Topaz Internment Camp and how Japanese Citizens were Portrayed to the Public


In 1942 Millard County was very different from the way it is viewed today, because it was home to the Central Utah Relocation Center, commonly known as “Topaz.” Many residents of Japanese ancestry were relocated and isolated at Topaz as a safety precaution to the United States entry into World War II. A total sum of “120,000 Japanese Americans were placed in concentration camps, 70,000 of these internees were United States citizens by birth.” (Sundquist, 532) These residents of Japanese ancestry were rounded up by the United States Army and forced to leave their homes, occupations, and lives. They were told to pack one suitcase per person and be on their way. This Executive Order had been passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, along with the support from the Justice Department and the War Department. Ten different Relocation Centers were erected in California, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Arizona, Colorado, and Arkansas during the spring and summer of 1942. (Sundquist, 532)

Just a couple days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were forced into internment camps. One of these camps was right here in Millard County, Utah. Through all of this mayhem the news media were able to collect information and print what they found in their articles. Much of this information was very valuable to many Americans; knowing that the Japanese Americans were contained in internment camps helped them think that they were safe. The print media printed articles surrounding the entry into the internment camps, movement of internees amongst the internment camps, and the selective service for the Nisei who were currently held in the internment camps. The articles that I focused on were articles written and published by the Topaz Times, the camp newspaper that covered many important moments through WWII.

Photograph taken inside the Central Utah Relocation Center, commonly known as Topaz. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

An article titled “The Nisei and the Selective Service” discusses the options that the Japanese Americans had concluding their placement in the internment camps. The Japanese American citizens who chose to work in war plants had to acquire a “War Plant Clearance,” although these permits were not given out to them frequently. The few who had been granted a permit had very strict rules to their release from the internment camp. The citizens were not allowed to return back to their homes, and they were not allowed in the Atlantic, Gulf, or West Coast. With this permit that they had been granted they were simply allowed to work in the war plant. The Japanese American men who decided to join the Armed Forces had very strict rules as well. “Other than a very small group of Japanese American troops who were allowed to serve with the Americans, a majority of the Japanese American troops were not allowed to serve with the other Americans and were enlisted to the 442nd battalion.” (Sundquist, 533)

Another article titled “Court Convicts Nisei on Draft Charge” helps give a picture of what happened to many of the Japanese American men who had signed up for the Armed Forces, but decided not to show up. George Jiro Sugihara, who was only 19 at the time and felt that he owed nothing to the United States Armed Forces, was charged guilty under the Selective Service Act for not showing up for his induction into the Armed Forces. This was only one article, but this article explains the consequences to the decisions that many Japanese Americans made, whether they decided to join the Armed Forces or stay in the internment camps.

While the Japanese Americans were staying at the internment camps their mail was supervised. An article by the Topaz Times titled, “Instructions Released on Internee Mail,” explained the process that the internees along with the internment camps took before sending their mail. All of the internees had to send their mail to New York with the title “Prisoner of war mail—free” at the upper right-hand corner. This new rule was established to censor what the Japanese Americans were allowed to say to either others in internment camps or others outside of the internment camps.

I was able to find two articles published by the Topaz Times that discussed stories by families who were reunited in internment camps. One of the articles was titled “5 Internees Here From New Mexico”; the other article was titled “9 Internees Join Families.” In both, the Santa Fe internment camp sent family members to the Topaz internment camp, so the families could be reunited. These two articles give you a background idea that the American internment camps did have sympathy. The internment camp directors made an effort to make sure that families had the opportunity to be reunited.

External view of Topaz. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

During the year of 1945 when World War II ended, the Japanese Americans were allowed to leave the internment camp. Although this was a very joyous time for many of the internees, there were articles published about the dangers that the Japanese Americans faced upon returning home. A Topaz Times article titled “Shots Fired on Returnee’s Home” gave the readers an insight to the prejudice individuals were subjected to once they were released from the internment camp. Late one night at the Fresno, California, home of Setsugo Sakamoto, two shots were fired at his house. Mr. Sakamoto had just returned from the internment camp a month prior to this event with his family. This article shows that even though the Japanese Americans were released and freed from the internment camp, they still faced many dangerous hardships upon their arrival back to their homes.

The last article that I found very interesting was titled “A Letter.” This article explains that the government had started to compile the information about the Japanese American internees. This compilation would serve as a “permanent reference file of America’s history.”

These articles were a great representation depicting the news coverage during wartime. It is very important to see how the news coverage has varied from the past to present day. As communication majors the past affects our present and future. To see how the news was covered in the past can help you either adopt or revise the past and create a new style of news reporting for the future. I have been very surprised to read about the Topaz internment camp. Even though this was during a time when everyone was very suspicious, the internment camps still tried to make it easier on their internees. For instance, they would transport their internees in order for them to reunite with their families.

Clinton Curtis is graduating in August 2012 with a Bachelor of Science degree in communication and a minor in psychology. This information is very important to myself and to my family history. My grandfather was placed into an internment camp in Idaho and shortly after he was drafted into the war. My grandfather was specifically drafted into WWII under the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.


“5 Internees Here from New Mexico,” Topaz Times, November 2, 1943.

“9 Internees Join Families,” Topaz Times, July, 13, 1943.

“A Letter,” Topaz Times, July 17, 1943.

“Court Convicts Nisei on Draft Charge,” Topaz Times, November 26, 1945.

“Editorial,” Topaz Times, August 15, 1942.

“Instructions Released on Internee Mail,” Topaz Times, February 12, 1943.

“The Nisei and the Selective Service,” Topaz Times, April 1, 1944.

“Shots Fired on Returnee’s Home,” Topaz Times, May 15, 1945.

“Photograph 1 inside Topaz internment camp”. Marriot Library Special Collections.

“Photograph 2 taken outside of Topaz internment camp”. Marriot Library Special Collections.

Robert Shaffer, “Opposition To Internment: Defending Japanese American Rights During World War II” Historian 61, no. 3 (1999): 597.

Dolores Flamiano, “Japanese American Internment In Popular Magazines,” Journalism History 36, no. 1 (2010): 23-35.

Eric J. Sundquist, “The Japanese-American Internment,” American Scholar (1999): 529-47.

Iosepa: The Polynesian Colony of Utah

Iosepa, Utah, residents celebrating Pioneer Day, August 28, 1914. Used by permission, Utah State Historical Society, all rights reserved.


History—The LDS Church sent missionaries to the South Pacific as early as 1844, three years prior to the pioneers settling the Salt Lake Valley. When the first LDS missionaries arrived in Hawaii and other Polynesian islands, they were unsuccessful. None of the native Hawaiians and Polynesians were interested in their message. As the missionaries were able to learn the language and culture of the people they served among, they began to see more Polynesians interested in their message and eventually many of them joined the LDS Church. The Hawaiians, Samoans, and other Polynesians who were converted to the LDS Church desired to join the saints in Utah in the settling of the Salt Lake Valley. Unfortunately, due to the laws of the Hawaiian government, they were not able to leave the islands until the laws relaxed in or around 1875. (Panek)

By 1889 there were about 75 Polynesians in the Salt Lake Valley. With the majority being Hawaiian, they settled in Warm Springs, Utah (Beck’s Hot Springs). Language barriers and culture differences made it difficult for these Polynesians to adapt to life in Utah. As a result, this led to difficulty in finding employment, which then led to a difficulty in providing for their families. (Panek)  Also challenging for these Polynesians was the fact that rumors had spread about the islanders having leprosy. The Salt Lake Herald reported on June 20, 1896, that “although rumors prevail to the effect that one had appeared ere they were settled on the lands composing the small settlement.”

