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


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. <>.

“Food.” University of Washington Libraries. 20 Mar. 1997. Web. 27 Feb. 2012. <>.

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. <>.

“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. <>

WRA Brochure “Relocation Communities for Wartime Evacuees”


The document “Relocation Communities for Wartime Evacuees” is a brochure about ten different internment camps published by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) in September 1942. The WRA is headquartered in Washington, D.C. This brochure documents the selection and reasoning behind the sites, as well as specific details such as evacuee capacity and gross acreage for each site. This was the first substantial publication about the camps, published very early in the history of the internment.

The ten different Relocation Centers were placed amongst the states of California, Arizona, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and Arkansas. In total, the evacuee capacity for all of the camps was 119,000. The document states that the camps were to be “an equitable substitute for the lives and homes given up.” The WRA attempted to build the camps near agriculture ready land but ended up choosing the “wilderness” areas like the desert-terrain that Poston was located in. The “wilderness” areas were resorted to because the WRA did not want to displace a lot of people in order to build the camps that supposedly were equal to previous living conditions for the Japanese Americans. Although the only camps mentioned in this brochure are the ones run by the WRA, there were other camps throughout the west as well run by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (PJD 136).

The Colorado River War Relocation Project was more often known as “Poston” and was located in Poston, Arizona. Poston was the largest in acreage of the relocation centers, with an evacuee capacity at 20,000 and a gross acreage of 72,000. As mentioned in the brochure, the climate in Arizona was harsh, with temperatures reaching 120oF in the summers and 9oF in the winter. The camp was built upon a desert terrain, where the rainfall average was only three inches a year. Even though it was clear that this was not the best climate for agricultural work, the WRA brochure said with a completion of an irrigation system eventually 41,000 acres would successfully produce crops such as vegetables, fruits, berries, and melons. The brochure states that any extra food produced would be used for army consumption, yet Personal Justice Denied says that all who spoke of the food agreed that it was less than satisfying. One man recalls one of his first meals including moldy bread, discolored cold cuts, and overcooked Swiss chard (PJD 141-142).

The document clearly states in the section entitled “Community Life” that the camp will have a similar daily life to an “ordinary American city.” The Relocation Centers were to have their own community government, schools, stores, medical care, newspapers and more. Yet, in the memoir Citizen 13660, the camp Miné Okubo describes is far from normal life. She describes her first experience trying to get dinner by telling of the hour-long lines and cold, windy weather they had to wait in (38). In an “ordinary American city,” one has many different options of where to eat dinner: at home, a picnic, or a restaurant. Eating at a mess hall is just one example of how internment camps were not similar to a normal city. The misleading brochure the WRA published and the official government reasoning that the Japanese Americans would benefit from being evacuated by being protected against the mistreatment by other Americans seemed to differ greatly from the actual reality of the Japanese Americans living in the camps (PJD 155).

The “Returns for Work” section of the brochure discusses the benefits of working a government job while at the camp. The Japanese Americans in the camps were paid $12, $16, or $19 a month. Even in 1942, this was an extremely low and unacceptable wage. The minimum wage in California in 1942 was 45 cents an hour, which translates into $72 per month for a forty-hour workweek (Table D-23). In Citizen 13660 Okubo was accepted for work at the Topaz Times and was paid $19 per month, the highest possible payment rate. Even at the highest rate, this was still not comparable to what Okubo would have been making outside of the camps.

The document “Relocation Communities for Wartime Evacuees” reads more like a brochure for a hotel than information about the reality of the internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII. The WRA published this skewed information in order to downplay the tragedy that was happening in the American west at this time.

-Nicole Mogensen

Works Cited


“Table D-23: Minimum Wage History California and United States.” California Department of Industrial Relations. Web. 10 Apr. 2012.<>.


Okubo, Mine. Citizen 13660. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1946. Print.



Infant Care

Direction for Mothers - Sally Lucas Jean Papers

These documents focus specifically on recommended infant care in the camps. They provide an interesting perspective on medical care, as well as nutrition, during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Furthermore, these documents offer a historically accurate source for comparing medical protocol in the camps with that of the rest of American society during the 1940s.

Issued by the War Relocation Authority’s Department of Public Heath, these documents detail the recommendations of health officials in the camps to new mothers on the matter of feeding their newly born infants. According to these suggestions, mothers should incorporate cod liver oil into their infants’ diet before they are even a month old for the prevention of rickets and add orange juice shortly after. Furthermore, mothers should breastfeed their infants every four hours for the first four months, gradually weaning their children until the age of eleven months. At around five months, mothers were advised to begin adding strained cooked cereals to their babies’ diets, adding strained cooked vegetables and egg yolks soon after. Mothers were told to feed their infants strained stewed fruits at around seven months, continuing to increase the variety and amount of their children’s diets as they grew older. By the end of the twelfth month, mothers were supposed to give their infants three meals a day and allow them to begin feeding themselves in a high chair.

