One Year Ago: Recognizing Amache National Historic Site

October 1945 photograph of Granada Relocation Center barracks. A row of barracks is beginning to be overgrown by weeds. In the foreground we see the sandy soil typical of the remote site.
October 1945 photograph of Granada Relocation Center barracks. Granada closed for good on October 15, 1945. (NAID 539942)

March 18, 2023 marks the one year anniversary of the signing of the Amache National Historic Site Act, which designated Amache National Historic Site as a park in the National Park System. President Joseph R. Biden signed the legislation sponsored by Colorado Senators John Hickenlooper and Michael Bennet, and Representatives Joe Neguse and Ken Buck. Amache National Historic Site is the location of the Granada War Relocation Center, where the United States government incarcerated nearly 15,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II. For more about this dark chapter in American history, read our Unwritten Record blog post “Fractured Ideals: Japanese American Internment through a Government Lens.”

Efforts to protect the Amache site have been underway for decades. In the early 1990s, the Amache Preservation Society, a group composed of local students, was formed at Granada High School. In 1994 Amache was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and in 2006 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. At the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) we hold many records related to Amache, including photographs and maps. It is too early for records of the 2022 National Park designation to come to NARA, but we do hold a set of documents related to Amache’s 2006 National Historic Landmark designation, which includes the initial nomination of the site, many letters of support, and Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton’s approval of the proposal.

Image of a memo. Body of text reads: "At its meeting on September 9, 2005, the National Park System Advisory Board recommended
designation ofthe following property as a National Historic Landmark:
(Criterion 1)
In accordance with National Historic Landmarks Program regulations, the Board reviewed the
study nominating this property for Landmark status and found that the property met National
Historic Landmarks Program criteria. The Board, therefore, voted to recommend that it be
designated as a National Historic Landmark.
Per the National Historic Landmark Program regulations, I hereby certify that the procedural
requirements set forth in 36 CFR Part 65.5 have been met.
I recommend that you approve the Board’s September 9, 2005, recommendation, and designate as a
National Historic Landmark the property listed above."
Memo signed by Secretary of the Interior Norton approving designation of Granada Relocation Center as a National Historic Landmark. (NAID 84127931)

There are other ways to learn more about the people incarcerated at Amache in NARA’s holdings. Searching through the World War II-era Draft Registration Cards for Colorado, we can find young men like Ken Yamaguchi. Born in California, he left Amache to serve in the highly-decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team in Italy.

Ken Yamaguchi's draft card, noting Amache as his place of residence and Watsonville, California as his place of birth.
Ken Yamaguchi’s draft card, noting Amache as his place of residence. (NAID 246630792)

Women from Amache also served their country in wartime, including Alice Nakamura, who joined the United States Public Health Service’s Cadet Nurse Corps to train as a civilian nurse in Kankakee, Illinois. Her enlistment was a page 4 story in the Granada Pioneer newsletter.

Alice Nakamura's Cadet Nurse Corps Membership Card, noting her home address as Amache and usual place of residence as Los Angeles. Her school of nursing is noted as St. Mary's Hospital in Kankakee, Illinois.
Alice Nakamura’s Cadet Nurse Corps Membership Card, noting her home address as Amache and usual place of residence as Los Angeles. (NAID 108244389)

When Amache was designated as a National Park in 2022, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland remarked, “As a nation, we must face the wrongs of our past in order to build a more just and equitable future. I applaud President Biden and the bipartisan action in Congress that has ensured this important and painful chapter in our nation’s story is preserved and honored for the generations to come. After visiting Amache and meeting with survivors and descendants, I was moved by their resilience and the way in which Colorado communities came together during and after the injustice to support Japanese Americans. May we all be inspired to do the same today for all our fellow citizens.”