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The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 10: Life at Tule Lake

Tule Lake Plaque_Densho_10Apr15

As depicted in the above photograph (courtesy of Densho; see note below) of a plaque set in May of 1979, the Tule Lake interment camp was operational from May of 1942 until March of 1946. It had the capability to house over 18,000 Japanese Americans.

Life at Tule Lake was trying. Basic accommodations and monotonous lives, together with fences and guard towers, left no doubt in anyone’s mind that they were in prison–a large open one, but a prison nonetheless. Their homes were nothing more than barracks, divided into sections, each heated by a coal-fired, pot-bellied stove. Surprising to most outsiders, internees supplied most of the labor and administration. The War Relocation Authority defined three classes of wages: unskilled labor, $12/month; skilled labor, $16/month; and professionals, $19/month.


Tule Lake_Classroom_NARA_10Apr15

The above photo and the one following are courtesy of NARA, the National Archives and Records Administration

As with the other internment camps, Tule Lake was a fully functioning community, with a hospital and schools for the children. There were four levels of education: nursery school, elementary, high school, and adult education. There were no chairs initially, and the children had to sit on the floor. Books and teachers were scarce too, but conditions improved with time.

Facilities were meager. For example, modest by nature, Japanese women resented open toilets and showers. No one became more popular that men who acquired scrap wood and installed partitions between toilets in the washrooms.

Tule Lake_Flower Garden_NARA_10Apr15

A recreation department, with over 100 volunteers, worked hard to keep internees’ interests satisfied. Sporting events were popular, as well as adult education courses that afforded everyone a chance to learn new hobbies. Women, particularly, used their imaginations to make their humble surroundings homey, including planting flower gardens and participating in various craft projects. Women were challenged to produce stylish versions of the dull, government-issue navy blue peacoats. Acting in plays, singing in choirs, making jewelry, and playing ping pong were among dozens of activities offered. Those who had experience or an interest in publishing worked on the staff of the Tulean Dispatch, a three-column mimeographed newspaper.

Sadly, for various reasons, families often got separated within the camp. Demeaned and discouraged by the humiliation of their situation, many Issei (Japanese immigrant to the U.S.) fathers lost control of their children, who ran wild and found friends in other blocks, spending time there and eating separately from their parents.

Wartime shortages that affected the country in general made their way to the camps. Mess halls declared that meals on Tuesdays and Fridays would be meatless. Sugar, butter, and coffee were other food items impacted. But no one went hungry because fish, eggs, and cheese were plentiful.

Up next: The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 11: Internal Resistance and the JACL

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Note: Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project is a digital archive of videotaped interviews, photographs, documents, and other materials relating to the Japanese American experience. Additional information on the project is available at



Stories you can listen to, #11: Just Deserts


Coastal Scene_Just Deserts_10Apr15

In my continuing series of short stories, Just Deserts was one of my first thrillers. I liked this genre so much that it spawned a trilogy of thrillers beginning with Category 5. One important technique I learned from reading James Patterson’s Along Came a Spider is to use shorter chapters and scenes to speed up the action; you’ll see that strategy used extensively throughout Just Deserts. In this story, a selfish, entitled daughter decides that she wants it all.

NOTE: Before I receive notes back from readers, let me assure you that the title of this short story is correct. It is “Just Deserts” and not “Just Desserts.” Here is the definition From Wikipedia, “Desert /dɨˈzɜrt/ in philosophy is the condition of being deserving of something, whether good or bad.”

Click here to either listen to or read the story.

Feel free to share this blog. And please e-mail ( me if you have any questions.



Kudos for How Much? from local newspaper, The Californian


How Much_Resized2_2Apr14

To read review directly from The Californian, please click here.

“How Much Do You Love Me?” (Sweetwater Books. $16.99) by Paul Mark Tag.

Local Connection: Since his retirement from the Naval Research Laboratory, Paul Tag has devoted his time to writing. Trained in meteorology, the Monterey Peninsula resident has used his background and a local setting as part of the backdrop for some of his novels. His thrillers include “Category 5,” “Prophecy” and “White Thaw,” plus a collection of short stories.

