Skip to content

Civil Liberties

More than 100,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their homes and into camps during 1942. More than 70 percent were American citizens. This ultimate denial of civil rights was compounded by the regulations which controlled camp life. Many of the liberties we take as granted were denied these citizens and alien residents of Japanese descent.

Despite the innocuous name of Camp Harmony (coined by army public relations officers), this was no summer camp. Barbed wire fences surrounded the camp and armed guards patrolled the grounds. Movement between the different areas of the camp was strictly controlled.

Petty regulations ruled everyday life -- twice a day roll calls, curfews (though trips to the toilets were allowed) and lights out, set meal times. Other regulations denied basic rights such as the right to assemble (organizations were forbidden except with the express permission of camp authorities), religious freedom (Shinto was forbidden), speech (Japanese language materials were confiscated) and privacy (interior police could enter any room without warrant).


"Entrance to Area A - Camp Harmony, Puyallup." Dated August 31, 1942. Eddie Sato Sketchbook and Drawings. UW Libraries Special Collections. Drawing of Area A Gate.
Part XXXV of the WCCA Operations Manual. Hiroyuki Ichihara Papers. Reel 2. Manuscripts and University Archives Division, UW Libraries.
Part XXXV
2. All radios and lights of every kind in all evacuees' quarters shall be turned off by the occupants not later than 10:30 P.M. Lights shall remain off throughout the hours of darkness. Exceptions to lighting regulations will be permitted in case of fire, sickness, pregnant mothers, mothers with young children, and other necessary cases, with the written permission of the Center Manager.

3. All evacuees shall be in their own living quarters between 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. Exceptions will be permitted for persons going to and from the nearest lavatory, or when necessary in caring for sick persons. The Center Manager may issue written exceptions in other cases which in his opinion are warranted by circumstances. Evacuees, when assigned to work between the hours of 10:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M., shall be provided by the Center Manager with a written exemption from this ruling, giving the evacuee's name and address; the duties to which he or she is assigned, and the hours and location of duty.

Exemption from Lights-Out letter to A.H. Ichihara, Director of Area D, dated July 24, 1942Hiroyuki Ichihara Papers. Reel 2. Manuscripts and University Archives Division, UW Libraries. I hereby submit application for permission to turn on a shaded light between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., if necessary for the proper care of a child aged 20 1/2 months.

Lights will be turned on for short intervals only, and only for the purpose of changing diapers or calming the child if necessary.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Memo from Lefty (Hiroyuki) Ichihara to James Sakamoto dated May 30, 1942 Hiroyuki Ichihara Papers. Reel 2. UW Libraries Special Collections. Re: Placement of Armament within Area D
Apparently under the orders of the commanding officer, a machine gun has been set up on the roof of the grandstand in Area D at 11:10 A.M. today in the midst of our preparations for the Memorial Day Services. It has been our understanding up to this time that the evacuees now within Camp Harmony still enjoy their civil rights. Further, that the army supervises only the guard posted outside the confines of various areas.

In the interest of public morale, I request a clarification on the above action.

"Roll Call Started." Camp Harmony Newsletter, June 12, 1942.
Complete issue.
A twice daily door-to-door check of every evacuee in Camp Harmony was started Wednesday. WCCA officials making the announcement through Camp Headquarters stated the order was issued by Lt. General John L. DeWitt, commanding officer of the [part of sentence missing] At 9 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. daily, a designated checker visits each apartment in his block for a roll-call of all individuals in his territory.
Memo from Lefty Ichihara, Area D Director, to James Sakamoto, Chief Supervisor, dated July 2, 1942. James Y. Sakamoto papers, Box 10. UW Libraries Special Collections. I submit attached letter received by Kiyoka Kumagai from Tule Lake. Please note that this letter has been censored and parts have been deleted. Recipient is not positive whether there was a second sheet to the letter or not. However, inasmuch as the signature is missing, it is reasonable to assume that there might have been a second page.

If this censorship is in effect it will bring up technicalities among which would be the infringement on the civil rights of the nisei evacuees.

Please investigate this matter further particularly to the point whether out-going mail from Camp Harmony is being censored.

Minutes of Headquarters Staff Meeting, July 21, 1942. Hiroyuki Ichihara papers. Reel 2. UW Libraries Special Collections.
Complete minutes.
It has been requested by the WCCA center manager that the residents of this camp voluntarily hand in Japanese books, pamphlets, literature, records, which are considered as contraband at present, to the proper officials in their area. Instructions are that they should be properly packed to prevent damage. Japanese-English and English-Japanese dictionaries, religious books, and hymnals will be returned to the owners after inspection and will be marked with an approval stamp. Receipts will be given to the owners by the WCCA office for all reading matter and records turned in.

Names of individuals not desiring to hand in books should be turned in to the WCCA office.

A suggestion was made by Mr. Parmeter that Japanese books that are harmless and non-patriotic such as trade journals, medical books, and where use of these books are imperative, be listed for exemption and sent to the San Francisco office for approval.

Letter from Kenji Okuda to the Eleanor Ring dated July 26, 1942. Ring Family Papers, Acc. 4241, Box 1, folder 13. UW Libraries Special Collections.
Complete letter.
Several days ago, an order came through banning phonograph records. What a denial of freedom; more irksome restrictions in a concentration camp!! But I didnít get indignant about it Ö.I took it as a matter of course, or circumstances. Perhaps the ineffectiveness of my wholehearted protest against the twice daily check-up or nose count, the realization of the futility of trying to buck the Army and its authority has lead to this apparently gradual change of heart. Again it might have been Tom Bodineís sage advice that every attempt to question the authority exercised by the WCCA ( a stooge of the Army) would mean an increasing autocratic treatment by the Army. Now an order has come out prohibiting all residents from being within ten feet of the fence and allowing outside visitors only from 1 until 4:30 every day in the visiting room. Again I find myself hopelessly tangled up and with an inner sense of futility of trying to buck the Army.
All area pass, Puyallup Assembly Center. James Y. Sakamoto Papers, Box 10. UW Libraries Special Collections.


Back to exhibit introduction Back to Camp Harmony Exhibit

rev. 30 July 1997

Questions? Comments? Email:   mudrock@u.washington.edu
Last modified: Tuesday January 10, 2006 (mudrock)