Retracing the Painful Past at an Internment Camp

This is why two Japanese-Americans decided to go back to the Wyoming internment camp where they were imprisoned as children.

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.


11/02/2019 10:19 AM
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  • Jagmohan S.
    11/02/2019 11:15

    WW not again

  • Cynthia C.
    11/02/2019 11:29

    See George Takei’s musical ALLEGIANCE. It was a special presentation in movie theatres but recorded live onstage. Seeing their lives portrayed really stays with you.

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    11/04/2019 16:06

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  • Michael C.
    11/04/2019 16:18

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  • Raju D.
    11/04/2019 17:54

    Hello friend

  • Sam M.
    11/05/2019 10:10

    The basic cause of mass imprisonment was a combination of hatred, mass hysteria and some leaders who failed to honor the constitution. Watch for these indicators on problems of today and tomorrow.

  • Barbara M.
    11/05/2019 15:17

    Never knew,I have just been educated in history.Thank You,God Bless.

  • Jeff M.
    11/05/2019 17:50

    this is why you dont vote democrate

  • Jonathan W.
    11/06/2019 00:25 just be thankful that’s all you went through. My great grandmother told me the horrific things she went through. Watching them kill her own brother being used for sex.

  • Jonathan W.
    11/06/2019 00:31

  • Dave W.
    11/07/2019 00:38

    Wisconsin is lucky Roosevelt didn’t wall it in.

  • Kathy P.
    11/07/2019 04:34

    Never again.

  • Javier C.
    6 days

    And republicans were the racist ones...

  • Jesse T.
    5 days

    What the japs did to the people of Saipan during the war was far worse

  • Danny K.
    4 days

    Did any of them suffered in the US what japaneses really did to others during WWII? And not only WWII. This people invaded many countries in Asia, where they commited terrible war crimes against other people. They raped many women and killed so many people in that time. Now do you want us to feel sorry for them because they has some cold?

  • Shawn R.
    4 days

    It's really sad no one talks about how Americans and Europeans where so badly treated by the Japanese during ww2 they also lost their homes and lives and they get nothing for it

  • Ernie C.
    3 days

    Remember that was the Demonrats sweet heart FDR.

  • Jason E.
    3 days

    All I'm going to say is, read up on the history on this. Because I'm sure most are clueless. It's a dark mark for sure. And although the reasons were poor excuses for reasons. They were reasons all the same. There was a massive difference in the Internment Camps in America during WW2 compared to the Concentration Camps of the SS in Europe or even the prisoner camps in the Pacific. And before anyone tells me I'm missing the point. I promise you I'm not. It's a terrible thing that should have never happened. Let's hope no country ever implements this type of treatment ever again!

  • Scott T.
    3 days

    A Democrat did it.

  • Anthony P.
    3 days

    One of the saddest part of history in the US...