Rohwer War Relocation Center

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Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery
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Rohwer Memorial Cemetery
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Location Desha County, Arkansas, United States
Nearest city Rohwer, Arkansas
Coordinates 33°45′58.67″N91°16′48.57″W / 33.7662972°N 91.2801583°W / 33.7662972; -91.2801583 Coordinates: 33°45′58.67″N91°16′48.57″W / 33.7662972°N 91.2801583°W / 33.7662972; -91.2801583
Area1 acre (0.40 ha)
Architect Kaneo Fujioka and Kay Horisawa
NRHP reference # 92001882
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJuly 06, 1992 [1]
Designated NHLDJuly 6, 1992 [1]

The Rohwer War Relocation Center was a World War II Japanese American concentration camp located in rural southeastern Arkansas, in Desha County. It was in operation from September 18, 1942, until November 30, 1945, and held as many as 8,475 Japanese Americans forcibly evacuated from California. [2] The Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery is located here, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992. [1]

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Internment of Japanese Americans Internment in the United States

The internment of Japanese Americans in the United States during World War II was the forced relocation and incarceration in concentration camps in the western interior of the country of between 110,000 and 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry, most of whom lived on the Pacific coast. Sixty-two percent of the internees were United States citizens. These actions were ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Arkansas State of the United States of America

Arkansas is a state in the southern region of the United States, home to over 3 million people as of 2018. Its name is of Siouan derivation from the language of the Osage denoting their related kin, the Quapaw Indians. The state's diverse geography ranges from the mountainous regions of the Ozark and the Ouachita Mountains, which make up the U.S. Interior Highlands, to the densely forested land in the south known as the Arkansas Timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River and the Arkansas Delta.



The 10,161-acre (4,112 ha) of land on which Rohwer was built had been purchased by the Farm Security Administration from tax-delinquent landowners in the 1930s. It remained largely abandoned until the War Relocation Authority, which oversaw the World War II incarceration program, took it over in 1942. It planned to use this facility to incarcerate ethnic Japanese, including American citizens from West Coast areas considered strategic to the war effort. Governor Homer Adkins initially opposed the WRA's proposal to build Rohwer and its neighbor, Jerome, in Arkansas, but relented after being assured that the Japanese American detainees would be controlled by armed white guards at these facilities and they would be removed from the state at the end of the war. During this era, Arkansas had Jim Crow laws and continued with its disenfranchisement of African-American citizens started at the turn of the century.

Farm Security Administration New Deal agency to combat rural poverty during the Great Depression in the United States

The Farm Security Administration (FSA) was a New Deal agency created in 1937 to combat rural poverty during the Great Depression in the United States. It succeeded the Resettlement Administration (1935–1937).

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was a United States government agency established to handle the internment, i.e. forced relocation and detention, of Japanese Americans during World War II. It also operated the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York, which was the only refugee camp set up in the United States for refugees from Europe.

Homer Martin Adkins was the 32nd governor of the U.S. state of Arkansas. Prior to his public service as Governor of Arkansas, he had a career as a pharmacist, salesman, and military officer.

The Linebarger-Senne Construction Company was contracted to build the camp at a cost of $4.8 million; it worked under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. The land was heavily forested and swampy due to its proximity to the Mississippi River 5 miles to the east. Extensive clearing and draining was necessary, making construction at the site a difficult and slow-going task. The camp was still under construction when the first inmates began to arrive. Ultimately the camp held administrative offices, schools, a hospital, and 36 residential blocks, each with twelve 20' by 120' barracks divided into several "apartments", as well as communal dining and sanitary facilities, all contained within a guarded barbed-wire fence. [2]

United States Army Corps of Engineers federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command

The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a U.S. federal agency under the Department of Defense and a major Army command made up of some 37,000 civilian and military personnel, making it one of the world's largest public engineering, design, and construction management agencies. Although generally associated with dams, canals and flood protection in the United States, USACE is involved in a wide range of public works throughout the world. The Corps of Engineers provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the public, and provides 24% of U.S. hydropower capacity.

The architect of the camp was Edward F. Neild of Shreveport, Louisiana, who also designed the camp at Jerome. [3]

Edward F. Neild American architect

Edward Fairfax Neild Sr., was an American architect originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, who designed the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri. He was selected for the task by U.S. President Harry Truman.

Shreveport, Louisiana City in Louisiana, United States

Shreveport is a city in the U.S. state of Louisiana. It is the most populous city in the Shreveport-Bossier City metropolitan area. Shreveport ranks third in population in Louisiana after New Orleans and Baton Rouge and 126th in the U.S. The bulk of Shreveport is in Caddo Parish, of which it is the parish seat. Shreveport extends along the west bank of the Red River into neighboring Bossier Parish. The population of Shreveport was 199,311 as of the 2010 U.S. Census. The United States Census Bureau's 2017 estimate for the city's population decreased to 192,036.