On May 16, 1889, the First Presidency of the LDS Church put a together a committee to find a permanent home for these Polynesians. This group included three men: Harvey H. Cluff, William W. Cluff, and Fred A. Mitchell. They presented the plan to the Polynesians in Warm Springs to find them a home. The Polynesians selected three men of their own to join this committee: J. W. Kaulainamoku, George Kamakaniau, and Napela (First Hawaiian convert and first Hawaiian to visit Utah). (Atkin) This plan was welcomed warmly and with excitement to have a place they could call their home.

The land unanimously voted on as the home for these Polynesians is located at Skull Valley in Tooele County. Tropical landscapes filled with beaches and greenery were traded for desert farm land. George Fredric Stratton of the Salt Lake Herald described a trip into Skull Valley in 1915 from Salt Lake City: “Forty miles to an early breakfast at Granstville [Tooele County], then another forty miles across the desert took them into Iosepa.”

The land in Skull Valley was owned by John T. Rich. Chosen over three other locations from Utah, Cache, and Weber counties, it provided the best farming land that could potentially provide financial means and accommodate growth. Their new home was named Iosepa after the boy missionary, Joseph F. Smith. He was called to serve a mission to the Hawaiian Islands when he was 15 years of age. The colony was named in his honor using the Hawaiian translation of Joseph. (Atkin)

Life in Iosepa—The Polynesians, numbering about 50 people, moved into their new home August 28, 1889. Work immediately started on the layout plans of the town. In an interview with the Daily Enquirer November 5, 1889, Harvey H. Cluff pointed out that the newly established colony was part of an incorporated company named the Iosepa Agricultural and Stock Company (IASC). Cluff pointed out that the colony would have the opportunity to work for IASC and in turn have a more comfortable home. He added that a public square had been laid out, four center streets designated, a day school had been planned, and homes were being built for the community’s increasing numbers.

In time Iosepa expanded and the LDS Church purchased 800 additional acres. This increased the land that was being cultivated from 200 acres to 400 acres. The ability to provide sufficient water played a major role in this expansion. On November 9, 1908, the Deseret Evening News reported that the irrigation canal that was under construction was now complete. The newspaper describe the irrigation engineering as “remarkable, of passing through the mountains with the canal by which the waters of the different streams were intercepted and brought together.”

Due to financial pressures, the LDS Church and Iosepa were tempted to rent out part of their farmland to Samuel Woolley of Grantsville who would hire the Polynesians to work the land in return. (Panek) In 1904, colony president Thomas A. Waddoups spoke about the signs of self-sufficiency. The Deseret Evening News reported on the productive harvest of the year: 1,000 tons of hay, 250 beeves [beef], several hundred stock of cattle, 5,200 bushels of wheat and barley, 800 bushels of potatoes, 50 tons of squash, 600 bushels of corn. Similar to other colonies, there are financial difficulties at first and it can take time to become self-sufficient. The Iosepa colony of the LDS Church was no exception.

Life in Iosepa was affected by the economic circumstances because of the need to survive. The need to educate the people of Iosepa was also made a priority within the first year of its existence.The Daily Enquirer interviewed Harvey H. Cluff, who was  then president of the Iosepa colony, on November 1, 1889. He said,  “A day school will be set in operation as soon as the people are properly located for the winter, when such class instruction to the more advanced male and female population as will conduce to the improvement of the people socially, religiously, morally, and in cleanliness, will be given from time to time.”

On September 3, 1910, 21 years after that initial interview with Harvey H. Cluff, the Deseret Evening News reported that the school in Iosepa had been very successful. “All these years a good free school has been maintained…. The native Hawaiians make rapid progress from 6 years up to 16 and 17 years, outstripping the white children.”

They also had to make sure their culture and identity remained intact.  Social activities were planned around LDS Church activities because the colony was under the direction of the LDS Church. Every year the same important dates took place:

  • Hawaiian Pioneer day, August 28
  • New Years Day
  • Christmas Day
  • Polynesian day, celebrated every time LDS Church officials visited—about four times a year. (Atkin)

Festivities included a pig roast, traditional Polynesian food, and traditional Polynesian music and dance from each island represented in Iosepa. The Deseret Evening News reported on September 2, 1905, about one of the annual celebrations commemorating the Polynesian’s first arrival into Skull Valley: “7 o’clock this morning two dressed pigs weighing over 100 pounds each, were placed whole in a pit, where a fire, hours old, had heated stones in the bottom to an intense heat…. At 8 o’clock a dance commenced in the amusement hall of the colony, and the fun was furious until 12 o’clock midnight.” By cooking in the methods of their homeland, they preserved their culture and educated their youth about their native cultures.

In 1915, the LDS Church announced the building of the Laie, Hawaii Temple on the island of O’ahu. This announcement ushered in the closing of the Iosepa colony along with the offer from the LDS Church to pay the settlers’ fares back to Hawaii. (Atkin) By 1916, several of the Polynesian residents of Iosepa returned home. The Maui News reported on November 3, 1916, that 17 of the Iosepa pioneers arriving on the ship, Sierra, as “going old and gray-haired” moving into yet another “Mormon colony” this time in their homeland located at “Laie, windward O’ahu.” By 1917, Iosepa was almost entirely abandoned save a few residents (Atkin), breaking up one of the oddest pairings of the 20th century: the tropically-grown people of Polynesia and the desolate farmlands of Utah.

Peni Tagoai is a senior at the University of Utah, graduating in August 2012. His major is in speech communication with a minor in international studies. He grew up on the North Shore of O’ahu.


“Iosepa, The Kanaka Colony in Tooele County,” Daily Enquirer, November 1, 1889.

“Leprosy in the Kanaka Settlement,” Salt Lake Herald, June 20, 1896.

“Conference at Iosepa,” Deseret Evening News, November 26, 1904.

“Iosepa, Hawaiian Celebration,” Deseret Evening News, September 2, 1905.

“Big Event for Iosepa Colony,” Deseret Evening News, November 9, 1908.

“Hawaiian Village of Iosepa Celebrates Twenty-first Birthday,” Deseret Evening News, September 3, 1910.

George Frederic Stratton, “From Salt Lake to South Sea Islands,” Salt Lake Herald, September 5, 1915.

“On The Other Islands,” The Maui News, November 3, 1916, 5.

Tracey E. Panek, “Life at Iosepa, Utah’s Polynesian Colony,” in Proclamation to the People: Nineteeneth-century Mormon and the Pacific Basin Frontier, ed. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid L. Neilson (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah Press, 2008), 170-81.

