reads like a simple detail, its succinctness perhaps amplifying its horror: “a number of babies died in the hospital.” This statement appears in a monthly report from Unit I of the Poston Japanese-American incarceration camp in Arizona. By the summer of 1942, thousands of Japanese Americans held at Poston had another name for the miles of tarpaper-covered buildings that they called home: “Roasten.” The high desert heat baked their barracks and scorched the earth.
This is the heat that a “number” of babies — either infants needing special care when they arrived at the camp with their families or newborns — succumbed to while in the hastily-constructed hospital.
Doctors and nurses who worked in the children’s ward reported that the babies died of dehydration. There was no way for the limited number of medical professionals — mostly Japanese-American incarcerees themselves — to alleviate the children’s suffering fast enough.