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Fort Sam Houston (detention facility)

US Gov Name Fort Sam Houston Internment Camp
Facility Type U.S. Army Internment Camp
Administrative Agency U.S. Army
Location Fort Sam Houston, Texas (29.4167 lat, -98.4833 lng)
Date Opened
Date Closed
Population Description Held people of Japanese descent from Alaska and Hawai'i; also held German and Italian nationals.
General Description Located in San Antonio, Texas.
Peak Population 106 (1942-05-04)
National Park Service Info

Internment camp attached to a large army post in San Antonio, Texas, that held around 250 Japanese American internees for a short period of time in the summer of 1942.

Built in the 1870s, Fort Sam Houston was one of the country's largest army bases by the turn of the century and was the headquarters for many army units during World War II. A small number of Nisei were among the many thousands of soldiers stationed there. [1]

The attached internment camp included two main populations of Issei internees. The first came from Alaska, where they had initially been held in various local facilities before being transferred to the Fort Lewis, Washington, camp. Different sources give the number of internees from Alaska at fifty-five to eighty-six. This group—possibly joined by a handful of Issei from the Pacific Northwest—left Fort Lewis for Fort Sam Houston on May 19, 1942. The second group were Issei from Hawai'i. The third shipment of Hawai'i internees held at Sand Island included 109 men and arrived in San Francisco on June 1. After a week on Angel Island, they traveled by train to Fort Sam Houston, arriving on June 9, joining the Alaska group, along with a similar number of resident German and Italian internees. Honolulu Issei journalist and internee Yasutaro Soga wrote in his memoir that there were some California Issei at Fort Sam Houston as well. [2]

Another internee from the Hawai'i group, businessman and artist George Hoshida, wrote briefly about his time at Fort Sam Houston in his memoir and set a few of his paintings there. Based on his account and images, internees slept in six-man tents. The camp was surrounded by barbed wire, with another fence beyond it. He remembered "really hellish" heat and meager meal portions that combined to leave the men in an enervated state. "We just lay on the cots or under them because it was too hot to move around outside during the day." Internees wore old army uniforms that had "PW" (for prisoner of war) stamped on them. He recalled that the men would search for fossils or "pretty stones" in the relative cool of the morning. Another internee from Hawai'i, Kango Kawasaki, recalled frequent thunder storms at night that caused tents to leak. [3]

The group soon got their orders to move, and all of the Issei left on June 17 for the Lordsburg , New Mexico, camp. That Alaska group thus spent just under a month at Fort Sam Houston, the Hawai'i group just nine days. The German and Italian internee stayed behind, and Hoshida recalls them gathering to see the Japanese off. According to Soga, a total of 247 men from Fort Sam Houston arrived at Lordsburg on June 18, 1942. [4]

After the war, Fort Sam Houston became a major army medical center. In 2009, it became part of Joint Base San Antonio. [5]

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Footnotes

  1. John Manguso, "Fort Sam Houston," Texas State Historical Association website, accessed on May 28, 2020 at https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qbf43 .
  2. Yasutaro [Keiho] Soga, Life behind Barbed Wire: The World War II Internment Memoirs of a Hawai'i Issei , translated by Kihei Hirai (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2008), 57–58, 83–84; Tetsuden Kashima, Judgment Without Trial: Japanese American Imprisonment during World War II (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 91; George and Tamae Hoshida, Taken from the Paradise Isle: The Hoshida Family Story , ed. Heidi Kim (Boulder: University of Colorado Press, 2015), 75, 276.
  3. Hoshida, Taken from the Paradise Isle , 78–80; Gail Y. Okawa, Remembering Our Grandfather's Exile: U.S. Imprisonment of Hawai'i's Japanese in World War II (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2020), 83–85.
  4. Hoshida, Taken from the Paradise Isle 81; Soga, Life behind Barbed Wire , 76.
  5. Manguso, "Fort Sam Houston."

Last updated July 11, 2021, 7:53 p.m..