First letter from Jean to family and friends

Jean's Letter to Family and Friends

On October 11th, 1942, Sally Lucas Jean wrote to her family and friends about her arrival at the Poston, Arizona camp and her experiences to date. This letter goes into great detail about the camp climate, the difference in how Caucasians and Japanese Americans were treated, and the school system. Jean uses a positive and respectful tone to convey her message, while helping the reader gain insight into a worker’s experience in the camps.

Aerial view of barracks

            In this letter, Jean mentions several times how different the Caucasians and the Japanese Americans were treated. She explains to the reader how the word “Caucasian” is used to distinguish the white employees from the Japanese Americans. She describes how the white employees are housed separately and more favorably than the Japanese Americans. They are housed in single rooms with bathrooms located in their barracks. This differs from the Japanese Americans’ barracks, where an entire Japanese American family would have one space assigned to them in a barrack that was typically about fifteen by twenty feet (“Oregon”). Their bathrooms would be located in a central location. Bathrooms were shared by upwards of 250 people with no partitions between the toilets or the showers. This gave them little privacy (“Relocation”). In some cases the sewer systems had not been built yet, forcing the residents to use outhouses (PJD 160)

Child eating in mess hall

The second time Jean shows this imbalance is when she says that, while the employees are served in a mess hall like the Japanese Americans, their food portions are more generous and have a greater variety.  The Japanese American’s’ provisions customarily consisted of canned rations and boiled potatoes. The most common meals were wieners, dry fish, rice, macaroni, and pickled vegetables (PJD 89). The milk was only for the children and often there were no fresh vegetables or fruit (“Food”). Many of the Japanese Americans were used to rice and vegetables, which made this food indigestible.

Sally Lucas Jean displays prejudice in her letter by saying that the Japanese Americans pay nothing for food or shelter. Her sentence implies that they are fortunate to be housed in the camps as well as lazy for not paying their way. However, this was a mandatory move for the Japanese Americans that took years out of their lives and they lost all citizenship rights. Japanese Americans were not allowed to leave the camps where they were surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. They lost employment wages for the years that they were interned and suffered great financial losses. At the end, they were paid ten cents on the dollar for each dollar they had lost. After internment, they had difficulty finding jobs and obtaining loans. They suffered the loss of education and job training that could never be atoned for.  It was not a choice for them to be in the camps like it was for her and it was not a time they could happily look back on.

Jean refuses to voice an opinion on the number of the Japanese Americans that are disloyal. She does not accuse them of sabotage or disloyalty as General DeWitt did (PJD 47-92). Since she does not have the facts, she does not feel that she should make a decision on the loyalty of an entire group. Sally Lucas Jean decides to consider all of the Japanese Americans as being as loyal as she is. She compares them to the “Spanish-Americans” in New Mexico; their parents have partial knowledge of the language and area. “They too, have several generations settled in the land, but they are not being discriminated against like the Japanese Americans are.”

Her tone is rarely negative during the letter, and it often shows how much she respects and pities the

Church group

Japanese Americans that are interned. Jean recalls a time she attended a church service and realized the Japanese Americans were as devout as any other observer. The War Relocation Authority allowed almost all religions to worship, except for State Shinto worship, which was seen as Emperor worship (PJD 173). She describes how they were dressed modestly in Caucasian clothes with clean blouses and groomed hair. She calls them an unfortunate group of people and says she respects how they have accepted their fate. She was in a position of power and did not have to respect them or try to understand their plight; however, she chose to empathize with them and see life from their perspective.

 

–Mary Willoughby Romm

Citations:

Burton, J., M. Farrel, F. Lord, and R. Lord. “Poston Relocation Center.” Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. National Park Service, 1 Sept. 2000. Web. 26 Feb. 2012. <http://www.nps.gov/>.

“Food.” University of Washington Libraries. 20 Mar. 1997. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. <http://www.lib.washington.edu/exhibits/harmony/exhibit/food.html>.

Letters to Family and Friends October 1942, Folder 75 in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290 Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Oregon Responds to World War II: Not Exactly Paradise: Japanese American Internment Camps.” Oregon State Archives. Oregon State. Web. 29 Feb. 2012. <http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/exhibits/ww2/threat/camps.htm>.

