The Heart Mountain War and Relocation Center opened in 1942. The first Japanese Americans arrived by train and the camp would hold a total of 13,997 Japanese Americans over the next three years, with a peak population of 10,767 during WWII.
While being held, the Japanese Americans were asked to consider being drafted into the military and they refused to enlist stating that they would only consider serving once they were freed.
The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee was formed by Kiyoshi Okamoto in 1943. The committee quickly established criteria for membership and a $2 membership fee. In order to belong to the organization, a person needed to be a U.S. citizen who was loyal to the United States and willing to serve in the U.S. Army if his legal rights were first restored. Both of these points were crucial to the organization's sense of its identity and to its message: the group did not wish to be seen as disloyal to the United States or as a pacifist.
The men that enlisted from Heart Mountain also were the soldiers from the 552nd Field Artillery Battalion that liberated Jewish citizens from the Nazi's death camps in 1945 and there was no credit nor acknowledgment of the event happening.
“When the gates swung open, we got our first good look at the prisoners. Many of them were Jews. They were wearing striped prison suits and round caps. It was cold, and the snow was two feet deep in some places. There were no German guards. The prisoners struggled to their feet…They shuffled weakly out of the compound. They were like skeletons - all skin and bones.”
Let us know what you think of our stories by leaving a comment.