Pomona Detention Facility
Pomona Fairgrounds House Japanese 1942
Pomona was one of fifteen “Assembly Centers” administered by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA). The detention facility was populated from May 7 to August 24, a total of 110 days. On July 20 the camp population peaked at 5,434 persons. The inmates at the Pomona Center came from California counties, and then, were transferred for long-term confinement at the Heart Mountain “Relocation Center,” Wyoming.
Construction began on March 21, 1942. On April 29, initial construction was completed and the army engineers turned the site over to the WCCA. However, construction work continued until May 25, the costs totalling $1,068,000, approximately $200 per inmate. 309 barracks were constructed for housing, each measuring 20 x 64 feet, along with 8 H-shaped buildings with combined bathroom, shower, and laundry facilities, 8 mess halls and kitchens (H-type), plus 36 shower and latrine buildings, measuring 20 x 28 feet. Since few existing facilities could be used the Pomona Detention Facility cost more than other WCCA camps. Despite higher investments, living conditions were comparable to other temporary detention camps. A fence topped with barbed wire surrounded the perimeter. There is no evidence of guard towers that were used in other camps.
Medical cases were assigned to the H-type hospital building. Dr. Wilfred Hanaoka and five other Japanese American physicians operated the thirty-bed hospital as well as the center clinic. They organized the distribution of milk for children and oversaw the weekly sanitation i
Moving Out and Legacy
At the beginning of August came official word that most of the residents would be heading for the Heart Mountain “Relocation Center” in Wyoming. On August 9, the first group of 292 people left Pomona for the WRA camp in Wyoming. Starting August 15, about 500 persons left every day, with the last group leaving on August 24. Later in the war the site was used to house U.S. troops, then German and Italian prisoners of war.
Today the area is a parking lot of the Fairplex where dragsters race and fair-goers park their SUVs. The grandstand and other fair buildings on the 1942 aerial photograph remain. Eight stable buildings are in the same location as on the aerial photograph. However, since they are constructed of metal and somewhat modern looking, these may not be the same stables in use at the time of the Pomona Assembly Center. No plaque or other signage marks the former incarceration site.