Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Heart Mountain Part 2

Well, now what? Here you are in a strange place, with nowhere to go. You can sit still and demand things, like more food, insulation for your room, your freedom, anything.  But this was the 40's. It's a time when people did things for themselves. Not like today when you demand from your leaders what you lack.

So everyone got together. Experts were sought out, and they found one. A recent college graduate who's major was agriculture. He examined the soil and told everyone what would grow in the fields. Because of the harsh climate, and the short time frame for farming, "new" methods were used to grow crops. Many crops were grown with caps to keep them from freezing until the weather permitted the plant to grow on their own. Once crops were establlished, food was no longer too scarce. They even dug a huge root cellar to store root vegetables for later use. They eventually even supplied other Internment camps with vegetables.

Others raised pigs, and chickens for their eggs and meat.

Some who were involved with Boy Scouts re-started their Troops inside the camps. Teachers got together with outside local teachers and taught school there. Doctors worked in the Infirmary or Hospital. Carpenters and wood workers started to fix-up the public areas to provide more privacy, and make things overall, more livable. Nothing like what they had before being sent there, but much better than when they arrived.

The people stuck there, under conditions they were not used to, started to "make" a life. Not a great life, but they worked with what they had.

Some conflicts grew because in Asian culture, the Parents or your elders, were the leaders and in charge.  But in this case, the elders were first generation Japanese immigrants, and the people in charge of the Internment Camps would not put them in leadership positions. They let only the adults who were born in the US to have leadership roles. Asians were also "family" oriented, and most did everything together, but once in the camps, children often played with other children, ate in the Mess Hall with their friends, got in trouble with their friends. The Family structure started to disintegrate.

Eventually things ran as smooth as it could and then the Draft aged men were asked to volunteer for military service. Some who wanted to prove that they were loyal Americans, signed up right away. Some were still angry at being incarcerated with essentially no rights, and demanded that they be let go, and have their civil rights restored BEFORE they volunteered for service. Eventually most joined the service or were drafted. Those who still protested, were jailed.

The 100th Battalion which were made up of mostly Japanese Americans from Hawaii, were already being used in Europe and were joined by the Interned Japanese Americans in the 442th Battalion. Together, they are the most decorated Battalions ever. The members of the 442th helped liberate the Jewish people still alive in Dachau, the infamous Nazi Death Camp.

But this is about the camps.  Life was going on. American citizens were still being held prisoners in camps.  Some were allowed to leave, but with stipulations. You could either go to College, or have proof of a job, BUT, East of the Rocky Mountains. And with  wartime prejudices, it was still difficult to get in a College or get a job.  But some did get out. Even though families usually stuck together, who could blame anyone for leaving?

When the war ended, the Internment camps were eventually shut down. No one was allowed to stay, even if you wanted to. And in Wyoming, where Heart Mountain was, the Governor would not allow anyone to stay in the State, everyone had to leave.

Most all of the Camps were torn down right after the last person left. At Heart Mountain, each Barrack was put up for Auction to anyone living there, and willing to physically remove the buildings. People who purchased a Barrack used hand saws to cut them down to a size that they could haul away on a flat bed truck, and then reassemble them on their own property. I understand that some are still standing on farms all around the towns of Cody and Powell, Wyoming.


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