Japantown Atlas - Southern California - Terminal Island
(AKA Higashi San Pedro or East San Pedro)

Note: The Terminal Island map is dense with detail, so it makes a big JPEG. You can click on the "thumbnail view" at the bottom of this page, or this link to see the full-sized Terminal Island map.

Terminal Island, also known as East San Pedro or Higashi San Pedro, was one of the largest Japanese American settlements in the Los Angeles area. Some 3000 people lived in this company town, across the street from the fish canneries and bustling Fish Harbor. Most of the fishermen and the families that worked the canneries were Japanese Americans. The Sanborn map's detailed labels hint at the complexity of the canning operations (boilers, canning, packing, cleaning, fish meal production, etc).

Terminal Island was linked by ferry across Los Angeles Harbor from San Pedro, where there were Nikkei ship chandlery and fishing businesses plus numerous farms. (I remember reading in someone's oral history that the beach at Terminal Island –probably east along North Seaside Blvd.–was the only unsegregated beach in Los Angeles, so was frequented by mainland Nikkei; I speculate also by Blacks). On the 1925 Sanborn maps, the eastward extension of Terminal Island was a string of old beach cottages, one block wide. There are few if any Nikkei listings out there in 1940, which may indicate no Nikkei lived here, or that neighborhood was already gone by 1940 (industry was encroaching, and the shoreline they faced had been filled in for an airport, then a military base). Also out in this direction were oil tank farms and enormous lumber yards (covering several Sanborn pages). To the south were the vast Southwest Marine Shipyard (still extant) and several Federal facilities.

On the vicinity map (enlarged at right), you can see Terminal Island was surrounded by various military installations and industrial sites. It's not surprising that within 48 hours after Pearl Harbor, authorities ordered all 3000 Japanese Americans off Terminal Island. Not to say it was justified, but there was a lot of suspicion and fear, amplified by sensationalist media. News accounts and photos made a big deal of suspicous circumstances (among other things, fishing families had powerful shortwave radios to communicate with their men out fishing, not to signal enemy submarines) but there was never any proof of spying by Japanese Americans on behalf of Japan.

Most Islanders took refuge in Boyle Heights and Little Tokyo until the internment began several months later. Immediately after Pearl Harbor the FBI and local authorities had incarcerated male community leaders, thus wives had to deal with their own eviction in the tumultuous days that followed. During World War II, most of East San Pedro (except Tuna Street businesses and the canneries along Fish Harbor) was incorporated into a military training center, Roosevelt Base, which remained in use well after World War II, then became part of the Port of Los Angeles. By 2000, most of the Tuna Street busineses and the last of the canneries were pretty much gone. (The last few buildings were either 1930s or 1950s vintage; it was hard to tell).

With all these changes, the close-knit Terminal Island community was never able to return to their pre-war homes. Islanders have held regular reunions all these years, and around 2005 succeeded in erecting a handsome memorial to Japanese American fishermen, overlooking Fish Harbor (about 1-2 blocks south of the edge of this map).

Our detailed map does not show the physical environment at its peak. It's based on the 1925 Sanborn maps, with only a small amount of information gleaned from the 1951 maps. The Sanborn Map company didn't bother to map military bases (no business incentive, since the government self-insures) so the post-war pages were never updated (they're blanked out), and it's hard to know (so far) if any buildings remained on the military base. One source says all the residences were demolished during the war.

It's possible there are maps from the late 1930s (or Sanborns saved at intermediate dates) that show the expanded community, but I haven't run across them yet. For example, archival photos show a modern, 1930s era public school, far sturdier than the wooden structures Sanborn shows in 1925, and the directories show quite a few addresses that would have been "offshore" in 1925. There was also a new baseball field built in 1936, towards the outskirts of town (near the top of this map).

Detailed Map: Terminal Island Japanese American Businesses of 1940 (thumbnail view)

First draft 8/4/07

Planned Links:
Link to a few historic eviction photos on Online Archives of California (or basic link and good key words).
Link to Furosato website and related sites, oral histories.
Military base websites