Last week I offered a physics lesson talking about air showers and cosmic rays. Today I thought I’d talk a bit about history.

On December 7 1941 the Japanese Imperial Navy attacked the US Navy at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. Up until then the US had been very hesitant towards joining the war (World War 2), claiming it was an European problem. However, after Pearl Harbour America joined the fight against the Axis (Germany, Japan and Italy).

The west coast of the US had a significant population of Japanese and/or American citizens with Japanese ancestry. Now being in war with the Japanese, this gave rise to a fear of acts of terrorism and or espionage on American soil. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order
9066 sanctioned the evacuation and internment of more than 112,000
people of Japanese ancestry.

On July 4th (“independence day”), 1942 the following information was posted
explaining that “[…] all persons of Japanese ancestry, both alien and non-alien, will be evacuated from the area […]”. The “evacuees” were not allowed to bring much of their property, basically only what they could carry them selves.

The people were evacuated to different camps inland called internment camps. In total there were 10 of these camps. One of the camps, called Topaz, was located just outside the town of Delta, Utah. Between August 1942 and October 1945 over 10 000 people lived in Topaz.
During the war, the Topaz internment camp was the 5th largest city in Utah.

One might think that being incarcerated like this would make you angry at your country. But the fact is that during the war the 442nd Infantry Regiment was comprised nearly entirely of volunteers from the internment camps. Not only did they volunteer to fight, this regiment became the most decorated unit, taking its size and length of service, in the history of the American warfare, including almost 9500 Purple Heart, 8 Presidential Unit Citations, and an amazing 21 Medals of Honour.

By the end of the war the camp was closed and the evacuees were sent “home”. The reality was that even though the evacuees might have had homes and lives before the war, non of that was left and they all had to start over from scratch.

What remains of the camp today is mostly the roads and a large number of artefacts spread all over the site. The roads are clearly visible on google maps: Topaz. The camp was divided into “Blocks”, each block with a number. The numbering started (as seen on google maps) with Block 1 in the top left. The four blocks in the centre were recreational areas with a temple and a base ball field.

Above: One of the roads in the camp.
Above: Remaining artefacts.
Above: What remains of the Baseball field (Block 24)
Above: Where the camp “church” was located (Block 17)
Above: Block 17.

Currently a new museum is being finalised in the town of Delta. This is a very nice museum and I can strongly recommend a visit if you (for some strange reason) find yourself in the vicinity of Delta.
Above(2 pictures): Topaz Museum in Delta, recreation of one of the barracks where the internees were living.
Above: Topaz Museum in Delta, original barrack, this housed a gym.

As can be seen in the pictures there is not much left of the camp site. However, there is a clear historical presence when visiting the site. You can really feel it when you’re walking around the site. The site is open and you are free to walk around. However, you may not remove any artefacts from the camp site.

Japanese people living on the east coast were not sent to the camps.

Probably the most famous internee during the war was George Takei, famous for his role as Lt Sulu of original Star Trek cast. However, he and his family did not stay at Topaz but at Rohwer War Relocation Centre in Arkansas.

For more information I refer you to the following sites
Topaz Museum
Topaz on Wikipedia
Famous people interned at Topaz
Internment project