“Relocation of Japanese Americans – War Relocation Authority – 1943.” Museum of the City of San Francisco. The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco, May 1943. Web. 27 Mar. 2012. <http://www.sfmuseum.org/hist10/relocbook.html>

Recommendations for Improvement in the Camps

On April 10th, 1945, when Sally Lucas Jean was leaving the Poston internment camp, she sent a letter of recommendations for improvement to Dr. Pressman, the director of Health and Sanitation at the camp.  She discussed her list of suggestions with Dr. Kasuga, chief of Internal Medicine and Chest [Medicine], and Dr. Kawaichi, chief of the Public Health Section. This letter addresses a broad range of issues, from medical concerns to traffic control.  These recommendations are of interest because they show the areas in which the camps were lacking.

In her letter of recommendations, Jean broaches the issue of tuberculosis in the camps.  Her suggestions focus on community education for the internees and employees. The letter notes that three ‘moving pictures’ on tuberculosis are available for such educational purposes. One such educational clip, produced by the National Tuberculosis Association, was an interview with a TB germ.  The video features a scientist talking to a tuberculosis germ about his life while conveying to the viewer the signs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of tuberculosis (Goodbye, Mr. Germ). She recommends that these be pre-screened by appropriate medical and administrative personnel and then shown to interned Japanese Americans.  She wanted to make sure people knew how to recognize symptoms so treatment could begin as soon as possible. Once this was done, Jean recommended that programs be planned for the entire community so the films can be shown to everyone. The goal of these films was to educate the people in the camp on tuberculosis and gain positive support for the sanitarium at Phoenix.  Sanitariums were isolation areas for patients with tuberculosis.  In these areas, special care is given to ensure that tuberculosis is not spread, such as burning the cups the patients drink out of.  Jean reports that the sanitarium at Phoenix is ready to take in six new tuberculosis patients from Poston and encourages medical staff to make that happen as soon as possible. Jean suggests that after the films are shown, a presentation be given on the problem of tuberculosis in Poston, including pictures of the sanitarium at Phoenix.

Camp Hospital

Tuberculosis was a very serious matter in the camps.  As one internee, Frank Yamasaki, said in an interview, “In those days, tuberculosis was somebody saying you’ve got terminal cancer.”  When people in the camps were diagnosed with tuberculosis they were sent to a sanitarium, a center designed for patients with a long-term illness where they were treated and cared for in order to try to prevent the spread of disease.  Tuberculosis was a major concern during this time period outside of the camps as well.  In 1940, tuberculosis ranked number seven on the top ten leading causes of death in the United States (Grove).  In 1947, tuberculosis was claiming 50,000 lives per year in the United States (“Mayor Urges Citizens”).  Tuberculosis was not only very contagious from person to person, but it was also rarely handed down from parents to children (“Tuberculosis in Old People”). Typically, tuberculosis is an airborne disease; sneezing, coughing, or spitting passes it from person to person. In 1939, almost 19,000 deaths were contributed to tuberculosis in the nation’s 46 largest cities (“Job for the Seals”).  The disease was a large enough issue that the National Tuberculosis Association began to sell stamps to raise funds to support the fight against tuberculosis in 1940.  The revenue supported clinics, testing, chest x-rays, social service, and educational work conducted by the association (“Treating Tuberculosis at Home”).

Tuberculosis Screening

Other than suggesting ways to improve community education on tuberculosis, Jean includes other suggestions for the camp as well.  Her first recommendation is that the camp personnel who requested examinations should receive them as soon as possible.  Next she suggests that camp teachers and internees should all have typhoid inoculations.  She also recommends that all children who have not been in school in the camp thus far be given an examination before starting school.  Jean puts a major emphasis on tonsillectomies.  She says that there are many children in need of tonsillectomies but not enough doctors to be able to handle all the cases.  Her recommendation is that an Indian Reserve be contacted to see if they can lend a specialist to the camp.  This is an interesting suggestion because Poston is uniquely located between the Indian Affairs bureau and the WRA, so it may be a subtle comment on the inefficiency of the WRA.  Jean’s next suggestion is that there be a supply of safe drinking water at schools.  She says that plans had been made, enacted, and failed previously, but that it was time to figure out a solution.  Lastly, Jean suggests that something be done about traffic safety and accident prevention as well as suggesting that there be a broader distribution of first aid kits in public places.

