Last Friday, U.S. President Joe Biden signed the paperwork that created his first contribution to the National Park Service: the former Camp Amache in southeastern Colorado, about a three-hour drive from Colorado Springs.
It was another American president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who signed the deeply regrettable Executive Order 9066 in February 1942. That edict, a low for American values, legalized the seizure of American citizens, their homes, and businesses, simply on the basis of whether they had Japanese heritage.
The wartime measure swept some 110,000 law-abiding people—including many children—into incarceration across 10 hastily established facilities in some of the country’s most desolate and forbidding locales. Amache (pictured above in 1942), the smallest of the 10 camps, imprisoned 7,318 detainees at its peak, making it the 10th-largest city in Colorado at the time.
This included my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. My Uncles were drafted, served in the MIS, and had to interrogate Japanese POWs in Japan!!!
As with most of the former Japanese internment camps from World War II, the infrastructure at Amache, known officially as the Granada War Relocation Center, is largely gone. Almost all of the long wooden sheds that were originally used as living and dining quarters were destroyed, abandoned, or sold to returning soldiers for personal use.
The newly established Amache National Historic Site includes a historic cemetery (for people who died while living there), a monument, some concrete building foundations, and several reconstructed or rehabilitated structures.
The remnants are not unlike what you’ll find 1,100 miles west at Manzanar, a sister facility in east Central California that incarcerated about 10,000 people during its busiest period. Manzanar was made a National Historic Landmark by Ronald Reagan in 1985 and a full-fledged National Historic Site by George H.W. Bush in 1992. At Manzanar, multiple elements have been reconstructed or preserved to provide a full visitor experience, and similar efforts are planned for Amache.
“The National Park Service will continue working closely with key stakeholders dedicated to the preservation of Amache, and those directly impacted by the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, to preserve and interpret this significant historic site to the public,” said National Park Service director Chuck Sams in a statement.
A local social studies teacher in Amache’s neighboring town of Granada, Colorado, led the preservation society that successfully maintained the artifacts and stories from the historic camp site and steered the grounds to the permanent stewardship of the National Park Service.
Colorado Public Radio reported that just one Colorado state representative, Democratic Sen. John Hickenlooper, who coauthored the bill with Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D), attended the Amache signing ceremony.
Republican Utah Sen. Mike Lee originally cast the sole Senate vote to block the designation by unanimous consent, but he was ultimately outvoted.This article is from Frommer’s. My family was incarcerated in both Gila, AZ, and Jerome, AK.
Sadly, we cannot even have a Senate confirmation hearing for Judge Jackson without the vitriol of race brought on by the likes of shameful senators, Graham and Cruz.
Senator Booker, though, pushed back against the Republicans as Jackson could not. In an impassioned speech, quoting Langston Hughes’s vow that “America never was America to me, And yet I swear this oath—America will be!” Booker said “There is a love in this country that is extraordinary.”
He spoke of Jackson’s parents and how they “didn’t stop loving this country even though this country didn’t love them back.” Jackson has talked of how the life of civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley inspired her; Booker said: “Did she become bitter” when no one would hire her after law school? “Did she try to create a revolution? No, she used the very Constitution of this nation. She loved it so much she wanted America to be America….”
What have we learned in the intervening 80 years between Relocation of the Japanese and confirmation for Judge Jackson? Do you think Japanese Americans decided to love this country when this country did not love them back?