Rohwer War Relocation Center

Last updated
Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery
Rohwer War Relocation Center 010.jpg
Rohwer Memorial Cemetery
USA Arkansas location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
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 No. 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] Among the inmates, the notation "朗和 (Rōwa)" was sometimes applied.[ citation needed ] The Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery is located here, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992. [1]



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.

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]

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

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]

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.

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 their country during World War II. 581 men [6] joined the U.S. Army from this camp, either volunteering or accepting their conscription into the legendary 100th Infantry Battalion, [7] the famed 442nd RCT [8] and MIS. [9] 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. [10]

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. [10]

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, [11] and features a memorial, the camp cemetery, interpretive panels and audio kiosks. [12]

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. [13]

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. [14]

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

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Executive Order 9066</span> 1942 U.S. presidential executive order which authorized internment of Japanese-Americans

Executive Order 9066 was a United States presidential executive order signed and issued during World War II by United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942. "This order authorized the force removal of all persons deemed a threat to national security from the West Coast to "relocation centers" futher inland- resulting in the incarceration of Japanese Americans." Two-thirds of them were U.S. citizens, born and raised in the United States.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Manzanar</span> World War II Japanese-American internment camp in California

Manzanar is the site of one of ten American concentration camps, where more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II from March 1942 to November 1945. Although it had over 10,000 inmates at its peak, it was one of the smaller internment camps. The largest was the Tule Lake internment camp, located in northern California with a population of over 18,000 inmates. The smallest was Amanche, located southeastern Colorado, with over 7,000 inmates. It is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California's Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, approximately 230 miles (370 km) north of Los Angeles. Manzanar means "apple orchard" in Spanish. Among the inmates, the notation "満座那" was sometimes applied. The Manzanar National Historic Site, which preserves and interprets the legacy of Japanese American incarceration in the United States, was identified by the United States National Park Service as the best-preserved of the ten former camp sites.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Internment of Japanese Americans</span> World War II mass incarceration in the United States

During World War II, the United States forcibly relocated and incarcerated at least 125,284 people of Japanese descent in 75 identified incarceration sites. Most lived on the Pacific Coast, in concentration camps in the western interior of the country. Approximately two-thirds of the inmates were United States citizens. These actions were initiated by president Franklin D. Roosevelt via an executive order shortly after Imperial Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Ex parte Mitsuye Endo, 323 U.S. 283 (1944), was a United States Supreme Court ex parte decision handed down on December 18, 1944, in which the Justices unanimously ruled that the U.S. government could not continue to detain a citizen who was "concededly loyal" to the United States. Although the Court did not touch on the constitutionality of the exclusion of people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast, which it had found not to violate citizen rights in its Korematsu v. United States decision on the same date, the Endo ruling nonetheless led to the reopening of the West Coast to Japanese Americans after their incarceration in camps across the U.S. interior during World War II.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">War Relocation Authority</span> U.S. government agency created to intern Japanese Americans during WWII

The War Relocation Authority (WRA) was a United States government agency established to handle the internment 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. The agency was created by Executive Order 9102 on March 18, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and was terminated June 26, 1946, by order of President Harry S. Truman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Heart Mountain Relocation Center</span> Historic place in Wyoming, United States

The Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, named after nearby Heart Mountain and located midway between the northwest Wyoming towns of Cody and Powell, was one of ten concentration camps used for the internment of Japanese Americans evicted during World War II from their local communities in the West Coast Exclusion Zone by the executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gila River War Relocation Center</span> Internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II

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. It was located within the Gila River Indian Reservation 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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tule Lake National Monument</span> National Monument of the United States in California

The Tule Lake National Monument in Modoc and Siskiyou counties in California, consists primarily of the site of the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, one of ten concentration camps constructed in 1942 by the United States government to incarcerate Japanese Americans forcibly removed from their homes on the West Coast. They totaled nearly 120,000 people, more than two-thirds of whom were United States citizens. Among the inmates, the notation "鶴嶺湖" was sometimes applied.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Minidoka National Historic Site</span> Historic site in Idaho, USA

Minidoka National Historic Site is a National Historic Site in the western United States. It commemorates the more than 13,000 Japanese Americans who were imprisoned at the Minidoka War Relocation Center during the Second World War. Among the inmates, the notation "峯土香" was sometimes applied.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Amache National Historic Site</span> National Historic Site of the United States in Colorado

The Amache National Historic Site, formally the Granada War Relocation Center but known to the internees as Camp Amache, was a concentration camp for Japanese Americans in Prowers County, Colorado. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Japanese Americans on the West Coast were rounded up and sent to remote camps.Among the inmates, the notation "亜町" was sometimes applied.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Topaz War Relocation Center</span> United States historic place

The Topaz War Relocation Center, also known as the Central Utah Relocation Center (Topaz) and briefly as the Abraham Relocation Center, was an American concentration camp that housed Americans of Japanese descent and immigrants who had come to the United States from Japan, called Nikkei. President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, ordering people of Japanese ancestry to be incarcerated in what were euphemistically called "relocation centers" like Topaz during World War II. Most of the people incarcerated at Topaz came from the Tanforan Assembly Center and previously lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. The camp was opened in September 1942 and closed in October 1945.

