Gila River War Relocation Center

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Gila River Relocation Center
Gila River Relocation Center, Rivers, Arizona. A view of some of the school children who participat . . . - NARA - 538598.jpg
School children participating in the Harvest Festival Parade
Pinal County Arizona Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Sacaton highlighted.svg
Location in Pinal County and the state of Arizona
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Gila River Relocation Center
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 33°03′54″N111°49′50″W / 33.06500°N 111.83056°W / 33.06500; -111.83056 Coordinates: 33°03′54″N111°49′50″W / 33.06500°N 111.83056°W / 33.06500; -111.83056
Gila River Relocation Center (historical)
Country United States
State Arizona
County Pinal
Area
  Total2.4 sq mi (6.1 km2)
  Land2.4 sq mi (6.2 km2)
Time zone UTC-7 (MST (no DST))

The Gila River War Relocation Center was an American concentration camp in Arizona, one of several built by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) during the Second World War for the incarceration of Japanese Americans from the West Coast. [1] It was located within the Gila River Indian Reservation (over their objections) near the town of Sacaton, about 30 mi (48.3 km) southeast of Phoenix. With a peak population of 13,348, it became the fourth-largest city in the state, operating from May 1942 to November 16, 1945. [2]

Contents

Internment

The rationale for internment was brought on under the pretext of sabotage of the West Coast by the large Japanese American population. Immediately following the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066. This order was Roosevelt's authorization to hand authority to the Secretary of War and military commanders to designate areas to detain people living in the United States whom may be a threat to the country and its interests. Though it never specifically named Japanese Americans (or anyone of Japanese ancestry) to be detained, it was outwardly implied due to the outbreak of war with Japan. The Secretary of War was also told to supply accommodations to people who are held by the government. The order stated: "The Secretary of War is hereby authorized to provide for residents of any such area who are excluded therefrom, such transportation, food, shelter, and other accommodations as may be necessary". [3] The order also gave authority of the prescribed areas to the Secretary of War ahead of other departments in the government and allowed the use of federal troops to enforce compliance with government rules in those areas. Placed in command of issuing the forced removal of Japanese Americans from their homes and businesses in the West Coast was commander of the Western Defense Command Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt. [4] The internment camps were hastily constructed within a few months after the issue of the order. Living quarters across all camps resembled military style barracks as they were constructed from military surplus equipment. Living space was generally tight and incredibly cramped among families.

The forced removal of Japanese Americans from the "affected areas" of California, Oregon, Washington, and Arizona started from April to May 1942. Families were given just under one week to get their personal and professional affairs in order. As a result, individual families lost thousands of dollars from having to hastily sell off properties severely under market value. After the war, many Japanese Americans who were interned had to completely start over in building their businesses and livelihoods from scratch. In the 1980s, the federal government acknowledged that it had committed an injustice against Japanese Americans with this act. Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, an official apology and authorization to provide restitution to survivors and descendants of inmates. [5] In total 119,000 Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated throughout World War II.

Camp history

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Dillon S. Myer, director of the War Relocation Authority, visit the Gila River War Relocation Center (April 23, 1943) Eleanor Roosevelt at Gila River, Arizona at Japanese-American Internment Center - NARA - 197094.jpg
First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and Dillon S. Myer, director of the War Relocation Authority, visit the Gila River War Relocation Center (April 23, 1943)

Gila River War Relocation Center was one of ten internment camps, operated by the WRA located throughout the American interior west. The Gila River camp was one of two internment camps located in Arizona, the other being Poston War Relocation Center. Most camps including Gila River were chosen due to their solitary geographic locations, many of which were located in the middle of deserts. [6] The camp was located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, near an irrigated agricultural center. It comprised two separate camps, named 'Canal' and 'Butte'. Construction began on May 1, 1942, over the strong objections of the reservation's Pima Indian government. [7] The official opening took place less than two months later, on July 20. Canal Camp closed on September 28, 1945. Butte Camp was shut down on November 10, 1945; and the Gila River Relocation Center was officially closed on November 16, 1945.

Gila River received incarcerees from California (Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles). In addition, it took in 2,000 people from the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas when that facility closed in 1944. It became Arizona's fourth-largest city, with a peak population of 13,348.

Some of the incarcerees died en route to Gila River or shortly after arrival in the harsh desert environment. One of these was the mother of Iva Toguri. Toguri was an American woman of Japanese descent who broadcast for the Japanese and was later condemned as "Tokyo Rose"; she was convicted of treason, based on perjured testimony. [8]

Canal Camp Monument Canal Camp Monument.jpg
Canal Camp Monument

Gila River was considered one of the least oppressive camps of its kind. It had only a single watchtower, and its fences were among the few that lacked barbed wire. The administrators of the camps seemed to care for the incarcerees, and allowed them access to the amenities of Phoenix. Gila River was one of the first WRA camps to have a local "democratic" governing body of internees for the camp, supervised closely by the WRA. A representative of every block was nominated to the council however, only Nisei (second generation U.S born Japanese Americans) were allowed to hold the offices. [9] They also encouraged recreational activities such as sports and arts. Butte camp contained a 6,000-seat baseball field, designed by Kenichi Zenimura, a professional baseball player, and considered to be the best in the WRA system. Incarcerees also built a theater for plays and films, and playgrounds, and planted trees to relieve the desolation of the arid site. Gila River had a communal medical facility at Butte Hospital. Canal Camp had 404 buildings with 232 barracks and 24 separate schoolhouses. Butte Camp contained 821 buildings with 627 residential barracks. These barracks were made of wood and fireproof shingles that were of limited effectiveness in blocking out the desert heat. Each barrack was made to house four single families in separate apartments. But, the camp exceeded its capacity: it was designed for 10,000 residents, and held more than 13,000. Because of this, some families were housed in the mess hall or recreation buildings, where they had to use hanging blankets as makeshift walls for visual privacy. Water shortages also plagued the camp. Inmates' encounters with poisonous rattlesnakes and scorpions resulted in bites that kept Butte Hospital extremely busy.

