The Heart Mountain Relocation Center or Heart Mountain Internment Camp (currently known as the Heart Mountain WWII Japanese American Confinement Site) was constructed in the summer of 1942 to confine Japanese Americans during World War II. Located between the towns of Powell and Cody in Wyoming, the first incarcerees arrived by train on August 12, 1942 from the West Coast of the United States. 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 U.S. and known as Nisei; and second generation born in the U.S. known as Sansei. Their forced relocation by the government meant 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 Relocation Center had 467 buildings for offices, living quarters, shower/bath facilities, mess halls, and laundry. A 150-bed hospital 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 on 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.
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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