Japanese-American Internment - TULE LAKE

In addition to its status as a War Relocation Center, the Japnese-American internment camp at Tule Lake also became a segregation center during WWII. It once was home to about a thousand barracks where families lived. Tule Lake was the last of the federal government's internment camps to close. This composite image combines two scenes—one as the site appears currently, the other as it appeared during the war. Photo by Kyle Deas whose 16 March 2015 story on Tule Lake is entitled "A Frozen Sadness."


Tule Lake internment camp, depicted here under construction, was located at Newell, California (just south of the Oregon border). The U.S. National Archives contain pictures of this place, including the following.

  • A scene near the camp.

  • It is said that during the war, the Japanese internment camps had some of the highest birth and lowest death rates in the country. People living in the camps were also spared rationing, which was imposed everywhere else.

  • Children, even those living in internment camps, try to have fun wherever they are. Nursery-school children played together and performed "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" for their parents.

  • Seventh-graders attend school at Tule Lake while older students take a two-hour World History and English class.

  • Evacuees grew crops at Tule Lake, as they did elsewhere. Here, they are harvesting potatoes.

  • Tule Lake became a "segregation center" for ethnic Japanese considered disloyal to the United States. In November of 1943, tensions were high; the government declared martial law. Leaders of an uprising were put in the stockade where three of them went on a hunger strike.

  • On the stockade wall at Tule Lake, someone pencilled a drawing, written in English and Japanese. Translated into English, it says:

Japanese Empire [left side]
Down with the United States [in the middle]
Please be a second when I commit harakiri [right side]

In 1943, when the United States government required all Japanese internees to sign a loyalty oath, one little boy was about to move again. His father, born in Japan, thought that signing an oath to support a country which had always refused to grant him citizenship (and now had his family living in barracks without running water) might not be a good idea.

When the father refused to sign, the family - now considered to be “disloyals” - were sent to Tule Lake. The young boy, George Takei, grew up to be a well-known Hollywood actor. We know him best as "Mr. Sulu," of Star Trek fame.

Against this backdrop of forced evacuation and relocation to internment camps, Fred Korematsu dared to resist. In spite of orders, he refused to report to a relocation facility.

His actions would result in one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most infamous rulings.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: Feb 01, 2002

Updated Last Revision: Apr 19, 2019

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"TULE LAKE" AwesomeStories.com. Feb 01, 2002. Jan 19, 2020.
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