Framework

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Japanese arriving on Pacific Electric train at Santa Anita Assembly Center are met with police, soldiers and searches.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Construction workers unload pre-fabricated sections of frame dwellings to be built at Santa Anita racetrack.The grandstands are in background.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Construction workers assemble pre-fabricated sections of buildings during construction of Santa Anita Assembly Center. This photo was published in the March 24, 1942, Los Angeles Times

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Construction workers assemble pre-fabricated sections of buildings at Santa Anita racetrack. This photo was published in the March 24, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Mar. 23, 1942: Construction workers assemble pre-fabricated sections of buildings at Santa Anita race track during construction of assembly center for Japanese Americans. About 19,000 Japanese stayed at Santa Anita before being transfered to inland camps.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Construction workers assemble pre-fabricated sections of buildings at Santa Anita racetrack.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese gather near Vermont Avenue and 23rd Street before leaving for a temporary internment camp at Santa Anita racetrack.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times

Japanese gather near Vermont Avenue and 23rd Street to register at civil control station before proceeding to Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times

Japanese wait near Vermont Avenue and 23rd Street to register at the civil control station before proceeding to Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times

Buses line the street at 23rd Street and Vermont Avenue waiting for a group of 600 Japanese to be moved to the temporary internment camp at Santa Anita Assembly Center. This photo was published in the May 1, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Gordon Wallace / Los Angeles Times

The Santa Anita racetrack is converted into temporary camp for evacuated Japanese. A similar photo by a staff photographer was published in the April 4, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Associated Press / Associated Press

Mary Nakahara of San Pedro says goodby to Sunday school classmates Marie Mardesich, left, Dorothy Hurley, and Arjan Newcomer, right. Nakamura and her family drove their car, part of a caravan, to the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Wayne B. Cave / Los Angeles Times

Japanese arriving on a Pacific Electric train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center are met with police, soldiers and media photographers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese arriving on a Pacific Electric train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center are met with police and soldiers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese arriving on a Pacific Electric train at the Santa Anita Assembly Center are met with police and soldiers.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese arriving at Santa Anita Assembly Center are searched.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese are searched at Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

A Japanese man's belongings are searched at the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

04/03/1942 Truck unloaded by Japanese at Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese arriving by taxi at Santa Anita Assembly Center are met with searches.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

A Japanese father puts identification buttons on his sons at Santa Anita Assembly Center. The Times reported 1,000 new Japanese arrived at the center on that day.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese at Santa Anita Assembly Center during internment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese at Santa Anita Assembly Center during internment.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Hay is stuffed into bags to make temporary mattresses at Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Food is served at the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

A Japanese family poses for Times photographer at Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

A Japanese family at the Santa Anita Assembly Center.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Andrew Hugh Arnott / Los Angeles Times

Japanese internees at Santa Anita Assembly Center saying goodbye before transfer to Arkansas.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

Before departing for Rohwer, Ark., Japanese internees get breakfast in the Santa Anita Assembly Center mess hall. This photo was published in the Sept. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

Mrs. Tsuneko Fujimoto with son Edward, second baby to be born at the Santa Anita Assembly Center. This photo was published in the Sept. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

Japanese at Santa Anita Assembly Center go through several checks to make sure of their train assignments for move to Rohwer, Ark.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchull / Los Angeles Times

Japanese internees at Santa Anita Assembly Center preparing for transfer to Rohwer, Ark.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

Luggage for Japanese internees at Santa Anita Assembly Center loaded onto train during transfer to Rohwer, Ark.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

Japanese internees at Santa Anita Assembly Center board train during transfer to Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. This photo was published in the Sept. 26, 1942, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Horton Churchill / Los Angeles Times

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Japanese Internment: Santa Anita Assembly Center

March 1942: While Japanese interment camps are built inland away from the West Coast, temporary assembly centers are constructed. One assembly center was established at the Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia.

On Nov. 8, 2009, Times writer Alison Bell wrote this story on the Santa Anita Assembly Center. She reported:

A plaque near the entrance on the sprawling grounds of the Santa Anita racetrack is the sole reminder of the track’s place in World War II history as the nation’s largest assembly center for Japanese Americans on their way to internment camps….

The horses were moved out, the track was shut down and the park’s extensive grounds provided the massive space needed by the War Department to temporarily house thousands of people of Japanese decent.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the evacuation of Japanese Americans to internment camps. While these relocation camps were being built, evacuees were ordered to stay for a few months at assembly centers throughout California, as well as in Arizona, Oregon and Washington.

Beginning in March 1942, about 19,000 Japanese Americans from Southern and Northern California lived at Santa Anita in hastily constructed barracks or in converted horse stalls, which some evacuees said never fully lost the stench of manure.

The Army covered Santa Anita’s parking lot with row after row of identical barracks covered with tar paper. The camp was divided into seven districts and included several mess halls, a hospital, stores, a post office, classrooms, and makeshift churches in the track’s grandstand.

Each evacuee was given an Army bed, one blanket and one straw tick, according to Anthony Lehman, author of “Birthright of Barbed Wire.” The racetrack was surrounded by barbed wire.

At night, searchlights swept the streets.

