The World War II Era Museum That Recognizes A Sad Time In Utah's History
After the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the incarceration of nearly 120,000 people of Japanese heritage who lived on the west coast. Many of them came to Utah, where they lived at Topaz – an internment camp – for just over three years. The Topaz Museum is located near the site of that camp, and everyone should pay it a visit to learn more about this sad time in Utah’s, and our country’s history.
The Topaz Museum is located in downtown Delta at 55 W. Main Street.
It's part of a non-profit organization, and is staffed by volunteers. The purpose of this museum is to preserve the history of the Topaz internment camp and its internees, and educate the public about what took place here in the hopes that the injustices committed during this time in our history won't be repeated.
Topaz covered one square mile near the town of Delta, in western Utah. Internees were surrounded by barbed wire, and though they had not been charged or convicted of any crimes, they were incarcerated and guarded for 24 hours a day.
Topaz opened on September 11, 1942 and closed on October 31, 1945. During that time, 11,212 people came through the camp, with the average number of internees around 8,200.
At the time, the government stated that those with Japanese ancestry were a threat to national security.
62 percent of the people who were moved from their homes along the coast to inland internment camps were American citizens. Ironically, many men from Topaz were drafted into the military to fight the war.
The Topaz Museum is full of photos, letters, and items that belonged to the people who lived at the camp.
Various displays and films show you what it was like for these Japanese Americans, who were forced to leave their homes and liquidate their possessions at a great loss.
Take a peek into a replica of the barracks where internees lived. Each barrack was 120 feet long by 20 feet wide, and had living quarters for six families.
Accommodations were sparse. While families had the basic necessities, the barracks were just that - temporary housing that was not particularly homey.
Life was difficult at Topaz, and not just because internees weren't allowed to leave.
In this barren desert, temperatures reach over 100 degrees in the summer, and plunge to below zero in the winter. Families didn't have any kind of air conditioning, and they kept warm with just small stoves.
The museum brings to life the history of this place. It acknowledges the violation of the rights of the U.S. citizens who were held here without the due process that is laid out in the Constitution. It also celebrates the human spirit that endured during the darkest times in the camps.
Over the years, several Presidents have expressed that the internment of these Americans was misguided, and a commission established by Congress in the early 1980s found that the interments were, "unjust and motivated by racism." In 1988, President Ronald Regan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, which provided financial compensation for the Japanese Americans who suffered internment, and their heirs.
Topaz Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and it's free to visit.
You can also pay a visit to the actual site of the Topaz Internment Camp, which is located at 10000 West 4500 North, outside of Delta. The part of the site owned by the Topaz Museum Board covers 634 acres.
Learn more about this time in Utah’s history on Topaz Museum’s
website. Follow the museum’s Facebook page to see events and more.
If you’re interested in Utah’s history, you’ll want to take a look at
these mysterious, beehive-shaped structures in the little ghost town of Frisco.
OnlyInYourState may earn compensation through affiliate links in this article. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.