Tag Archives: Camp Amache

The guard towers of Camp Amache, CO, Japanese-American internment camp

Visitors to what remains of the WWII-era Granada Relocation Center located on Highway 50 past Lamar, are tempted to conclude that the remote location was isolation enough to restrict the movement of its 7,000 Japanese-American internees. Gone are all 560 buildings except their concrete foundations; the few remaining photographs depict a vast layout of spartan barracks, playing host to ordinary civilian lives, minus the atmosphere of incarceration. Were there cyclone fences and watch towers? The answer should not surprise you. Of course. Camp Amache was ringed by the usual multiple perimeters of prison fences, including six watch towers manned by military police, who were there, it was explained, for the internees’ protection. I think plans to further restore Amache need to begin with the security fortifications. If such blights on American history as these race-based detention centers are memorialized in the hope that our nation not do it again, it dishonors our victims, and blunts the lesson, not to illustrate our heavy hand.

I attended a recent screening of a documentary made of Camp Amache, attended by its producers, who expressed the usual motivation: in remembrance, never again. Special emphasis was placed on the contributions made by Japanese-Americans during the war, and on the magnanimity with which the internees accepted their lot. Survivors were not to receive an official apology until 45 years later, given $20,000 restitution for their livelihoods and families destroyed. It would be safe to say the audience felt well beyond the prejudice that had motivated their parents. Against Japanese-Americans.

Unfortunately both the documentary and the filmmakers’ commentary left the impression that “never again” describes a successful holding pattern. Of course, America has been at it again and as usual, its citizens have been obliviously complicit.

Look at the War on Islam, which has necessitated the internment of Muslim-Americans and Muslims worldwide. Guantanamo is not much different from the Wartime Relocation Authority (WRA) special Isolation Centers such as Dalton Wells, near Moab, where the WRA sent internees profiled as potential insurgency threats.

America has been building a network of fresh detention facilities to house Hispanic-Americans who run afoul of the country’s illegal labor market. Most of the detainees are promptly deported, but many languish while immigration issues and family ties are sorted out. While ICE pretends to protect the American people from the security-threatening unlawfulness of illegal aliens, in reality its detention centers enforce the successful abuse of a Hispanic-American slave labor pool.

You need only visit a traditional prison or jail to see that an overwhelming disproportion of its inmates are African-American and Hispanic-American, far exceeding what can be excused as representative of America’s poor. The American judicial system is still stacked against non-whites, and motivated by the same racist premise of protecting the security of white Americans.

And of course there are the open air prisons which still incarcerate the Native-Americans, the internment camps we call reservations, the original Wartime Relocation Centers.

Petty bureaucrat resents being called… The Holocaust denials of Larry DeWitt

Internment camp for Japanese-Americans, Granada Relocation Center, Amache Colorado
In the face of Ward Churchill’s vindication in a Colorado court, and now hearing support for him by fellow academics, Wingnut Holocaust Deniers are rallying behind whichever colleague will grab their dunce baton. The latest denier is academic aspirant, Social Security Administration archivist Larry DeWitt, who’s been nursing a masters from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus. His master’s thesis was about little known SSA efforts to mitigate The Wartime Internments & Other “Restrictive Governmental Actions.”

Example: his caption under a photograph of quarters at the Manzanar relocation camp reads: “Figure 43: While these internees do indeed have a bare lightbulb overhead, their living conditions are not as primitive as the rhetoric of some historians may imply.”

DeWitt has been an Agency Historian for the SSA since 1995, in which capacity he cobbled a history of the department, with a view it appears, to lay a groundwork for its privatization. You can read more about DeWitt at larrydewitt.net, a website “created as part of coursework in the graduate program of the History Department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC).”

But he calls it: A Miscellany of History, Philosophy and Public Policy: A portal to four websites containing the work of historian and public policy scholar Larry DeWitt.

Most recently, DeWitt assumes to be an authority on scholarship, opining on the History News Network website: Ward Churchill: He’s Baaack! Here’s his opening line: “Well, that embarrassment for the liberal academy—Ward Churchill—is back in the news again.”

A recent article for Coloquio: Revista Cultural was about Iraq: “Doing the right thing the wrong way.”

