Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Heart Mountain Japanese Relocation Camp

We have never been to a Japanese Relocation Camp. At the beginning of WWII, the Japanese from the west coast were gathered up and brought to camps like the one near Powell, WY. It was occupied from 1942-1945 by 10767 Japanese Americans. They had their own hospital, fire and police department, judicial system, post office, sewage treatment plant, power station, water system, 2 grade schools, 1 high school, pool, sports teams and more. While there they built 2 miles of irrigation systems that still flow through the area today. They planted 2700 acres of crops. There were barracks that the families were crammed in with little insulation and no privacy. The living conditions were terrible in the beginning and improved some as time went on.
We were told there were death threats made on the Japanese Americans while they lived in California. So, the gov’t decided that for their own benefit they would be relocated to these facilities. I am sure that some of the reason was because they were Japanese. I was also told that they were concerned that some of these people were actually spies and could attack America from within.
This is a very difficult subject to teach my children.
Did locking up these people of Japanese heritage save our country from attacks from within our borders?
Did locking them up save them from beatings and death from other angry Americans?
These are questions we cannot answer. It is always easier to look back in time and make judgements on decisions made by our government. I used to have a Top Secret clearance. I know there is so much we do not know. For our own security the government cannot tell us everything. What did they not tell the American people back then? Did that information justify locking up innocent Americans along with some that might have terrorized our country?
These are the questions I discuss with my children. Whether or not the decision was right, we must remember and always try to learn from history. Maybe in the future we can handle it better, maybe we can learn from mistakes of the past and make better choices down the road.
The only thing I do know for certain is that the facilities should of been better. If there was justification to lock up some of the Japanese Americans and they had to lock up innocents with them, the facilities should have been warm, humane, private. Women and children lived there. Pregnant women and children. They deserved better. Should they have been left in their homes and only their husbands taken?  What would they have done financially with out him?  The women and children deserved better - enemy soldiers do not. Our soldiers know that when we join the military we are willing to risk our lives for our country including being taken captive and held in prison. Soldiers do not expect pools, schools, hospitals. Soldiers can handle it. There is a difference.

 Was our gov't trying to protect these citizens? 

Was it better to keep families and communities together?

Heart Mountain was like a small city. Some even earned wages. It is a tough subject..... with many angles.  I think most Americans have a really hard time understanding this type of profiling.

Such a tough subject to teach my children.  It is such a sad time in history.  I love being able to discuss these difficult questions with them and especially since we cannot answer them.

What do you think?

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