Camp Amache: A Japanese-American Relocation Center
Former Japanese Internment Camp, Camp Amache, was hidden away for years, in part because no one wanted to remember this chapter of history. But thanks to local efforts, the camp’s history has come to light, its artifacts are being preserved, and the land on which it stood has become open to the public and filled with interpretive signage detailing life at the camp and honoring those who lived there.
The camp was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 18, 1994, and designated a National Historic Landmark on February 10, 2006.
In 1942, after the war with Japan had started, the United States condemned land southwest of Granada to build a Japanese Internment Camp, later known as Camp Amache.
Evacuees began arriving at Camp Amache on August 29, 1942, and by September 15, less than a month later, the total population reached 7,567. While Camp Amache was the smallest of the internment camps, it was the 10th largest city in Colorado at the time.
Contrary to a normal community elsewhere in the country, this new, temporary city, surrounded by barbed wire fences, had many restrictions. However, in order to live as decently and normally as possible under the circumstances, there were also community activities to keep the city in peace and harmony.
For education, there was a complete facility that included a preschool, elementary school, and high school. There were also athletic programs, talent shows, movies, artists and music groups, and more.
To maintain the health of Camp Amache residents, a hospital was erected and staffed with physicians, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, and optometrists.
On its nearly 10,000 acres of land, the camp had vegetable gardens, hogs, cattle, and chickens to fulfill the needs of the residents.
Self-government was also encouraged at Camp Amache, and through this, it experienced great cooperation between the residents and administration leaders, resulting in Amache being the most peaceful of the country’s 10 relocation centers.
On January 2, 1945, a mass exclusion order was lifted by the government, making it possible for all, except for a few excludes, to return to the West Coast freely.
Today, visitors may drive through Camp Amache on dirt roads and read covered kiosks detailing life at the camp, including images and maps.
A handicapped accessible cement walkway winds through what is left of one block. Although deteriorated through the years, barracks sold when the camp closed are being purchased and relocated to the site.
A Granada high school teacher began restoring the camp with students as part of a research project. They have since unearthed countless artifacts and brought the story of Amache back to life, much of which can be viewed at the Amache Museum in downtown Granada.
These high school students also maintain the camp’s cemetery. During the war, some of the men living at the camp joined the war efforts and fought with the 442nd and 100th battalion. By the end of the war, they were the most decorated battle unit. A large monument to fallen soldiers can be found in the cemetery along with the grave markers of children and a pagoda-style building.
Additional information and artifacts are available at the Amache Museum in Granada.