Wages, pay and maintenance of Japanese evacuees

Wages, pay and maintenance of Japanese evacuees. Memorandum for the Assistant Secretary of War from the J.L. DeWitt, Commanding General, Headquarters Western Defense Command and Fourth Army dated May 2, 1942. In American concentration camps: a documentary history of the relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, 1942-1945. New York: Garland, 1989.

Office of the Commanding General

May 2, 1942

MEMORANDUM FOR: Assistant Secretary of War

SUBJECT: Wages, pay and maintenance of Japanese evacuees.

  1. Certain Japanese at Assembly Centers are engaged in administrative and maintenance work. No wage has been fixed for such employment. Doctors, nurses and cooks, for example, put in long hours and work hard, while others either are unable to work or there is insufficient work in the center to assign them duties. The matter of pay for evacuees has been highly controversial. Life Magazine and certain other publications and persons have widely circulated a canard to the effect that evacuees are each being paid a certain amount per month. In some instances this was reported to be as high as $94.00.
  2. It is proposed to compensate those Japanese evacuess who actually work, for work done, on a nominal basis, supplying, in addition, to all concerned, subsistence, shelter, and a small money allowance with which to purchase such items as tobacco, toilet articles, etc.
  3. With the concurrence of, and in consultation with, Mr. Eisenhower, Director, War Relocation Authority, the following plan is proposed.

The following schedules of grades and wages, based on a forty-four hour week, will be applicable to evacuees performing work at assembly and reception centers operated by the Army:

Unskilled                      $ 8.00 per month

Skilled                        $12.00 per month

Professional and technical     $16.00 per month

A. Definitions:

    1. Unskilled - common labor, to include dishwashing, tray service at mess halls, junior clerks, assistant playground directors, cook's helpers and other similar occupations.
    2. Skilled - nurses, accountants, senior clerks, playground directors, motion picture operators, cooks, etc.
    3. Professional and technical - physicians, dentists, chemists, engineers, teachers, etc.

Payment for work performed will be made from appropriated funds retroactive to first assignment of evacuee to work after arrival at the center.


A. The Army will furnish without cost to the evacuees the following:

    1. Subsistence, shelter and hospitalization, medical and dental care.
    2. On application, a controlled clothing issue with a money value allowance per month not to exceed the following:

Cost per month Cost per year

Adult male                                 $ 3.82         $30.50

Male, 6-18 years                          2.15          25.00

Children, 1-5 years                      2.60          27.57

Adult female                                 4.61          42.19

Female, 6-18 years                      2.85          26.81

-Total cost per family of five       16.03         162.07

Infant to one year                       2.25          27.09

B. The Army will make available, upon application, the following allowance for evacuees:

$2.50 per individual per month

4.00 per couple per month

1.00 for each individual under 16 years old

7.50 maximum allowance any one family

    1. The above allowance will be issued in the form of a coupon book, which will be obtained from the center manager, having a cash value good for purchase of merchandise at the center stores.
    2. Any evacuee may purchase a coupon book or books for cash at any time.

C. Finance and Records.

    1. Time-keeping and recording of all work performing [sic] by evacuees at the centers will be maintained by the Assembly Center staff. Since there will be no charge for subsistence, shelter, etc., and payment for work performed will be made, such record will be for statistical purposes only and will reflect all transactions for each evacuee, including benefits received.
    2. Upon removal of the evacuee from the jurisdiction of the Commanding General, Western Defense Command and Fourth Army, to that of the War Relocation Authority, balances will be prepared for each individual or family head and any monetary obligation due the individual or family head will be discharged before the evacuee departs from the center.

4. Approval of the foregoing proposed schedule is recommended. Immediate action is urged as morale of evacuees engaged in administrative, hospital and maintenance work is difficult to maintain in the absence of some compensation.

Signed by J.L. Dewitt with a concurrence by M.S. Eisenhower of the WRA and approved on May 9, 1942 by John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War.