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Call for Action: Stop the proposed demolition of the Stockton Assembly Center

The State of California is planning to redevelop the San Joaquin County fairgrounds, former site of Stockton Assembly Center (State Historic Site no. 934) for the purposes of building affordable housing.


An aerial view of the Stockton Fairgrounds with the yellow highlighted area demarcates the former site of the Stockton Assembly Center. The last remaining structure from the Stockton Assembly Center is the Assembly Center Hospital (as highlighted in red). (Graphic courtesy of Philip Merlo)


During World War II, 4,217 San Joaquin County residents of Japanese ancestry, predominately American citizens, were interned at the Stockton Assembly Center from May 10 to October 17, 1942 under Executive Order 9066. Inmates lived in newly constructed barracks located both within the fairgrounds racetrack and adjacent to it. Nearly its entire inmate population came from Stockton, Lodi and surrounding farming areas in San Joaquin County. The camp remained in operation for over five months, making it one of the longest running of the assembly centers.


Part of the Stockton Assembly Center as seen at noon on a hot day. This center has been open to evacuees of Japanese ancestry for one week. May 19, 1942. Photographer Dorothea Lange. Courtesy of WRA no. C-395, War Relocation Authority Photographs of Japanese-American Evacuation and Resettlement, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

The Assembly Center Hospital (highlighted in yellow) is the last remaining structure of the former Stockton Assembly Center. (Graphic courtesy of Philip Merlo).

The Stockton Assembly Center was listed as a California Historic Landmark on May 12, 1984. Most of the structures from the assembly centered have been demolished since the war (including barracks, bath houses, latrines, mess halls, library, store/canteen, visitor center, post office, guard towers, and barbed wire fencing) and only one structure remains, the Assembly Center Hospital. The hospital contained nine wards with a total of seventy-two beds, along with an operating room. Dr. Hajime Kanagawa of Stockton headed the medical staff that included six other doctors: Junji "Jeep" Hasegawa, Masaki Yayoshi, Wilfred Gotanda, Kensuke Uchida, and George Sasaki. Other medical services included a dentist and pharmacy.

Local chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the San Joaquin County Museum are trying to work with developers toward an equitable outcome to preserve and commemorate the history of the Stockton Assembly Center and the Japanese American community. The purpose is not to stop the much-needed affordable housing, but ensure that the history of the former confinement site be recognized, particularly with the former Assembly Center Hospital. We are asking for letters of support and hope you would be willing to join the efforts to preserve and commemorate the Stockton Assembly Center. To support the efforts, please:


  1. Email the letter of support to Joshua Palmer from the Department of General Services (joshua.palmer@dgs.ca.gov) and Michelle Messinger from the Office of Historic Preservation (michelle.messinger@parks.ca.gov).

  2. CC the JACL and San Joaquin County Museum leads on the email - Aeko Yoshikawa (aeko@sbcglobal.net), Steve Sue (northwest.pacific@live.com), and Phillip Merlo, Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Museum (p.merlo@sanjoaquinhistory.org).

  3. To ensure your voice is heard, please submit the letter by September 7, 2021.


If you have any questions, please email Aeko Yoshikawa (aeko@sbcglobal.net), Steve Sue (northwest.pacific@live.com), and Phillip Merlo (p.merlo@sanjoaquinhistory.org).

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