Nurse's Aid student caring for infant at Poston Hospital

During the incarceration, life was certainly difficult for new mothers, for they had to attempt meet the nutritional requirements of their new infants in an atmosphere that was hardly conducive to such needs. While the camps lacked resources accessible to mothers outside the camps, several camps, such as Jerome in Colorado, housed a special refrigerator in the mess hall to fulfill some of the mothers’ immediate needs, specifically baby food and formulas (Okumura interview). Yukiko Miyahara, who stayed in the Santa Anita assembly center, appreciated the special baby stations from which mothers could obtain a small amount of baby food and milk when needed (Miyahara interview). However, most camps, including Manzanar, only distributed powdered milk, causing a relative lack of nutrition for infants allergic to this milk substitute, which angered Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga, mother of an affected infant. Canned milk was typically reserved for the army and those who could afford to pay for it themselves, an impossibility for Japanese American mothers trying to survive on minimum salaries (Herzig interview). Some families in Poston sacrificed their ration of milk at a meal to provide for an infant in the family, since there were no special formulas for infants provided (Okimoto interview). On the other hand, many mothers, including Yukiko Miyahara, chose to nurse their babies for reasons of convenience and personal preference (Miyahara interview). However, despite the inevitable restrictions of life in the camps, the recommendations by health officials there were surprisingly similar to those of physicians in American society.

Mother with infant and child during evacuation

As these documents advocated the use of cod liver oil and orange juice, physicians outside the camps similarly recommended these substances as a means of obtaining Vitamins A, C, and D (Whipple 169-170). While the age recommendations for solids such as cereal, fruits, vegetables, and egg yolks are relatively similar to those in the camps, meat, as well as toast, was typically incorporated into infants’ diets around the age of seven months in American society, while mothers in the camps were not told to feed their young babies this delicacy within the first year. Perhaps this was due to a shortage or relative lack of such expensive food in the camps, or perhaps officials genuinely did not believe meat needed to be incorporated at such a young age (Whipple 173-178). The most reasonable explanation for this disparity is the rationing of meat, as well as canned milk, among civilians during World War II by the War Food Administration (Collingham 114-117,417-423, 431-432, 478). Regardless of the motives behind this exclusion, one cannot help but find it interesting that typical recommendations for infants’ diets both within the camps and in American society differed only in those areas involving foods considered more expensive and significantly less available during wartime.

Mother waiting in line with children

When examining the nutritional recommendations for infants during the decades surrounding World War II, one must also recognize the increasing popularity of baby foods at the time. Especially in the post-war era, many mothers and physicians believed their infants would benefit from solid food as early as possible. Thus, while breast milk and cow’s milk were considered sufficient sources of nutrients for infants in the 1920s, opinion dramatically shifted in the 1930s with the rising availability of canned baby foods such as those produced by the Gerber’s company. Evidently, in the years before World War II and the incarceration, the focus of mothers and physicians throughout America drastically shifted from breastfeeding to an accelerated incorporation of solids to meet infants’ nutritional requirements (Bentley).

In summary, these documents from the Sally Lucas Jean papers provide an intriguing account of life during World War II, particularly when analyzing infant care in the internment camps. Moreover, they serve as a useful resource when comparing the treatment of infants in the camps to that of babies living outside the camps in American society. Though one can conclude that standards of infant nutrition in the camps were relatively similar, though slightly modified due to the availability of supplies, to those outside the camps, many oral histories of mothers in the camps suggest that most of these needs were not actually met during the incarceration.


Laura Hanson


Works Cited

“A Guide to a Baby’s Feeding the First Year” Folder 74: Poston, Arizona, Japanese-Americans, 1942, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,217651


Bentley, Amy. Booming baby food: infant food and feeding in post-World War II America. Michigan Historical Review Fall 2006: 63. Online.


Collingham, Elizabeth. The taste of war: World War Two and the battle for food. London: Allen Lane. 2011. Print.


“Direction to Mothers” Folder 74: Poston, Arizona, Japanese-Americans, 1942, in the Sally Lucas Jean papers #4290, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,217608


Herzig, Aiko, interview by Emiko Omori and Chizu Omori, March 20, 1994, Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-haiko-02-0010]


Miyahara, Yukiko, interview by Kirk Peterson, April 10, 2009, Manzanar National Historic Site Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-myukiko_2-01-0008]


Okimoto, Ruth Y., interview by Tom Ikeda, April 8, 2011, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-oruth-01-0010]


Okumura, Toyoko, interview by Tom Ikeda, February 15, 1997, Japanese American National Museum Collection, Densho.

[Densho ID: denshovh-otoyoko-01-0012]


Whipple, Dorothy Vermilya. Our American babies: the art of baby care. New York: M. Barrows and company, inc., 1944. Online.;page=root;view=image;size=100;seq=1






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. <>.

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 <>.

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