In desert camps, the evacuees met
severe extremes of temperature. In
winter it reached 35 degrees below
zero, and summer brought
temperatures as high as 115 degrees.
Rattlesnakes and desert
wildlife added danger
Conditions in Camps
The “evacuees” first went to 17 temporary assembly
centers, such as the Santa Anita and Tanforan race tracks,
to await transfer to camps.
In some cases, family members were separated and put
in different camps. Barbed wire ringed each camp. Army
personnel manned sentry towers with machine guns
around the clock. Detainees knew that if they tried to flee,
sentries would shoot them.
The hastily built camps contained tar-paper-covered
barracks with no plumbing or cooking facilities. One light
bulb hung from each ceiling. Many camps contained only
outhouses; toilets contained no partitions.
Some internees died from inadequate medical care or the
high level of emotional stress. Each person had one army
cot and received just 45 cents worth of starchy food per
A doctor at Tanforan described the diet of people in these
camps, “There is no milk for anyone over 5 years of age…
No meat at all until the 12th day when very small portions
were served… Anyone doing heavy or outdoor work states
they are not getting nearly enough to eat and they are
hungry all the time. This includes the doctors.”2
The Army located these camps ‘at a safe distance’ from
any locations perceived to be strategic. The environments
of the camps ranged from swamplands in Arkansas
to deserts in Arizona. The land was generally barren,
isolated, and harsh.