There Was a Shooting and Death at the Topaz Camp in Utah

S. F. Mori

Topaz was an American concentration camp during World War II

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Marker at the Topaz Camp(Image is author's)

Japan was at war with the United States after the Imperial Navy of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941. It was a difficult time for American citizens and immigrants from Japan who were living in the United States. They were patriotic, but they were immediately looked upon as the enemy. They had faced racism, discrimination, and prejudice for years. Now it all came to a head.

Those living on the West Coast of the United States were forced from their homes. If they were unable to leave that area by a certain date, they were rounded up and placed in camps. Those camps are now called "American concentration camps." They had originally been named as internment camps or relocation centers.

There were ten places which became the American concentration camps. These camps were built by the United States government during World War II to imprison American citizens and immigrants of Japanese descent. It was a racist action against innocent people. Two thirds of the around 120,000 who were forcibly removed from their West Coast homes were citizens who had been born in the United States.

Many people in the United States are not aware of this part of American history.

One of the camps was placed in the State of Utah near the town of Delta There is now a Topaz Museum in the town of Delta, and it is possible to visit the site of the camp. There are some monuments at the camp site along with a few foundations of the barracks which were gone long ago.

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A group visiting Topaz to learn the history(Image is author's)

The people who were sent to live at the Topaz Camp were mainly from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. There were men, women, and children living in the camp. Most lost everything when they were taken from their homes. They lost all their earthly possessions as well as their livelihood and their freedom. They were held behind barbed wire and watched over by armed guards from the U.S. Military.

One day a man incarcerated at the Topaz Camp was walking by the fence. A guard shot the 63 year old in the chest on a Sunday in April 1943. Tha man died, and the guard was acquitted in a military court. He said he thought the man was trying to escape. There was no place to go.

It was said at first that the man had been trying to crawl through the fence. He was found to be three feet away from the fence when he was shot.

Friends were able to have a funeral, and they built a rock memorial to the dead man. The officials at the camp said that the rock had to be moved so the friends buried the rock near where the man died.

  • Last year, two archaeologists found a monument which is thought to be the rock memorial to the man who was shot. The rock was moved to the Topaz Museum. There was some controversy about how the rock memorial had been removed from its burial site.

Although the unjust incarceration and this incident happened nearly eighty years ago, Japanese Americans are interested in keeping the history alive. Some people who were born at Topaz are in the group trying to tell the story about Topaz and the other American concentration camps.

It is an important part of history about which many people are not aware. Japanese American groups and individuals want to tell the history so that no one else will ever have to suffer the egregious violations against the Constitution as they and their families did during World War II.

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I am a retired President/CEO of civil rights organizations. I have been a Mayor and California State Assemblyman as well as a College Instructor of Economics. I have also been an entrepreneur and international business consultant. I will be sharing articles mostly about life, politics, racism, travel, health, and relationships.

Salt Lake City, UT
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