Camp: Administration

The Puyallup Assembly Center was under the jurisdiction of the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) and the center manager, J.J. McGovern. The day-to-day administration of the camp, that one scholar called "the most thoroughgoing example of self-government" evident at the assembly centers, was in the hands of a select group of Japanese American Citizens League (JACL)members.1

The Japanese American governing board was based on a military model with a headquarters staff and a corresponding structure in each of the camp's four areas. All information from the inmates to the WCCA staff was funnelled through this governing structure and WCCA directives were disseminated through the governing board to the inmates.

James Y. Sakamoto, chair of the Emergency Defense Council, former national leader of the Japanese American Citizens League, was the chief supervisor. The situation in Puyallup was unique.

Nowhere else did inmates have as much direct control over other inmates; in addition, nowhere else was the characteristic collective or group leadership of the Japanese American community replaced by the leadership of a dynamic individual. The leader was James Y. Sakamoto, a maverick whose flamboyant life and career would have stood out in any prewar ethnic community but nowere more so than in contrast with the "grey flannel" conservative style adopted by almost all the other successful Japanese American leaders.2

This self-imposed government of the Japanese American Citizens League did not go without complaint. A vote of confidence was taken in June and the JACL did win the support of the camp following a controversial non-secret ballot vote. The dissidents demanding this vote of confidence were later scattered by the authorities to different camps.


1. Daniels, Roger. Asian America: Chinese and Japanese in the United States since 1850. Seattle: University of Washington Press, pg. 235.
2. Ibid, pg. 236.