Life in Manzanar
One of the ten internment camps was Manzanar, located in in the Owens Valley of California between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Inyo mountains on the east. “About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth.” The first people to arrive in Manzanar were the men and women who volunteered to build the relocation camps. There were 54 barracks into 36 blocks, 200 to 400 people were living per block. In a 20 by 25 room, 8 people were put together and inside each room was a stove, blankets, cots, and a couple of mattresses filled with straw. Men and woman shared toilets, and showers, and the premise included a mess hall as well as a laundry room. Many of the internees were unaccustomed to the harsh weather conditions that life in Manzanar brought them; summer temperatures rose as high as 110 degrees F and in the winter temperatures dropped below freezing. Children still attended school, even when incarcerated and adults found jobs that gave them wages from as low as $12 to $19 a month. The jobs offered to them included digging irrigation canals, tending fruits and vegetables, making clothes and furniture for themselves, serving in the mess hall, doctors, nurses, and teachers. To make the situation better, internees elected block managers and established various churches, clubs, dances, sports, and other recreational programs. Tensions increased for Japanese Americans when the US government required internees to fill out a loyalty questionnaire. “Japanese American internees were asked if they would serve in combat and if they would swear unqualified allegiance to the United States.” Those who answered yes were “loyal” while those who answered no were sent to a segregation center at Tule Lake, Calif.