Dennis H. Atkin, History of Iosepa, The Utah Polynesian Colony (Provo: Brigham Young University, 1958).

The World War II Japanese Relocation Center in Delta, Utah


In the early morning of December 7, 1941, a large Japanese naval fleet attacked the U.S. Navy that was docked in the pier at Pearl Harbor. Most of the crew aboard these ships was still asleep when the attack began. The attack would last two hours, but in those two hours nearly 20 ships and 200 aircraft were destroyed, more than 2,000 men were killed, and nearly 1,000 more wounded. The following day President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war. Congress approved the declaration of war against Japan, with only one vote against. The United States was now a part of the Second World War, with enemies on two fronts; the U.S. would have to fight two wars, one in Europe and the other in the Pacific. (

Within only a few months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the American government and its citizens would succumb to the fear that Japanese-Americans were working for the enemy. On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt would issue Executive Order 9066. This order would become one of the darkest stains in American history. This order allowed for the creation of what were called relocation camps. In reality they were not much different from the concentration camps found in Germany that were holding Jews. The U.S. camps were not for captured POWs; they were to hold Japanese-Americans, most of whom were citizens of the United States, and many of them were “Nisei,” the Japanese word meaning second generation, or Japanese who had been born in the United States. (

The United States would build ten of these relocation camps, but for the  purpose of this paper I will focus mainly on the camp located in Delta, Utah, by Topaz Mountain, which is how the camp received its nickname, the Topaz Internment Camp. This relocation center would be in operation from September 11, 1941, to October 31, 1945.

During my initial research I was surprised to learn that a newspaper was printed at Topaz during the years of the internment camp. The paper was called the Topaz Times. The paper was started in an internment camp in California, the Tanforan internment camp, but when the Japanese-Americans who were living there were transferred to the Topaz internment camp in 1942, the paper changed its name to the Topaz Times. (Utah Digital Newspaper)

I could not imagine life as an interned prisoner, and that is exactly what the Japanese-Americans who lived at these internment camps were. They were not guests at a social club for a visit, they had been taken from their homes in America, relocated across the country and forced to live in these camps. But when you read the first issue of Topaz Times, those who wrote the articles in the paper try to paint a very different picture.

The first thing you see on the front page of the first issue in large letters along the banner is, “Welcome to Topaz.” The project director of the camp, Charles F. Erast, wrote a column on the front page called “Greetings,” in which he wrote, “You will be shown every respect as befits the dignity and importance which belongs to every human being.” Many of the articles in this issue followed the same pattern, trying to convince the Japanese-Americans that they were in the best and most humane internment camp, and that it was in their best interest to be there. (Topaz Times, September 17, 1942, 1)

Comments were made that the Japanese-American who resided at Camp Topaz would enjoy luxuries such running water and toilets that flushed. The writers of the paper even went as far as changing the language and terms that the Japanese-Americans had become accustomed to at other internment camps. The “Mess Hall” became the “Dining Hall,” “Internal Police” would be known as the “Safety Council,” and the “Evacuees” were to be known as “Residents.” All these changes were attempts at creating the illusion that the American government/people had done nothing wrong by imprisoning Japanese-Americans solely on the connection that they were descendants from Japan, and could be a potential enemy inside the borders of the United States. (Topaz Times, September 17, 1942, 2)

Though the United States believed that interning Japanese-Americans was the right thing to do during a time of war, the United States was exactly that, at war, and not just a war on one front but two. The United States needed men to fight on these two fronts, and they needed them badly enough that the idea of those who were in the relocation centers that could prove their loyalty to the United States would be allowed to enter military service and leave the camps.

It would seem that many Japanese-Americans who were at Topaz elected this option, for not only if they entered the service, those with family would be allowed to leave and live in homes outside of the relocation centers. An article in the Topaz Times called “Restrictions on Evacuees in Utah Counties Relaxed,” informs those who are considered fit for military service that they will be allowed to leave the camp with their family, and that when their husband leaves for the military the family will not be expected to return to the internment center. Simply put, they had earned their freedom; it might only cost them the life of their husband as he fought on the frontlines, for a freedom that had been taken away from them. (Topaz Times, April 19, 1944, 5)

I found it interesting that the United States had excluded an entire group of people from living among the general population, unless individuals proved their loyalty and served in the military. But the rest who could not serve or would not take the test to prove their loyalty would still be used in other facets. One article noted that the Japanese-Americans who were living in the relocation centers would be allowed to vote during an upcoming election. Here we have a country that was afraid that the enemy had people living within the United States borders, but would allow them to vote and influence who would be elected to office. The United States treated these people as an enemy by locking them up, taking away the basic right to live freely, but yet they were expected to vote in an election for the same government that had just taken their basic right of freedom away. (Topaz Times, April 12, 1944, 4)

As the war neared an end in the Pacific Front, opinion toward those interned in the camps would change as well. An article titled “The Nisei will Rise Again” gives light to those who elected to serve in the military. Even though they had been discriminated against they answered the call to rise and fight a war against what was called “a common enemy,” despite the fact that they were descendants of Japanese immigrants. It was said in this article that these men had proved beyond any doubt that they were faithful to the cause of democracy. (Topaz Times, April 6, 1944, 2)

At this same time in the nation, the war was coming to a close, though it was not known how the war was going to end. A published article discussed that the American people needed to start readying for the return and release of the Japanese-Americans who had been interned in the relocation centers. The article gave the sense that the American people now missed their American-Japanese neighbors, and that it was now time to make them feel welcome at home upon their return. (Topaz Times, April 12, 1944, 5)

I don’t know how I would react upon my release from a prison sentence, especially one that was imposed against me just because of my race or ethnicity. I don’t know how I would feel about the country that had just imprisoned me or if I would have any loyalty left toward such a nation. I wonder how many Japanese-Americans left the States, or even returned to Japan due to their treatment at these relocation centers. We have to remember the treatment of those that were forced to relocate to these camps, mainly so that we never make this same mistake in our history again.

Wes Hancock served in the United States Navy during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom. Upon discharge from active duty, he began his studies at The University of Utah, majoring in mass communication/new media with a minor in art and entertainment.


“Restrictions on Evacuees in Utah Counties Relaxed,” Topaz Times, April 19, 1944, 5.

Donald Culross Peattie, “Persecutors of Nisei Denounced by AAF Captain In TIME Magazine,” Topaz Times, April 19, 1944, 4.

“Nisei May Still Register for November 7 Elections,” Topaz Times, April 12, 1944, 4.

“Nisei Feels Like a Child ‘Kicked Out’ from Home,” Topaz Times, April 12, 1944, 5.

“The Nisei Will Rise Again,” Topaz Times, April 8, 1944, 2.

Charles F. Ernst, “Greetings,” Topaz Times, September 17, 1942, 1.

