Heart Mountain Wyoming Japanese Internment Camp


 Located just 50 miles east of Yellowstone National Park, Cody Wyoming was the site of one of ten internment camps for Japanese Americans during World War II. It received its name Heart Mountain from the majestic mountain near the camp, but there was nothing romantic about what took place here between August 1942 and November 1945.



Cody WyomingThe drive east out of Cody to Heart Mountain is through the high desert, and the weekend I visited, it was bitterly cold. The wind was blowing so hard that at one point I lost my footing and fell. But I was wearing a nice down coat, snow pants and boots, riding in a cozy warm SUV.

That’s not how the Japanese arrived at Heart Mountain and for three years, nearly 14,000 Japanese Americans endurred here with only the clothes on their backs and “all they could carry.”  They came from California and they weren’t wearing down or fleece.

heart mountain wyoming From the outside, the visitors center is not impressive. In fact, it’s quite ugly and depressing, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.

The black, barracks-style buildings reflect the design of the living quarters hastily assembled for those uprooted from their homes, businesses, communities and lives on America’s west coast.  At the time, President Roosevelt and most Americans felt this was necessary for national security.Heart mountain wyoming

So this museum is their story.  It’s a first person narrative of what some have called legalized racism. Even though many of these individuals were first and second generation American citizens, they lost their rights to vote, to own property and all that is guaranteed in the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

However, 800 men from Heart Mountain were drafted and served in combat in Europe. Two won the Congressional Medal of Honor.Heart Mountain Wyoming

This is not a pretty chapter of American history, and I admit, I was disturbed as I left the visitor center and looked out over the landscape that had been almost as cruel to these individuals as their government.

 Each year, nearly three million people visit nearby Yellowstone National Park.  If you are one of them, make that drive east into Cody Wyoming and spend a few hours at Heart Mountain. It will be time well spent.

Heart Mountain Wyoming


6 thoughts on “Heart Mountain Wyoming Japanese Internment Camp

  1. Claire Walter

    I visited the Heart Mountain Relocation Center (most likely under the same circumstances as you) two winters ago, when the visitor center was still a dream of LaDonna Zall and others who felt the story needed to be told ‘in situ,’ not just as a footnote to WWII history. I wrote about it at http://j.mp/xmYbhK, and my impression was much like yours. A very moving place, especially in winter when its stark loneliness is especially dramatic.

  2. Deborah Stockhausen

    This is a great story. I think this ugly episode in our history often gets overlooked by the tremendous accomplishments in WWII.

    1. Diana Lambdin Meyer Post author

      The visitors center has a gallery of changing exhibits on contemporary issues. The next one to be installed is by Muslim-American artists.

  3. Pingback: Driving the American West: Cody, Wyoming | Travels With Two

  4. Glory

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