Japanese American internees arrive at Santa Anita Assembly Center from San Pedro by special restricted train. The War Relocation Authority (WRA) and many Americans fostered the belief that the Japanese American community was unified in their support of the Japanese advance. The community actually had a diverse level of education and experiences that led to tensions between different regional and generational groups. The San Pedro group, one of the first communities to be forced into internment, spoke little English and were a tight knit fishing community. Most had only a grade school education. Because the Assembly Center was still under construction, the San Pedro and Terminal Island residents were housed in the stables, nicknamed the Dogpatch, which still had animal feces in them when they arrived. Eventually the San Pedro residents were housed in Blocks 5, 6, 13 and 20, across from Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island. The Bainbridge Island community mostly spoke English, were shopkeepers and factory workers, and many had college educations. Tensions developed between the two communities along class and cultural divisions. The San Pedro residents kept to themselves in the camps, were distrustful of internees who worked with the WRA, and were thought to be easily antagonized by perceived slights froma the other internees. San Pedro formed their own baseball teams to play in the camp league. Internee Sue Kunitomi Embrey said in 1973, "I can see where the Bainbridge Islanders would have had a lot of problems with the San Pedro people because of the difference in cultural outlook. I think this is probably one of the most tragic things of the evacuation. You don't put groups of people together because they're one race, because each group, depending on where they come from, has a very different life-style. I think that in Manzanar the biggest difference was between Bainbridge Island and San Pedro, and even San Pedro from the rest of Los Angeles. The people were so different. My mother said when I asked her one time, 'Well, even in Japan, fishermen are considered an entirely different group. They're rough. They have to have a lot of courage; they're fighting the seas all the time. You know, their living is very precarious. And their attitude becomes quite different from the attitude of people who work the land.'"
Photographer's Rank or Affiliation:
Santa Anita Assembly Center
Caption ©2007 MFA Productions LLC
Image in the Public Domain