“Pearl Harbor,”,

Franklin D. Roosevelt, “Executive Order No. 9066,” HistoryMatters,

“Teaching with Documents: Documents and Photographs related to Japanese Relocation During World War II,” National Archives,

“Topaz Times Archive,” Denso Digital Archive,

“About World War II Japanese-American Internment Camp Documents, 1942-1946,”,

“Topaz Times,” Utah Digital Newspaper,

Fortunato Anselmo


From 1890 to the 1920s, Utah became home to thousands of Italian immigrants. This second wave of Italian immigrants exerted by far the most influence on the development of Utah, and the development of Italian culture in Utah. Unlike the first wave of Italian immigrants, in the late 19th century, this second wave included immigrants from all parts of Italy, most notably Calabria and Sicily and the northern regions of Trentino and Piedmont. As a result of this increase of Italian Americans, a Little Italy soon developed and spread across the western part of Salt Lake City near the Rio Grande railroad station. Due to the influence of a devout Catholic following, a parish began holding meetings at St. Patrick church in downtown Salt Lake City. (Notarianni) It was this enviroment in which Fortunato Anselmo, one of Utah’s most famous Italian Americans, raised his family and thrived.

"Italian fighter Primo Carnera (left), visits Italian Vice Consul Fortunato Anselmo at 164 S. 900 East, Salt Lake City, May 1930."

Born October 1, 1883, in Grimaldi, Italy, Fortunato Anselmo immigrated to Pueblo, Colorado, in the early 1900s. There he met and married Anna Pagano, and the couple had three daughters, Gilda, Annette, and Emma. In 1911, Anselmo and his family moved to Salt Lake City and started F. Anselmo & Co., an imported wholesale Italian food store. With the store’s success, he opened another in Carbon County, where many Italian immigrants had settled to work on the nearby railroads and mines. With so much interaction with fellow Italian immigrants, Anselmo started La Gazzetta Italiana in 1912, to give a voice to the concerns and interests of his fellow immigrants. He quickly established himself as a representative of Italian Utahns, particularly those in the Salt Lake Valley. (Notarianni)

In 1915, he was appointed vice consul of Italy of Salt Lake City and the official adviser to Utah and Wyoming Italians. As such, he presided over all the official documents that required the approval of the Italian government, such as requests for visas, passports, and other papers and documents. He also served as a representative of the Bank of Naples, a prestigious institution and one of Italy’s oldest banks. This position allowed him to help local Italians send money orders to friends and relatives in Italy as well as provide the proper paperwork for traveling immigrants. (Notarianni)

Beyond these responsibilities, Anselmo also participated in many of the local political and social issues of the community. One endeavor he is well known for was his lobbying of the Utah State Legislature to have Columbus Day proclaimed a legal state holiday. While his efforts ultimately failed, Columbus Day did eventually become a holiday in 1919. (Notarianni; Chiariglione)

In addition to being a businessman and diplomat, Anselmo was well known for his magnanimity. Despite not being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints, his generosity was spread to some of the most prominent Mormons at the time. In 1943, J. Reuben Clark Jr., a member of the Church’s First Presidency and namesake of Brigham Young University’s Law School, wrote Anselmo a letter thanking him for the cheese he sent him. Clark wrote, “As I am sure you like cheese (you can hardly like it better than I do), and as you know as well as I how hard good cheese is to get just now, I feel very certain that you will understand me when I say I am most thankful to  you for your thoughtfulness in sending to me that large portion of Gorgonzola cheese.” (Clark)

Similarly, the entire First Presidency of the Church wrote Anselmo in 1946 to thank him for the olive oil he gave them. They noted, “We are all beneficiaries of you gracious kindness in the matter of a supply of pure Italian olive oil. It has been so long since we were able to secure any of this oil that it is a real luxury. Please accpet our thanks for this splendid gift and accept also our sincere wishes for your welfare.” (Smith, Clark, and McKay)

One of his sadder diplomatic duties took him to the site of a mining accident. In 1924, Castle Gate suffered a mine explosion in which 172 men were killed, twenty-two of them Italian immigrants. As one of the most well known Italian Utahns at the time, Anselmo traveled to Castle Gate to offer his services and condolences to the devastated town. (“Castle Gate Relief Fund”)

At other points in his career, Anselmo rubbed shoulders with celebrities and dignitaries from around the world. In 1922, Anselmo and his wife entertained Vittorio Rolandi-Ricci, the Italian ambassador to the United States. Governor Mabey, the Utah governor at the time, was so impressed with Anselmo’s hosting abilities that he wrote him a letter saying, “I would indeed be remiss in my duty if I did not convey to you my cordial appreciation for the splendid reception accorded your esteemed countryman, Ambassador Ricci. In every respect the ceremonies and entertainment were commendable, and the committee in charge is to be heartily congratulated.” In 1930, the Anselmo family was treated to a visit by Italian heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera, who is depicted in the photograph. Probably the most distinguished guest Anselmo had the opportunity to greet was Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who would eventually become Pope Pius XII. (Notarianni; Mabey)

Anselmo’s favor with the Italian government and their diplomats actually began early on in his career as vice consul. On Feburary 3, 1920, after only five years of being vice consul, he was made a Knight of the Crown of Italy and Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy. These awards, much like being knighted in England, are only given to those believed to have offered great service to the Italian government. Most who are awarded with such an honor are military men or important political figures. The fact that Anselmo was awarded with both honors speaks volumes of about how valued he was as a diplomat. (Notarianni; “Italian Consul Honored By King”)

Despite these honors, Benito Mussolini forced Anselmo to resign from his position as vice consul in 1923 after Anselmo completed the naturalization process and became a United States citizen. However, he was ordered to maintain the position until a successor could be appointed.  Nobody else was ever appointed, and in 1941, the US government ordered the office to close entirely. (Notarianni; Monson)

In addition to forcing him out of his position as vice consul, becoming a naturalized citizen incited distrust in terms of Anselmo’s allegiance to America. Some even went as far as to claim he was un-American and began a movement to denaturalize Anselmo. These rumors and defamations caused many to speak out on behalf of Anselmo and his family. One notable writer, Secretary Gus P. Backman of the Salt Lake City Chamber of Commerce, wrote a letter to Burton W. Musser. Backman writes:

I have been personally acquainted with Mr. Anselmo for fifteen to eighteen years …. During the entire time I have know Mr. Anselmo, he has always conducted himself in a most outstanding manner, has also been rated by me, as well as by the people of the community in general, as a forthright, honorable business man. His business ethics have always been above reproach and any question as to his Americanism and loyalty to American ideals has never to my knowledge been raised …. This letter is written due to the fact that I understand some one has started a movement to denaturalize Mr. Anselmo which, in my opinion, would be outrageous …. (Backman)

Fortunately for Anselmo, the movement to denaturalize him failed. In 1950, the office of vice consul was reopened, and the position was returned to Anselmo. He served in that position until he died on July 15, 1965. (Notarianni) Zopito Valentino, an Italian American author, has since eulogized Anselmo with the following:

For how long have the Italians of Utah known Anselmo? For how long have they looked to him for help, protection and advice? Who ever saw his door closed? Who ever found his heart indifferent? He is always ready to extend the glad hand, to help and protect, to offer his counsel and to give liberally. A more generous heart does not exist and a better soul is not to be found. (Valentino)

Today, visitors can learn about Anselmo Fortunato and his family by visiting his home, located at 164 S. 900 East in Salt Lake City. His house has been preserved as a historical monument by the Utah State Historical Society. Visitors may also visit the Utah State Historical Society for more information about Anselmo and other notable Utahns.

