Camp Livingston

Winston Ho 何嶸.  
University of New Orleans,
Department of History 紐奧良大學歷史學系.

2019 May 3, Friday.



[Dorothea Lange. “I Am An American.” 1942 Mar. 13. Wanto Company Grocery. Operated by Tatsuro Masuda. Opened by his father in 1916.]

Last month, in April of 2019, I was a panelist at the Louisiana Historian Association’s (LHA) annual meeting, where I gave a 15-minute presentation on the New Orleans Chinatown. However, my panel was followed by a panel on Japanese American internment in Louisiana, featuring Samantha Perez, a professor of history from Southeastern Louisiana University, and two librarians from LSU — Hayley Johnson and Sarah Simms. Their research adds to the earlier research by Greg Robinson from the University of Quebec at Montreal.

Camp Livingston was one of several U.S. Army bases located north of Alexandria in central Louisiana. Camp Livingston was an infantry training center before and during the Second World War, but it also a detention center for German, Italian, and Japanese aliens and POWs. At its peak, 1123 internees of Japanese ancestry were detained here, including the first Japanese prisoner of war — Kazuo Sakamaki, who was captured after his midget submarine sank during the Pearl Harbor attack. After Pearl Harbor, the FBI sent agents to Latin America to identify enemy aliens.  The Japanese they found were deported to the United States, where they were first detained at the Algiers Immigration Station in New Orleans, and later at Camp Livingston. However, most detainees were non-citizen Japanese residents from Hawaii and California.

722px-map_of_world_war_ii_japanese_american_internment_camps-red-triangles[Japanese American Internment Camps. Arkansas State University.]

This was not a War Relocation Authority (WRA) camp, like Camp Rohwer or Camp Jerome in Arkansas, for the mass detention of “non-aliens of Japanese ancestry” [in other words, American citizens]. This was an enemy alien camp run by the Department of Justice and the U.S. Army, with detainees pre-selected by FBI before the Pearl Harbor attack for internment as “dangerous aliens.”

Most of these “dangerous aliens” turned out to be community leaders, teachers, physicians, Buddhist monks, Christian ministers, and other educated people. Like the Chinese, foreign-born Japanese had been excluded from becoming naturalized citizens since 1924. So, all the men detained at Camp Livingston could never become American citizens (until the law was changed in the 1950s), though many had been living in the United States for decades and had raised American-born Nissei children in this country. Only men were held at Camp Livingston, and many had been separated from families, who were detained at the WRA camps.

For more information, please see an earlier presentation Ms. Johnson and Ms. Simms gave in the summer of 2018 to the National WWII Museum.

Or, read Greg Robinson’s entry for Camp Livingston at the Densho Encyclopedia.


Internment - Exclusion Order No. 9102 (1942)Sources.  

[Exclusion Order No. 9102. 1942.] 

Robinson, Greg. Camp Livingston, Alexandria, Louisiana. Densho Project. 2015. 

Johnson, Hayley, and Simms, Sarah. “Louisiana’s Camp Livingston and Internment: A Hidden History.” Discover Nikkei (2017 Sep. 14). 

Johnson, Hayley, and Simms, Sarah.  “Through an Extended Lens: Louisiana, Internment, and the Geography of Chance” [Camp Livingston, Alexandria, Louisiana]. National WWII Museum Lunchbox Lecture on Facebook.  2018. 

Johnson, Hayley, and Simms, Sarah.  “Uncovering the hidden history of Louisiana’s Japanese internment camps during WWII.”  LSU Experimental, 2019. 

Chambers, Tim.  “Restoring Dorothea Lange’s ‘I Am An American’.”  Anchor Editions. 2017 Jul 21. 

2019 Louisiana Historical Association Meeting official website. 

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