Are DeWitt’s writing unremarkable? Yes, but for a federal agency that has proven to be vulnerable to partisan attack, I think DeWitt’s positions are ominously charged. Here are some more articles:

“Howard Zinn: The Historian as Don Quixote,” HNN, 01/26/09

“The Future Social Security Debate,” Independent Voice , April/May 2008

“How Historians Can Help Frame the Next Social Security Debate,” HNN, 10/22/07

“It is Time to Impose Peace on the Middle East,” August 2006

“Should Historians Try to Rank President Bush’s Presidency?” HNN, 5/22/06

“A Progressive Argument for Overturning Roe,” October 2005

“It’s Not the Cows Who are Mad,” January 2004

Larry W. DeWitt of the Social Security Administration

Doomed to repeat internment camps

Several miles north of Moab, Utah, on Highway 191, there’s an Historical Interest marker to commemorate the Civilian Conservation Corps work camp at Dalton Wells. According to the plaque on the site, Camp DG-32 was used for public works through the Great Depression, and converted in 1943 into a concentration camp for Japanese Americans accused of being troublemakers at the civilian internment camps. The plaque offered an apology for the “total violation their civil rights,” and this admonition:
Civilian Conservation Corps DG-32 Dalton Wells
After which someone added in parentheses: “(Patriot Act, 2001)” and then as if to make the point, a next somebody scratched it out.

Full text of the marker:

Civilian Conservation Corps Camp DG-32 (Co. 234)
1935-1942

During the Great Depression of the 1930’s, CCC Camps were scattered all over the USA. They provided gainful employment to youth of the nation with work on public service projects. Between 1933 and 1942, four camps were located near Moab. Each camp worked on various natural resource project for the Soil Conservation Service, the National Park Service, and the forerunner of the Bureau of Land Management.

DG-32 was a long-lasting camp and typical of most with wooden, tar-paper covered barracks and buildings housing some 200 young men between the ages of 18 and 25. Enrollees came from the eastern states, and leadership was provided by the Army, Grazing Service, and local men experienced in construction and stock grazing needs.

Under spartan conditions, clothing, food, and housing were provided in the primitive camp. Pay was $30 per month with $25 sent home.

DG-32 projects included many range improvements: stock trails down the precipitous sandstone cliffs, spring developments, wells and stock ponds, eradication of rodents that competed with stock for feed, fences for corrals and pastures, reservoir dams, roads and bridges. These projects provided on the job training for the enrollees, besides the benefits they brought to the local economy. Many of these works are still in use today. The value of the camp and its works to Grand County is beyond estimation. It was a significant milestone that greatly influenced the economic history of the county.

All that remains of the camp today are the cottonwood trees planted by the enrollees that you see fronting this site, concrete slabs for buildings, graveled roads and rock-outlined walkways, the remains of an old windmill and a rock masonry water storage tank. These remnants signify the moving history of a time when America valiantly struggled to restore its economic stability and provide its young people with meaningful employment.

Japanese-American World War II Concentration Camp
1943

On January 11, 1943, a train pulled into Thompson Station north of here with armed Military Police guarding sixteen male American citizens of Japanese ancestry. While the locals of the town waited to cross the tracks, the entourage was loaded and transferred to the old abandoned “CCC” camp located here at Dalton Wells.

Their crime? They were classified as “troublemakers” in the Manzanar, California Relocation Center where they and their families had been forcibly located at the start of World War II. Removed from their homes and lands in California under a Presidential Executive Order, they were subject to the whim and mercy of poorly-trained bureaucrats and military personnel in the center. This Executive Presidential Order was the result of wartime hysteria, racial bigotry, and greed.

The original sixteen men were removed from Manzanar and brought here without the benefit of council. They did not have a formal hearing or proper arrest proceedings, and the action was in total violation of their civil rights. It was a process more compatible with fascism than democracy.

The inmates troubles worsened when and informer and confidant of the administration was beaten. An organizer of the mess hall workers was thrown into jail as a suspect. A meeting was held in the camp to protest the jailing and a riot resulted. Two inmates were killed by trigger-happy soldiers.

Other Japanese-American men were soon brought to the camp. Thirteen came from Gila River, Arizona, having been charged as being members of an organization which was fully sanctioned by camp officials. Ten more came from Manzanar as “suspected troublemakers.” Fifteen came from the Tule Lake, California, charged with refusing to register their availability for the draft and their loyalty to the U.S. under a set of confusing, denigrating requirements.

All these men were U.S. citizens; some were veterans of Work War I, others were family men, college graduates, and responsible U.S. citizens. Their incarceration here is a vivid example of how our Japanese-American citizens were treated during World War II. May this sad, low point in the history of our democracy never be forgotten, in the hope that it will never happen again.

The group was transferred by truck to an abandoned Indian school at Leupp, Arizona, on April 27, 1943. As those involved began to realize the inequality of the situation, the inmates were released back to relocation centers later that year. Thus, a black mark in the history of liberty and justice in the United States was ended.

Internment camp Granada Colorado

Rocky Mountain News has more pictures of Camp Amache in Granada Colorado
It can happen here. It did.
 
Continuing our tour of the American penal system… we’re told about the WWII internment camps for Japanese-American citizens. Where were they? The Granada War Relocation Center, or Camp Amache, 1942-1945, was located near Granada Colorado, east of Lamar on Highway 50.