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Facts About Topaz

Garden at the Topaz Internment Camp, Utah

Facts About Topaz

  • Opened on September 11, 1942
  • Closed on October 31, 1945
  • The original name, Central Utah Relocation Center, was changed to Abraham Relocation Center, and then Topaz. Because the original name was too long to fit on postal forms and the nearby town of Abraham already had a post office, the name was changed to Topaz, after a nearby mountain. The camp was never named after Delta.
  • Location:  10000 to 11000 West on 4500 North, 16 miles northwest of Delta, Utah, which is 130 miles southwest of Salt Lake City
  • Climate: Arid desert temperatures ranged from over 100 degrees in the summer to below zero in the winter.
  • Cost to build: $3,929,000
  • Internees: 11,212 were processed into the camp. Peak population was between 8100 and 8300. Most of the people came from the San Francisco Bay area.
  • Size: 19,800 acres (31 square miles), including farm land
  • Living area: 640 acres (one square mile) surrounded by 4 ft. high barbed wire fence and guard towers every half mile on three sides. Of the 42 blocks, 36 were used for housing.
  • Block design for around 250 internees: 12 barracks, a mess hall, latrine and laundry, and recreation hall. Each recreation hall was used for a different purpose including co-op stores, churches, and libraries used by the entire community.
  • Living spaces: Each 120’ x 20’ barrack was divided into six rooms, 20’ x 14’, 20’ x 20’, and 20’ x 26’. Families were assigned rooms depending on the number of people in the family. The rooms had no running water and were heated by a coal stove.
  • Assembly center: Prior to being taken to Topaz, people were detained in the Tanforan and Santa Anita Race Tracks in California. Many internees were forced to live in horse stalls while waiting for Topaz to be completed.
  • Once at Topaz, internees were hired to work at the camp. Pay ranged from $14 a month for secretaries and janitors to $19 per month for professionals, including medical doctors.
  • People could leave Topaz and go farther east, if they had a job or were admitted to a school, but they could not return to California until January 15, 1945.
  • After the War Relocation Authority (WRA) required all people 17 or older to answer loyalty questions, men were drafted and volunteered for military service from Topaz.
  • The soldiers were part of the 442nd RCT and the Military Intelligence Service, while many of their families were still interned.
  • If people answered “No” to two questions on the loyalty questionnaire, they were sent to the segregated camp, Tule Lake, and threatened with deportation to Japan.