-Helen Robertson

Works Cited

Frank Yamasaki, interviewed by Lori Hoshino and Stephen Fugita, August 18, 1997, Densho Visual Historical Collection, Densho. http://archive.densho.org/Core/ArchiveItem.aspx?i=denshovh-yfrank-01-0022

Grove, Robert D., and Alice M. Hetzel. “Vital Statistics Rates in the United States 1940-1960.” (1968): 79. U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Web. 1 Mar 2012. <http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsus/vsrates1940_60.pdf>.

“Job for the Seals.” Palm Beach Post 27 Nov 1940, 10A. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=GkAuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ZNgFAAAAIBAJ&pg=6429,3159805&dq=tuberculosis&hl=en>.

Letter of Recommendations for Improvement April 10, 1943 Folder 74 in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/ead,217424

“Mayor Urges Citizens to Join Fight on TB.” Sarasota-Gerald Tribute 21 Nov 1947, n. pag. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=x8hAAAAIBAJ&sjid=pGQEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4810,4720981&dq=tuberculosisspread&hl=en>.

“Treating Tuberculosis at Home.” Greensburg Daily Tribune 5 Dec 1941, 21. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=hoJVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=RD8NAAAAIBAJ&pg=3537,3287751&dq=tuberculosis stamps&hl=en>.

“Tuberculosis in Old People Often May Spread Contagion.” Beaver County Times [Rochester] 10 Dec 1942, 8. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=c6giAAAAIBAJ&sjid=cq8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=779,3735433&dq=tuberculosis spread&hl=en>

Ulmer, Edgar, dir. Goodbye, Mr. Germ. Perf. James Kirkwood. National Tuberculosis Association, 1940. Film. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcknTwXmuMc>.

Recommendation For Health Education Council

In this document, Sally Lucas Jean makes a recommendation for the creation of the “Health Education Council.” The Council would be created with the purpose of educating the public on matters relating to their health.  The recommendation was written in 1942. At this time, Jean had recently started working in the Poston camp. It is evident that her concern for the health of the interned Japanese-Americans motivated her to advocate for the formation of this organization.

With the creation of the Health Education Council, Jean wished to appoint people to new positions such as a Director of Public Health, a Director of Sanitation, and a Nutrition Consultant. The various positions would be in charge of weekly meetings that would address problems with public health and how to best deal with them through “education in health.” Before this recommendation, numerous medical positions had already been created for the camp. These included a Chief of Internal Medicine, Dentist, Dietician, Optometrist, Laboratory Technician, and many more (“Medical Personnel”). The positions recommended  by Jean seemed to be more geared toward the educational and preventive aspect of the medical field, rather than the actual practices of diagnosing and providing treatment for ailments.

One of the most prominent health issues in the camp at this time was tuberculosis (Lillquist, 401). This was largely due to the location of the Poston camp, which was in the middle of a large desert. The dry air, combined with dust, caused numerous respiratory problems among the internees. According to Jean, there had been 177 diagnosed cases of tuberculosis in Poston by the time she had written this recommendation. However, only 55 people could be treated at the hospital at one time. Jean understandably thought that educating the public on the symptoms of the illness would be beneficial in allowing them to get help if it was needed. Jean also states that the close living quarters of the camp increased the chance of contracting tuberculosis: “The limitations of living space and the close proximity of human beings to each other renders the situation a critical one.”

Poston After Sundown

Jean goes on to elaborate on the issue of disease treatment within the camp. She states that there are more reported cases of venereal diseases than are being treated at the time of the recommendation. There was definitely a problem with healthcare, as the camp had inadequate facilities to treat its large volume of detainees. The problem would be made even worse by the lack of passable supplies in the hospitals. Some of them did not even have penicillin to treat simple illnesses (Sato Interview).

