Camp Livingston, Louisiana

On this day in 1942, the World War II detention facility Camp Livingston opened its doors in Alexandria, Louisiana. At its peak, it held 1,123 internees of Japanese ancestry sent from the Department of Justice-run Fort Missoula internment camp and from the U.S. Army-run Fort Sill and Camp Forrest internment camps.

The internees were told that they could volunteer for work unrelated to the maintenance of the camp and would be paid ten cents per hour. Other internees were ordered to work in the nearby forest to cut pine trees to construct an airport.

Hot and humid summer months with temperatures up to 130 degrees, poisonous reptiles, and stinging insects added to the hardship.To gain some relief from the extreme heat, the internees of Japanese ancestry dug shallow depressions in the dirt under the barracks and rested there during the hottest hours.

Little else has been recorded or published on Camp Livingston. Help us expand our records about this little known Louisiana detention center. If you have information or sources that you can share, please help make the Densho Encyclopedia and archival holdings better by contacting us at editor@densho.org.

2 Comments
    • 02/09/2018 at 4:51

    In New Orleans in the 1960s, I attended grade school with Japanese kids whose parents had been interned at Camp Livingston while they were pre-teens, teens and young adults. My classmates told their friends of their parents’ suffering.

    Mosquitoes, fleas, red ants, biting flies, spiders and other insects were a constant torture. There was little or no insect repellent offered to internees, and some people resorted to coating exposed skin with mud to get relief. Many people became sick with mosquito-borne illnesses, and some people suffered bites from venomous spiders. Huge flying roaches were a constant presence.

    The timber rattlesnakes, copperheads and water moccasins of the Alexandria-area woods were a constant threat, except in cold weather.

    Other dangers were presented by rats, rank latrines, and food which often spoiled quickly during hot weather, making people sick.

    Camp Livingston was located inland in the state, and, unlike New Orleans, seldom received even a breeze in the brutal summer months. People lived in structures which were nearly impossible to ventilate in summer, and nearly impossible to heat in winter. Louisiana does experience winter — sometimes sleet, ice or the occasional snowfall, but much more reliable is damp, bone-chilling cold and rain, especially in the decades before climate change. Staying dry and warm in winter was a real challenge for Japanese Americans in the camps.

    I was told the food was horrible when fresh and often stale or even spoiled, and that personal sanitation and washing clothes was a constant challenge.

    It has been 45 years since I left grade school, and unfortunately I do not remember the last names of most of my classmates, but I do recall being horrified by the stories my Japanese classmates told of their parents’ ordeals during World War Two.

    I hope this contribution helps.

    • 26/09/2018 at 19:04

    Hi Dez,

    Can you tell me what grade school you attended and the years? I am doing research on Camp Livingston and would love to try to track down those families to conduct interviews with them.

    Thanks,
    Hayley

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