Location: Amache, Colo. Peak population: 7,318 Date opened: August 27, 1942 Date closed: October 15, 1945
The Granada War Relocation Center in Colorado (better known as Amache) held people from California: Los Angeles, San Diego, and Santa Clara Counties (the Merced and Santa Anita Assembly Centers), the northern California coast, the west Sacramento Valley, and the northern San Joaquin Valley.
Located at 3,600 feet of elevation on a windswept prairie in southeastern Colorado, Amache was 140 miles east of Pueblo, 16 miles east of Lamar, and 15 miles west of the Kansas border. The Arkansas River ran 2.5 miles north of the camp, but the 10,500 acres of land was arid when not irrigated. Vegetation included wild grasses, sagebrush, and prickly pear cactus.
Colorado was in the only state in which the governor, Ralph Carr, publicly welcomed the Japanese Americans who were forcibly relocated there. Amache was the smallest camp in terms of population.
These are two pages from a 73-page scrapbook documenting three generations of boy scouting in a Japanese American family. The scrapbook was made by Bob Uragami, whose father, Roy, was the first to become involved with scouting; Roy was followed by Bob, and later Bob’s son, Tim.
Look closely at these two pages.
What do you recognize?
What things do you wonder about?
Where were these items used and when were these photographs taken?
As you look at the photographs, what stands out to you?
Why do you think Bob decided to include these specific photographs and mementos in his scrapbook?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Robert and Rumi Uragami (2003.86.1)
This Boy Scouts of America certificate was given to the Boy Scout troop of Japanese Americans incarcerated at Amache, Colorado. Look closely at the text and designs on this certificate.
How would you describe the overall tone of this certificate?
Which words stand out to you?
How would you have felt if you received this certificate from the Boy Scouts of America while you were imprisoned by the US government?
How might words such as “duty to country” and “Americanization” feel different to the members of this troop under the conditions in which they lived?
Bob Uragami video interview, Japanese American National Museum
Originally, Troop 64 was a Japanese American Boy Scout troop. And therefore when they organized the drum and bugle, the flags were crossed flags: one American—United States—and one Japan, with the “meatball.” Now we go a little bit fast forward, and we get thrown into Santa Anita, and there’s war going on. My dad says, “We can’t have that meatball.” And so he had the art department erase out the meatball and draw in the American flag. So if you really look close, you can see a round outline where the Japan flag used to be. Well, I guess he always felt that it is very important to steer kids the right way, and one way is to occupy them with something useful like Boy Scouts. Mr. Nako, he was a local tailor, and he was a musician, and so he organized the 379 Drum and Bugle. And so when I buried my dad, he was buried in a Boy Scout uniform—tailormade, not official. This is something Mr. Nako put together for him—a suit! And we buried him in Mr. Nako’s tailor-made Boy Scout uniform.
In this video, Bob Uragami speaks about the drum that was used by his Boy Scout troop while incarcerated at Amache. The drum can also be seen in one of the images in the scrapbook. As you watch this video, consider what Mr. Uragami says about the flags depicted on the drum.
When he refers to the “meatball,” he is using a nickname for the Japanese flag, which has one large circle on it.
How does the story about the flags reflect the identity of this group of Boy Scouts?
How does the story about the burial suit reflect the identity of Mr. Uragami’s father?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Robert and Rumi Uragami (99.2.8B)
In 1944, while attacking a hill in Italy, George’s younger brother Calvin, who was also serving in the army, was struck and killed. This is from a letter George sent home to console his grief-stricken father.
Dad—this is no time to be preaching to you but I have something on my chest which I want you to hear In spite of Cal’s supreme sacrifice, don’t let anyone tell you that he was foolish or made a mistake to “volunteer.” Of what I’ve seen in my travels, on our mission, I am more than convinced that we’ve done the right thing in spite of what has happened in the past. America is a damn good country and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
– George Saito, letter to his father, July 11, 1944
What do you think is the main message George has for his father?
If you were in George’s position, do you think you would share his sentiments? Why or why not?
Why do you think George felt it necessary to write these words?
Japanese American National Museum, Gift of Mary Saito Tominaga (94.6.77)
Does this document give any clue as to who George Saito is?
Does he look like a young man or an older man?
What country is he a citizen of?
What might prompt a government to monitor its citizens in this way?
At the time this document was issued, where was George residing?
Does such a document make you question the rights and limitations of an American citizen?
This document is George’s indefinite leave card, issued by the government as a way to monitor any subversive behavior in its American-born citizens of Japanese ancestry. This card gave George permission to leave Amache concentration camp. Soon after its issuance, George enlisted in the United States Army and served in the segregated 442nd RCT in Europe.