In the case of tuberculosis, the patient would be sent to Phoenix to be treated if there was not room in the camp, but someone with a venereal disease might go altogether untreated. Jean writes, “As the cases registered upon entering Poston exceeds those now under treatment it is obvious that all patient(s) suffering with venereal disease are not under treatment.” Once again, it is apparent that Jean’s work is very important because she reports problems that would likely go unnoticed otherwise.

New mothers would often go to their doctor once or twice and would then be left on their own to figure things out. Jean states, “…it is hoped that a carefully developed follow up procedure, such as has been found essential to assure women returning to the clinic at regular intervals, will be put into action at an early date.” Jean advocates for an educational system that allows the nutrition consultant to work with new mothers to better care for their children. This would be especially important since many of the camps had the very basic food supplies needed. Mothers were also forced to walk many “blocks” in order to feed their infants (PJD, 162).

Next, Jean focuses on accident prevention. “An educational campaign is much needed to develop a change in attitude toward safety measures in the homes, the schools and on the roads of Poston,” she states. Some of the dangerous situations arose in the camps because of improper living conditions. In some cases, buildings designed to accommodate 300 people had to hold upwards of 900 (PJD, 160).

It is worth noting that Jean largely ignores some of the foremost health problems of the camp, like heatstroke and dysentery (Lillquist, 406). It is possible that there was simply nothing that could be done about these conditions because of the extreme heat in this area. However, it seems as though education could aid the detainees in avoiding the heat and the importance of staying hydrated.

Overall, this letter is very significant because it allows us to learn more abut the health problems the internees faced in Poston. It allows us to more accurately analyze the specific problems that some of the Poston incarcerees were forced to overcome. These documents also allow us to learn more about how the camp administration responded to the troubles Japanese Americans were facing.

 

-Seth Beane

 

 

Works Cited

“Health Education Council”. Folder 74: Poston, Arizona-Health Education Council in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

Folder 74: Poston, Arizona – Medical Personnel in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

 

Lillquist, Karl. Imprisoned in the Desert: The Geography of World War II Era, Japanese American Relocation Centers In the Western United States. Central Washington University, 2007. 394-450. Print.

 

Sato, Sarah. Personal Interview. Densho Digital Collection. 09 Apr 1998.

Report on Health Care Facilities and Living Conditions

Report #1

The document titled “Report #1” of the Sally Lucas Jean Papers gives a general synopsis of Sally Lucas Jean’s first impressions of the Colorado River Relocation Center, a Japanese American internment camp located in Poston, Arizona. She begins the report with a description of her arrival at the camp, where she was welcomed with much hospitality and taken to her living quarters. She then describes the climate, geography, and living situations in the camp. Jean also gives an overview of the education and health care facilities available. Two of the main focuses, however, are Poston’s public health facilities and the living conditions of the staff compared to the living conditions of the Japanese American internees.

In the report, Jean puts a large emphasis on the internment camp’s health facilities. Jean, a public health educator and nurse, arrived at Poston on September 30, 1942, to work for the camp’s Public Health Department. Upon her arrival, the camp’s health facilities were still developing, even though the first Japanese American evacuees arrived at Poston almost four months prior, in May 1942 (Burton 216). She compliments the development progress, however, stating that a “well-equipped and excellently run hospital” has been established thus far (“Report #1”). The hospital staff consists of Japanese nurses and doctors who, according to Jean, “cooperate fully and efficiently.” There are also seven trained Caucasian nurses, whom Jean describes as “splendid.” She reports that her secretary is an “intelligent Japanese girl,” and although she is inexperienced, she is “eager and competent” (“Report #1”). Jean seems to be surprised by the excellence of the hospital facility, and is very grateful to work with such a qualified staff.

Japanese American Nurses at Poston, 1943

The camp’s medical workers were continuously taking action to improve the facility. In February 1943, the first Poston Medical and Public Health Conference was held to determine ways to advance the health department’s growth and to increase the quality of service to patients. After a five-hour meeting, the camp’s physicians, nurses, and public health experts decided on a few ways to improve Poston’s Public Health Department as a whole. Obtaining more hospital beds, hiring more nurses, ordering general healthcare supplies, and increasing tuberculosis testing were some of the proposals made (“Poston Medical”). Jean’s report mentions that improvements in the health facility were needed, and that this conference was especially helpful in the enhancement of Poston’s medical services.

