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Heart Mountain Japanese Internment Camp

Heart Mountain Internment Center Marker with Heart Mountain in background.
Click for larger image. Location: Park County, Wyoming
Environmental Conditions: Located on the terrace of the Shoshone River at an elevation of 4,700 feet. The terrain was open sagebrush desert.
Acreage: 20,000
Opened: August 11, 1942
Closed: November 10, 1945
Max. Population: 10,767 (January 1, 1943)
Demographics: Most people were from Los Angeles, Santa Clara, and San Francisco counties in California and Yakima and Washington counties in Washington. Most came to Heart Mountain via the Santa Anita and Pomona assembly centers.

    The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, named after nearby Heart Mountain Butte, was one of ten internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese Americans excluded from the West Coast during World War II.The Heart Mountain Relocation Center is located in Park County between the towns of Cody and Powell in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, 60 miles (96.6 km) east of Yellowstone National Park and 45 miles (72.4 km) south of the Montana state line. The location for the center was selected because it was remote and yet convenient. The land was managed by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, which before the war had initiated a major irrigation project in the area and had already constructed canals, buildings, and some infrastructure. The site was adjacent to a railroad spur and depot where internees could be off-loaded and processed.
    The site of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center is thought to retain the highest integrity from among the ten internment centers constructed during World War II. The street grid and numerous foundations are visible. Four of the original buildings survive in place, although a number of others that were sold and moved after the war have been identified in surrounding counties and might one day be returned to their original locations. In early 2007, 124 acres (50.2 ha) of the center were listed as a National Historic Landmark. The federal Bureau of Reclamation owns 74 acres (29.9 ha) within the landmark boundary and currently administers the site. The remaining 50 acres (20.2 ha) have been purchased by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1996 to memorialize the center's internees and to interpret the site's historical significance.
    Internees in relocation centers were still subject to the draft, and this generated a backlash in the form of a resistance movement. The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was particularly active in this resistance, encouraging internees and other young Japanese American men to avoid military induction. Seven members of the committee were convicted for conspiracy against the Selective Service Act, and 85 internees were imprisoned for draft law violations.
Heart Mountain Veterans Plaque.    Despite the opposition, 799 young Japanese American men, volunteers and draftees, from the center served in the American military. In late 1944, Heart Mountain internees erected an Honor Roll near the main gate that listed the names of all of its soldiers, eleven of whom were killed and 52 wounded in battle. This wooden tribute stood for five decades until the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation removed the deteriorating display for preservation. An accurate reproduction now stands where the original tribute was placed. The original Honor Roll is being conserved and restored.
    Relocation center newspapers served as a means for disseminating WRA rules, regulations, and surveys. The WRA initially banned the use of Japanese in the newspapers, but later issues sometimes included Japanese-language inserts. Newspaper articles cover a wide range of topics including daily activities, beauty tips, diet and nutrition, crime and law enforcement, education, hobbies, social activities, and sports. The newspapers reported on military service, outside employment opportunities, and vital statistics as well as rumors that were circulating throughout the relocation centers. The newspapers also described culture shock, a consequence of internment, forced assimilation, and a constant reminder how their lives had changed. Since the newspapers were censored, the staff avoided direct criticism of the federal government.
    Artwork, maps, photographs, and weather reports offer a glimpse at the relocation center environment. On occasion, the newspapers include the artwork, articles, letters, poems, and short stories submitted by internees or former internees who were attending colleges and universities, working outside the relocation center, or serving in the military. In addition to relocation center news, the newspapers also conveyed national and world news.
    The Heart Mountain Sentinel was the Paper at Heart Mountain.

Notable Heart Mountain internees :

* Bill Hosokawa (1915–2007), a Japanese American author and journalist.
* George Ishiyama (1914–2003), a Japanese American businessman and former president of Alaska Pulp Corporation. Also interned at Topaz.
* Kiyoshi Kuromiya (1943–2000), an author and civil and social justice advocate.
* Robert Kuwahara (1901–1964), a Japanese-born American animator .
* Norman Mineta (born 1931), United States Secretary of Transportation under George W. Bush and United States Secretary of Commerce under Bill Clinton.
* Nyogen Senzaki (1876–1958), a Rinzai Zen monk who was one of the 20th century's leading proponents of Zen Buddhism in the United States.


Images From Heart Mountain

Coal Crew at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. It takes approximately four carloads of coal a day to provide heat for residents at this Wyoming relocation center during the cold winter months. Here a crew of men load trucks from the coal gondola for delivery to barracks.

Court Session at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The court is composed of seven judges selected from the residents and appointed by the project director. They preside over infractions of center regulations and ordinary civil court cases.

Poster Crew at Heart Mountain Relocation Center, Heart Mountain, Wyoming. The poster crew turns out fire and safety posters, announcements for public gatherings and dances, and some general instructions.

High School Campus at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. Classes are housed in tarpaper-covered, barrack-style buildings originally designed as living quarters for the evacuees.


Densho is a Japanese term meaning "to pass on to the next generation," or to leave a legacy. The legacy we offer is an American story with continuing relevance. Find out more about Densho.

National Archives Japanese American Internment Research

The records on Japanese-American internees can provide a wealth of information for researchers and family historians. See the National Archives' online guide and research path.

Confinement and Ethnicity:

An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites
by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord

Go For Broke

The story of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the 100th Infantry Battalion

Return To Trails To The Past Military Project

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