Family Retraces Painful Past at Internment Camp

This grandfather was 12 years old when he was imprisoned in an internment camp that held Japanese Americans. Nearly 80 years later, he returned with his grandchildren to share this painful part of history.

Redress and Remembrance for Internees Life at Heart Mountain

Ken Kitajima has returned to Heart Mountain — the internment camp where he and other Japanese Americans were forced to live nearly 80 years ago. This time, he’s traveled to rural Wyoming with his grandkids to retrace a painful period in their family history. Kitajima was 12 when the U.S. government forced his family to leave their home in Campbell, California. As a child, Kitajima didn’t understand what was happening — he first saw it as an escape from bullying at school.

During World War II, people of Japanese descent from Oregon, Washington and California were incarcerated at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Park County, Wyo., as the result of an executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt. Residents were at the camp from Aug. 12, 1942 to Nov. 10, 1945, two months after the end of the war with Japan. When the camp was at its largest, it held more than 10,000 people, making it the third largest town in the state. When the people first arrived, a barbed-wire fence to surround the camp was not yet complete. The internees protested the construction of this barrier and caused further work to be delayed. In November 1942, they submitted a petition containing 3,000 signatures to WRA Director Dillon Meyer.

Nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned in these camps during World War II. At the end of 1942, the Kitajima family was transferred to an internment camp in Colorado where they lived until August 1945. Kitajima went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force as a surgical nurse during the Korean War. Despite what was done to his family, Kitajima says he doesn’t hold resentment. But he is sharing what life was like in the camps with his grandkids, so history isn’t forgotten.


08/14/2019 10:22 AM
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  • Betty S.
    08/14/2019 10:56

    If the internment camps were for national security reasons why were the German and Italian citizens not put in camps as well. There were actual German American supporters of nazism openly supporting Hitler. Knee jerk reaction to Pearl Harbor denied Japanese citizens their constitutional rights.

  • Brut
    08/14/2019 13:18

    AMC's "The Terror: Infamy" is a ghost story set against the backdrop of World War II in America, but for actor-consultant George Takei who experienced that time period first-hand, it is a chance to tell a less understood part of history in a very unusual way.

  • Brut
    08/14/2019 15:04

    Special thanks to the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center:

  • Josie C.
    08/14/2019 15:40


  • Steve P.
    08/14/2019 17:15

    My Grandfather served under Gen. Douglas McArthur in the Invasion of The Philippine Islands ... My Grandfather was Filipino and hated The Japanese to his dying day in 1968 ... It's easy to stand back and Judge people or a Nation for decisions made during the time of The Worlds Greatest War ... America was attacked by a Militaristic Civilization whose Religious Convictions were relatively unknown of to the average American in 1941 ... Security and Safety of America was at stake and decisions and sacrifices had to be made ... The decision to drop The Atomic Bomb has always been under scrutiny as well ... Quote: "War is Hell"... Gen. William T. Sherman 1865 ...

  • Troy B.
    08/15/2019 00:21

    These camps were a necessity, and to the person that talked about there being Germans and Italians here in America will they should have been rounded up and sent to these intern camps also. These people that were put into the intern camps during World War II were not starved they were not tortured they were not beaten and they were not murdered like the Jewish people were over in Germany, huge difference here people between what happened here in America and what went on over in Germany during World War II, but I'm sure none of you socialists liberals will even remotely consider that will you

  • Wendy H.
    08/15/2019 08:32

    America Land of the Free...but only for some. Of course it will happen again. If Mr Trump could do this to Mexican people, he would.

  • John S.
    08/15/2019 10:26

    Wow! This is awesome, Linda. You will have to tell me more about Brut. When we see you again, which I hope is soon. 😀

  • Andrew L.
    08/15/2019 11:34

    At least US paid them reparations. Seems like the appropriate thing to do.

  • Linda G.
    08/15/2019 15:35

    I'm ashamed I never new about this before!

  • Jake J.
    08/15/2019 21:04

    I’ll never understand why people blame an entire race over something others did. Like, you don’t blame the kids when the parents do something awful, right?

  • Scotte S.
    08/16/2019 03:02

    Everybody forgets about pearl Harbor though right how many people died.

  • Carol W.
    08/17/2019 15:36

  • Ederlinda V.
    08/18/2019 03:24

    No govt is perfect. No country is perfect. He said.

  • John T.
    08/19/2019 05:58

    He was soo blessed to just experience that..Imagine the population of china being pillaged, murdered and raped during the war..

  • Mark B.
    08/19/2019 18:44

    Placed in these camps by FDR.

  • Nerissa L.
    08/21/2019 14:03


  • Sttepo L.
    08/23/2019 10:30

    80 years, wth doesn’t makes sense... how did he have kids

  • Donald N.
    08/23/2019 12:32

    What is so sad was these people were americans...What happened to them should never happen again..

  • Maria L.
    08/24/2019 00:48