20 Views of the Tanforan Assembly Center for “Persons of Japanese Ancestry”

Photographed by Dorothea Lange for the War Relocation Authority, April 29 and June 16, 1942. From the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration. www.nara.gov
©1999 Gladys Cox Hansen Slides will automatically advance.

The assembly center opened April 27, 1942, at what is now the site of Tanforan Shopping Center, as a temporary holding area for interned Japanese. It housed 8,000 prisoners.

“The last family off the bus from San Francisco have just arrived at this assembly center (formerly a race track) which will be their home until relocation centers inland have been established and are ready for occupancy.”
—WRA Caption

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-138

“San Bruno, Calif.-Families of Japanese ancestry arrive at assembly center at Tanforan Race Track. Evacuees will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will be housed for the duration.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-132

“San Bruno, Calif.-Families of Japanese ancestry arrive at assembly center at Tanforan Race Track. Evacuees will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will be housed for the duration.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-134

“San Bruno, Calif.—Families of Japanese ancestry arrive at assembly center at Tanforan Race Track. Evacuees will be transferred later to War Relocation Authority centers where they will be housed for the duration.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA

“This scene shows one type of barracks for family use. These were formerly the stalls for race horses. Each family is assigned to two small rooms, the inner one of which has no outside door nor window. The center has been in operation about six weeks and 8,000 evacuees of Japanese ancestry are now assembled here.”
—WRA Caption

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-651

“This scene shows one type of barracks for family use. These were formerly the stalls for race horses. Each family is assigned to two small rooms, the inner one of which has no outside door nor window. The center has been in operation about six weeks and 8,000 evacuees of Japanese ancestry are now assembled here.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-618

“This center is a converted race track. Here are shown what were horse-stalls, now remodeled into living quarters for families. Photograph was made at noon on the third day after the center had been opened. —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-323

“Barracks for family living quarters. Each door enters into a family unit of two small rooms (remodeled horse-stalls). Tanforan Center was opened two days before this photograph was made. The truck seen coming down the road is bringing bedrolls and baggage to evacuees who have just arrived and are occupying these quarters.”
—WRA Caption

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-326

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, April 29, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-328

“... The people shown in this photograph have just arrived and are occupying themselves with building benches, chairs, tables, and shelves, for their belongings, from scrap lumber. Quarters are equipped with only a bed and mattress for each person.” —WRA Caption

“The dental clinic in one of a group of four buildings devoted to medical services. All medical services at this assembly center are conducted by doctors and nurses of Japanese ancestry. After weeks of difficulty due to lack of equipment and facilities, they are now able to care for the needs of the 8,000 persons living in this Center.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-612

“View of the Tanforan Assembly Center, showing a type of barrack peculiar to the center. Also shown is part of a line-up of evacuees waiting for places in the mess hall for their noon meal.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-643

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-629

“Looking down one of the avenues between rows of barracks. The ones on the right are converted horse stalls, and those on the left are newly constructed and typical of assembly centers and relocation centers throughout the West. They are 100 feet long, covered with black tar paper, contain five 1-room apartments, each of which accommodate a family. The attitudes of the people in this photograph are typical of assembly centers—there is not much to do, not enough work available. They mill around, they visit, they stroll, they linger, to while away the hours.” —WRA Caption

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-627

“Tanforan Assembly Center, San Bruno, Calif.— Entering Recreational Hall where election is being held for Councilmen. A general election for five members of the Tanforan Assembly Center Advisory Council is being held on this day. The Issei have never been able to vote before because of American naturalization laws.” —WRA Caption

“Many of the evacuees suffer from lack of their accustomed activities. The attitude of the man shown in this photograph is typical of the residents in assembly centers, and because there is not much to do and not enough work available, they mill around, they visit, they stroll and they linger to while away the hours.”
—WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-641

“Noon time! Meal times are the big events of the day within an assembly center. Shown here is a line-up of evacuees waiting for the B shift. They carry with them their own dishes and cutlery in cloth bags to protect them from the dust which they, themselves, individually wash after the meal. Most residents prefer this second shift because they sometimes get second helpings, but the groups are rotated each week. There are eighteen mess halls in the center. Some accommodate as many as 800 people, three times a day. All food is prepared and served by evacuees..” —WRA Caption Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA
Photograph C-644

“One of the 18 mess halls plastered with all manner of locally devised posters advertising the qualifications of the various candidates for office in the forthcoming election. Three candidates have been nominated in each of the five precincts from which one from each precinct will be elected a member of the Advisory Council.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-652

“Supper time! Meal times are the big events of the day within an assembly center. This is a line-up of evacuees waiting for the B shift at 5:45 P.M. They carry with them their own dishes and cutlery in bags to protect them from the dust. They, themselves, individually wash their own dishes after each meal, since dish washing facilities in the mess halls prove inadequate. Most of the residents prefer this second shift because they sometimes get second helpings, but the groups are rotated each week. There are eighteen mess halls in camp which, together, accommodate 8,000 persons three times each day. All food is prepared and served by evacuees.” —WRA Caption
Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-655

“Father and son while away the hours carving small wooden animals for the children in front of their home in the barracks. They have been living at the Assembly Center for approximately one month.”
—WRA Caption

Photographer: Dorothea Lange, San Bruno, California, June 16, 1942 —WRA Photograph C-600

Prepared by the Museum of the City of San Francisco

©1999 Gladys Cox Hansen

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