On August 12, 1942, the Heart Mountain, Relocation Center in Park County, Wyoming opened its gates to Japanese Americans who had been forced from their West Coast homes by the Federal Government after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Before long, Heart Mountain would swell to Wyoming’s third largest city, housing nearly 11,000 citizen and internees in its tarpaper barracks and barbed-wire enclosures.
Between March and May of 1942, some 45,000 Japanese aliens and 75,000 American citizens of Japanese ancestry gave up their homes, property, careers, and communities along the West Coast for indefinite and involuntary relocation.
They took with them only what they could carry.
Conditions at Heart Mountain were harsh. Whole families were moved into unfurnished single-room quarters in barracks served by communal latrines. Privacy vanished. Communal meals in spartan mess halls – among many other factors – contributed to the disintegration of families. With only bare walls and tarpaper to protect them from the Wyoming wind, internees shivered in the winter and sweltered in the summer.
On December 17, 1944, the U.S. War Department announced revocation of the West Coast exclusion order against Japanese Americans effective on January 2, 1945, and on November 10, 1945, the last internees left Heart Mountain to find homes and jobs and try to rebuild their lives. The government gave them $25 and a bus ticket. The camp’s buildings and equipment were auctioned off, and farmers moved into homesteads, benefiting from the cleared land and irrigation canal that the internees left behind.
Today, a few haunting remnants of the camp remain ~
(information source, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation)