By MARTHA NAKAGAWA, Rafu Contributor
During World War II, the U.S. government established three citizen isolation centers, not two as previously thought, according to groundbreaking research being conducted on an upcoming book on the Tule Lake War Relocation Authority (WRA)/Segregation Center by Roger Daniels, emeritus history professor and pioneer scholar in Japanese American history, and Barbara Takei, an independent writer/researcher and Tule Lake Committee chief financial officer.
The two already-known isolation centers in Moab, Utah and Leupp, Ariz., were created to imprison U.S. citizens of Japanese descent whom the government deemed as “troublemakers.” Those who ended up at Moab or Leupp were arrested without charge, received no hearings, and were imprisoned indefinitely.
Takei noted that in her research, combing through thousands of government documents, a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp on Hill Road, currently designated as Camp Tulelake, was repeatedly referred to in government documents as the Tule Lake Isolation Center.
She said the WRA did not refer to this former CCC camp as “Camp Tulelake.”
The National Park Service publication “Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites” refers to the remaining structure at this location as the “Tulelake CCC Camp.”
“What has become very clear — after the [Tule Lake] registration protesters were removed from the Alturas and Klamath Falls jails and sent to that CCC camp — the WRA consistently discusses and refers to the former CCC camp on Hill Road as an ‘isolation center,’” said Takei via email.
The registration incident Takei is referring to is the February 1943 arrest of the Tule Lake Block 42 men for refusing to register for the controversial loyalty questionnaire. Initially, 32 men from Block 42 were imprisoned at the Alturas and Klamath Falls jails for about seven days without charge, before being shipped to the former CCC camp on Hill Road. Later, this population ballooned to more than 100 Tuleans.
The alleged leaders of the Block 42 men were sent to the Moab Citizen Isolation Center, another former CCC camp, which had been converted into an isolation center in December 1942, following a rebellion at the Manzanar WRA camp.
When Moab could no longer accommodate the expanding prison population, the government closed Moab and turned a former boarding school on the Navajo reservation into another citizen isolation center at Leupp in April 1943.
The Leupp citizen isolation center had 150 military police guarding roughly 80 inmates.
The government quietly closed down Leupp, the last of the three isolation centers, on Dec. 2, 1943, after officials realized the illegality of imprisoning U.S. citizens indefinitely, without charge. The remaining 71 inmates were transferred to the Tule Lake Segregation Center.
Meanwhile, the isolation center at Tule Lake was used to house a second group of Japanese Americans in October 1943. This group consisted of inmates from other WRA camps, sent to Tule Lake to harvest the camp crops because the Tule Lake farm workers went on strike.
In May 1944, this location underwent yet another transformation to house Italian and German prisoners of war.
According to Superintendent Larry Whalon, who oversees the Tule Lake Unit of the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, the CCC camp built at this location was constructed in 1935 and had been named “Camp Tulelake” at one point when it was under the Bureau of Reclamation. Whalon noted that the National Register lists the period from 1935 to 1946 as a period of significance for this location.
Through email, Whalon said, “The National Park Service is continually undertaking historical research to most accurately place the history of its units in their proper context and gather primary documentation so that we can interpret to the best of current knowledge the significant stories of the NPS. We appreciate when historians are willing to share the information that they collect with us. We will use all available information to continually update the tours, exhibits, and interpretive media when new information is received.”