Laura Nielson Newbold is a communication major at The University of Utah. She will be graduated this year with a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication and plans to attend the University of Utah S.J. Quinney Law School in the fall. Her husband, Sean Newbold, translated all of the Italian documents into English.


Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Folders 1-15, Box 1, 1917-1963, Utah State Historical Society.

Governor Charles R. Mabey to Fortunato Anselmo, May 19, 1922, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

Secretary Gus P. Backman to Burton W. Musser, March 19, 1943, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

Secretary of State E. E. Monson to Fortunato Anselmo, July 12, 1941, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

Salt Lake Tribune article, “Italian Consul Honored By King,” February 3, 1920, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

J. Reuben Clark Jr. to Fortunato Anselmo, March 30, 1943, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

George Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, and David O. McKay to Fortunato Anselmo, November 29,1946, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

Prop H. Chiariglione to Fortunato Anselmo, January 6, 1917, Fortunato Anselmo Papers, Mss B 103, Utah State Historical Society.

Philip F. Notarianni, “Italianità in Utah: The Immigrant Experience,” in Helen Z. Papanikolas, ed., The Peoples of Utah. Salt Lake City: Utah Historical Society, 1976.

Zopito Valentino, Italian Activities of the Intermountain Region (1965-1975)

Castle Gate Relief Fund Committee.” Division of Archives and Records Service, Department of Administration Services.

Ordini Cavallereschi del Regno d’Italia, Corpo della Nobiltà Italiana.

Statutes of the Order of Merit of Savoy

The Ogden, Utah, Hi-Fi Murders: April 22, 1974


A heinous crime was committed in the quiet community of Odgen, Utah, on the night of April 22,1974. Little did those at the Hi-Fi store in town know what was going to happen.

Dale Selby Pierre and William Andrews, who were United States Air Force airmen, entered the shop where two employees, Stanley Walker and Michelle Ansley, “a pretty 19-year old who had been hired as a store clerk only a week before,” were working. (Spangler) Pierre and Andrews took them down to the basement, tied them up, and then they started to rob the store. When Cortney Naisbitt came into the store to talk with Stanley Walker, the robbers took him down to the basement also. (DelPorto) Later, Orren Walker came looking for his son, Stanley; Carol Naisbitt went to the store, too. Both were taken to the basement.

Outside, Keith Roberts, another airman, waited for Pierre and Andrews to rob the store. After forcing the hostages to drink liquid Drano, Pierre raped Michelle Ansley. (DelPorto, Lund) Then, deciding that it was taking too long for the hostages to die, Pierre shot each of them in the back of the head. Orren Walker survived, only to be tortured and have a pen kicked into his ear. (Wade) The men then loaded up their van with the stolen equipment and left.

Gary Kinder described the scene in his book, Victim: The Other Side of Murder:

When Stan had not shown up for dinner, Mr. Walker had driven to the shop to see if he had had trouble with the utility jeep they had just bought. Mrs. Walker began to worry when two hours had passed and neither had returned home. A little after ten she and the younger boy had gone to the shop. The boy, a strapping sixteen-year-old, had rung the buzzer in back. When he heard his father yelling for them to call the police and an ambulance, he had reared back and kicked in the locked door. (Kinder, 52)

Stanley Walker and Michelle Ansley were dead when they were found.  Carol Naisbitt made it as far as the ambulance ride, but was pronounced dead on arrival at St. Benedict’s Hospital in Ogden, Utah. Cortney Naisbitt was not expected to survive, but he pulled through with serious and permanent brain damage, and was hospitalized for 266 days. (Delporto) Orren Walker survived as well, but had extensive burns around the mouth and face, along with major ear damage from the torture.

Within hours of the crime an Air Force officer who supervised Pierre, Andrews, and Roberts, called in a tip to the Ogden City Police Department. When two teenage boys found wallets and other personal belongings of the victims in a Dumpster near Hill Air Force Base, a crowd of airmen gathered and after some theatrics and keen detective work, the three men were taken in as suspects.

All three were tried together for first-degree murder and robbery. (Lund)  The Deseret News reported on August 28, 1987: “Because of emotion and tension surrounding the case, it had been moved to Farmington from Ogden in a change of venue. Still within the same judicial district, Ogden Judge John F. Wahlquist heard the case.” (Wade) Walker was able to testify as the star witness. Naisbitt, on the other hand, suffered from amnesia due to his injuries and did not go to the trials, but his father, Dr. Bryon Naisbitt, did testify.

Because Roberts was waiting in the van and was not in the store at the time of the murders, he was only convicted of robbery and sent to prison. He was paroled in 1987.

Pierre and Andrews, on the other hand, were found guilty on both accounts of robbery and murder in the first degree. A journalist covering the trial reported on November 11, 1974: “The decision came from an 11-man, one woman jury after a day-long sentencing hearing in Second District Court.” (Lund)

At the time of the original sentencing the death penalty choices were by hanging or by a firing squad. Gilbert Athay and John Caine, the attorneys for Pierre and Andrews, appealed the verdicts with help from the NAACP and Amnesty International. The NAACP became involved because all three defendants were African American. During the process of selecting jurors, the candidates were intensely questioned in regards to their views on black people and their opinion on blood atonement.

A reporter present during the trial reported, “The undercurrent of emotion erupted one afternoon when juror James Weaver received a napkin at a Bountiful restaurant on which were written the words, ‘Hang the niggers.’ Court bailiff Tom Lenox, an ex-military intelligence officer and a Davis County deputy, reported to [Judge] Wahlquist that only two or three of the other jurors had seen the note, which Weaver had turned immediately over to the bailiff.” The defense pushed for a mistrial at that point, but Wahlquist gave a stern reprimand to the still unknown writer of the note. (Wade)

Amnesty International held a candlelight vigil on the night Pierre was put to death. In the article, “Amnesty plans vigil to protest Aug. 28 execuation of Selby,” the reporter stated, “State coordinator Michael Spurgin said the human rights group opposes the death penalty because it does not deter violent crime and is biased by race and economic class.” (Amnesty) Pam Wade reported, “News reports that day said Selby and Andrews  sat silent and emotionless as the verdicts were read but as Andrews left the courtroom, escorted by guards, he turned briefly, stared and clenched his fists at Orren Walker.” (Wade)

While in prison, Dale S. Pierre legally changed his name to Pierre Dale Selby. (Bernick) Selby was put to death by lethal injection, the first in Utah, on August 28, 1987. Gary DeLund, executive director of the department of corrections, was the man who gave the order to execute Selby. DeLund said, “It was remarkably different than the way his victims died. This execution was very calm, very peaceful. It (lethal injection) is probably the most humanitarian way to end a life.” (Spangler)

Andrews had the chance to appeal again after Selby was put to death. He believed he shouldn’t die, that he was a victim of circumstance, error, and youth. (Bernick) Earl Dorius, the assistant attorney general at the time, described Andrews as “… very slick, almost warmhearted, and sounds somewhat sorry for what he had done. But I’ll tell you, he is very methodical in his answers. It’s clear to me he’s been prepped to go just so far.” (Bernick 4A) William Andrews also was executed by lethal injection, on July 30, 1992.

