|Tule Lake, California|
|Type||Prisoner-of-war camp and Japanese American incarceration|
|Built by||Civilian Conservation Corps|
|In use||March 1943 - 25 April 1946|
|Fish and Wildlife Service|
The Tulelake camp was a civilian conservation center and segregation facility located in Siskiyou County, five miles south of Tulelake, California. The camp was established by the US government in 1935 to accommodate vocational trainees. The camp was established initially to house enrollees as part of the expansion of available land for the Klamath Reclamation Project. During World War II the camp was used for sheltering Japanese American strikebreakers, imprisoning Japanese American dissidents, and housing Italian and German prisoners of war. After the war, on 25 April 1946, the camp was transferred from the Army to the Fish and Wildlife Service, which managed it prior to the establishment of the segregation camp. The four remaining buildings are currently part of a restoration project that aims to return its original look.
The Tulelake camp was built in 1933 as a public work relief program, part of the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The camp was one of several constructed for the Civilian Conservation Corps that provided six months to two years employment and vocational training for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families, ages 17–23. The 23-building camp included a duck hospital, an administrative headquarters office, the supervisors' residences, and a lookout cabin on the bluff behind the Refuge Visitor Center. Most of the buildings were constructed by the Enrollees themselves. Mexican-American stonemasons constructed over 300 feet of rock wall around the Refuge Headquarters.
The enrollees were paid $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home or put into a savings account. It provided unskilled manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state and local governments, building water control structures of timber and concrete. The CCC camp in southern Oregon dug irrigation ditches, and overall increased the Clear Lake reservoir’s capacity by about 60,000 acre‐feet. Shortly after the initial war efforts by the country, the majority of enrollees left the camp, which was subsequently closed in 1942.
Tulelake camp neighbored the Tule Lake War Relocation Center. In March 1943, over 100 men from the Tule Lake Relocation Center (Internment Camp) were arrested and housed at Camp Tulelake after refusing to answer the War Relocation Authority’s loyalty questionnaire. While imprisoned at the camp, inmates completed around $2,500 in repairs to the abandoned buildings, including installing new stove pipes, repairing the sewer and electrical systems. After several months, they were either released back to the Tule Lake Segregation Center or transferred to other facilities run by the Justice Department and the U.S. Army.
Camp Tulelake also served as shelter for 243 Japanese American inmates brought in from other concentration camps help the WRA undermine the striking Tule Lake prisoners. The strikebreakers were brought in to harvest the ripening crops and paid significantly higher wages than what Tule Lake inmates could earn. For their safety, they were housed at Camp Tulelake.
A notable internee was Frank Tanabe, a Japanese American who volunteered behind barbed wire to serve in a mostly Japanese American military unit, interrogating Japanese prisoners in India and China. When asked why he served in the same army that interned him, Tanabe replied,"I wanted to do my part to prove that I was not an enemy alien, or that none of us were – that we were true Americans. And if we ever got the chance, we would do our best to serve our country. And we did." During the 2012 Presidential race, Tanabe who was then 93 and on his deathbed, gained wide publicity for having his daughter fill out his last ballot. He received mostly positive reaction for his patriotism. Tanabe passed away on October 24, 2012. His family declined to announce which candidate he voted for.
Italian & German POWs
With so many local farmers participating in World War II, the Tulelake Growers Association petitioned the US Government to bring enough hands to help with the harvest. The federal government replied by sending 150 Italian Prisoners of War in May 1944. They converted the camp to accommodate additional German prisoners that arrived from Camp White (near Medford, Oregon) the following month. They set up fences, barbed wire, latrines, water lines, guard towers, and search lights around the camp.
At its peak in October 1944, the camp housed 800 German POWs who helped plant, tend, and harvest onion and potato crops. The POW’s lived and worked in the Tule Lake area until the camp closed in 1946. Even though some of the POWs applied for the lottery of local homesteads, none were drawn in.
Following an announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration of plans to erect a fence around the nearby Tulelake Municipal Airport airport, groups concerned with the historical nature of the area organized support and a petition to drive to prevent this action. The planned fence would surround the site of most of the barracks -- nearly 46 complete "blocks" and portions of several others -- thus making it difficult for visitors to tour the historic site. This will especially impact pilgrimages of former internees, who visit the locations of their former homes. One such former internee is George Takei who was held at the camp as a child, Takei has spoke openly about the camp and fence to help gain support of the patition to scrap the fence.
- California State Military Museum. Historic California Posts: Tule Lake Branch Prisoner of War Camp (Camp Tulelake). Posted 16 August 2010.
- Tule Lake Unit; Camp Tulelake World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument pamphlet. Published by the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Densho Encyclopedia Tulelake (detention facility)