Puyallup Assembly Center file photo [31958]

Puyallup Assembly Center

Type   266 Prison Camp
Historical Name of Location   Puyallup, Washington, United States
Coordinates   47.182879000, -122.295397000


ww2dbaseIn Oct 1900, the first Puyallup Valley Fair was held at a vacant lot just west of present-day Pioneer Park in Puyallup, Washington, United States. Becoming an annual event, the location of the fairgrounds would eventually move about 500 meters (about 1,600 feet) to the south.

ww2dbaseWhile the fair persisted through the Great Depression and WW1, it was suspended during the US involvement in WW2 due to the US Army having taken over the fairgrounds in early 1942. In Apr 1942, US Army began constructing the Puyallup Assembly Center on the fairgrounds for the purpose of temporarily holding Americans of Japanese ethnicity from the Seattle-Tacoma area in Washington and the Territory of Alaska. Most of them held American citizenship. The first of the 7,390 internees arrived on 28 Apr 1942, and the rest came shortly after. The camp was divided into four zones, with Area A holding about 2,000 internees, Area B holding 1,200, Area C holding 800, and Area D holding 3,000. The internees were held in barracks buildings divided into small single-room apartments, with each internee receiving approximately 50 square feet of living space. The walls dividing each apartment did not go all the way up to the ceiling, so there was no privacy between families. Each apartment had one small window, one electrical socket, one wood stove, and simple cots. The buildings had no running water. Each area had several mess halls (serving mostly canned goods), laundry facilities, shower rooms (consisted of water pipes spraying water down at large open rooms without privacy dividers), and latrines (consisted of wood boxes with holes cut out, metal pots within the wooden boxes to catch waste, and without any privacy concerns). A single 100-bed hospital was built in Area D. In May and Jun 1942, about 100 Japanese-Americans left Puyallup Assembly Center to seek work or education outside the exclusion zone; a handful of these 100 would choose to travel to Japan. Separately, on 26 May 1942, 196 internees voluntarily transferred to Tule Lake, California, United States ahead of schedule to help with the construction of a permanent internment camp there. Beginning on 12 Aug 1942, internees began to be transported by train to War Relocation Authority camps in Minidoka, Idaho; Tule Lake, California; and Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The final train left on 12 Sep 1942, with Minidoka as the destination. Although Puyallup's administration euphemistically called it "Camp Harmony", Puyallup Valley Fair was not a harmonious place. Those who were imprisoned there during those months recalled being threatened by soldiers with Thompson submachine guns, being denied latrine time after dark, barbed wire fencing, and search light towers. Some relief came from the residents of the town of Puyallup (which was nearly out-numbered by the internment camp population) as they tossed books, toys, and sporting equipment over the barbed wire fences when the guards were not looking.

ww2dbaseOn 30 Sep 1942, the site was handed over to the Fort Lewis Ninth Service Command, and shortly after became the home of US Army 943rd Signal Service Battalion until Dec 1942. The US Army would hang on to the site until the end of the war. The Puyallup Valley Fair resumed in Sep 1946. The festivity continues through the date of this writing in 2022 under the name of Washington State Fair.

Seattle Times
Washington State Fair

Last Major Update: Aug 2022

Puyallup Assembly Center Interactive Map


Aerial view of Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington, United States, 1942

Puyallup Assembly Center Timeline

28 Apr 1942 The first Japanese-American internees arrived at the Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington, United States.
12 Aug 1942 Internees of the Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington, United States began to be transported out by train, to the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Jerome, Idaho, United States.
12 Sep 1942 The last of the internees of the Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington, United States boarded a train destined for the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Jerome, Idaho, United States.
30 Sep 1942 The Puyallup Assembly Center in Washington, United States was handed over to the Fort Lewis Ninth Service Command to be converted into a military training facility.

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Modern Day Location
WW2-Era Place Name Puyallup, Washington, United States
Lat/Long 47.1829, -122.2954
Puyallup Assembly Center Photo Gallery
Aerial view of Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington, United States, 1942

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