Louisiana State of the United States of America

Louisiana is a state in the Deep South region of the South Central United States. It is the 31st most extensive and the 25th most populous of the 50 United States. Louisiana is bordered by the state of Texas to the west, Arkansas to the north, Mississippi to the east, and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. A large part of its eastern boundary is demarcated by the Mississippi River. Louisiana is the only U.S. state with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are equivalent to counties. The state's capital is Baton Rouge, and its largest city is New Orleans.

A young woman in the woodworking class Rohwer Relocation Center, McGehee, Arkansas. In the wood carving class, at the Rohwer Center, this . . . - NARA - 539387.jpg
A young woman in the woodworking class

Rohwer opened on September 18, 1942, and reached a peak population of 8,475 by March 1943. Most detainees had been forced out of their homes and businesses in Los Angeles or the San Joaquin Valley in California. A large portion of Rohwer inmates were school-age children, most born in the US. About 2,000 students attended the camp's schools, which were opened on November 9, 1942 after some delay. Adults took jobs with the administration, hospital, schools, and mess halls, in addition to agricultural work or labor details outside camp. As 500 acres (200 ha) of the site used for residences and other buildings, officials used the remainder of Rohwer's land to grow more than 100 agricultural products. These were used to supplement the inmates' food rations (kept to a bare minimum of 37 cents a day per inmate to avoid rumors that the WRA was "coddling" Japanese Americans). [2]

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

San Joaquin Valley Valley in California

The San Joaquin Valley is the area of the Central Valley of the U.S. state of California that lies south of the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and is drained by the San Joaquin River. It comprises seven counties of Northern and one of Southern California, including, in the north, all of San Joaquin and Kings counties, most of Stanislaus, Merced, and Fresno counties, and parts of Madera and Tulare counties, along with a majority of Kern County, in Southern California. Although a majority of the valley is rural, it does contain cities such as Fresno, Bakersfield, Stockton, Modesto, Turlock, Tulare, Porterville, Visalia, Merced, and Hanford.

In 1943, the WRA required all adults in Rohwer and the other camps to submit to a series of questions. Officially, it was presented as the registration process to obtain clearance to leave camp for work or school — and it was initially distributed only to the citizen Nisei who were eligible for leave, before being extended to the first-generation Issei — but administrators soon began to focus instead on assessing the "loyalty" of imprisoned Japanese Americans.

Nisei(二世, "second generation") is a Japanese language term used in countries in North America and South America to specify the ethnically Japanese children born in the new country to Japanese-born immigrants. The Nisei are considered the second generation and the grandchildren of the Japanese-born immigrants are called Sansei or third generation.

Issei Japanese people who were first to immigrate

Issei(一世, "first generation") is a Japanese-language term used by ethnic Japanese in countries in North America and South America to specify the Japanese people who were the first generation to immigrate there. Issei are born in Japan; their children born in the new country are Nisei ; and their grandchildren are Sansei.

The "loyalty questionnaire," as it came to be known, created anger and confusion because of two questions: one asked Japanese Americans if they were willing to volunteer for military service (despite their mistreatment by the government and the army) and the other if they would "forswear their allegiance to the Emperor of Japan" (although many had never held such allegiance in the first place). The set-up of the questions was confusing and internees were suspicious of their true purpose.

The loyalty questionnaire and subsequent recruitment efforts proved especially unpopular in the Jerome camp, located 27 miles south of Rohwer. Only 2 percent of eligible men in Jerome (and in Rohwer) enlisted. Some 2,147 others, a quarter of Jerome's population, were classified as "disloyal" after giving unfavorable responses to the questionnaire. They were transferred to the "segregation center" at Tule Lake, California. [4] The decline in population, combined with earlier unrest over poor working conditions in the camp, resulted in authorities closing the Jerome camp at the end of June 1944. A significant number of former Jerome inmates were transferred to Rohwer.

Together with the Tule Lake Segregation Center, Rohwer was the last WRA camp to close, on November 30, 1945. [2]

Rohwer today

Monument to the Men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Rohwer Memorial Cemetery Monument to the Men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Rohwer Memorial Cemetery.jpg
Monument to the Men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Rohwer Memorial Cemetery
Monument to the men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team Rohwer War Relocation Center 007.jpg
Monument to the men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team

The largest remaining structure is the high school gymnasium/auditorium, which was added to and was in service with the local school before it closed in July 2004. The tallest structure is the smokestack from the hospital incinerator. Neither of these is marked in any way to indicate historical significance. The rail line used to bring internees and supplies to the camp remains, though it is apparently abandoned. Some of the rails date back to World War II and before. This rail line also served the Jerome War Relocation Center, which was located 30 miles (48.3 km) southwest of Rohwer.