This latest novel is partially set in Monterey.

Content: When you begin this novel you’ll discover an elderly woman who lies in a Monterey Peninsula hospital room dying as her daughter tries to piece together a puzzle about the family that dates back to the months they spent in the 1940s in internment/relocation camps at Pinedale and then Tule Lake, California.

Keiko Tanaka grew up in Bellevue, Washington before the outbreak of World War II and she married James Armstrong just before he joined the military after war was declared. The cross cultural marriage was unusual at the time but both families were supportive. That didn’t help much when the Tanaka family was sent away to a relocation camp though, after James headed off to boot camp.

It is what happened during their relocation center sojourn that provides the mystery that this story revolves around. After the war Keiko and James eventually settled in Monterey and now, decades later, as her mother lies in a hospital bed, Kazuko, Keiko’s daughter suddenly realizes that a set of missing family photographs hold the key to a perplexing mystery only her aunt apparently is able to unravel.

Not only does “How Much Do You Love Me?” offer a clever plot but it also presents an authentic picture of life in the relocation camps that have been written about by a number of authors. And although it won’t be really obvious until the end of the story, the novel’s title is woven nicely into the narrative and relates to how this romantic tale ends.

Quote: “A month had passed since they and the other Bellevue residents had arrived at the Tule Lake Relocation Center in northern California, ten miles south of the Oregon border. The Tanakas had departed Pinedale on July 16 after more than a seven-week stay at that temporary facility. On the ride north, Keiko swore to Misaki (her twin sister) that they were riding the same train as had brought them south from Washington. She proved it on the afternoon of the second day when she showed Misaki dried remnants of her blood at the base of the metal bench where she had fallen back in May.”

Audience: A total departure in subject matter from the author’s previous novels, “How Much Do You Love Me?” is a sentimental but powerful story of a family and the sacrifices members of the household made for one another. I guarantee you won’t forget these characters and this remarkable tale. This is Paul Mark Tag’s best novel to date. It contains some major surprises and it is well worth reading.

The novel is available online at Amazon or other sites and through the author’s website at

Robert Walch of Monterey writes about Central Coast Authors for The Salinas Californian. Contact him in care of Central Coast Authors, The Salinas Californian, 123 W. Alisal St., Salinas 93901, or e-mail to




Stories from My Life: Remembering my best friend in college, Harriet Emas Nicholson

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The Japanese Internment of World War II, Part 9: The Tule Lake War Relocation Center

Above image of Tule Lake, circa 1943-44, courtesy of Library of Congress This blog is Part 9 of a series discussing the internment of Japanese in the United States during World War II. This sequence is meant as an accompaniment to my historical novel, How Much Do You Love Me? Part 6, “One Family’s Journey… View Article

Wine and Dine Literary Society

  This past Wednesday evening Becky and I had the pleasure of attending a book-club meeting in Livermore, California where I addressed the Wine and Dine Literary Society. They had chosen How Much Do You Love Me?, my historical novel on the Japanese internment of World War II, as this month’s read. In the picture you see… View Article

Stories you can listen to, #9: Lemonade or Iced Tea

  In my continuing series of short stories, Lemonade or Iced Tea, although relatively short at 900 words, is told from three points of view: mother (Emily), daughter (Janet), and fiancé (Timothy). Will Timothy end up marrying Janet? You decide. Click here to either listen to or read the story. Feel free to share this blog…. View Article

White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy receives acclaim from Kirkus Reviews

    White Thaw: The Helheim Conspiracy is the third in my trilogy of thrillers. Here is a copy of the Kirkus review: KIRKUS REVIEW In Tag’s (Category 5, 2005, etc.) thriller, a scientist learns that Nazis are planning a return to power with an attack of worldwide proportions—and that her family in Colombia may… View Article

Stories you can listen to, #8: Jimmy Boy

In my continuing series of short stories, “Jimmy Boy” is told from the point of view of Delores Weaver, an elderly woman riding out Hurricane Iniki in Kauai, Hawaii, in September of 1992. It isn’t long before Delores and her husband, who has Alzheimer’s, have to move from their apartment to a storm shelter. It’s… View Article