The camp was then redesignated as a Prisoner of War Processing Station by the War Department on 14 July 1943 and was discontinued on 3 August 1943. Prisoners were initially received here from the Los Angeles Port of Embarkation and then moved to other Prisoner of War Camps in the West. Those thought to have valuable information were sent to an interrogation center at Camp Tracy at Byron Hot Springs.
Soon after the Prisoner of War Center was closed the Army established Griffith Park Photographic Center on 9.1 acres of the western portion of the reservation and the Griffith Park Experimental Laboratory utilizing remaining 18.76 acres on the central and eastern part of the former interment camp. Both activities utilized talented personnel from nearby films studios in nearby Burbank and Hollywood to process photographs and to develop and test new camouflage systems and techniques.
On 30 August 1947. The Los Angeles City Council passed Resolution 117 terminating the lease for all except 1.46 acres of the Experimental Laboratory effective the following day. The Army paid Los Angeles $1,400,000 in lieu of restoration. The remaining 1.46 acres was returned to the City of Los Angeles on 15 July 1949.
On 26 December 1947, the City of Los Angeles terminated the lease with the Army for the former Photographic Center. The Army paid the City of Angeles $7.900,000 in lieu of restoration.
Today, there are no remains of this installation and it has been covered over by the City of Los Angeles's Travel Town Museum.
Los Angeles's Griffith Park, the largest municipal wilderness park in the United States, served as a temporary detention site for Japanese Americans and other enemy aliens in the weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The men held there were moved to other camps run by the U.S. Army or Immigration and Naturalization Service early in 1942.
Located in the northern part of Los Angeles, California, Griffith Park has been one of the city's gathering places for well over one hundred years and within the confines of the park, one can find the iconic Hollywood sign, the Griffith Observatory, and the L.A. Zoo. The area was first "inhabited" by Native Americans of the Tongva Tribe, who were later called Gabrielinos and today are the Gabrielino-Tongva Tribe. Corporal Jose' Vicente Feliz was rewarded with a Spanish land grant that included the park area around 1775 and named it Rancho Los Feliz. The land was eventually acquired by Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, who settled in Los Angeles in 1882, and in 1896 he donated 3,015 acres as a gift to the people of Los Angeles.
On May 11, 1934, construction was completed on a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp within the park called Camp Riverside; workers were assigned to build retaining walls, trails, access roads, maintenance, and restore structures. A 1940 newspaper article reported that the camp was located one mile west of Victory Blvd. on South Riverside Drive, in the northern part of Griffith Park. The CCC camp was about sixteen miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.
Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor the CCC's Camp Riverside was closed, with the army taking custody and using it as a recreational facility for soldiers. The CCC camp was secured so it could hold Issei "enemy aliens" who were picked up by the FBI in various counties and detained for a period of time before being transferred to other camps such as Ft. Lincoln, North Dakota and Ft. Missoula, Montana. According to archivist Gwen Granados at the National Archives and Records Administration in Laguna Niguel, California 35 Issei men arrested right after the Pearl Harbor attack for immigration violations, expired visas, or coming to the U.S. illegally were among the first to be detained at Griffith Park. They were mostly fishermen from Terminal Island and thus lived and worked close to army and naval installations. After a few days in a makeshift jail, they were sent to Tuna Canyon Detention Station.
In an oral history account, Amy Uno Ishii describes her father George Kumemaro Uno's internment at Griffith Park. Picked up by the FBI on the day of the Pearl Harbor attack, the family did not know where he had been taken. Then on one Saturday night around three weeks later, the Uno family got an anonymous phone call telling them they should go to the CCC camp at Griffith Park where 300 men were held, one of whom might be their father. They drove there the following day bringing along some essentials like toothpaste, soap, underwear, pajamas, candy bars, chewing gum, and other items and saw an encampment with lots of military police. The children of George Kumemaro Uno bravely stood outside the fence and yelling in unison for their father and eventually got his attention. He waved his arms and said "Great" so his children started to throw the essential items for their father over the fence it happened so fast that the guards were not aware. Later, the Uno family received another anonymous call to go to a train station in Glendale, and the family packed up more essentials including foodstuffs. When they arrived at the train station they recognized their father as he was waiting in line to board the train and were able to say their goodbyes before he was moved to an unknown destination.