Various building foundations, walkways, culverts and other improvements are still visible and some are still in use by the local residents. Trees planted by residents have grown tall.

The camp cemetery survives as the only site still identified as having been part of the internment center. It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1992. [1] [5] It has a monument to Japanese American war dead from the camp, and also a monument to those who died at the camp. The camp site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. [1] A tank-shaped memorial, made of reinforced concrete, guards the cemetery, commemorating Japanese Americans who fought for the United States at Anzio and elsewhere in Italy and France during World War II. Thirty-one who came from Rohwer died in action, and their names are inscribed on the memorial, as well as a later memorial raised nearby. [6]

In its National Historic Landmark summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service writes:

Rohwer Relocation Camp was constructed in the late summer and early fall of 1942 as a result of Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942). Under this order, over 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were forcibly removed from the three Pacific Coast StatesCalifornia, Oregon, and Washington. In all, ten camps were established in desolate sites, all chosen for their distance from the Pacific Coast. Over 10,000 evacuees passed through Rohwer during its existence, and over two thirds of these were American citizens. The monuments found within the camp's cemetery are perhaps the most poignant record of this time." [1]

In its summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service indicates that the cemetery's condition is threatened due to deterioration of the grave markers and monuments, but that ownership of the site is unclear. [1] Deterioration is visible in photographs of the site. Deterioration is discussed in a report from the National Park Service to the President. [6] The Find A Grave website lists 25 memorials for Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery. [7]

The cemetery is located 0.5 miles (0.8 km) west of State Route 1, approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) northeast of McGehee, Arkansas. Signs identify the graded road which goes from the highway to the cemetery, where there is room to park automobiles.

Heritage Site

The Rohwer War Relocation Center site is now an Arkansas State University Heritage Site, [8] and features a memorial, the camp cemetery, interpretive panels and audio kiosks. [9]

The Japanese American Internment Museum opened in nearby McGehee, Arkansas in 2013 and serves as the history museum and unofficial visitor center for the Rohwer War Relocation Center. Exhibits include a film, oral histories, photographs and personal artifacts of the internees. [10]

Shooting of residents by a civilian at Rohwer

M.C. Brown, a tenant farmer on horseback on his way home from deer hunting, came across some Japanese Americans from the Rohwer camp, on a work detail in the woods. He fired his gun, and one of the Japanese American men was struck in the hip by a pellet while another was wounded in the calf of the leg. The Japanese Americans were working in the woods under the supervision of a government engineer when the shooting occurred. [11]

Notable internees

Site located in the grove of trees on the horizon Rohwer War Relocation Center 001.jpg
Site located in the grove of trees on the horizon

See also

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The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was a group organized in 1943 to protest the draft of Nisei, from Japanese American concentration camps during World War II. Kiyoshi Okamoto formed a "Fair Play Committee of One" in response to the War Relocation Authority's controversial loyalty questionnaire in 1943, and was later joined by Frank Emi and other inmates of the Heart Mountain camp. With seven older leaders at its core, the Committee's membership grew as draft notices began to arrive in camp. To challenge their forced "evacuation" by the government, they refused to volunteer or participate in the draft, but the Committee required its members to be citizens loyal to the United States willing to serve if their rights were restored. By June 1944, several dozen young men had been arrested and charged by the U.S. government with felony draft evasion. While the camp at Poston, Arizona produced the largest group of draft resisters, at 106, the Fair Play Committee was the most prominent inmate organization to protest the draft, and the rate of draft resistance at Heart Mountain was the highest of any camp. The number of resisters eventually numbered nearly 300 from all ten camps.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Niiya, Brian. "Rohwer" Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-05-29.
  3. "Neild, Edward F." Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2015.
  4. Niiya, Brian. "Jerome" Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  5. "National Register of Historic Places Registration" (PDF). National Park Service. 1991-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
  6. 1 2 "Report to the President: Japanese American Internment Sites Preservation: Rohwer Relocation Center". National Park Service. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  7. Find a grave Website July 15, 2018
  8. "Official site". Arkansas State University Heritage Sites. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  9. McGhee Chamber announcement
  10. "Museum". Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  11. Vickers, Ruth Petway (Summer 1951). "Japanese-American Relocation". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Arkansas Historical Association. 10 (2): 175. JSTOR   40018477.
  12. "George Takei: Biography". 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on 2001-09-22. Retrieved 2008-07-09.