Kristine Child is a senior at The University of Utah.  She is majoring in mass communication with an emphasis in strategic communication.


“Amnesty plans vigil to protest Aug. 28 execution of Selby,” The Deseret News, July 15, 1987, 10 A.

Bob Bernick Jr., “Selby’s final footsteps are echoing harbingers of fate awaiting Andrews,” The Deseret News, August 28, 1987, Metro, 4A.

Brett DelPorto, “Daughter’s death is avenged but bitter memories live on,” The Deseret News, August 28, 1987, Metro, 4A.

Brett DelPorto, “Hi Fi survivor aiming to leave ‘fame’ and victim status behind,” The Deseret News, August 28, 1987, Metro, 5A.

Jerry Spangler, “Selby Pays for 1974 Hi Fi Murders: Injections painlessly end life of killer by 1:12 a.m.,” The Deseret News, August 28, 1987, Metro.

Pam Wade, “Web of evidence tightened inexorably in the Hi Fi trial: Grisly event pieced painstakingly slowly,” The Deseret News, August 28, 1987, Metro, 4A.

Wanda Lund, “Hi Fi 2 guilty of murder,” The Deseret News, November 16, 1974, Metro, 3A.

Wanda Lund, “Jury Decrees Death for Hi Fi Slayers,” The Deseret News, November 11, 1974, Metro, B.

Gary Kinder. Victim: The Other Side of Murder. New York: Delacorte Press, 1982.

The Mormon-Black Hawk War


The “Black Hawk War” that took place in Utah and started roughly around April 9, 1865, was the longest and most destructive war between pioneer immigrants and Native Americans in Utah history. It was a war between the Ute Native Americans and the Mormon settlers.

It all started when a handful of Ute Indians and Mormon settlers gathered in Manti, Utah, to settle a dispute over some cattle and livestock that were killed and eaten by some hungry Utes. The Mormons attempted to reason with the Indians, saying they had the right to take possession of their land because the Indians were heathens and non-Christians who didn’t believe in the Bible or Jesus, or the Messiah. (

One thing led to another and a Mormon settler insulted a Ute Indian as well as a Ute named Black Hawk. But Black Hawk was not his name; his real Ute name was Nooch, a name sacred to the Ute Indians in honor of the Noochew people. Black Hawk was the name that Brigham Young gave him. That is when the Indians promised retaliation, and retaliation is exactly what happened. Over the next couple of days the Indians followed through with their promises and stole hundreds of the Mormon settlers’ cattle as well as killed five men, then escaped into the mountains. Black Hawk was given the title of War Chief after his stand up to the settlers. Historian Will Bagley wrote, “It was a matter of who would own the land and who would survive.  It was a battle over resources that led to a brutal bloody conflict between the Mormon settlers and the Ute.” (

Militiamen mostly fought the war in the northern states, and few Indians were given credit for anything. Miss Doris Duke said, “If a white person would of grown up the way an Indian did, the white person would think the same way, there is no right or wrong, it was just the circumstances.” (Miss Doris Duke)

Over the next year Black Hawk continued with this stealing of cattle and challenging the Mormons. Black Hawk was not supported by everyone in his tribe, though. He had gained the support of only a handful of people, but he also had gained some support from other tribes in the area, such as the Paiute and Navajo. Their task was simple: it was to make life difficult for the Mormons through that area of land. Their goal was to steal as much cattle as they could, as well as taunt and hassle people who were traveling through the area. (Gottfredson)

In the small town of Circleville in the year of 1866 it was said that there occurred “the largest massacre of Indians in Utah’s history.”  (Winkler) The Circleville Massacre was a key event in the Black Hawk War and lives up to every bit of its title. On September 18, 1865, Major Warren S. Snow and a hundred men who were out hunting Indians stopped in the town of Circleville for the night. The next morning they took off, eventually to meet up with some Indians to fight in Wayne County. The Utes heard of this and started their move toward Circleville.  The townspeople saw the Utes all around the mountains just watching them, waiting to make a move. One day after the Utes came to the town and stole some more of their cattle, the townspeople took cover in the meetinghouse with only a few militiamen guarding the town. (Winkler)  After the first raid the people did not want to chance any more Indian attacks so they went to the neighboring tribe to their town where the Paiute Indians were and took sixteen men captive and some women and children, as a precautionary measure against any further raids. They were placed in the meetinghouse under arrest with guards and the women and children were placed in the cellar. That night when the guards were waiting for orders on what to do with the captives, the Paiute men freed themselves and sprung on their captors. In a panic all of the sixteen men were shot and killed in the struggle. Since they did not want the word to get out about the killings they brought up the women one at a time and shot them, and then shot the children one at a time. (Winkler)

Throughout the next couple of years the Mormons decided enough was enough and decided to stand their ground. Historian Robert Carter said, “When the Ute failed to assimilate into Mormon culture, the answer was to exterminate them.” ( The Mormons got hundreds of militiamen and chased the Utes through the wilderness and mountains but did not have much success since that was the Indians’ homeland. But that didn’t stop some of the men who were upset with what was happening to their land and their cattle from killing some innocent Utes, including women and children. Mormons decided to go another route and called upon federal troops to step in and help them out with the growing problem, but their support was not answered for a while. After much fighting and constant little battles, Black Hawk and the Mormons made peace with each other in 1867. A treaty was signed in 1868.

Before Black Hawk died in 1870, from a bullet wound a year earlier that made him sick, he traveled to the Mormon village to apologize for the pain and suffering that the war had caused. He asked for settlers’ forgiveness and asked them to do the same and stop all the bloodshed. ( But even after the treaty was signed, many Native Americans were still being killed, even after Black Hawk apologized to them.

White expansion brought a problem to the Indians. Mormons and Europeans brought in new diseases and their settlement in some areas hurt the natural eco-system, and scared away wildlife, which led to the starvation of many Indians.  All of the events were not uncommon in the western states at this time but the Black Hawk War was different because of the animosity between the United States government and the LDS Church. The war ended without any incident when federal troops were ordered to engage the Indians in 1872. (Lowry)

Chad Manis is a senior at The University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication and plans to graduate in fall 2010. He grew up in Long Beach, California, but now lives in Salt Lake City with his wife, Casey.


Albert Winkler, “The  Circleville Massacre: A Brutal Incident in Utah’s Black Hawk War,” Utah Historical Quarterly 55 (1987).

Peter Gottfredson. Indian Depredations in Utah (1919), Legislative Assembly Of Utah Territory.

Kate B. Carter. Our Pioneer Heritage, vol 9. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1958.

The American Indian Oral History Project, Miss Doris Duke, MS 417. Legend Translated by Alvina Quam 1968, Manuscript Division, J. Willard Marriot Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

The John Lowry, Sr., and John Lowry, Jr., Papers , MS 306. J. Willard Marriot Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Sketch Of The Life Of John Lowry 1799-1867, Manuscript Division, J. Willard Marriot Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Secondary Sources

Carlton Culmsee. Utah’s Black Hawk War. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1973.

