Heart Mountain Japanese-American WWII Internment Camp

The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, located between Powell and Cody in Wyoming, was constructed in the summer of 1942 to confine Japanese-Americans during World War II. The first incarcerees arrived on August 12, 1942, by train. At its peak, the camp's population was more than 10,000. The population consisted of Japanese immigrants known as Issei, first generation born in the United States and known as Nisei, and second generation born in the U.S. known as Sansei. Their forced 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 Heart Mountain internment camp had 467 buildings for offices, living quarters, shower/bath facilities, mess halls, and laundry. A 150-bed hospital that provided health care, including surgeries.

Bill Hosokawa was the first editor of the camp's newspaper, The Heart Mountain Sentinel, which can be read online in Wyoming Newspapers. The newspaper was distributed to 6,000 camp households every week and was mailed to subscribers outside of the Heart Mountain camp.

Many people passed time by working in the camp or on farms outside the camp, but there were other activities incarcerees could participate in. They 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 relocation 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 internees 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 had nothing to return to, and all detainees were forced to start over with their lives.


Image above: Sketch of Heart Mountain incarceree with her back to the wind by Estelle Ishigo. Image courtesy of the American Heritage Center, from their Estelle Ishigo Photographs digital collection.

"Aura Newlin - Japanese Americans in Wyoming" on Wyoming Chronicle, courtesy of Wyoming PBS.

Mess hall line in summer, sketched by Estelle Ishigo

Mess hall line in summer, sketched by Estelle Ishigo.


Walking through the barracks with Heart Mountain in the background.


The camp in winter, sketched by Estelle Ishigo.


Children at the internment camp.


Two children ready for a snowball fight.


A funeral at the Heart Mountain camp—a reminder that not all were able to return home after the war.

Image Credits

All Estelle Ishigo drawings are from 1942-1945 at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center, courtesy of the American Heritage Center. See more in the AHC's Estelle Ishigo digital collection. Photographs from the digital collections at the AHC. Newspaper images are from Wyoming Newspapers.

Copyright notice: Digitized collection materials are accessible for educational and personal research purposes.

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