Area 9: The U.S. during the Second World War (1940s)
Question: How did the Second World War produce changes in the U.S. home front?
Background for teachers and students
The internment of Japanese Americans at the Heart Mountain Relocation Center after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, uniquely impacted Wyoming’s home front during World II. The Heart Mountain Relocation Center was one of ten such internment camps constructed in response to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. Relocation centers were located in seven states in the West and Midwest. Their primary purpose was to house Japanese-Americans from Oregon, Washington, California, and Arizona. Wyomingites, like other Americans, were fearful of their peace and security at home. Despite their support of Roosevelt’s order, Wyomingites saw the construction of this camp in the northwestern part of the state between Cody and Powell as an unwanted intrusion upon their liberties and day-to-day lives. The War Relocation Administration (WRA) implemented the executive order as required but gave little regard for how it impacted the lives of the 10,000 Japanese Americans who were held at Heart Mountain, under guard and behind barbed wire, from 1942 to 1945—or to the local population in Cody and Powell.
This Area of Inquiry is intended to have students explore the impact that the relocation of Japanese Americans to the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in northwestern Wyoming had on both the inhabitants of the camp and on Wyomingites who lived in the nearby towns of Powell and Cody. Steven Bingo’s WyoHistory.org article, “A Brief History of the Heart Mountain Relocation Center,” provides background about the events leading up to the importation of Japanese Americans to Heart Mountain, its impact on their lives and the reactions of people living in the surrounding communities to the peopling of what would become the third largest city in Wyoming. After reading this article, students are encouraged to explore the experiences of individuals both in the relocation camp and local areas using the resources listed below or in their own research to consider the ways in which this event impacted and changed people’s lives in the camp and on the home front in Wyoming.
The selection linked below, “A Brief History of Heart Mountain Relocation Center” offers substantial background on the topic for teachers and for students 8th grade and up. The articles may be demanding for 6th and 7th graders.