Heart Mountain Japanese-American Internment Camp

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The Heart Mountain Japanese-American internment camp was constructed in the summer of 1942. The first residents arrived on August 12, 1942, by train. The peak population was over 10,000.

The population consisted of Japanese immigrants known as Issei, second generation born in the United States and known as Nisei, and third generation born in the U.S. known as Sansei. Their relocation by the government meant that they had to give up property such as houses, businesses, cars, and bank accounts. They also moved away from their neighborhoods, friends, jobs, and schools.

The camp had 467 buildings for offices, living quarters, shower/bath facilities, mess halls, and laundry. There was a 150 bed hospital that provided health care, including surgeries. The camp had a newspaper called The Heart Mountain Sentinel. Bill Hosokawa was the first editor. The newspaper was distributed to 6,000 camp households every week and was mailed to subscribers outside of the camp.

Many people passed time by working in the camp or on farms outside the camp, but there were other activities residents could participate in. Residents were allowed to set up a governmental structure, although camp administrators had the final say on all decisions. Several denominational churches were made available for religious choice and a library was established. Scouting was popular, as were sports and social clubs. Education was very important for all ages. The camp was mostly self-sufficient, growing food and raising animals. They were very successful farmers, even growing crops that didn’t seem possible in Wyoming.

The last residents left November 10, 1945, the same way they arrived—by train. No longer confined, each person was given a train ticket to any destination in the United States and a cash stipend of $25. Most of them had nothing to return to and all detainees were forced to start over with their lives.

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