WWII internment
detailed on Web

Efforts are underway to preserve
artifiacts at 2 Arkansas camps

By Melissa Nelson
Associated Press

LITTLE ROCK >> A Web site launched Thursday tells the history of Arkansas' two World War II Japanese internment camps and efforts to preserve artifacts from the era.

The site,, is part of an effort by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and the Japanese-American National Museum to educate people about the camps, where more than 16,000 Japanese Americans were held between 1942 and 1944.

Project organizers hope the Web site will lead to new information about the camps.

"It is the first step in a very long journey ahead of us," said Johanna Miller Lewis, chair of the UALR history department. "I hope people will see the site and really respond to it."

The site, designed with the look of an aging scrapbook, includes photographs of detainees, lists of reference materials for more information about Japanese-American internments during World War II, links to related sites, calendars of upcoming events related to the Arkansas camps and numerous other features.

Richard Yada's family was the only camp family that has remained in Arkansas for generations since being forcibly relocated from California. He was born in one of the camps in 1943.

Yada, whose father worked before his death to preserve the history of the camps, said the Web site will contribute to the legacy of his father and the other detainees.

"I think (the camps) are a part of history that has been untold, especially in Arkansas," Yada said. "It goes back to what my father was doing in trying to tell the story."

Lewis said the site eventually will include copies of essays written by schoolchildren detained in the camps and artwork done by the children.

"We hope people with some history of the camps will come across (the site) and want to contribute their own information," she said.

More than 120,000 Japanese Americans from the West Coast and Hawaii were relocated to 10 camps at the onset of World War II. Of that group, 16,000 Japanese Americans were interned at two southeast Arkansas camps. Eight camps were in the West; the Arkansas sites were the only ones in the segregated South.

The Rohwer camp opened in September 1942 in Desha County, and the Jerome Center opened the same year in Drew and Chicot counties.

The project to preserve the camps' history is being funded in part with nearly $3 million in various grants from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

A series of exhibits and forums are set to begin in September 2004. Also planned are documentaries about Rohwer and Jerome, as well as a reunion of former detainees.

Lewis said that in the coming months, representatives of the Los Angeles-based Japanese-American National Museum plan visit to Arkansas to help the university officials with their research.

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