Thursday, March 7, 2024

A Sad Time in U.S. History

 Location: Pendleton Bend COE Campground; Gillet, Arkansas. About 50 miles south of Pine Bluff on the Arkansas River

My original reason for coming to this campground was to not only camp along the Arkansas River but to explore the Arkansas Post. The Post was a trading post dating back to the time way before the Louisiana Purchase. It was located on the opposite side of the river from where I'm camped. I visited it yesterday and it was a bust. There is a small state operated museum which ranked maybe a 3 out of 10. I wasn't too disappointed since I'm used to being jaded to those type of museums and my expectations are low. I expected more from the National Arkansas Post Memorial located near the original post but was again disappointed. Oh well, a person can't hit home runs all the time. And, having the freedom and ability to explore, even if it's a bust, is a benefit all its own. There are many that are not afforded that luxury. I will always be grateful for ",,,,the sweet smell of freedom hanging heavy in the air." (RIP Malia)

I got a great campsite. The campground was empty, not even a camp host. The ranger called me and apologized about not having anyone in the campground. Apparently they were switching out hosts and the new one isn't due here until this weekend. That is the Arkansas River to the right. 

One decent sunset of the three nights

The view out my back window. Notice the gun on the table. It was a bit sketchy and I felt a little exposed. After 10 years on the road, this is the first time I've taken my gun out of my gun bag and had it readily available. 

A great campsite to watch the tows working on the river.

What they say is sometimes true. When one door closes, another opens. While looking around in Google Earth, I found something close by (<50miles) that interested me. It was listed as Rohwer Heritage Site. After doing a little research, I learned that during World War II, Arkansas had two Japanese Internment Camps. One of them was the Rohwer site. Also, there was a World War II Japanese American Internment Museum at McGehee which was within that 50 mile radius. I visited both sites today. I also did some research on the subject before going.

I don't want to get too deep in the weeds on this subject so I'll try to summarize the best I can while still emphasizing how important it is for the country to remember this sad time. 

After Pearl Harbor, some Americans believed Japanese people were a danger to the country. So, President Roosevelt issued executive order number 9066. That put in motion the rounding up of all 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese who were living mostly in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska. They were given 7 days to sell, store or give away all of their property before being sent to the camps. There were 120,000 Japanese sent to 10 camps scattered around the country. Of those 120,000 Japanese, about 80,000 were U.S. citizens. You're not alone if your thinking, how was this constitutional and surely the Supreme Court would stop it. Nope, they ruled it was OK because of the perceived danger posed by the war. It goes to show how quickly our constitutional rights can be taken away unless we are on guard to protect them. 

This is the railroad bed that was used to bring the Japanese to the Rohwer Camp. The camp was located just to the right of this picture.

This is the memorial location. Dirt/gravel road, miniature guard tower at the entrance. The memorial is in the grove of trees ahead.

This is the actual memorial and cemetery. It had been raining and there wasn't a parking lot or sidewalk to use to get to the memorials. Shameful. I initially thought it was a National Memorial but learned at the museum that it is run by the county.

It was hard for me to imagine a camp of 8,000 people.

The museum ranked about 7 out of 10

One of the displays showing picture of some of the actual people. They have reunions of the internees and their descendants about every year or two. I think that is neat.

Along the lines of "you can make this stuff up", the war department was running short of men in the military so they asked for volunteers from the Japanese. After taking a loyalty pledge, enough volunteered to form the All Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. They were sent to Europe to fight and became the most highly decorated regiment in the war. In April of 1945, it was the Japanese regiment who freed the prisoners being held in the Nazi Concentration Camp at Dachau. That is why the government referred to the Japanese camps as Internment Camps instead of Concentration Camps. Too many similarities. 

A few thoughts:

Roosevelt's executive order no. 9066 was not formally rescinded until 1978 by President Ford. 

In 1988, President Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988 which "acknowledged the injustice of internment, apologized for it and gave $20,000.00 cash to each person that was incarcerated." 

I am a 100% true blue American patriot that volunteered to serve my country at 17 years of age. I believe we live in the greatest country that has ever existed. But there are things that, we as a country, have done wrong. We must admit them, learn from them, vow to never let it happen again and move on from it. 

This is not the first time something like this has happened in the country. Reference the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Trail of Tears). The American Indians were not even allowed to become citizens until 1924 mainly as a result of how many served in World War I.

I am disappointed in the Supreme Court justifying this action. It is scary to think this could happen again under similar circumstances. The emergency declarations while under Covid is an example. The Patriot Act after 9-11 where we traded some civil liberties for perceived safety is another. 

To add another twist to the story: the time of the camps was also the time of sharecroppers and tenet farmers in Arkansas. Most of these people were literally dirt poor, living in shacks without running water, electricity or sewer. The Japanese in the camps were given all the comforts for home including all modern utilities, fresh food, new clothes, hospitals etc inside of the camps. Someone interviewed the young child of a sharecropper that lived near the Japanese camp. He said he grew up being envious of the Japanese and thought the barbed wire fences were to keep him out of the camp, not to keep the Japanese in. That says so much about many of the things of that time.

I sure hope this is still being taught in school but I wouldn't be too surprised if it isn't. I do remember it being taught when I was in High School but the lady at the museum said it wasn't taught to her in school. And she was raised within 50 miles of the camps. 

This post has been way too political for a travel blog.

Tomorrow is moving day and I think I'll be happy about leaving this place. It's been somewhat of a bummer. 

Ya'll take care of each other. Maybe I'll Cya down the road.  




  1. Good Morning Sir, thanks for the post. I felt informed and re educated after the read. We must remember the past with hopes of not repeating the mistakes we have made. You tell us how it is on the road, I know as well as your gun you have a cell phone charged and a good flashlight and common sense to allow you the safety factor we all need. So I think your whole post is travel related. Thanks Darrell.

    1. You're very welcome Shane and thank you for the comment.

  2. A good post and things you spoke about needed to be said .
    Safe Travels and always protect yourself.

    1. Hi Sue (great name, my mother's). I agree, sometimes things do need to just be said to make them real.

  3. Amen! Thanks for sharing Darrell.

  4. At one time in my life I knew about all this you wrote about but I had forgotten all about it. THANK YOU FOR THE REMINDER OF THE STUPIDITY OF THESE EVENTS. I appreciate the reminder.

    1. I hope your trip planning goes well Barney

  5. This was a good post. I'll leave it at that.

  6. Thank you for the discussion of the camp. Truly blot in our history. Here is a link to a restored camp in CA. The visit there left me emotionally drained.,camp%20from%201942%20to%201945.&text=Manzanar%20was%20a%20concentration%20camp,detained%20during%20World%20War%20II.

    1. You're welcome Larry. This is the second internment camp I've visited, but the first I was able to write about. I hope things are going your way.

  7. Thank you Darrell for a great, educational post. Breaks my heart that my country would do this kind of thing. Being a Navy Vietnam veteran, I too love my country and pray that no harm comes our way and we maintain the peace we all enjoy.

    1. Hello Fred. From one Navy vet to another, I agree with what you're saying. We all have "the watch".