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>.