Amache was one of ten War Relocation Authority camps where Japanese Americans were incarcerated following the forced removal from the West Coast in 1942. Located in southeastern Colorado, it held the smallest population of any WRA camp. But it was notable in other ways as well. To commemorate the anniversary of its closing on October 15, 1945—as well as recent efforts to gain National Park Service recognition of the site—here are some of the more unique elements of Amache concentration camp.
Like many oral history projects, we’ve spent much of the last 18 months adapting and adjusting to meet the challenges of the pandemic. Knowing that elders and communities of color were acutely impacted by COVID-19 — both the virus itself and racialized violence against Asians and Asian Americans — we had to reconfigure our oral history program to safely conduct new interviews. But after a year-plus pandemic pause, we’re happy to share that our team is once again adding new stories to Densho’s digital archives.
Japantowns in the U.S. have been shaped by a long history of both exclusion and resilience — from the dispossession of Indigenous peoples to the forced removal of Japanese Americans during WWII to anti-eviction movements that rose up against “urban renewal” in the 1970s. At a moment when these neighborhoods are once again acutely threatened by gentrification and displacement, this history holds powerful lessons for those who wish to fight for the future of Japantown.
In the wake of inmate unrest at Poston and Manazanar in the winter of 1942, the War Relocation Authority decided they needed to better understand what they dubbed a “trouble pattern” emerging in WWII concentration camps. By early 1943, they had formed the Community Analysis Section to study the population of Japanese American incarcerees.
Early in the morning on August 6, 1945, an American warplane cut through the cloudless sky over Hiroshima and dropped a single, devastating bomb, obliterating the hospital directly below the “Little Boy’s” path and much of the surrounding city. Three days later, as Hiroshima still burned, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki. At least 100,000 people were killed instantly in both attacks, and many more died of blast injuries or radiation sickness in the weeks and months that followed.
In July 1981, congressional hearings on Japanese American WWII incarceration began in the nation’s capitol. For two days, witnesses spoke out to expose the cruel facts and painful memories surrounding this history, and to lend their voices to a growing call for reparations. It was the first of eleven hearings that would make their way across the country, culminating in an official acknowledgement that the wartime government had acted on racial prejudice rather than “military necessity” — and a recommendation for monetary redress.
- Brick Floors, a Polio Outbreak, and Other Unique Aspects of Amache Concentration Camp
- Archives Spotlight: The Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple Collections
- Densho’s Oral History Program Is Back after a Pandemic Pause
- Displacement and Resistance in Japantowns: A Resource List
- Ask A Historian: How Did Japanese American Mothers Feed Their Babies in Camp?
- after camp
- Ask a Historian
- book review
- camp life
- current events
- Densho statement
- film review
- guest post
- hidden histories
- In memoriam
- open letter
- oral history
- Pacific Northwest
- photo essay
- popular culture
- Redress Movement