During World War II, Southern Colorado housed a relocation camp which became home to many Japanese Americans. While many of the relocation centers were located in the western states, Colorado Governor Ralph L. Carr was among the few governors who agreed to house the Japanese in his state. After surveying a location in Colorado to house the Japanese, an out-of-the-way setting on the Southern Colorado Prairie was chosen for the center.

Governor Carr effectively welcomed the internees to his state for reasons that were not widely shared amongst many Americans or Coloradans for that matter. Carr sympathized with the internees, being quoted as saying, “They are loyal Americans… Sharing only race with the enemy.” Carr’s words condemned the inescapable scrutiny and racism that the Japanese-American internees were facing. He adamantly spoke out against depriving American citizens of their rights, but was required to enforce the federal law that called for their detainment. As such, he saw fit that Colorado should be a state to house these peoples.

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When Emory Namura returned home to Walnut Grove, California on break from his dentistry studies in southern California, he and his parent were among the Japanese Americans in his home town who were detained and shipped to the Merced Assembly Camp. It was here that Namura met his future wife Taye Kubota. Many of the Japanese people on the west coast had similar experiences. During March, 1942, and for the next 6 months, these U.S. citizens were swiftly forced from their homes and taken to assembly centers. They had no choice but to leave many of their possessions behind as they were taken to one of the 17 assembly centers which had been constructed by the WCCA. From these assembly centers, the Japanese Americans were eventually transported, usually by train; to one of the 10 relocation centers located throughout the U.S. Camp Amache was one such center.

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Amache is located approximately 3 miles from the town of Granada in Prowers County Colorado. The site is named for an Indian Princess. Amache was the daughter of Chief Ochinee (One Eye), a Cheyenne sub chieftain who was among the chiefs who signed the Treaty of Fort Wise and was later killed in 1864 at the Sand Creek Massacre. In 1862, at the age of 15, the Indian princess became the wife of John Wesley Prowers, a prominent cattle rancher of whom the county was named and who once owned the land and grazed cattle at the site of the concentration camp. Many years later, up to the relocation process, the land was still undeveloped.


Once Emory Namura arrived at Amache, the first thing he observed was the guard tower complete with machine gun and gunman. This must have certainly been a cold welcome to the new occupants of the camp who had only recently been forced from the freedom found in their own homes and neighborhoods. Namura and his parents arrived in August, before the first acknowledged arrival of occupants. As soon as he got off the train, he was quickly put to work helping construct the center for occupancy. The site sat on 11,000 acres and surrounded by 15 square miles of farmland. Originally, the camp was planned to house 10,000 people. The cost of the construction was five million dollars.

The first documented arrival of detainees came on September 5, 2014. There were 1106 men women and children. More groups continued to come and by the end of the year, there were 9140 occupants. Amache had one of the best hospitals in Southern Colorado which was staffed exclusively by Japanese Americans. The hospital had 5 physicians, 5 dentists, 3 research chemists and the only x-ray center in South Eastern Colorado at the time. Namura was a lab technician at the hospital.

Although incarcerated, the Japanese continued to educate their children. Amache housed an elementary school and a high school and in all, there were 600 students. There were 15 Japanese teachers and 13 Caucasian teachers in all. The high school had sports teams and cheerleading. The football team only lost one game in two years. The school also engaged a student body, newspaper and yearbook. The camp had a fire and police station (although there was almost no crime), a slaughter house, a post office, and a newspaper, the Amache Pioneer that was started by camp residents who wanted to keep their peers current on events in and out of the camp. In total, Amache boasted over 500 different buildings.

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Many of the Japanese were given permission to work on the farms surrounding the camp during the day. Six million pounds of vegetables were produced annually from the camp. According to Emory Namura; “Japanese people are pretty ambitious”. Taye Kubota, the Japanese girl he met at the Merced Assembly Camp and he married during their occupation at Amache. Taye worked at the silkscreen plant in the camp. Many of the Japanese who worked at the silkscreen plant were artists and employees at Disneyland before they were imprisoned. Ironically, these artists produced colorful propaganda to support the war efforts.
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By the end of 1944, many young men from Amache had put on the uniform. The 100th Battalion and 442nd combat team was comprised entirely of Japanese who fought in the European theatre of WW II. Six hundred of these Japanese American soldiers were from Amache. Although victims of unconstitutional and unacceptable injustices, These young Japanese men were able to look beyond the narrow minded wrongs that were put on them and defend their bigger picture of freedom as they understood it.

Sadly, of the six hundred soldiers stemming from Amache, thirty-one men from the 442nd Regiment were lost in battle. A memorial currently stands at Amache that bears the names of one hundred and twenty residents who passed away within the camp along with the names of the thirty-one who died at war to honor the past and the patriotism that many of those men still had.

In 1944, a young girl attending Amache High School by the name of Miss Joy Takeyama submitted a quote for the school yearbook, it read:

“We have both learned and been taught that Americanism rests on the fundamentals of equality, freedom, patriotism, and tolerance. These are high ideals, and let us not let them be darkened with the passing of dark clouds in our minds and souls.”

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On December 18, 1944, the supreme court found the exclusion process under Executive Order 9066 to be unconstitutional. Between July and October of 1945, the detainees left Amache. During the 3 years of its operation, there were 10,324 occupants in all. By the time Emory Namura returned from the war Amache had been fully evacuated. His parents had been among the 120 deaths that had occurred at Amache and his son was among the 408 births. Although many of the evacuees returned to the west coast, Namura made his home in the Arkansas Valley where he and Taye raised their son, Glen.

In 1945, Amache was officially closed and on October 15th, the last detainees left the camp for good. Many chose to stay in the area for reasons such as not having the same lives they once had on the west coast to return to. Some were also encouraged by the words and actions of Governor Carr to stay within the area and continue working in agriculture as they had been. Regardless, the internment at camp Amache and all other internment camps in the United States were closed and rights were restored to Japanese-American citizens. Of the five hundred structures that once made up the camp, all but very few were torn down and taken away to be recycled as classrooms or as construction materials for new buildings elsewhere in Colorado. There now stands just remnants of the camp today.

Following years of demands for retribution, the “Japanese-American Redress Bill” which called for monetary reparations amongst other things was passed in 1988, after seeing its way through congress and the desk of President Reagan. The bill allowed for the single payment of twenty thousand dollars to any former detainee who came forward, agreeing to also surrender any claims against the United States Government. On February 10, 2006, Camp Amache at Granada was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark by the government. This shows the federal government’s final recognition of the historical significance that this area and period in American history holds.