Heart Mountain

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Heart Mountain Wyoming

Can you imagine being an American citizen and being told that you must leave your home because your name reflected an ethnic origin that was in conflict with the United States? Moreover, you can only take with you what you can carry as you are taken to a confinement site without any due process whatsoever.  That is what happened to 120,000 Japanese Americans at the beginning of 1942. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced removal of all persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. Two-thirds of the people who were interred were American citizens,

By August, 1942, the War Relocation Authority had constructed 10 camps in remote, isolated locations where these 120,000 persons would be held behind barbed wire, with armed guards posted. The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was one of these camps.

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Heart Mountain Museum

Today we visited the museum at Heart Mountain which lies between Cody and Powell, Wyoming. A total of 14,025 people were interred at the Heart Mountain Relocation Camp from 1942 – 1945. The camp became the 3rd largest city in Wyoming. Comprised of 46,000 acres with 650 buildings; 450 of these buildings were barracks. Latrines used in common and dining halls for meals, meant that there was very little privacy. The hastily constructed barracks had each been built in 58 minutes…without insulation. The winds on the plains scorched in summer and were freezing in the winter.

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The back of one of the remaining barracks

Interestingly 800 men and women from Heart Mountain Camp agreed to serve in the Armed Forces. 89 persons refused to respond to draft orders and out of those 63 were charged with resisting the draft and sent to federal penitentiaries.The Japanese who served were part  of the 442 unit of the Army which was one of the most decorated units to serve. Fifteen of those who served died in the service of their country.

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I needed to hear the voices of those interred at Heart Mountain. Difficult as it was, I hope it will help me to remember that no one should be imprisoned without following the steps taken by those who formed our constitution to safeguard each citizen’s right to due process. One of the greatest travesties of these internments was that when released, each person received a bus ticket and $25.

On a lighter note: The motel we stayed at last night displayed this book on each night table. It wasn’t until I looked at it this morning that I realized that it was a bible. So…you probably know what I’m going to say: What is the Way for Cowgirls?

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One thought on “Heart Mountain

  1. Martha, your writing is so real and lively. Makes me aware of so much detail, I likely would have missed. Thank you for your beautiful expressions.

    Like

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