Residents were banned from possessing any literature printed in Japanese.

At the center, many Japanese Americans found work, some in their chosen professions, as doctors, teachers, cooks, electricians and typists. Others worked in the track infield, which was turned into a vegetable garden to supplement meals.

Despite the repressive environment, internees formed theater groups, knitting classes, a choir, a band and a string quartet.

The camp had more than 70 softball teams, half a dozen Boy Scout troops and a PTA.

For the most part, the center ran smoothly, with little dissent. However, in August 1942, soldiers rushed in to quell a riot after a suspected informant was beaten. The internee’s injuries were not serious, and three days later the military police withdrew, The Times reported.

Most of these photos were taken by Times staff photographer Andrew Hugh Arnott. He covered the construction of housing at Santa Anita on March 23, 1942. A couple of these images were published in the March 24, 1942 LA Times.

Arnott also was at Santa Anita on April 3, 1942, during what appears to be a media day at the camp. His images of arrivals on a Pacific Electric train show the presence of other still and movie film photographers. An overall image of the Santa Anita Camp by an Associated Press photographer – also taken on April 3 – is included in the gallery. During my research, none of these April 3 images by Arnott were published. Only one image, an overall similar to the AP photo, was published in the April 4, 1942, edition of The Times.  I did not locate a print or negative of this image.

One last important batch of images — Japanese being moved out of Santa Anita Assembly Center, were taken on Sept. 22 1942 by Times staff photographer Horton Churchill. Four of these images were published in the Sept. 26, 1942, edition of  The Times.

Previous posts in this Japanese World War II Internment series are:

Alien Registration Act of 1940 [updated].

Executive Order 9066: Japanese American internment in World War II. 

Japanese evicted from Terminal Island.

11 Comments

  1. April 20, 2012, 1:26 pm

    The captions refer to Japanese. Were these people citizens of the Japanese Empire or American citizens?

    By: Greg Creedon
  2. April 20, 2012, 2:41 pm

    So it's February 1942. You are a Japanese American living with your family and are told to pack up your possessions to move to an internment camp for who knows how long. You put as much as you can in boxes and suit cases. It's a lot. Your sidewalk is full of your things as well as those of your neighbors. Now they put you and your wife and kids in a bus, along with the other families. How did they transport all the other things, boxes and crates to the camp? And those bungalos, so small, were not big enough to store all the stuff either. I cannot even begin to imagine the chaos that this order from FDR brought on for these Americans. In hindsight it just appears that there was complete disregard for these people.

    By: rafaelc@racen.com
  3. April 20, 2012, 10:25 pm

    About 110,000 Japanese were moved from the West Coast. About two-thirds of the Japanese removed were American born citizens.

    By: Scott Harrison
  4. April 21, 2012, 9:12 am

    The U.S. had broken the Japanese military codes. All of them. They knew there were spies in the Japanese community in the U.S. who were actively communicating by radio with Japan, particularly reporting military ship movements, and they knew who the spies were, too. But they couldn’t single them out without giving away one of the greatest secrets of the war, and causing the Japanese to immediately change their codes. Internment was the only choice left.

    The battle of Midway was won at Santa Anita racetrack, believe it or not (that’s when knowing the codes came in handy).

    Why Japanese citizens weren’t allowed to retain real estate holdings is a whole different question. But internment itself was not avoidable.

    By: Russell Johnston
  5. April 22, 2012, 1:17 pm

    A lot of it was pressure from California farmers on Gov. Earl Warren. They wanted to get the Japanese out of farming because of the competition.

    By: Mike
  6. April 23, 2012, 12:32 am

    I think virtually the entire world does not believe this. What a ridiculous statement.

    What about German and Italian Americans? Were they forced into internment camps? Of course not. Had the British broken German codes? Yes. Did the British inform the Americans? Yes. so, where were these internment camps?

    By the way, they weren't "Japanese commuties" they were Japanese-American communities.

    By: Joe Gates
  7. April 26, 2012, 1:59 am

    They wanted to get the Japanese out because of racism…

    By: DavidDdsaf
  8. April 26, 2012, 11:00 am

    No Japanese American was ever charged and convicted of sabotage or spying during World War II. In the end, only ten people were convicted of spying, all of whom were CAUCASION! If the loyalty of Japanese Americans was so questionable, then why, after being thrown into the internment (actually concentration) camps, were the men drafted into the military?

    By: John K.
  9. October 12, 2012, 11:23 pm

    It was distressing to read the captions referring to "Japanese" people in photo after photo. The majority were American citizens of Japanese ancestry. It's good to view these historical photos on the LATimes website, but if you had done just minimal fact checking, this kind of a misrepresentation wouldn't happen.

    By: Kori Kanayama
  10. January 19, 2013, 8:31 am

    I think based on the time and what was going on in the streets of America, for the safety of any American who had Japanese features, camps where the safest place for them. How many would die at the hands of biggots if they stayed in their homes. It was a double edged sword but atleast many could have a chance.

    By: barnsdon@live.com
  11. February 24, 2013, 11:57 pm

    Japanese were told to take anything that they could carry but at the last moment you were told to take only one box or suitcase.

    By: Edgar

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