President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This gave Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson responsibility for assisting relocated people with transport, food, shelter, and other accommodations. Stimson then delegated Karl Bendetsen to administer the removal of West Coast Japanese.

Over the spring of 1942, Bendetsen issued Western Defense Command orders for Japanese Americans to present themselves for removal. The "evacuees" were taken first to temporary assembly centers, requisitioned fairgrounds, and horse racing tracks where living quarters were often made from converted livestock stalls.

As construction was completed on the more permanent and isolated War Relocation Authority (WRA) camps, such as the one at Heart Mountain, the population was transferred by truck or train. These accommodations consisted of tar paper-walled frame buildings in parts of the country with bitter winters and often hot summers. The camps were guarded by armed soldiers and fenced with barbed wire with looming guard towers.

As a result, approximately 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were relocated from the West Coast of the United States and held in American concentration camps across the country. About two-thirds, or 70,000, were American citizens. Many of the rest had lived in the country between 20 and 40 years.

Most Japanese Americans, particularly the first generation born in the United States (the nisei), considered themselves loyal to the United States of America.

View PDF of evacuation order poster.

The relocation center at Heart Mountain in 1943. At its peak, the internment camp housed more than 10,000 people.

Japanese-Americans leaving their homes. Sketch by Estelle Ishigo.

Family life in a hut at the Heart Mountain camp. Sketch by Estelle Ishigo.

In the August 12, 1944, Heart Mountain Sentinel, a return to "Life" meant resettlement somewhere other than their home communities. They were forbidden to reside on the West Coast, where many were from. It wasn't until Executive Order 9066 was suspended in December, 1944, that they were permitted to return to try to rebuild their lives. Read the full article.

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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