In addition to the public health facilities, Jean’s report also focuses on the living conditions in the camp. She has a very positive reaction to the barracks, mentioning the “excellent three-quarters bed” and that the furnishings are “sufficient for comfort and convenience” (“Report #1”). Jean and other Caucasian workers lived in separate barracks from the Japanese American internees. Staff housing was much more accommodating than the housing of the Japanese American evacuees, with amenities such as indoor plumbing, painted walls, cooling systems, and refrigerators (PJD 158).

Exterior view of a barrack at Poston

The barracks occupied by the Japanese American evacuees were in comparably poor condition, but they tried to make the best of their living situations. Jean states that by the time she arrived in Poston, many families had already decorated their barracks, showing “indications of culture” in the camp (“Report #1”). Nonetheless, it was hard to disguise how dirty and barren the barracks were.

In most of the evacuees’ housing, there was a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and the only furnishings were a few small cots and makeshift bookshelves and tables (PJD, 159). Compared to Jean’s barrack, which housed only 12 staff members, the evacuees lived in cramped quarters where “whole families lived together in roughly divided spaces.” Sometimes over six families would live in one block of barracks (“Report #1”). Because of racial prejudice, Poston’s staff members undeniably resided in higher quality housing than the Japanese American internees.

Jean’s initial report on the circumstances at Poston War Relocation Center is significant because it gives outsiders a quick glimpse into what life was like in the camp. By giving a reliable description of the barracks and health care facilities with no embellishments, readers of the report are able to better understand the circumstances faced in Poston, both positive and negative.

Ellen Gould 

Sources:

Burton, Jeffery F. Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites. University of Washington Press, 2002. Google eBooks. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.

“Report #1,” Folder 74, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Poston Medical, Public Health Conference Successfully Held in Unit One.” Poston Chronicle. 18 Feb. 1943. Densho Digital Archive. Web. 1 Mar. 2012. <http://archive.densho.org/main.aspx>

Report on Segregation to Tule Lake (Part I)

This document is an informational update from the Nursing Department to the Heath and Sanitation Department at Poston, Arizona’s Japanese American internment camp. The Supervisor of Nursing, Elna Rood, is alerting Dr. Pressman, the head of Health and Sanitation of some changes regarding those Japanese-Americans with special medical needs. The letter is an update on the Public Health Nursing activities for the months July-September of 1943, dated September 18th, 1943. Rood describes the processes and demographic data for segregating Japanese Americans from Poston to Tule Lake that have special medical needs (Rood).

Residents were moved Tule Lake based on their answers, “no-no” to the WRA’s Loyalty Questionnaire. Disloyal internees at Poston were promptly moved to Tule Lake. The organization for transportation of those with special needs was the priority of the Nursing Department’s efforts for weeks. Sally Lucas Jean herself was not directly involved with this process, though the medical staff at Poston spent the summer of 1943 gathering data from different wings of the medical facilities at the camp. This data would help them organize and prepare for the mass transportation of special needs people effectively via train. Information collected included x-ray information, dental information, and hospital records (Rood).  This information was all processed by the Nursing Department to organize and prepare. It was their job to assure that medical staff, equipment, and special diets would be available to those in need on the train. The main concern of the Nursing Department was ensuring a well-staffed and relatively safe travel for these patients from Poston, Arizona to Tule Lake, California (Rood).

A total of one hundred forty nine patients with special medical needs were forced to move to Tule Lake in 1943.  If one member of a family was to be segregated based on loyalty, the entire family could choose to leave also (Japanese American). Some conditions that required special attention on the train included pregnancy, disability, severe illness, communicable disease, young infants, and need for post-operational care (Rood).

