Posted on 08/24/2013

Photo taken on August 13, 2013


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War Relocation Center
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Poston War Relocation Center

Poston War Relocation Center
from the plaque in the photo:

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This Executive Order authorized the Secretary of War or any military commander designated by the Secretary to establish zones from which any or all persons could be excluded or evacuated. 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living in strategic western states were evacuated and interned by military law in fifteen (15) Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA) Centers. These hastily built detention centers were, in most cases, either fair grounds or race tracks that were surrounded by barbed wire fences and placed under heavy military surveillance by armed U.S. soldiers.

War Relocation Authority
On March 18, 1942 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9102 establishing the War Relocation Authority (WRA). The WRA was a civilian agency charged with overseeing the military evacuation and internment of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The WRA defined a war relocation center as a pioneer community with basic housing and protective services provided by the federal government for the internees for the duration of World War II.

Poston was one of the ten (10) WRA centers constructed in 1942. It was planned in cooperation with the U.S. Indian Service, as it was sited on the Colorado River Indian Reservation, a hot and arid area of Arizona. Poston was built as three separate units (Poston Unit I, II and III). The facility was named after Charles Poston, a government engineer who planned an irrigation system to serve the needs of the Indian people along the Colorado River. Wade Head, the superintendent of the Papago Indian Reservation of Arizona, was appointed Poston Project Director. The internees with their limited baggage began to arrive on May 9, 1942 and by August 1942 the population peaked at 17,867. Almost overnight Poston became Arizona’s second largest city.

The Poston War Relocation Center was the largest of the ten American internment camps operated by the War Relocation Authority during World War II. It was built on the Colorado Indian Reservation and consisted of three camps. The combined population of the camps reached over 17,000. The Tribal Council objected to being a part of doing to others what had previously been done to their tribe. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs overrode the Council, viewing the prisoners as “volunteers” who would develop the area as permanent agricultural land (all on the War Department’s budget, of course). Today the area is still agricultural land.