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Santa Anita Park served two purposes during WWII. From March 1942 until October 1942, it served as an assembly and processing center for Japanese Americans prior to their displacement of internment camps across the United States. In all, over 20,000 Japanese Americans were processed there. After October 1942 until 1945 the property was utilized as the largest ordnance training center on the West Coast --Camp Santa Anita. During these years, over 100,000 soldiers were trained there. Prior to the war Santa Anita Park served as a horse racing park. Racing resumed after VE day in May 1945.


  • The marker near the grandstand commemorating the use of Santa Anita Park during WWII.
  • An unidentified navy veteran of Japanese ancestry reports to the assembly center for processing.
  • Families Awaiting to be processed
  • Arial View of Race Track after Converted into Camps

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt ordered the evacuation of Japanese Americans to internment camps.  While these camps were being hastily constructed, the Japanese Americans were housed at processing centers.  The vast area of Santa Anita Park served this purpose for housing these persons from San Diego and Santa Clara counties in California.
When Japanese Americans arrived, they were given an army cot, blanket and straw tick which they used in rows and rows of barracks that were constructed on the park's parking lot.  More than 8,000 lived in converted horse stables that some claimed never lost the stink of manure.  The race track was surrounded with barbed wire and searchlights. 
Once the Japanese Americans has been evacuated to their respective internment camps, the park was converted to an army base. where more than 100,000 soldiers were trained in weapons, ammunition and combat vehicles.
In 2001, a marker was placed close to the grandstand of the racetrack commemorating this segment of the racetrack's history.

            Its February 19,1942, President Roosevelt just announced the actions of Executive Order 9066 which declared all Japanese American citizens to be relocated into temporary internment camps across America. In order for them to go to certain camps each Japanese American citizen had to go through a processing center and then waited to be relocated to a camp. These processing centers were just holding areas for the time being. Santa Anita Race Track in California was used for one of those centers. It housed over 8000 Japanese American 

With the government building the barracks on site officials also made old horse stables living quarters for people with only a cot, a blanket to sleep with. Families could only bring a bag of belongings and had to leave behind all other goods. George Takei whom was a young boy at the time he was taking to his processing camp in the Northern California area was then relocated to an Arkansas Camp. When the citizens arrived to the centers they were given a meal card, ID number and then waited days, weeks, or months to get put into a interment 

Over time Executive order 9066 processed and incarnated over 120,000 Japanese American citizens.[1] Most of these families came from 2nd and 3rd generations of Japanese families and were called Issei and Nisei. They were also called cultural traitors. Around this time of February Three months after Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans’ constitutional rights no longer existed. Japanese American people could not leave the country, because all of their assets had been frozen when the initial raids occurred. The Issei generations could not become American citizens and thus were labeled as “enemy alien.” The right to sign up for the draft during the start of the war was denied due to being of Japanese descent. Rights and duties as simple as buying gasoline were halted due to panic of threat. At the end of February a committee that was created by the House of Representatives, which investigated the national defense migration, held hearings about what action should be taken for the Japanese “enemy aliens”. It was until John Tolan of the Democratic Party that said, “If it is necessary from a danger standpoint the United States should evacuate all Japanese Americans into camps.”[2] The Japanese were dehumanized as soon as they arrived to the camps. They only had the clothes on their backs and the few they were able to take from their homes. In California camps especially, it was the norm to use abandoned racehorse stables as homes. Most camps only had metal cots with hay mattresses, and never had enough to stay warm in the harsh weather conditions. Though the treatments were insensitive and immoral, the Japanese spirit stayed strong and gave them a sense of great community for one another. Although they were in these camps out of punishment for their cultural heritage, they managed to keep their traditions alive through the tough times.[3]George Takei put it the best way, “Our democracy and be just as great as the people but can also be just as fallible as the people.” Looking back through history and when Pearl Harbor happened, America, was terrified and needed to do something. At the time this was that something. We at times now have entered the same paradox. Not to far from here San Bernadino was attacked by terrorists and multiple attacks around the world had happened. At that time the world was scared, an American official gave rise to this idea again, about labeling Muslim people. We learn from our mistakes in history not repeat them. We cannot be a great country if we separate each other. United We Stand, Divided We Fall. 


[1] Taylor Shiro, Japanese Internment Camps: Inequality in the Land of Equality (California: University of the Pacific, 2013), 70

[2] Roger Daniels, Prisoners Without Trial (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), 26

[3] Shiro, 70

 

Boose, Denise. "Santa Anita During World War II." Historical Marker Database. February 17, 2012. http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=68088. Gazzar, Brenda. "WWII's Camp Santa Anita featured in Arcadia exhibit." January 31, 2013. http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/general-news/20130131/wwiis-camp-santa-anita-featured-in-arcadia-exhibit. Daniels, Roger. Prisoners Without Trial. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 1993. Shiro, Taylor. Japanese Internment Camps: Inequality in the Land of Equality. Stockton, CA: University of the Pacific, 2013. Takei, George. “George Takei Describes his Experience in Japanese Internment Camps.” Last modified February 28, 2014. http://io9.gizmodo.com/george-takei-describes-his-experience-in-a-japanese-int-1533358984