<i>No-No Boy</i> 1957 novel by Japanese-American writer John Okada

No-No Boy is a 1957 novel, and the only novel published by the Japanese American writer John Okada. It tells the story of a Japanese-American in the aftermath of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Set in Seattle, Washington, in 1946, the novel is written in the voice of an omniscient narrator who frequently blends into the voice of the protagonist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jerome War Relocation Center</span> Detainee camp in Arkansas, United States

The Jerome War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Arkansas, near the town of Jerome in the Arkansas Delta. Open from October 6, 1942, until June 30, 1944, it was the last American concentration camp to open and the first to close. At one point it held as many as 8,497 detainees. After closing, it was converted into a holding camp for German prisoners of war. Today, few remains of the camp are visible, as the wooden buildings were taken down. The smokestack from the hospital incinerator still stands.

Violet Kazue de Cristoforo was a Japanese American poet, composer and translator of haiku. Her haiku reflected the time that she and her family spent in detention in Japanese internment camps during World War II. She wrote more than a dozen books of poetry during her lifetime. Her best known works are Poetic Reflections of the Tule Lake Internment Camp, 1944, which was written nearly 50 years after her detention and May Sky: There Is Always Tomorrow; An Anthology of Japanese American Concentration Camp Kaiko Haiku, for which she was the editor.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Camp Tulelake</span> American isolation camp during World War II

Camp Tulelake was a federal work facility and War Relocation Authority isolation center located in Siskiyou County, five miles west of Tulelake, California. It was established by the United States government in 1935 during the Great Depression for vocational training and work relief for young men, in a program known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. The camp was established initially for CCC enrollees to work on the Klamath Reclamation Project.

The Japanese American Internment Museum, also known as the WWII Japanese American Internment Museum and the Jerome-Rohwer Interpretive Museum & Visitor Center, is a history museum in McGehee, Arkansas. The museum features exhibits regarding the area history of Japanese American internment in the 1940s when more than 17,000 Japanese Americans were housed at nearby Rohwer War Relocation Center and Jerome War Relocation Center during World War II. Exhibits include a film, oral histories, photographs, personal artifacts and some art made by internees, as well as changing art exhibitions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dillon S. Myer</span> American government official (1891–1982)

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.

Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga was a Japanese American political activist who played a major role in the Japanese American redress movement. She was the lead researcher of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC), a bipartisan federal committee appointed by Congress in 1980 to review the causes and effects of the Japanese American incarceration during World War II. As a young woman, Herzig-Yoshinaga was confined in the Manzanar War Relocation Center in California, Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas, and Rohwer War Relocation Center also in Arkansas. She later uncovered government documents that debunked the wartime administration's claims of "military necessity" and helped compile the CWRIC's final report, Personal Justice Denied, which led to the issuance of a formal apology and reparations for former camp inmates. She also contributed pivotal evidence and testimony to the Hirabayashi, Korematsu and Yasui coram nobis cases.

Hikaru “Carl” Iwasaki was an American born photographer of Japanese heritage who was sent to the Heart Mountain US internment camp as a teen during World War II following the signing of Executive Order 9066.


  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 Archived 2014-06-05 at the Wayback Machine " 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 Archived 2014-08-07 at the Wayback Machine " 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. "Dropbox – Error".
  7. "100th Infantry Battalion | Densho Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2019-09-09. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  8. "442nd Regimental Combat Team | Densho Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2019-12-20. Retrieved 2019-11-22.
  9. "Military Intelligence Service | Densho Encyclopedia". Archived from the original on 2019-12-18. Retrieved 2019-11-23.
  10. 1 2 "Report to the President: Japanese American Internment Sites Preservation: Rohwer Relocation Center". National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
  11. "Official site". Arkansas State University Heritage Sites. Archived from the original on 26 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  12. "McGhee Chamber announcement". Archived from the original on 2015-11-01. Retrieved 2015-09-21.
  13. "Museum". Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center. Archived from the original on 8 September 2015. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
  14. Vickers, Ruth Petway (Summer 1951). "Japanese-American Relocation". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Arkansas Historical Association. 10 (2): 175. doi:10.2307/40018477. JSTOR   40018477.
  15. "George Takei: Biography". 2007-09-26. Archived from the original on 2001-09-22. Retrieved 2008-07-09.