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.