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Rohwer War Relocation Center

Rohwer War Relocation Center

Overview
The Rohwer War Relocation Center was a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Japanese American internment
Japanese American internment
Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on...

 camp located in rural southeastern Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, in Desha County
Desha County, Arkansas
Desha County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,008. The county seat is Arkansas City. Desha County is Arkansas's 40th county, formed on December 12, 1838, and named for Captain Benjamin Desha who fought in the War of...

. It was in operation from September 18, 1942 until November 30, 1944, and held as many as 8,475 Japanese Americans forcibly evacuated from California. The Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery is located here, and was declared a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1992.

The largest remaining structure is the high school gymnasium/auditorium, which was added to and remains in service with the local elementary school.
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Encyclopedia
The Rohwer War Relocation Center was a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Japanese American internment
Japanese American internment
Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on...

 camp located in rural southeastern Arkansas
Arkansas
Arkansas is a state located in the southern region of the United States. Its name is an Algonquian name of the Quapaw Indians. Arkansas shares borders with six states , and its eastern border is largely defined by the Mississippi River...

, in Desha County
Desha County, Arkansas
Desha County is a county located in the U.S. state of Arkansas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,008. The county seat is Arkansas City. Desha County is Arkansas's 40th county, formed on December 12, 1838, and named for Captain Benjamin Desha who fought in the War of...

. It was in operation from September 18, 1942 until November 30, 1944, and held as many as 8,475 Japanese Americans forcibly evacuated from California. The Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery is located here, and was declared a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1992.

The largest remaining structure is the high school gymnasium/auditorium, which was added to and remains in service with the local elementary school. The tallest structure is the smokestack from the hospital incinerator. Neither of these is marked in any way to indicate historical significance. The rail line used to bring internees and supplies to the camp remains, though it is apparently abandoned. Some of the rails date back to World War II and before. According to the Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America: Prairies East & Ozarks, the rail line is out of service south about halfway to McArthur, and north a much greater distance to Helena Junction. Most recently operated by the Union Pacific Railroad, it had previously been under the ownership of the Helena Southwestern Railroad and the Saint Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern Railway (later Missouri Pacific).

This rail line also served the Jerome War Relocation Center
Jerome War Relocation Center
The Jerome War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Arkansas near the town of Jerome. Open from October 1942 until June 1944, it was the last relocation camp to open and the first to close; at one point it contained as many as 8,497 inhabitants. After...

, which was located 30 miles (48.3 km) southwest of Rohwer.

Various building foundations, walkways, culverts and other improvements are still visible and some are still in use by the local residents. Trees planted by residents have grown tall.

The camp cemetery survives as the only site still identified as having been part of the internment center. It was listed as a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1992. It has a monument to Japanese American war dead from the camp, and also a monument to those who died at the camp. The camp site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places
The National Register of Historic Places is the United States government's official list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation...

 in 1974.

In its National Historic Landmark summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service writes:


Rohwer Relocation Camp was constructed in the late summer and early fall of 1942 as a result of Executive Order 9066
Executive Order 9066
United States Executive Order 9066 was a United States presidential executive order signed and issued during World War II by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt on February 19, 1942 authorizing the Secretary of War to prescribe certain areas as military zones...

 (February 19, 1942). Under this order, over 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were forcibly removed from the three Pacific Coast States—California, Oregon, and Washington. In all, ten camps were established in desolate sites, all chosen for their distance from the Pacific Coast. Over 10,000 evacuees passed through Rohwer during its existence, and over two thirds of these were American citizens. The monuments found within the camp's cemetery are perhaps the most poignant record of this time."


In its summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service indicates that the cemetery's condition is threatened due to deterioration of the grave markers and monuments, but that ownership of the site is unclear. Deterioration is visible in photographs of the site. Deterioration is discussed in a report from the National Park Service to the President.

A tank-shaped memorial, made of reinforced concrete, guards the cemetery, commemorating Japanese Americans who fought for the United States at Anzio and elsewhere in Italy and France during World War II. Thirty-one who came from Rohwer died in action, and their names are inscribed on the memorial, as well as a later memorial raised nearby.

The cemetery is located 0.5 mile (0.80467 km) west of State Route 1, approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) northeast of McGehee, Arkansas
McGehee, Arkansas
McGehee is a city in Desha County, Arkansas, United States. The population was 4,219 at the 2010 census.-History:The history of the city of McGehee and the history of the railroad through McGehee are intricately interwoven...

. Signs identify the graded road which goes from the highway to the cemetery, where there is room to park automobiles.

Shooting of evacuees by civilians at Rohwer


M.C. Brown, a tenant farmer on horseback on his way home from deer hunting came across some Japanese Americans from the Rohwer camp, on a work detail in the woods. He fired his gun, and one of the Japanese American men was struck in the hip by a pellet while another was wounded in the calf of the leg. The Japanese Americans were working in the woods under the supervision of a government engineer when the shooting occurred.

Notable Rohwer internees

  • Ruth Asawa
    Ruth Asawa
    Ruth Asawa is a Japanese American sculptor. In San Francisco, she has been called the "fountain lady" for her works that include the mermaid fountain at Ghirardelli Square...

     (born 1926), a Japanese American sculptor.
  • Takayo Fischer
    Takayo Fischer
    Takayo Fischer is an American stage, film and TV actress, as well as voice-over actress and singer.-Personal life:Fischer was born in Hardwick, California, the daughter of Issei Chukuro and Kinko Tsubouchi...

