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People walking between barracks at Tanforan Assembly Center.

Horse Stall Housing, Spoiled Ham, and Other Stories of Life in Tanforan

The second largest of the so-called “assembly centers” with a peak population of 7,816, Tanforan was built on the site of the Tanforan Racetrack in San Bruno, California, near the…

Japanese Americans reciving typhoid vaccinations while registering for forced removal in 1942.

Ask a Historian: Did Japanese Americans Have Access to Vaccines in WWII Incarceration Camps?

Densho Content Director Brian Niiya answers a question about vaccination efforts in WWII concentration camps from a survivor who experienced them firsthand. Junko Mizuta writes: With the vaccine mandates being…

Mess hall staff in Manzanar posing for a group photo

Ask a Historian: Why Were There “Waitresses” in Camp?

In this latest edition of “Ask a Historian,” Densho Content Director Brian Niiya digs into the history behind a photo taken in a mess hall at Topaz concentration camp —and…

Brick Floors, a Polio Outbreak, and Other Unique Aspects of Amache Concentration Camp

Amache was one of ten War Relocation Authority camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated following the forced removal from the West Coast in 1942. Located in southeastern Colorado, it held…

Ask A Historian: How Did Japanese American Mothers Feed Their Babies in Camp?

Densho Content Director Brian Niiya answers a fascinating question from a 99 year old camp survivor who worked in an “assembly center” milk station providing food for infant incarcerees.

Japanese Americans walking between barracks at Manzanar. The Sierra Nevada mountains are visible in the distance.

A Mattress Factory, Female Administrators, and Other Unusual Things About Manzanar

The first of America’s WWII concentration camps to be built, Manzanar was first at a lot of other things as well: the first to have an official historic marker, the…

Grilled Rattlesnake, Missing Toilets, and Other Things You Might Not Know about Jerome

One of two camps located in southeastern Arkansas—and less than thirty miles from Rohwer, the other such camp—Jerome was the earliest WRA camp to close, shutting down at the end…

Photo Essay: Yoshio Okumoto’s Views of Life in Heart Mountain

Many of the “iconic” photos of Japanese American incarceration that we are most familiar with today were taken by white photographers who worked as outsiders looking in. But, as the…

The Final “Confusing, Cumbersome” Days in Minidoka Concentration Camp

Historical accounts of Japanese American incarceration often pay far more attention to the beginning than the end. But the scenes of camp officials hustling bewildered inmates onto trains in late…

Two men holding a dog in front of a barrack in a Japanese American incarceration camp. The men stand side by side with the dog in the middle. The man on the left wears an army uniform, and the man on the right is wearing glasses and a peacoat. The dog is white/light brown.

Pets in Camp: Dogs, Cats, Canaries, and “Even a Badger”

It is one of the most poignant—and often told—stories of the WWII roundup and incarceration of Japanese Americans: the wrenching decision that had to be made about a beloved pet…

Photo Essay: The Amache Silk Screen Shop

The Amache concentration camp in southeastern Colorado was, in many ways, similar to other War Relocation Authority camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II: rural and rugged,…

Understanding Tule Lake: A Brief History

Tule Lake began as one of ten concentration camps that held Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the West Coast in 1942. Early experiences there were, in many ways, much like…

‘It was my first grown-up feeling of responsibility’: Student Views of Life in a Japanese American Concentration Camp

We’re fortunate today to have access to hundreds of testimonies from Nisei elders who were incarcerated as children during WWII. But the perspective captured in these oral histories is that…

Ten Things That Made Poston Concentration Camp Unique

The Colorado River “Relocation Center”—more commonly referred to as Poston—was located in the Arizona desert a few miles from the California border. The largest and most populous of the War…

Ten Little Known Stories About Topaz Concentration Camp

The “Central Utah Relocation Center”—more popularly known as Topaz—was located at a dusty site in the Sevier Desert and had one of the most urban and most homogeneous populations of…

10 Little Known Facts of Life at Minidoka

Located in Southern Idaho, Minidoka concentration camp opened on August 10, 1942 and held some 13,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. The incarcerees — most of whom hailed from…

The “Loyalty Questionnaire” of 1943 Opened a Wound that has Yet to Heal

The Japanese American Citizens League is considering a resolution that proponents say would help heal a decades-old wound. The conflict stems from the disastrous “loyalty questionnaire” administered by the US…

Thieving Guards, Mass Food Poisoning, and Other Facts of Life in Fresno Assembly Center

The Fresno Assembly Center* (FAC) opened on May 6, 1942 and held a total of 5,344 Japanese Americans forcibly removed from the Fresno and Sacramento areas. One of fifteen dedicated…

10 Little-Known Stories About Rohwer Concentration Camp

If there’s one true thing about studying history, it’s that there’s always more to learn. Less (in)famous than sites like Manzanar and Tule Lake, Rohwer was one of two WRA…

“What an Ungodly Place to Meet”: Tales from Camp Toilets

In stories of the forced removal and incarceration, certain types of stories recur. There is the shock of Pearl Harbor and the subsequent exclusion orders, the preparations for removal including…

Sexual Violence, Silence, and Japanese American Incarceration

In recent months, an outpouring of stories of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault has sparked long overdue conversations around the prevalence of sexual violence and the policies, attitudes, and silences…

Picturing Incarceration: The WWII Sketches and Paintings of Kango Takamura

Photographs and moving images of World War II incarceration have helped keep memories of that era alive for decades. But since cameras were largely forbidden inside the camps, few images…