Forced to carry on their lives under harsh weather conditions and unfamiliar surroundings, the exiles took up residence in the internment camps. Leaving behind their homes and businesses, they were scattered all over the interior West in isolated desert areas. The Japanese-descent evacuees left behind an estimated $200,000,000 worth of real, commercial, and personal property. While the WRA was a mediator for the evacuees in that regard, their properties and personal items were sold for much lesser value, and they suffered great financial losses.
The ten “relocation centers” were located in:
- Amache, Colorado
- Gila River, Arizona
- Heart Mountain, Wyoming
- Jerome, Arkansas
- Manzanar, California
- Minidoka, Idaho
- Poston, Arizona
- Rohwer, Arkansas
- Topaz, Utah
- Tule Lake, California
The 10 “relocation centers” resembled prisons with poor food, cramped quarters, and communal facilities. The housing provided was tarpaper covered barracks without plumbing or cooking facilities. A family of five or six occupied a single room of 25 by 20 feet. A bath, laundry and toilet building was shared by more than 250 people.
The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was created as a civilian agency responsible for assisting the internees to become acclimated to their new way of life. It was hoped as well that a considerable number of residents would eventually move out of restricted areas and resettle inland of their own initiative. About 8,000 were allowed to move; however, mounting resistance and hostility in surrounding communities, plus the general uncertainty of the war, caused all further voluntary relocation to be halted by the Western Defense Command.
Despite the fact that most residents were U.S. citizens, many of them buying war bonds and making significant donations to the American Red Cross, they were now denied the right to become U.S. citizens.
Internal security was maintained at each center with a resident “special police force” headed by a non-internee chief, while the exterior boundaries were guarded by military police. One of the most infamous camps was located in Tule Lake, California. There the detainees held frequent demonstrations and strikes demanding their rights under the U.S. Constitution. As a result, it became a “segregation camp,” where other camp internees were sent for refusing to take the loyalty oath, or had been known to cause disturbances within their original camps. At its peak, the Tule Lake camp held 18,789 non-compliant detainees.
Most residents of the relocation centers, never being found guilty of any such wrongful acts or intentions, were merely a group of American citizens of Japanese ancestry who happened to be living in a potential combat zone.