     (born 1932), an American stage, film and TV actress. Also interned at Jerome
    Jerome War Relocation Center
    The Jerome War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Arkansas near the town of Jerome. Open from October 1942 until June 1944, it was the last relocation camp to open and the first to close; at one point it contained as many as 8,497 inhabitants. After...

    .
  • Jim Ishida
    Jim Ishida
    James Susumu "Jim" Ishida is a Japanese-American character actor who has had a role in various projects over the course of his over 30 years-long career in films and television.Jim Ishida portrayed T...

     (born 1943), actor best known for his role as T. Fujitsu, Marty McFly's future boss in Back To The Future II film in 1989
  • Janice Mirikitani
    Janice Mirikitani
    Janice Mirikitani is an American Sansei poet and activist.She was born in Stockton, California to Shigemi and Ted Mirikitani, who were Nisei farmers in San Joaquin County. During World War II, she was interred along with her family at the Rohwer War Relocation Center in Arkansas. Following the...

     (born 1941), the current poet laureate of San Francisco; co-founder of the Glide Foundation (Glide Memorial Church is featured in the Will Smith film, "The Pursuit of Happiness"). Co-founded with her husband the Rev. Cecil Williams, Glide empowers San Francisco's disadvantaged members of society through extensive outreach and advocacy efforts.
  • Henry Sugimoto
    Henry Sugimoto
    Henry Yuzuru Sugimoto was a Japanese artist, art teacher and a survivor of Japanese American Internment during World War II. Sugimoto became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1952.-Early life:...

     (1900–1990), Japanese-born artist. Also interned at Jerome
    Jerome War Relocation Center
    The Jerome War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Arkansas near the town of Jerome. Open from October 1942 until June 1944, it was the last relocation camp to open and the first to close; at one point it contained as many as 8,497 inhabitants. After...

    .
  • George Takei
    George Takei
    George Hosato Takei Altman is an American actor, author, social activist and former civil politician. He is best known for his role in the television series Star Trek and its film spinoffs, in which he played Hikaru Sulu, helmsman of the...

     (born 1937), an actor best known as Mister Sulu
    Hikaru Sulu
    Hikaru Sulu is a character in the Star Trek media franchise. First portrayed by George Takei in the original Star Trek series, Sulu also appears in the animated Star Trek series, the first six Star Trek movies, one episode of Star Trek: Voyager, and in numerous books, comics, and video games...

     from Star Trek
    Star Trek
    Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

     (1966–69). Since his parents refused to take a vow and did not "pass" the loyalty questionnaire, the family was later transferred to Tule Lake War Relocation Center
    Tule Lake War Relocation Center
    Tule Lake Segregation Center National Monument was an internment camp in the northern California town of Newell near Tule Lake. It was used in the Japanese American internment during World War II. It was the largest and most controversial of the camps, and did not close until after the war, in...

    .
  • Taitetsu Unno
    Taitetsu Unno
    Rev Taitetsu Unno is a scholar, lecturer, and author on the subject of Pure Land Buddhism. His work as a translator has been responsible for making many important Buddhist texts available to the English-speaking world and he is considered one of the leading authorities in the United States on Shin...

     (born 1930), a Buddhist scholar, lecturer, and author.

See also


  • John Howard, "John Yoshido in Arkansas, 1943." Southern Spaces, 2 October 2008. http://southernspaces.org/2008/john-yoshida-arkansas-1943
  • Japanese American Internment
    Japanese American internment
    Japanese-American internment was the relocation and internment by the United States government in 1942 of approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese who lived along the Pacific coast of the United States to camps called "War Relocation Camps," in the wake of Imperial Japan's attack on...

     - Rohwer Relocation Center Memorial Cemetery—Accompanying 54 photos of camp ruins, memorial, and cemetery from 1990.
  • Other camps:
    • Gila River War Relocation Center
      Gila River War Relocation Center
      The Gila River War Relocation Center was an internment camp built by the War Relocation Authority for internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War. It was located about southeast of Phoenix, Arizona....

    • Granada War Relocation Center
      Granada War Relocation Center
      The Granada War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeast Colorado about a mile west of the small farming community of Granada, south of US 50....

    • Heart Mountain War Relocation Center
      Heart Mountain War Relocation Center
      The Heart Mountain Relocation Center, named after nearby Heart Mountain, was one of ten internment camps used to incarcerate Japanese Americans excluded from the West Coast during World War II under the provisions of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt...

    • Jerome War Relocation Center
      Jerome War Relocation Center
      The Jerome War Relocation Center was a Japanese American internment camp located in southeastern Arkansas near the town of Jerome. Open from October 1942 until June 1944, it was the last relocation camp to open and the first to close; at one point it contained as many as 8,497 inhabitants. After...

    • Manzanar National Historic Site
      Manzanar
      Manzanar is most widely known as the site of one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in California's Owens Valley between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, it is...

    • Minidoka National Historic Site
    • Poston War Relocation Center
      Poston War Relocation Center
      The Poston War Relocation Center, located in Yuma County of southwestern Arizona, was the largest of the ten American internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority during World War II....

    • Topaz War Relocation Center
    • Tule Lake War Relocation Center
      Tule Lake War Relocation Center
      Tule Lake Segregation Center National Monument was an internment camp in the northern California town of Newell near Tule Lake. It was used in the Japanese American internment during World War II. It was the largest and most controversial of the camps, and did not close until after the war, in...