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Gila River War Relocation Center

Phoenix, Arizona, United States

During World War II, the War Relocation Authority (WRA) established the Gila River War Relocation Center as an internment camp for Japanese Americans. It was 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) southeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

The relocation center was near an irrigated agricultural center on the Gila River Indian Reservation. It was divided into two camps, called ‘Canal’ and ‘Butte.’ Despite the reservation’s American Indian government’s intense opposition, construction began on May 1, 1942.

On July 20, less than two months later, the formal opening took place. On September 28, 1945, Canal Camp came to an end. On November 10, 1945, Butte Camp was closed, and the Gila River Internment Center was closed on November 16, 1945.

Internees from California were brought to Gila River (Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles). In addition, when the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas closed in 1944, it took in 2,000 refugees. With a peak population of 13,348 people, it became Arizona’s fourth-largest city. Some of the people who were supposed to be interned died on the way to Gila River or shortly after arriving in the harsh desert climate. One of them was the mother of Iva Toguri, a Japanese-American woman who was later dubbed “Tokyo Rose” and accused of treason after giving false testimony.

Gila River was recognized as one of the least restrictive concentration camps in the country. It only had one watchtower, and its fences were one of the few without barbed wire. The camp administrators seemed to care for the evacuees, allowing them access to Phoenix’s facilities as well as leisure opportunities such as sports and the arts.

The Gila River Indian Tribe owns and reveres the property where the camp sites are located. The historic sites have been closed to the public. Many of the major institutions have long since vanished. The road grid, concrete slab foundations, manholes, cisterns, many rock alignments, and hundreds of small ponds are among the remaining features.

During the Ronald Reagan administration, the federal government admitted that this policy had been an injustice to Japanese Americans. A resolution of official apologies and permission to compensate survivors and descendants of prisoners was passed by Congress.

Phoenix, Arizona is blessed to be the home of so many amazing historical landmarks.  Here’s a short list of our favorites: 

  • Camelback Mountain
  • Arizona State Fair
  • Heritage Square Phoenix
  • Chinese Cultural Center
  • Canaan in the Desert
  • Hunt’s Tomb
  • Steele Indian School Park
  • Tovrea Castle

All of these wonderful landmarks are located just a short distance from our location located at 7319 North 16th Street in Phoenix, Arizona! Stop by for a visit anytime!

GillespieShields Phoenix Arizona Top Family Law Attorney(1)

By Azwatchdog – Own work, CC BY 2.5,

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Phoenix Location

7319 North 16th Street, Phoenix, AZ 85020 | 602-870-9700

Mesa Location

1630 S. Stapley Drive, Suite 212, Mesa, AZ 85204 | 480-985-4000