The Griffith Park Detention Camp included two separate but adjoining compounds, each about 250 by 500 feet. The camp was enclosed with double fences of galvanized mesh wire capped with barbed wire. The outside fence was ten feet high and was eight feet from the inner fence and included floodlights and sentry stations at each corner. Each of the compounds had separate mess halls and kitchens, toilet, shower and sleeping facilities that could accommodate 150 prisoners but eventually expanded to hold up to 550. One of the camp compounds was used to detain 77 Issei "enemy aliens" that were transferred from the U.S. Naval Receiving Station on Terminal Island to make room for 1,000 Navy recruits. The 77 Issei prisoners were transferred to the Army Detention Camp in Griffith Park on February 21, 1942. Two lists show a total of 77 other Issei enemy aliens transferred to Griffith Park, 21 from the Santa Barbara County jail who then joined the "Kline Party" in moving to Ft. Lincoln, North Dakota. Griffith Park Detention Camp was one of the three coastal mainland detention camps readied to intern male and female enemy aliens removed from Hawai'i
On July 14, 1942, Griffith Park Alien Detention Camp became a POW Processing Station for Japanese, Germans, and Italian prisoners and was eventually closed on August 3, 1943. The POWs that would have had valuable military information were sent to Camp Tracy at Byron Hot Springs, California to be interrogated. After August of 1943, the camp became the Army's Western Corps Photographic Center and Camouflage Experimental Laboratory.
In 1947 the site eventually was returned to become part of the public park. Today there is no longer any trace left of the CCC camp, Griffith Park Detention Camp, or the POW Processing Station. A statue sculpted by Uno John Palokangas called "Spirit of the CCC" or "Iron Mike" was located on the other side of the park south of the Los Angeles Zoo and was dedicated on October 1, 1935 by President Franklin Roosevelt to honor CCC workers. The statue subsequently disappeared with several myths as to its demise. A bronze replica of the statue by Jim Brothers was dedicated in 1993 in front of the Travel Town Railroad Museum, which is located close to the former site of the detention camp Griffith Park Detention Camp does not appear in the National Park Service Japanese Americans in World War II National Historic Landmark Theme Study and is not slated for any historical recognition.
For More Information
Eberts, Mike. Griffith Park: A Centennial History Griffith Park During World War II. Los Angeles: The Historical Society of Southern California, 1996.
Amy Uno Ishii. Interviewed by Betty Mitson
and Kristen Mitchell on July 9, 1973 and July 20, 1973. In Japanese
American World War II Evacuation Oral History Project, Part I:
Internees, ed. Arthur A. Hansen. Munich: K.G. Saur, 1994. 39-87.
Historical Data Card - Post, Camp - Station or Air Field
Source: Historical Data Card: Prisoner of War Processing Station, Burbank California, Center of Military History, Washington DC
Griffith Park Experimental Laboratory
During World War II in 1943, the United States government leased 18.76 acres from the City of Los Angeles to be used by the War Department as a camouflage experimental laboratory and yards. It was located in the northwest part of Griffith Park, south of Los Angeles River, in the City of Los Angeles. After the end of the war, 17.30 acres of the original 18.76 acres were returned to the City of Los Angeles by Resolution No. 116, dated 30 August 1947. The sum of $1,400.00 was paid in lieu of restoration. By supplemental agreement dated 31 August 1947, 1.46 acres remained leased to the government. On 15 July 1949, the lease on remaining 1.46 acres was terminated and the acreage returned to the city of Los Angeles. After the City reacquired the land in 1949, the buildings and installations constructed by the military were demolished and the land was restored back as a park land. All remnants of government materials, installations, and facilities that existed in the past have been removed. There is no visible evidence existing on site to indicate any presence of hazardous, toxic or explosive wastes.
Source: Los Angeles District,
US Army Corps of Engineers