Japanese American residents and citizens on the West Coast were rounded up as “enemy aliens” and sent to internment camps, including Topaz in central Utah. Later, some of the young men in the camps joined the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and, when wounded, were treated at Bushnell Hospital.
Japanese Americans faced systematic prejudice and persecution following the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941. In February 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which required all persons of Japanese descent living on the West Coast to be removed to internment camps away from the coast because of fear of spying and sabotage. Nearly 120,000 men, women, and children were taken from their homes and forced to live in hastily constructed barracks in desolate locations.
Despite the prejudice they faced during WWII in Utah and elsewhere, Japanese American soldiers like these members of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team served with distinction.
In this atmosphere of distrust, the Japanese and Japanese American community had a mixed experience with Bushnell General Military Hospital and Box Elder County. For some, it was a place of healing, while others found their rights increasingly restricted by local institutions.
Box Elder County had a large community of residents of Japanese ancestry who found a connection with Bushnell’s Japanese American patients while facing their own persecutions in wartime America.
Japanese American patients at Bushnell Hospital often formed friendships with members of Utah’s Japanese communities, like these disabled veterans performing Hawaiian music at a Salt Lake City Japanese restaurant.
The Japanese American soldiers returning to Bushnell for rehabilitation after being injured in the war in Europe often received a hero’s welcome. Though the Japanese American veterans at Bushnell were usually recognized as war heroes, Japanese and Japanese Americans in Utah often faced prejudice and persecution during World War II.
On the other hand, injured imperial Japanese POWs—those who had fought for Japan—might also receive treatment at Bushnell, yet they were kept in stricter confinement than any other POWs even though some had connections to family members in Utah and the United States.