We know that Spanish internment camps in Cuba at the start of 20th century were pretty horrific in terms of death toll.

What was the death toll attributed to US internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII?

(Specifically, deaths attributed to internment, NOT just deaths that occurred in the camp but would presumably occur just as well without it.)

  • How do you define "attributed to internment". Are you only interested in people who died by violence or those who were unlawfully killed by the camp's guards or what?
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:48
  • @Richard - People who can be realistically assumed to have died because they were interned (killed by guards, or died from reasons cause by the internment like hunger/higher illness/mortality). E.g. take average mortality for a population of that size and demographics in those years, and compare to actual mortality for interned people. I'm pretty sure research on the topic ought to exist
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 17:53

1 Answer 1


In terms of direct death-count relating to the incarceration itself, there are reports of approximately a dozen deaths as a result of shootings (during various escape attempts) as well as several children and elderly people dying as a result of "inadequate health care".

In terms of general longevity, there have been numerous reports into the long-term results of incarceration, the general concensus being that internees had nearly a double incidence of heart disease and stress-related mortality outcomes:

"Survey information found former internees had a 2.1 greater risk of cardiovascular disease, cardiovascular mortality, and premature death than did a non-interned counterpart. California Nisei-age individuals, the proxy for internment, died 1.6 years earlier than Hawaiians who represented non-interned status. I concluded traumatic stress has life-long consequences even in the presence of efficacious coping strategies."

"The Experience of Injustice: Health Consequences of the Japanese American Internment", Gwendolyn M. Jensen, 1997.

Overall, it's worth stressing that these were not death camps, People were not randomly dying of minor ailments, maltreatment, overwork or starvation. The crude rate of mortality within the camps was approximately 1.5% and essentially the same as non-interned civilians of the same period.

  • Was there an attempt to quantify that risk increase to net mortality vs. percentages? While not direct result, it's still valid data, even if causality is harder to establish.
    – DVK
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:00
  • 1
    @DVK - The accepted figure is that each internee lost 1.6 years of life.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:04
  • @DVK - To complicate matters, you have to take into account that young men who were interned actually had a lower mortality (since there weren't any Germans shooting at them) and internees also received long-term healthcare benefits and various windfall compensation schemes.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 17, 2014 at 18:10
  • To complicate things even more, Japanese-American men had the option of enlisting in the military instead of being interned.
    – user2848
    Commented Dec 18, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    @Richard Actually, there were for some. Only there were not Japaneese shooting at them. Because they were sent to European theatre. I watched some TV document about Japanese-American unit in WW2. They were send as diversion against some hill in Italy and took it despite heavy loses (they were not informed that they are diversion).
    – Alpedar
    Commented Dec 20, 2014 at 15:08

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