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The Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, named after nearby Heart Mountain and located midway between the northwest Wyoming towns of Cody and Powell, was one of ten concentration camps used for the internment of Japanese Americans evicted during World War II from their local communities (including their homes, businesses, and college residencies) in the West Coast Exclusion Zone by the executive order of President Franklin Roosevelt (after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, upon the recommendation of Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt).
Heart Mountain Relocation Center
|Location||Park County, Wyoming, USA|
|Nearest city||Ralston, Wyoming|
|Architect||US Army Corps of Engineers; Hazra Engineering; Hamilton Br. Co.|
|NRHP reference No.||85003167|
|Added to NRHP||December 19, 1985|
|Designated NHL||September 20, 2006|
This site was managed before the war by the federal Bureau of Reclamation as the would-be site of a major irrigation project. Construction of the camp's 650 military-style barracks and surrounding guard towers began in June 1942. The camp opened August 11, when the first Japanese Americans were shipped in by train from the internment program’s "assembly centers" in Pomona, Santa Anita, and Portland. The camp would hold a total of 13,997 Japanese Americans over the next three years, with a peak population of 10,767, making it the third-largest "town" in Wyoming before its November 10, 1945, closure.
Heart Mountain is perhaps best known for many of its younger residents challenging the controversial draft of Nisei males from camp in order to highlight the loss of their rights through the incarceration. The Heart Mountain Fair Play Committee, led by Frank Emi and several others, was particularly active in this resistance, encouraging internees to refuse U.S. military induction until they and their families were released from camp and their civil rights were restored. Heart Mountain had the highest rate of draft resistance of all ten camps, with 85 young men and seven Fair Play Committee leaders ultimately sentenced and imprisoned for Selective Service Act violations. (At the same time, 649 Japanese American men — volunteers and draftees — joined the American military from Heart Mountain. In 1944, internees dedicated an Honor Roll listing the names of these soldiers, located near the camp's main gate.)
In 1988 and 1992 the U.S. government passed laws both formally apologizing to Japanese Americans for the internment-era violations of their constitutional, state, and personal property rights, and, establishing a temporary fund to pay limited reparations ($20,000) to still-living former internees (or their children) who applied and qualified for them. The site of the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center is considered[by whom?] to be the best preserved of the ten incarceration centers constructed during World War II. The street grid and numerous foundations are still visible. Four of the original barracks survive in place. A number of others sold and moved after the war have been identified in surrounding counties and may one day be returned to their original locations. In early 2007, 124 acres (50.2 ha) of the center were listed as a National Historic Landmark. The Federal Bureau of Reclamation owns 74 acres (29.9 ha) within the landmark boundary and currently administers the site. The remaining 50 acres (20.2 ha) were purchased by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1996 to memorialize the center's internees and to interpret the site's historical significance.
The Foundation runs the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center, opened in 2011, located at 1539 Road 19, Powell. The museum includes photographs, artifacts, oral histories and interactive exhibits about the wartime relocation of Japanese Americans, anti-Asian prejudice in America and the factors leading to their enforced relocation and confinement.