Forced into an internment camp

Resident Profiles
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Posted: May 10, 2024

Shortly after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II. Fearing espionage, the U.S. government wanted to sever contact between Japan and people of Japanese descent who lived on the West Coast. Two months after the attack, a presidential executive order resulted in the unjust internment of Japanese Americans or those of Japanese descent in “relocation centers” located deep in the interior. Those interned encountered a forced evacuation on short notice. Their homes, businesses, and most of their private belongings were lost forever unless they managed to plan quickly for the care of them.

One of the ten incarceration sites, Camp Amache (also called the Granada Relocation Center), was in southwest Colorado, and it operated from 1942 to 1945. At its peak, Amache housed 7,318 people of Japanese descent, most of them American citizens. The camp area consisted of 29 blocks of barracks, with each block having 12 Army-style barracks. Each building was divided into six apartments.

At Holly Creek retirement community in Centennial, three residents, each an American of Japanese descent, were incarcerated in an internment camp. They are Ruth Kawamura, Carol Mizoue Furuta, and Jane Mayeda. All of them were first sent to what was called an assembly center before being transferred to their final internment center.

Kawamura’s family was living in Los Angeles when they were forced to leave their home and live in an assembly center located in the stables at the Santa Anita racetrack before being sent to Amache. Conditions in the stables were terrible, and she remembers her parents talking about the awful smell. She was only two years old at the time. One of her brothers was born at Amache in a little hospital in the camp. Because she was so young, Kawamura did not experience the misery and suffering her parents felt trading their home and freedom for a barracks apartment that was in a compound fenced with barbed wire and overlooked by armed guards in a watch tower. Rather, she simply remembers playing with her friends at Amache.

Furuta’s family lived in Sacramento. She, her parents, and three of her siblings were interned from 1942 to 1944. They were first sent to two assembly centers. Afterward, when Furta was only 5, they were sent to Camp Amache. Her memories are vague about Amache. She does remember very hot and very cold weather and strong winds. It is no wonder she remembers the cold, as their home was one room with a pot belly stove in a drafty barracks. It had six cots and no running water. Eating was done in a communal mess hall, and bathrooms and showers were in another barracks and also communal; there was no privacy. She said, “Friends and I used to run around a lot–we had that freedom.” Once she was finally able to live outside the camp, Furuta remembers experiencing a lot of prejudice.

This December 1942 photograph of the Granada Relocation Center, Camp Amache, Prowers County, southeastern Colorado, shows rows of prefabricated army-style barracks. Twelve of these one-story side gable barracks with tar-paper roofs made a block which had its own recreation hall, laundry, and mess hall. Wooden storage boxes, benches, palettes, and laundry lines show around buildings. Prairie and bare trees are in the distance. Tom Parker, photographer. (Photo courtesy of Denver Public Library Western History/Genealogy Dept.)

Furuta and her older sister, Yoshi Tanita, say their parents never once spoke about their internment once they left the camp. They lost their business, a small hotel in the Japanese area of Sacramento. Tanita, who was 13 at the time of the family internment, remembers more about the camp than Furuta. Tanita says that she had many friends and there were lots of activities. Their brother was a Boy Scout, and there was a YMCA, a recreation center, and schools.

Mayeda was born in Watsonville, and both sets of her grandparents were born in Japan. When she was five in the fall of 1942, she and her parents were sent to the Fresno Assembly Center and from there to the Jerome War Relocation Center in extreme southeastern Arkansas. Mayeda was not alarmed and upset by being incarcerated, because she was with her mother and father and because of her young age. She says, “As a kid, you can put up with anything.” In the Arkansas camp, her main activity was attending first and second grade classes. Mayeda remembers that her father took advantage of wood carving lessons. In the camp, her father ran the projector when they showed movies at different blocks, and her mother helped in the kitchen. They were able to leave the camp in spring of 1944.

Approximately 120,000 persons were uprooted and interned in the ten relocation centers. After leaving the internment camps, they had to start over and move forward from their imposed trauma. It took years to gain even partial compensation for their loss of property, let alone compensation for their loss of liberty. In time there was increasing awareness by the general public of the injustice and suffering those of Japanese descent had faced. Still, it wasn’t until 1988 that an official apology was made in the Civil Liberties Act. As for Amache, the property’s historical significance has been recognized, and in February 2024 it was made a National Historic Site.

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Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is owned and managed by Christian Living Communities and is a full service life plan community. We offer active Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care as well as Skilled Nursing, and Rehabilitation. Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is located in Centennial, Colorado and services the areas in and around Greenwood Village, Englewood, Columbine, Cherry Hills Village, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Heritage Hills, Meridian, Dove Valley, Stonegate, Parker, Aurora, Lakewood, and South Denver. We also are an ideal senior community for those in the zip codes 80122, 80120, 80121, 80111, 80130, 80126, 80129, 80112, and 80124.

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