Black Hawk Indian War: Utah’s Forgotten Tragedy.”

Opium, the Drug of Destruction


The year 1869 was a landmark year for Utah. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad, traffic to the West was now open and people made passage to Utah. This included many of the Chinese, who had been workers on the railroad and were paid minimal wages. Many of the Chinese moved where “economic opportunities were.” The railroad along with merchants offered many job opportunities in Utah. By 1890, the Chinese population grew to an estimated 806 people; often they were concentrated in small areas. (Dirlik, 269-275) This resulted in the creation of Chinatowns in Utah. According to Dirlik, Chinatowns offered “a place of security comfort and cultural familiarity.” (Dirlik, 271) Many men felt that they were in a strange country with unfamiliar customs.

With the growth of Chinatowns in Utah, so grew the Chinese influence, customs and traditions in the area. In fact, many white men and women adopted the habit of smoking opium after a long day of work as a way of relaxing their mind. Opium is a substance that is extracted from the sap of a poppy seed; it is a tar-like substance that is smoked and gives feelings of euphoria. On January 7, 1857, The Deseret News reported on the “Effects of Opium.” The article described it as a “wasting of youth, health, strength and those who begin its use at 20 can expect to die at 30 years of age.” One user described his experience with opium: “The pleasurable sensations and imaginative ideas arising at first soon pass away — they become fainter and fainter, and at last entirely give place to horrid dreams and appalling pictures of death.” This encyclopedia entry will focus on the rise and fall of opium dens in Utah and the role that they played in Utah’s history.

As Chinatowns continued to grow, so did the influence of opium. The drug was often stored and smoked in underground dens, thus making it harder for authorities to find them. Opium was becoming so popular that it eventually worked its way into white society. On February 7, 1883, The Deseret News reported on “Opium Traffic.” The reporter was amazed at how the use of opium was increasing among “civilized nations.” The claim was made that, “where alcoholism had been abandoned, opium in various forms has been adopted as a substitute in a large number of instances.” As the use of opium grew so did the amount of dens. Commercial Street was located in Salt Lake City, which often housed many opium dens in a concentrated area. “Chinese Dicks” and “Quong Wah Sing” were two of the dens, which happened to be next door to each other. One could often find twenty to thirty people housed there on a given evening.

On October 8, 1883, The Deseret News reported on opium dens in a story headlined, “A Visit to A Couple of Chinese Haunts.” The reporter described the den as he was walking in: “Light down a dark narrow stairway, the atmosphere of which was musty and unwholesome, an underground apartment was reached. The sides cased with rough boards, and around the room were large shelves covered with matting on which the opium smokers recline.” It became so accessible that opium cost 25 cents a pipe; anyone who was willing to pay regardless of age, race, or gender was welcome. Often these dens become dangerous places for young girls.

On May 5, 1883, The Deseret News reported on how the dens ruined young girls. Girls anywhere from 10 to 20 years old were often coaxed into a den by someone they knew. They were then taken upstairs to a dark murky room. In the company of other “ruined” girls they were told of the greatness of the drug. The young girls were usually expected to try it out of courtesy. Everyone looked on while the first few pipes were smoked. Once addicted, they stay “wasting away their young lives in a darkened room as helpless victims of the den keepers and their customers.” (“Openings for Christian Missionary Labors”) Most people thought of these dens as evil, wrong, and immoral, but according to Kirk, “The Tribune complained in 1878 that police were planning to raid dens in the city but could not because there was no law against them.” By 1890 a law had been passed prohibiting the sale of opium, fines would range for $10 to $99, finally giving law enforcement power. (Kirk, 233)

With the law finally on their side, officers could start cracking down on the dens. They were determined to find and shut down all access to opium. Many of the dens were found in Plum Alley, which ran north from 200 South to 100 South between Main Street and State Street. There was so much opium and so many arrests that police had trouble keeping track of inmates. One instance of this occurred on January 22, 1900. The Salt Lake Herald reported on one of the inmates named John Wah. Mr. Wah was a trustee to the jailer, and was turned out into the yard as a trustee. By the second day he felt the itch for opium so he “hot footed” it to Plum Alley where he got his fix. He returned to the jail on his own free will by suppertime. After his return he received a beating from the jailer. Mr. Wah promised to be good and follow the rules. The next day Mr. Wah was missing again, but this time he would not return and the jailer would not find him.

Often, if the person could not afford the fine he or she would have to do the same amount of days in jail as their fine. Raids on opium dens would continue until 1910 when they slowly started to fade away along with Utah’s Chinatowns. Looking back through Utah’s history we can see how opium dens played a large role in what was happening in white society, Chinese environments and with the youth. Opium came to Utah with the Chinese and was abused for more than forty years by all types of people disregarding gender, race or age. As laws were passed and efforts were made by law enforcement opium dens had their demise.

Jed Piercy is a student at The University of Utah. He is majoring in mass communication.


“Opium Dens, a Visit to a Couple of Chinese Haunts,” The Deseret News, October 8, 1883.

“Raided Opium Den,” The Deseret Evening News, October 2, 1901.

“Raided an Opium Den,” The Salt Lake Tribune, January 26, 1897.

“Effects of Opium,” The Deseret News, January 7, 1857.

“The Opium Traffic,” The Deseret News, Febuary 7, 1883.

“Wah Couldn’t Go On Without His Opium,” The Salt Lake Herald, January 22, 1900.

“Tried to Smuggle Opium,” The Deseret Evening News, October 9, 1900.

Openings for Christian Missionary Labors,” The Deseret News, May 23, 1883.

Secondary Sources:

Arif Dirlik. Chinese on the American Frontier: Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Andrew Kirk. “Dens of Hell in the Cities of Zion.” Journalism History (Winter 2010).

Topaz: Internment Through Young Eyes


Photos courtesy of J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, over 127,000 Japanese Americans were placed into government internment camps, due to a military exclusion order issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Arrington wrote that the Executive Order 9066 was seen as a “military necessity” to remove all of the Japanese Americans, primarily from the coastal areas (California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska), to eliminate any danger during enemy attacks or raids along the coast. Arrington noted that Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt’s reasoning was that the bond between the Japanese (through culture, religion custom, race, etc.) were unparalleled; “A Jap is a Jap … it makes no difference whether he’s an American citizen or not; he is still Japanese.” (Arrington, 14) As a result, claims of communication between the coastal Japanese Americans and Japan grew largely in suspicion, though none of the claims were ever proven by reliable sources or evidence. (Arrington, 13)

The relocation of the Japanese Americans began as a voluntary process and nearly five thousand Japanese Americans obliged and moved without force. (Arrington, 15) However, as the speculation and fear grew larger that the Japanese Americans were a dangerous threat, the need for relocation spread among various states, including Utah, making the relocation mandatory on March 27, 1942. (Arrington, 16)

A total of 10 concentration camps were constructed after the relocation mandate was issued. The Central Utah Relocation Center was housed in Delta, Utah, also known as the “Jewel of the Desert.” The camp was located where Lake Bonneville once was in Millard County. The area was known as Sevier Desert on dated maps or as “Pahvant (abundance of water)” by the Paiute Indians; the camp’s name, Topaz, derived from the Topaz Mountains located near the center. (Arrington, 21) Arrington described Topaz as windy, which stirred up “a seldom interrupted whirl of dust. Another [detraction was] the non-absorbent soil, which, after a rain [storm], is a gummy muck, ideal as breeding ground for mosquitoes.” (Arrington, 22)

The Topaz Internment camp was constructed to comprise over 19,800 acres and “consisted of forty-two checker board blocks, of which thirty-four were living quarters or residential blocks.” (Arrington, 23) The blocks were built to accommodate 250 to 300 people and “had twelve single-story resident barracks buildings, a central mess or dining hall, recreation hall, a combination washroom-toilet/laundry building, outdoor clotheslines, and an office for the block manager,” wrote Arrington. (23) Among the many Japanese Americas transferred to Central Utah Relocation Center, and the nine other camps across the nation, many if not most of the internees were teenagers and children.

