A Thousand Paper Cranes

By Roxana A. Soto
Feb. 19, 2020

On Aug. 27, 1942, the U.S. government opened the Granada Relocation Center about 250 miles southeast of Denver. It was a military-style confinement center with blocks of barracks surrounded by barbed wire and flanked by guard towers staffed with armed men on watch. 

The barracks of Camp Amache, as it was known by those who lived there, housed mostly families of American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were forced to leave their homes and businesses in West Coast states following the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.  

“After Pearl Harbor, the government put Japanese Americans into camp under the pretext that it was impossible to tell the loyal from the disloyal,” said Daryl Maeda, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado- Boulder. “They said, ‘We simply can't tell, so let's just lock them all up.’”  

The Granada site was one of 10 isolated relocation centers in the country that housed around 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans for nearly four years.  

“The camps were called by the government ‘relocation centers,’ but they were prisons,” Maeda said. 

For years, there has been an ongoing effort to preserve the site of the Amache confinement center and to archive the stories of those who were held by the U.S. government in these types of facilities.  

“You look at some of the individuals who were brought here; you’re talking about lawyers, doctors, ministers, very professional people,” said John Hopper of the Amache Preservation Society. “They went from being very successful in Los Angeles – some of them doing very, very well – to having to sell everything they owned and coming here to lose it all.” 

After the war, many families chose to settle in Denver, some because they couldn’t afford to go elsewhere, but most because they were welcomed by Ralph Carr, Colorado's then governor, who acknowledged the injustices the Japanese American community faced.  

In an effort to give voice to and preserve the stories of those who lived through those times, our filmmakers conducted multiple interviews with members of Denver's Japanese American community, some of whom were interned themselves and some whose families suffered yet persevered and rebuilt their lives in our city.  

Watch our full documentary, A Thousand Paper Cranes: How Denver’s Japanese American Community Emerged from Internment and learn more through the individual stories below.