The land for the camp sites is owned by the Gila River Indian Tribe and is considered sacred by them. They have restricted public access to the historic sites. All the main structures are long gone. Remaining are such elements as the road grid, concrete slab foundations, manholes, cisterns, several rock alignments, and dozens of small ponds.

During the Ronald Reagan Administration, the federal government acknowledged that it had committed an injustice against Japanese Americans with this program. Congress passed a resolution of official apology and authorization to provide compensation to survivors and descendants of inmates. On December 21, 2006, President George W. Bush signed H.R. 1492 into law guaranteeing $38,000,000 in federal money to restore the Gila River relocation center, along with nine other former American concentration camps used to house Japanese Americans. [10]

Notable internees

Ruins of the buildings in the Gila River War Relocation Center of Camp Butte Sacaton-Japanese Relocation Camp Ruins-5.jpg
Ruins of the buildings in the Gila River War Relocation Center of Camp Butte

See also

Related Research Articles

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Sacaton, Arizona CDP in Pinal County, Arizona

Sacaton is a census-designated place (CDP) in Pinal County, Arizona, United States. The population was 1,584 at the 2000 census. It is the capital of the Gila River Indian Community.

War Relocation Authority U.S. government agency created to intern Japanese Americans during WWII

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Kenichi Zenimura was a Japanese-American baseball player, manager, and promoter. He had a long career with semiprofessional Japanese-American baseball leagues in the western United States and Hawaii; these leagues were very active and popular from about 1900 to 1941. He is also noted for the successful barnstorming tours he organized that brought famed players such as Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig to the west coast and to Japan for exhibition games in the 1920s and 1930s. Along with most Japanese-Americans living on the west coast of the United States, during World War II he was incarcerated with his family in an internment camp. Their camp was the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona. There he led construction of a complete baseball field including spectator stands, and he organized baseball leagues for the internees. These leagues were important both to the morale of the internees and to building relationships with nearby Arizona residents. Zenimura has been called the "Father of Japanese American Baseball".

William Minoru Hohri was an American political activist and the lead plaintiff in the National Council for Japanese American Redress lawsuit seeking monetary reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He was sent to the Manzanar concentration camp with his family after the attack on Pearl Harbor triggered the United States' entry into the war. After leading the NCJAR's class action suit against the federal government, which was dismissed, Hohri's advocacy helped convince Congress to pass legislation that provided compensation to each surviving internee. The legislation, signed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, included an apology to those sent to the camps.

Michi Nishiura Weglyn was an American author. In 1977, she wrote the book Years of Infamy: The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, which fueled a movement leading to reparations for Japanese Americans interned during World War II, for which she was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award in the same year. She was also a vocal advocate for those denied redress under the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 and for the more than 2,200 Japanese Peruvians who were taken from their homes by the U.S. government and used in a hostage exchange program with Japan.

Manzanar Childrens Village

The Manzanar Children's Village was an orphanage for children of Japanese ancestry incarcerated during World War II as a result of Executive Order 9066, under which President Franklin Roosevelt authorized the forced removal of Japanese Americans from the West Coast of the United States. Contained within the Manzanar concentration camp in Owens Valley, California, it held a total of 101 orphans from June 1942 to September 1945.

Dillon S. Myer

Dillon Seymour Myer was a United States government official who served as Director of the War Relocation Authority during World War II, Director of the Federal Public Housing Authority, and Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the early 1950s. He also served as President of the Institute of Inter-American Affairs. He is the subject of Keeper of Concentration Camps: Dillon S. Myer and American Racism by Richard T. Drinnon.

References

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  2. "Gila River | Densho Encyclopedia". encyclopedia.densho.org. Archived from the original on 2019-10-20. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  3. Roosevelt, Franklin Delano (February 19, 1942). "Executive Order 9066". U.S National Archives & Records Administration. Archived from the original on November 11, 2019.
  4. Fox, Stephen C (1988). "General John DeWitt and the Proposed Internment of German and Italian Aliens during World War II". Pacific Historical Review. 57 (4): 407–438. doi:10.2307/3640375. JSTOR   3640375.
  5. Foley, Thomas S. (1988-08-10). "H.R.442 – 100th Congress (1987–1988): Civil Liberties Act of 1987". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-12-03. Retrieved 2019-12-03.
  6. Chen and Yu, Fu-jen and Su-lin (Winter 2005). "Reclaiming the Southwest: A Traumatic Space in the Japanese American Internment Narrative". Journal of the Southwest. 47 (4): 551–570 via JSTOR.
  7. Fujita-Rony, Thomas (Summer 2005). "Arizona and Japanese American History: The World War II Colorado River Relocation Center". Journal of the Southwest. 47 (2): 209–232 via JSTOR.
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  10. Thomas, William M. (2006-12-21). "H.R.1492 – 109th Congress (2005–2006): To provide for the preservation of the historic confinement sites where Japanese Americans were detained during World War II, and for other purposes". www.congress.gov. Archived from the original on 2019-12-03. Retrieved 2019-12-03.