 

There are a few main reasons why this segregation took place. Poston was a camp where only US-loyal Japanese Americans resided, and was where many soldiers were drawn for the US Army (Higa 59). Removing disloyal internees from Poston was seen as homogenizing the camp as disloyal Japanese Americans were moved to Tule Lake. The Poston Strike of 1942 also paved the way for this segregation when issei males revolted against the block-leaders. Post-strike, Poston administrators, the WRA, and block leaders tightened their grip and control over the residents (Higa 109). Moving disloyal Japanese Americans would help them to keep a closer eye on the type of resident: issei males. These men had the highest potential for demonstrating pro-Japanese sentiments and for causing riots in the camp because of the prejudice against them. This memo was also sent in the year when Poston reached its population peak of 17,814 residents (Japanese American). Due to the high population, the Poston administrators felt even more pressure to segregate Japanese-Americans as soon as possible.

In the 1940’s, the interstate train ride was very long and unsanitary (Japanese American).  In Okubo’s account of her train ride from Tanforan Assembly Center to Topaz, she describes the train rides as “old and dusty,” and “completely dark and very hot.” Okubo also includes that the train ride was “a nightmare” with few stops and sick people in very close proximity (Okubo 110-118). In an interview, another internee, Hideo Hoshide describes his train ride to Tule Lake where he could not even find a way to heat up the baby formula for his daughter during the week long ride (Uncomfortable). Here, however, the Nursing Department seems to be taking more impressive measures to protect the health of the special needs travelers as well as protect the healthy travelers. Those with communicable diseases were to be quarantined, diabetics given proper foods, babies given proper foods, and cripples kept under supervision of the train doctor (Rood). It can be drawn that from this contradiction that these impressive measures may have not been carried out. According to Hoshide’s account of the train ride, extensive measures for a safe and sanitary transport are not always carried out. Rood’s memo reads impressively, but further research about the actual conditions of the bus ride are needed to verify that Poston’s train system was indeed as sanitary as it seems.

Savannah Jacaruso

Works Cited

Higa, Karin M. The View from Within: Japanese American Art from the Internment Camps, 1942-1945. [Los Angeles, Calif.]: Japanese American National Museum, 1994. Print.

Hideo Hoshide Interview I Segment 53 January 26 & 27, 2006.  Interview by Tom Ikeda. Densho Digital Archive. Web. <http://archive.densho.org/main.aspx>.

Japanese American History: An A to Z Reference, 1868 to the Present, Brian Niiya. New York: Facts on File, 1993.

Okubo, Miné. Citizen 13660. Seattle: University of Washington, 1983. Print.

Rood, Elna. “Segregation To Tule Lake.” Letter to Dr. Pressman. 18 Sept. 1943. Southern Historical Collection. Web. <http://http://dc.lib.unc.edu/u?/ead,217661>.

 

 

Letters from Jean to Dr. McCollum

Letter to Dr. McCollum

The correspondence between Sally Lucas Jean and Dr. E.V. McCollum is a brief discussion of the effects of salting and pickling vegetables to be served to the incarcerees in the camp. Dr. McCollum was a professor at the John Hopkins School of Public Health who dedicated his life to the research of nutrition and is attributed with the discovery of vitamins A and D (Department of Biochemistry). The letters are dated November 1942, not long after the opening of Poston. Jean writes to Dr. McCollum asking for information on whether or not vitamin C in vegetables is lost when they are pickled with salt or vinegar. Dr. McCollum replies with rather unfortunate news that there is likely a loss of vitamin C, at rates of close to 80 percent. The letters between Jean and Dr. McCollum allude to the severity of the problem of malnutrition within the camp. An average of approximately 30 cents per person per day was spent on each incarcercee for food, and the public continued to demand further budget cuts (PJD 163). This made it almost impossible to provide healthy, well-balanced diets for the incarcerees within the camps.

Although Red Cross reported that the menus in the Incarceration camps “showed no serious shortages in nutritive values” given the limitations of mass feeding, countless incarcerees later testified that the food was lacking in not only quality, but nutrition as well (PJD 163). To provide any sort of fruits or vegetables to the 18,000 people living in Poston often meant serving food that had been pickled or canned. Liver, beef stew, rice, pasta, apple butter and oatmeal were the staples of most camps (Wakamiya interview). Gene Akutsu, a teenager in the camp, recalls the ordeal of having to eat cow tongues and liver on a daily basis. To avoid starvation, he was forced to remind himself, “If it tastes bad, just don’t breathe and just chew it and swallow”.

