There’s some kind of odd vibe about Delta, Utah… We learned from friends that we were within striking distance and made a plan. Delta’s claim to fame? This small town in the Utah desert was the site of the Topaz Japanese Internment Camp from 1942-1945. As we travel, I often cringe to see how inhumane Americans can be and have been throughout our history. I guess it started with us stealing the lands of the native inhabitants and “relocating” and slaughtering the natives. Think Dead Horse Point where they left the horses to die. Separating children from families when their parents are seeking asylum, which is not a crime. Crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor. They don’t take your kids away for a traffic violation.
Anyway, the Japanese internment camps are considered the worst civil rights atrocity in American history. That’s saying something.
We often say that sometimes the last 10 miles of the day can be the most “interesting.” That has proven true many times so we try to pay close attention. We were about three miles out of Delta when we saw emergency vehicles and the road was blocked ahead. People in front of us started to turn around and go back the way they came. When the guy came to the window of the bus he said there had been a fatal accident and we could either turn around or wait for them to clear it. Then he looked at the bus and said “You can’t turn that around here.” And he was right. They went off to close the intersection and there was nobody behind us so Jim said we should just back up. It was a ways, but he jumped out and kept me on the road and we proceeded to Delta. That’s the longest stretch I’ve ever backed up, maybe a quarter mile. Fortunately the road was closed.
A couple days later I was googling and found out that the fatality was a guy on a bicycle hit by a pickup going 70 MPH. He and his wife were riding to Delta and back and she was there when it happened. I also found that there was another fatal accident that same night on the same highway, a two car accident that killed three people. The cars caught on fire after one rear ended the other; they had pictures. And a eighteen year old motorcyclist was killed during a race. Ugh.
We had to take Tikita to the vet here too. We were lucky enough to find a very knowledgeable guy who clarified her situation for us and helped us know what to expect and do. More on that later. Ugh again. At least everything is close together in Delta.
Back to the Japanese…
When FDR signed the Executive Order, all persons of Japanese descent along the coast of California had six days to sell their businesses and homes, store their stuff and report to the Government. They could take only what they could carry. And no pets. That really got me.
When we arrived we drove to the square mile site camp where the 8100 detainees were housed. The buildings were all torn down after the war but the mark on the land is still very clear. There were another 19,000 acres for raising livestock and growing food. Each camp was supposed to be self sufficient. They had schools, sports and activities. They could even get leave for different reasons, getting a job, a family takes you in. That didn’t make sense until you realize that if you tried to sneak away, guess what? You’re Japanese! You’re different. You can’t hide. And everybody hates you after Pearl Harbor. What a feeling.
The next day we walked to the Topaz Museum, dedicated to the camp. It covered everything from the upheaval of rushed relocation, life in the camps and art produced there to replications of the barracks and interviews with survivors. They even had one guy’s home movies, clandestinely shot inside the camp. It was thought provoking and very well laid out. The ladies working there were very helpful and knowledgeable. The museum is well worth a trip.
What an injustice! Most of them were American citizens, born in America. Not a single one of them were loyal to the Japanese or convicted of any crime. I felt ashamed and humiliated by their situation and treatment.
Even though they were rounded up and incarcerated, many of the men joined the military and some were killed defending the United States in World War II. Those who spoke Japanese were valued by the Military Intelligence Service.
Then we ate Mexican food. We didn’t see any Japanese restaurants…