanghai. Said he:
Japanese have a certain ease of mind in knowing that as Americans they
are considered enemies and nothing will be done for them. The Japs lay
down a few all-inclusive regulations and the internees know that if
they are broken, the entire camp will be severely punished. If a man
escapes he will be shot.At
all these things have been provided. Yet newspaper charges that the
Japanese there are living in luxury are obviously exaggerated. By
Japanese standards it is pretty luxurious but by American standards it
is an ugly dreary way of life.
"Over here we have the
American citizens being interned as aliens. There are political and
sociological conflicts. The internees do not hate us, or the WRA, the
way we hated the Japs and our guards.
internees over here are made physically comfortable out of all
comparison to the comforts given us. The Japanese standard of living is
lower than ours. In our camps we received as much food as the average
Japanese civilian, yet it wasn't enough. The usual camp over there is
an abandoned or bombed university building or warehouse. The place is
dirty and empty. When internees are put into such a camp, they must
bring their own bedding and beds, forage for most of their own food,
build their own kitchens, carry their own garbage, build their own
clinic, plan their own administration."
The task of the
WRA is not
easy. Nor will it get easier. The Japanese within the camp will keep up
their agitation for better conditions. Current conditions must be
maintained so that the Japanese Government itself will have no excuse
for the bad situation in its own camps where Americans are imprisoned.
The 18,000 Japs at Tule Lake are, in a sense, a form of insurance for
the safety of some 10,000 American civilians still in the hands of the
Japanese and as U.S. casualty lists grow longer and the war hatred
grows more bitter, our treatment of these people will directly affect
the treatment of our fellow Americans across the Pacific.
What it feels like to be
a prisoner is shown in expression of this young Japanese "pressure
in stockade. He was singing Home on the
Range when Mydans entered stockade barracks.
Mydans: "He sang it like an American. There was no Japanese accent. He
me the same way I guess I looked at a Japanese
official when he came to check on me at Camp
Tomás in Manila. At the back of my mind was the thought,
'Come on, get it over and get
out. Leave me alone.' This
boy felt the same way. He was just waiting, killing time."