Incarcerees in the mess hall

Dr. McCollum’s response to Jean regarding the nutritive value of pickled food is extremely worrisome. He explains how vitamin C is quickly lost at high temperatures of 70 degrees, which is well below the extreme heats that were reached in Poston. He says “vegetables lose perhaps half of their C content when cut into smaller pieces and served…in one hour”, and references a study in which green tomatoes soaked in vinegar lost 80 percent of vitamin C in just one night. As Jean said herself, Poston workers had been cutting vegetables into small pieces and soaking them in vinegar, which means they had lost almost all of their vitamins by the time they were consumed. Research today has shown that pickling vegetables will indeed strip them of some nutrients, although perhaps not as much as Dr. McCollum suggested. Fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, E and K are retained, as well as fiber; however, the heat required for canning pickled vegetables destroys much of the vitamin C (Wolters). Therefore, any canned food served to incarcerees would have lacked in nutrients regardless of if they had been pickled. The “balanced diets” of the incarcerees were likely even more lacking when Poston first opened than anyone would have guessed at the time.

Incarceree cooking

The obvious benefit to pickling vegetables is that they can be kept for longer periods of time due to the high levels of acidity which prevent them from spoiling, thus making them more cost effective. While Jean points to the public health and nutrition service as an indicator that the well-being of the incarcerees was being kept in mind, she goes on to say that their services are extremely limited “and the chefs in each kitchen naturally prepare the type of food the evacuees prefer”. Rather than pointing her finger at the WRA, she tries to place partial blame of the lack of nutrition on the Japanese American chefs. This is absurd given the limitations the chefs faced with their cooking ingredients, which were provided by the WRA. She goes on to question whether or not the weekly minimum requirement of three eggs included eggs used in cooking. This indicates that those running the camp were looking to keep costs low and did not care to provide more than was necessary to meet minimum health standards. Although workers in the Incarceration camps claimed that nutrition was important, cutting costs was always more of a concern.

Incarceree farmers

As time passed in the camp, it became clear to the incarcerees that the government would not be providing them with an adequate diet. However, other options became available as the WRA revealed plans for agriculture programs at the camps. They hoped “to make each relocation community as nearly self-sufficient as possible from an agricultural standpoint” by allowing Japanese farmers to produce crops (WRA 96). Incarcerees grew crops of vegetables and opened hog, dairy, and poultry farms in many areas. Although each camp varied in its ability to produce based on weather conditions where it was located, overall the incarcerated farmers produced approximately 6,800,000 dollars of the 50 million dollars spent on food during the incarceration through the agriculture programs (WRA 97). Poston was not ideally located for farming, being situated in the southwest part of Arizona; however growing fresh food became possible through the use of irrigation systems. Food grown by the incarcerees was served in the mess halls, and excess food was shipped to other camps (Kunitsugu interview). When fresh produce finally became available through the farming programs, many of the nutrition problems were alleviated.

-Sarah Spaltenstein

Akutsu, Gene. Interview by Larry Hashima. “A teenager’s memories of Puyallup Assembly Center”. Densho Visual History. Densho Digital Archive.

Department Of Biochemistry And Molecular Biology. John Hopkins University, 2012. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <http://www.jhsph.edu/dept/bmb/>.

Kunitsugu, Kats. Interview by Frank Abe. “Food in the incarceration camp”. Frank Abe Collection. Densho Digital Archive.

Letters to E.V. McCollum Nov. 1942, Folder 75 in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Wakamiya, Yooichi. Interview by Richard Potashin. Manzanar National Historic Site Collection. Densho Digital Archive.

Wolters, Anne. “Does Pickling Vegetables Take away the Nutrition?” Livestrong. Lance Armstrong Foundation, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. 26 Feb. 2012 <http://www.livestrong.com/article/536144-does-pickling-vegetables-take-away-the-nutrition/>.

WRA: A story of Human Conservation. United States Department of the Interior, Relocation Authority. 1946. Print.