P1584 Willis Carl. BX 1, FLD #3. "Teens outside high school."

For many young people, the experience in the internment camps differed in perspective and experience than that of their parents or older Japanese Americans at the time. While camp life cast a cloud of uncertainty and worry for the future of older, parental figures, Japanese teens and children saw it differently. In fact, more often than not, many of them found ways to make the best of their situation. Many were able to meet and make new friends, attend school activities and be involved in sports. “Within the confines of the assembly centers, the Japanese Americans tried to create a community. They organized schools, camp newspapers, sports programs, and talent shows.” (Tunnell, Chilcoat, 11) Other than the fact that the teens were confined to the internment camps, their lives are very similar to the lives of many teenagers today.

P1584 Willis Carl. BX 1, FLD #4. "Five young men." David Hisato is on the far right.

In the letters written between teenage lovers David Hisato and Tamaki Yamate, the two hardly spoke of any extreme sufferings or turmoil from being in Topaz or, in Hisato’s case, working at the Roy Labor Camp near Ogden.

Hisato sometimes spoke of the lack of work in his letters, where he only worked six to nine hours a day and earnings were tough and the harsh weather often made his hands dry. At the other extreme, he wrote about working continuously for over 13 hours a day. (Letter, September 9, 1944)

But a majority of the letters Hisato wrote to Yamate described the events of his day and his unconditional affection for her. “As for girls, no worry sweet because I got my heart on and it’s you only darling. You know I have your picture right above my bed so before I go to sleep I can look at it. Some of the boys see your picture and think I’m pretty lucky.” (Letter, September 12, 1944)

Yamate wrote similar letters to Hisato. She described the upcoming parties and dances at the high school in Topaz.

Yamate also continually expressed her love for Hisato. In one letter she writes, “The days I spend with you, are the happiest days I have spent in my whole life. I know I’ll never know that happiness with anyone else.” (Letter, March 26, 1945)

PO 800 George Murarami Topaz, FLD #6. "7 young men."

Hisato and Yamate also wrote to their friends throughout the nation and received many letters in return. A close mutual friend, “Minzo” Askiyoski, wrote them both and his letters were similar to the letters exchanged between Hisato and Yamate. There was minimal discussion of specifics of camp life, but he emphasized social and personal events.

In one letter he asks Hisato to send him some good basketball shoes if he saw any. They also exchanged holiday cards and gifts through the mail. (Hisato & Yamate Collection)

P1584 Willis Carl. BX 1, FLD #4. "5 young kids."

However, students in an English class at Tule Lake Internment Center felt that camp life was harmful to young minds. “Since I’ve been to camp, I no longer feel that I am a part of the world,” Yukio Kumata wrote. “I feel like a dangerous enemy spy being held in prison. I take no interest in world events concerning America as I did at home. For a loyal American to be placed in a stuffy camp, I feel I am no part of America. I am inclined to feel bitter and sarcastic about the whole fair. But as I recall my faithful Caucasian friends at home, I realize that America is and will be for the rest of my life, home for me.” (Kumata Papers)

PO 800 George Murarami Topaz, FLD #6. "Three Varsity football players."

Many teenagers found camp life dull and repetitive, but seldom complained about living conditions. Another English student from Tule Lake Internment, Heidi Morioka, described camp as being unbearably hot some days and with the lack of trees on site, there was no place to cool off under. (Morioka Papers) Nearly all the teens were happy that the camp gave them the opportunity to meet other Japanese teens/children their age.

P1584 Willis Carl. BX 1, FLD #2. "Young girls doing homework."

But beyond making the best of their situation, there was much fear and worry in the lives of these young people. Although life at camp was relatively easy, the future was uncertain and fearful to some young people as well. “We all wonder what the future will be like,” wrote Rosie Ishibashi. “It has been said, ‘let us look to the future, rather than to the present.’ Yes, we all wonder what the future will be.” (Ishibashi)

PO 144 Japanese Relocation, WRA. BX 1, FLD 3. #41. "5th grade girls playing 'too deep.'"

The Japanese relocation was a defining time in American history. For several years, many Japanese Americans lived in barracks behind fences, unable to go out on their own without being supervised. But as the youth internees have displayed, many Japanese Americans complied with the U.S. government and did their best to assimilate and adapt to camps to keep their lives as normal as possible. The Japanese Americans were faithful U.S. citizens and were punished for something they did not do or want.

PO 144 Japanese Relocation, WRA. BX 1, FLD 3. "5th grade boys."

The relocation of Japanese Americans will always be significant in U.S. history. The gender, race, ethnicity, religion and color of a person’s skin do not determine their amount of loyalty or disloyalty to their country. After the recent September 11th incident, many Muslim Americans were threatened and scrutinized for an attack made by a terrorist in a Muslim country. Some Americans feared the Muslim Americans, weighing in the same accusations the Japanese Americans were accused of (sharing information and helping Japan) because “that’s who they originally are.” It’s important that these stereotypes are broken and that we as a nation do not segregate individuals based on the way they look or where they come from.

Tiffany Lieu, born and raised in Utah, began her college career at the University of Utah in August 2006. She is experienced in both print and broadcast journalism and has worked for the Daily Utah Chronicle, KTVX ABC 4 News, News 8 Texas, Lessons Magazine and KUTV CBS 2 News. Lieu loves being able to share her love of writing and communicating by helping others tell their stories. Lieu studied mass communication, with a focus in journalism and graduated with a bachelors of science in May 2010.


David Hisato and Tamaki Yamate, Hisato and Yamate Papers – Letters, MS 680, Boxes 1-5, 8, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Rosie Ishibashi, Japanese Relocation Papers, MS 144, Box 4, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Yukio Kumata, Japanese Relocation Papers, MS 144, Box 4, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Heidi Morioka, Japanese Relocation Papers, MS 144, Box 4, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Leonard J. Arrington. The Price of Prejudice: The Japanese-American Relocation Center in Utah during World War II. Logan: Utah State University, 1962.

Michael O. Tunnell and George W. Chilcoat. The Children of Topaz: The Story of a Japanese-American Internment Camp. New York: Holiday House, 1996.