On-line Book
Book Cover
Cover Page


Table of Contents





Brief History

Gila River


Heart Mountain







Tule Lake

Isolation Centers

Add'l Facilities

Assembly Centers

DoJ and US Army Facilities



Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Confinement and Ethnicity:
Barbed wire divider
An Overview of World War II
Japanese American Relocation Sites

by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord

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Chapter 12
Topaz Relocation Center

The Topaz or Central Utah Relocation Center was located in west-central Utah, in Millard County near the town of Delta, 140 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. The relocation center named after Topaz Mountain, 9 miles northwest. The relocation center was briefly known as the "Abraham Relocation Center," after a nearby settlement (Figure 12.1).

Sign at the Great Basin Museum in Delta, Utah
Figure 12.1. Sign at the Great Basin Museum in Delta, Utah.

The extremely flat terrain of the relocation center lies within the Sevier Desert, part of the Basin and Range province that was once covered by Pleistocene Lake Bonneville. An "Old River Bed" depicted on maps less than a mile west of the site drains northward to the Topaz Slough. The most prominent physical landmark in the vicinity is Smelter Knolls, 4 miles west. Elevation at the Topaz Relocation Center is about 4600 feet and the native vegetation consists mainly of high desert brush.

The 19,800-acre relocation center reserve was a mixture of public domain land, farms acquired by the county for non-payment of taxes, and several privately-held parcels purchased for a dollar an acre (Arrington 1962). Construction of the relocation center was begun July 10, 1942, by the California firm Daley Brothers with a crew of 800.

Topaz Relocation Center
Figure 12.2. Topaz Relocation Center.
(click image for larger size (~64K) )

The relocation center was in operation from September 11, 1942, to October 31, 1945. The maximum population was 8,130; most of the internees were from the San Francisco Bay area. A total of 623 buildings were constructed during the life of the relocation center (Powell 1972). The nucleus of the facility consisted of a one-square-mile area for residents, administrative personnel, and the military police (Figures 12.2-12.5). This "central area" included 42 blocks, eight for administration and 34 for residences. Each residential block had 12 barracks, a mess hall, a recreation hall, and a combination washroom, shower, toilet, and laundry building. The eight administration blocks included office buildings, staff housing, warehouses, a hospital, and a military police compound. Security features at Topaz included a sentry post at the entrance, a perimeter fence, seven watch towers, and a military police compound.

Residential and administration area, Topaz Relocation Center
Figure 12.3. Residential and administration area, Topaz Relocation Center.
(National Archives)
(click image for larger size (~148K) )

Administration area, hospital, and military police compound, Topaz Relocation Center
Figure 12.4. Administration area, hospital, and military police compound, Topaz Relocation Center.
(National Archives)
(click image for larger size (~88K) )

Panorama view of the Topaz Relocation Center
Figure 12.5. Panorama view of the Topaz Relocation Center.
(Francis Stewart photograph, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley)
Some of the buildings at Topaz were imported, recycled from nearby Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps. For example, two buildings were moved from the Antelope Springs CCC camp to Topaz to be used as the Christian and Buddhist churches, and two garages and other buildings were moved from the Black Rock CCC camp (Kelsey 1996:99). During World War II the headquarters of the Buddhist Church of America was transferred to Topaz from San Francisco (Ulibarri 1972).

In addition to the typical relocation center array of buildings and other developments, there were also sports fields and facilities, evacuee-constructed ponds and ornamental gardens, victory gardens to grow food, and trees and other vegetation. Over 7,500 trees and 10,000 shrubs were planted during the first 9 months, however nearly all died due to the heat, wind, and alkaline soil (Arrington 1962).

A cemetery was built to the southeast of the central area, but was never used. The 144 persons who died at Topaz were instead sent to Salt Lake City for cremation and their ashes were held at the relocation center for burial in the San Francisco area after the war (Arrington 1962).

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Last Modified: Fri, Sep 1 2000 07:08:48 pm PDT

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