Relocation Camps, Internment Camps or Concentration Camps

by Arnold Nelson

     December 7, 1941 was the day Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. After that attack the United States was scared and in a panic. They were afraid the Japanese was going to attack the mainland, our homes. Our government started working on plans to relocate the Japanese and move them off the West Coast because they were afraid some of them would be spies for Japan.

     In March of 1942 they started moving the Japanese to what they called relocation camps but they were called internment camps by most of the public and some started calling them concentration camp's until the tragedies in Germany's death camps become known, than the name concentration camps was dropped.

     More than 112,000 Japanese were relocated to these internment camps, most had to leave so fast, all they had was clothes on the back. These camps were set up in some of the worst areas of the West. Some of these camps were set up in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho and it was cold. Most of the Japanese did not even have warm clothing. It was very miserable for them. These camps were built in a hurry and not built for warmth. They were built domicile style. There were many beds to a room, no partition between the stalls in the restrooms, and they had common eating areas.

    In these camps there was always a shortage of everything. It was a huge job with so many Japanese, but those in charge did the best they could with what they had. The Japanese had a saying for their conditions in the camps they said skikata ga nai which means, it cannot be helped.

    If you were even one 16th Japanese you were sent to one of these camps. The Japanese that were born in Japan and migrated to the US were called Issei, their children were called Nisei and their grandchildren were called Sansei.

    Most of these Japanese would never think about hurting the US but because of their heritage they were all rounded up and put in these Camps. A lot of the Japanese had farms and businesses and lost them all when they had to go into the internment camps. The white people that were their neighbors were glad to see them go because they could take over the land the Japanese had and the Japanese businesses and make more money for themselves.

    The Japanese were allowed to work in these camps and made a little money to buy what they needed for their families. Towards the end they were even allowed to work outside the camps. Some were allowed to join the Army and fight for the US in order to get out of the camps but only about 1200 actually volunteered to serve. Others were given the opportunity to denounce their US citizenship. Some did and were sent back to Japan. Some did and were released from camps but not allowed to go back to their homes in the West. The ones that renounced their citizenship were told at a later date they could become citizens again, but they were never allowed to, and they regretted their decision for the rest of their lives.

     When the Japanese were finally released from these internment camps they were given $25 and a ticket back to their homes. $25 was not a lot of money back then and most of them had nothing to go home to, but they went home anyway, and with the help of friends they started over. In 1988 Pres. Ronald Reagan signed an order into law giving every person that was put in these camps $20,000 and a sincere apology from the US.

    Here's a list of the 10 camps that were used in the West the date they open and the amount of detainees they had in their camps.

    Manzanar, Ca. opened March 1942 and housed 10,046 detainees Tule Lake, Ca. opened May 1942 and housed 18,789 detainees Poston, Az. opened May 1942 and housed 17,814 detainees

     Gila River, Az opened July 1942 and housed 13,348 detainees. Granada, Co. opened August 1942 and housed 9318 detainees

    Heart Mt, Wy. opened August 1942 and housed 10,767 detainees

    Minidoka, Id. opened August 1942 and housed 9397 detainees

    Topaz, Ut. opened September 1942 and housed 8130 detainees

    Rohwer, Ar opened September 1942 in housed 8475 detainees

    Jerome, Ar opened October 1942 and housed 8497 detainees

     I used the word detainees here because even though the overwhelming majority were Japanese there were some Germans and Italians also detained in some of these camps.

    Most of these camps are now listed as historical monuments. Some of them just have a sign explaining what happened there. Manzanar was left standing so people could see what these interment camps were really like. This was done to remind people what happened in hopes that it would never happen again. There were some famous people that were detained in these camps Wikipedia has a long list of their names I have just taken four names that meant something to me and listed them.

    Pat Morita well know actor lived from 1932-2005. He is best known for playing Arnold owner of Arnold's restaurant on Happy Days. He's also known for being the karate instructor Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies.

    Robert Ito another well-known actor he was born in 1931. He was best known for playing Sam Fugiyama on the Quincy TV series. Robert Ito was born in Canada but because he was living in the United States when World War II broke out he would put in an internment camp too.

    Jack Soo well-known actor lived from 1917 to 1979. He is best known for playing Nick Yemana on the Barney Miller show. Jack also had a role in the Witch Mountain movies. Jack was born on a ship that was sailing from the US to Japan.

   George Takei all you Trekkies should know that name, he played helmsman Hikaru Sulu on Star Trek. George was born in 1937.

    I would like to end this by saying I hope there never comes a time again when any race of people is frightened enough to imprison another whole race of people. This was a very sad time in US history and although the money helped it can never make up to the Japanese people for all they lost when they were interned during World War II.

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