Rohwer War Relocation Center
Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery
Monument to the Men of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Rohwer Memorial Cemetery
|Location||Desha County, Arkansas, USA|
|Nearest city||Rohwer, Arkansas|
|Architect||Kaneo Fujioka and Kay Horisawa|
|NRHP Reference #||92001882|
|Added to NRHP||July 06, 1992|
|Designated NHL||July 6, 1992|
The Rohwer War Relocation Center was a World War II Japanese American internment camp located in rural southeastern Arkansas, in Desha County. It was in operation from September 18, 1942 until November 30, 1944, and held as many as 8,475 Japanese Americans forcibly evacuated from California. The Rohwer War Relocation Center Cemetery is located here, and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
The largest remaining structure is the high school gymnasium/auditorium, which was added to and was in service with the local school before it closed(July 2004). The tallest structure is the smokestack from the hospital incinerator. Neither of these is marked in any way to indicate historical significance. The rail line used to bring internees and supplies to the camp remains, though it is apparently abandoned. Some of the rails date back to World War II and before. This rail line also served the Jerome War Relocation Center, which was located 30 miles (48.3 km) southwest of Rohwer.
Various building foundations, walkways, culverts and other improvements are still visible and some are still in use by the local residents. Trees planted by residents have grown tall.
The camp cemetery survives as the only site still identified as having been part of the internment center. It was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1992. It has a monument to Japanese American war dead from the camp, and also a monument to those who died at the camp. The camp site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. A tank-shaped memorial, made of reinforced concrete, guards the cemetery, commemorating Japanese Americans who fought for the United States at Anzio and elsewhere in Italy and France during World War II. Thirty-one who came from Rohwer died in action, and their names are inscribed on the memorial, as well as a later memorial raised nearby.
In its National Historic Landmark summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service writes:
Rohwer Relocation Camp was constructed in the late summer and early fall of 1942 as a result of Executive Order 9066 (February 19, 1942). Under this order, over 110,000 Japanese Americans and their immigrant parents were forcibly removed from the three Pacific Coast States—California, Oregon, and Washington. In all, ten camps were established in desolate sites, all chosen for their distance from the Pacific Coast. Over 10,000 evacuees passed through Rohwer during its existence, and over two thirds of these were American citizens. The monuments found within the camp's cemetery are perhaps the most poignant record of this time."
In its summary on the Rohwer Relocation Center Cemetery, the National Park Service indicates that the cemetery's condition is threatened due to deterioration of the grave markers and monuments, but that ownership of the site is unclear. Deterioration is visible in photographs of the site. Deterioration is discussed in a report from the National Park Service to the President.
The cemetery is located 0.5 miles (0.8 km) west of State Route 1, approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) northeast of McGehee, Arkansas. Signs identify the graded road which goes from the highway to the cemetery, where there is room to park automobiles.
Shooting of residents by a civilian at Rohwer
M.C. Brown, a tenant farmer on horseback on his way home from deer hunting, came across some Japanese Americans from the Rohwer camp, on a work detail in the woods. He fired his gun, and one of the Japanese American men was struck in the hip by a pellet while another was wounded in the calf of the leg. The Japanese Americans were working in the woods under the supervision of a government engineer when the shooting occurred.
Notable Rohwer internees
- Ruth Asawa (1926-2013), a Japanese American sculptor.
- Takayo Fischer (born 1932), an American stage, film and TV actress. Also interned at Jerome.
- Jim Ishida (born 1943), actor best known for his role as T. Fujitsu, Marty McFly's future boss in Back To The Future II in 1989
- Janice Mirikitani (born 1941), the current poet laureate of San Francisco; co-founder of the Glide Foundation (Glide Memorial Church is featured in the Will Smith film, "The Pursuit of Happiness"). Co-founded with her husband the Rev. Cecil Williams, Glide empowers San Francisco's disadvantaged members of society through extensive outreach and advocacy efforts.
- Henry Sugimoto (1900–1990), Japanese-born artist. Also interned at Jerome.
- George Takei (born 1937), an actor best known as Mister Sulu from Star Trek (1966–69). Since his parents refused to take a vow and did not "pass" the loyalty questionnaire, the family was later transferred to Tule Lake War Relocation Center.
- Taitetsu Unno (born 1930), a Buddhist scholar, lecturer, and author.
- John Howard, "John Yoshido in Arkansas, 1943." Southern Spaces, 2 October 2008. http://southernspaces.org/2008/john-yoshida-arkansas-1943
- Japanese American Internment
- "National Register of Historic Places Registration" (PDF). National Park Service. 1991-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-09. - Rohwer Relocation Center Memorial Cemetery—Accompanying 54 photos of camp ruins, memorial, and cemetery from 1990.
- Other camps:
- "National Historic Landmark summary listing". National Park Service. 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "National Register of Historic Places Registration" (PDF). National Park Service. 1991-06-25. Retrieved 2008-07-09.
- "Report to the President: Japanese American Internment Sites Preservation: Rohwer Relocation Center". National Parks Service. Retrieved 2007-09-27.
- Vickers, Ruth Petway (Summer, 1951). "Japanese-American Relocation". The Arkansas Historical Quarterly (Arkansas Historical Association) 10 (2): 175. JSTOR 40018477.
- "George Takei: Biography". georgetakei.com. 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2008-07-09.