United States War Relocation Authority Central Utah Project Records, 1941-1945  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Creator
Central Utah Relocation Project
Title
United States War Relocation Authority Central Utah Project Records
Dates
1941-1945 (inclusive)
Quantity
1.47 cubic ft.
Collection Number
0056 (Accession No. 0056-001)
Summary
Records of Topaz, Utah, relocation center of the WRA, where Japanese Americans from the San Francisco Bay Area were housed during World War II.
Repository
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
98195-2900
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
speccoll@uw.edu
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.

Languages
English
Sponsor
Funding for encoding this finding aid was partially provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

The U.S. War Relocation Authority (WRA) incarcerated the roughly 9,000 Japanese American residents of the San Francisco Bay Area at its Central Utah Relocation Project, later Central Utah Relocation Center (known as Topaz), for the majority of the Second World War. Topaz was one of ten such WRA incarceration camps

The Army held the Bay Area's Japanese American community at the Tanforan and Santa Anita racetracks, which served as assembly centers, while the WRA built the Topaz camp. Topaz opened in September 1942, and by the end of the year it housed virtually all Japanese Americans from the Bay Area. The first issue of the camp's newspaper told residents that they had arrived at "Topaz--The Jewel of the Desert." Most of the residents worked in the camp's vegetable gardens and kitchens, in other low-level camp administrative positions, or in local farmers' sugar beet fields. All received very low wages.

Topaz did not experience any of the violent upheavals that occurred at other camps, but the resentment of Topaz's residents did occasionally erupt into overt resistance. Probably the largest such episode occurred after a military policeman shot and killed James Wakasa near Topaz's barbed wire fence on April 11, 1943. Residents did not accept the policeman's claim that Wakasa was trying to escape. They demanded that the WRA include community leaders on a committee to investigate the incident. They also demanded that Wakasa's funeral take place at the spot where he was killed. When the WRA resisted these demands, almost all of Topaz refused to work. Even after the WRA allowed the outdoor funeral and the Army court martialed the policeman, residents were not mollified. The work stoppage continued until Wakasa's funeral. When Wakasa's killer was found not guilty at his court martial, this information was censored from the camp newspaper for fear of further protests.

While Wakasa's death brought the community together, other Army and WRA policies divided it. In February and March of 1943 the WRA administered a questionnaire that asked all residents if they were willing to defend the U.S. by serving in its military and if they would announce their allegiance to the U.S. and foreswear any loyalty to the Japanese government. Many Topaz residents found the questions to be poorly worded; they debated over how to interpret them and how to respond. Division soon erupted between those who answered the two key questions in the affirmative and those who gave negative responses. The WRA used the questionnaire to segregate the respondents. Those who answered both questions with no were moved to the Tule Lake Relocation Center. Those who gave positive answers stayed in Topaz and were allowed to find work in the Midwest or East Coast or to volunteer for the Army.

Given the widespread and often violent racism in both the military and in the civilian workforce, many residents were not anxious to risk what little savings they had and to leave their families in Topaz while they fought or looked for work. Only 2,500 or so of the 9,000 residents had left Topaz by early 1944. When the WRA pressured residents to move out and find work in late 1944, the community was wracked with tension as to whether it should cooperate or resist what the WRA called its "resettlement efforts." The point became moot when Japan surrendered. The government then allowed Japanese Americans to return to the West Coast. The WRA announced that Topaz would close on November 1, 1945. Roughly 60% of Topaz's residents eventually returned to the Bay Area.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Donor Russell A. Bankson served as the director of Topaz's historical section. He also edited and censored the camp's paper and handled its public relations. Most of this accession is composed of mimeographed copies of Bankson's reports to Topaz's Director, Charles Ernst, regarding the activities of the residents and the internal politics of the camp. The accession also contains several reports which were written by George Sugihara and other University of California sociologists. All reports are thoroughly indexed by topic. Also included are directives issued from WRA headquarters, inter-office memoranda, and photographs of Topaz along with a blueprint of the camp. Several residents of Topaz who moved out, volunteered for the Army, or were drafted wrote letters to Bankson or Director Ernst; typewritten copies of these letters are present. In addition, the accession contains a nearly complete collection of the Topaz Times , the weekly camp newspaper.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

 

ReportsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Interaction of Residents
Box/Folder
1/1
Community Conference
1/2
Home Economics Conference
1/3
Dedication of Civic Auditorium
1/4
PTA Mass Meeting
1/5
USO at Topaz
1/6
Merit Badge Exposition
1/7
Summer Camp
1943
1/8
Armistice Day
1943
1/9
Easter
1944
1/10
Spring Festival
1/11
Vesper Service for Soldiers
1/12
Spanish Vice Consul's Visit
1/13
Reception for L.T. Hoffman
1/14
Topaz Welcomes Kuroki
1/15
Topaz Welcomes Hito
1/16
Civic Club Visits Topaz
1/17
Dedication of Churches
1/18
Dedication of Churches (Duplicate)
1/19
Public Relations
1/20
President's Birthday Ball
1/21
Volunteers for Victory (supplement)
1/22
Supplement
Institute of Socio-Economics
Box/Folder
1/23
The Provo Labor Camp
1/24
The Farm Program
1943
1/25
The Ford Crop Assignment Program
1/26
Organization of Consumer Co-op
1/27
Part II--Consumer Co-op
1/28
First High School Commencement
1/29
Second Commencement
1/30
Status of High School Graduates
1/31
School for Handicapped
1/32
Desert View Student Council
Internal Politics
Box/Folder
1/33
Second Community Council Is Inducted
1/34
Induction of Third Community Council
1/35
Induction of Fourth Community Council
2/1
Induction of Third Community Council
2/2
Crisis in Community Council
2/3
Labor Trouble
2/4
Japanese Red Cross Supplier
2/4
Action in Tule Lake Harvest
2/5
Bingo Crisis
2/6
Escort Incident (Discrimination Against Japanese in San Leandro)
2/7
Wakasa Incident (Shooting of Japanese by Military Police)
2/7
Fatal Accident
U.S. Government Action
Box/Folder
2/10
Registration
2/11
Segregation
2/12
Relocation Survey
2/13
Story of Relocation
2/14
First Annual Report
2/15
Housing
2/16
Hospital and General Health
2/17
Selective Service
3/1
Appendix to Selective Service

Incoming LettersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
3/2
Personal Letters from Former Inmates of Topaz Relocation Camp
July 3, 1943-July 19, 1944
3/3
Official Correspondence
Jan. 29, 1945-May 7, 1945
3/4
Official Directives
Dec. 8, 1944-May 15, 1945

Outgoing LettersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
3/5
To M.M. Tozier
Jan. 4, 1945
3/5
To M.M. Tozier
Apr. 27, 1945
3/5
To Russell Bankson (tlg.)
Jan. 2 & 5, 1945
3/5
To Russell Bankson
Apr. 26, 1945

Interoffice CorrespondenceReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
3/6
W.R.A. Reports Alumni Association
Nov. 1945
3/6
Newsletter
3/6
W.R.A. Location
Jan. 1945
3/6
W.R.A. Information Digest
July 1945 - Oct., 1945

Official Interoffice Correspondence and Directives Return to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 3/7

Personnel Rosters and Manpower ChartsReturn to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 3/8

EphemeraReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box/Folder
3/9
Report on Segregation
3/9
Katakana "Alphabet"

PhotographsReturn to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 3/10

PublicationsReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
3/11
"All Aboard Spring"
1944
3/11
"Nisei in Uniform"
3/11
"Fighting Americans, Too"
3/11
"Welcome to Topaz "
3/12
"The Improviser"
3/12
"Trek"
Dec. 1942; Feb. & June, 1943
3/12
"Volunteers for Victory"

Blueprint of Topaz LayoutReturn to Top

Container(s): Box-folder 3/13

NewspapersReturn to Top

Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder
4/1-12
Topaz Times
Sept. 17, 1942-Sept. 23, 1944

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Concentration camp inmates--Utah--Topaz
  • Concentration camps--Utah--Topaz
  • Concentration camps--Utah--Topaz--Management
  • Japanese American newspapers--Utah
  • Japanese Americans--California
  • Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
  • World War, 1939-1945--Concentration camps--Utah--Topaz
  • World War, 1939-1945--Japanese Americans
  • Personal Names :
  • Bankson, Russell A
  • Wakasa, James
  • Corporate Names :
  • Central Utah Relocation Center--Archives
  • Central Utah Relocation Project--Archives
  • Geographical Names :
  • Topaz (Utah)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Newspapers
  • Photographs
  • Other Creators :

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)