Monday, November 19, 2012

Documentary focuses of WWII internment camps in New Mexico

A former El Paso TV reporter hopes to illuminate a little-known shadow in New Mexico's past through a documentary film that debuted Saturday night. The film examines two internment camps — one in Lordsburg and the other in Santa Fe — that held captive about 4,500 men of Japanese heritage during World War II. They were part an estimated 120,000 Japanese-American men, women and children who were rounded up from their homes and imprisoned in remote encampments across several states, as public mistrust burgeoned because of the war. Most were never accused of any crime. Former reporter Neil Simon, native of Portland, Ore., learned about the existence of the New Mexico internment camps when living in Albuquerque. The topic caught his interest. Later on, he moved to Washington, D.C., and checked the national archives to find records about the camps. He was surprised at how little there was. The result is the 91-minute film, "Prisoners and Patriots: The Untold Story of Japanese Internment in Santa Fe," which aired Saturday and Sunday on KRWG-TV in Las Cruces. What differentiated the New Mexico camps from the others was that they were used to hold male inmates who were considered by the federal government to be the highest risk for stirring unrest, according to Simon. The names of Japanese-American men who were perceived as leaders in a slate of categories were on a watch list compiled by the federal government, even prior to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, he said. The Santa Fe camp opened in February 1942, but its detainees were soon moved to Lordsburg — a rural, southwest New Mexico border town known for its Wild West history. The Lordsburg camp would hold Japanese-American detainees until the spring of 1943, when they when they were moved back to Santa Fe. After the departure of the Japanese-Americans, the Lordsburg camp was then converted to a prisoner of war camp for Germans and Italians, Simon said. Barracks, concrete and foundations of the Lordsburg camp have survived...more

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