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Groups Getting Along

Different groups can overcome overcome suspicion, fear, and hatred.

History gives us many examples.

A time of suspicion

During World War II, when the U.S. was at war with Japan, many Americans feared and hated anything connected to Japan. They often feared their fellow Americans with Japanese ancestry.

After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, the U.S. State Department did a study of the loyalty of Japanese Americans. The report found that these citizens were generally very loyal to the United States. Nevertheless, in 1942 the government ordered all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast to leave their homes.

Kids imprisoned with their families at the Topaz internment camp near Delta made the best of the situation.

Forcing Japanese Americans out

U.S. citizens and legal immigrants had to abandon their homes and move to internment camps, like Topaz, a camp on the windy, dusty outskirts of Delta, Utah.

But a few found ways to avoid the camps. Fred Wada was one. Wada, a produce dealer from Oakland, decided to try to move a group of Japanese Americans to Keetley, Utah--a town a few miles east of Park City.

three men talking in a field

The caption to this 1943 photo says, "In the strawberry patch, Wada, founder of the colony, talks things over with the superintendent of a neighboring mine."

Food for Freedom

Wada did not want to be interned and become a ward of the U.S. government. Instead, he proposed to support the war effort by leasing thousands of acres and growing vegetables and berries.

The mayor of Keetley, Jack Fisher, supported and sponsored the move.

Complaints and Dynamite

However, when the people of Summit and Wasatch counties found out about the plan, they were alarmed. The Park City Council passed a resolution opposing it, saying "If twenty-five or thirty Japanese families move into this district, in a short period living standards will be lowered...."

The city council urged Governor Herbert Maw to keep the Japanese group from coming. The people of Heber City also complained.

Soon after the Japanese Americans arrived, somebody threw dynamite at a shed on the property. A couple of nights later, someone set off another explosion.

Publicly, Governor Maw expressed concern. Privately, he asked Wada and the others to leave.

view of fields

A look at Keetley in 1943. The caption reads, "A year ago these Utah fields were a mass of sagebrush. Thanks to Japanese Americans, they are now acres of vegetables." The sign on the roof says, "Food for Victory."

Friendship really can happen

But the group stayed put. They began to grow much-needed vegetables and other food. Over their colony, they flew a flag that said, "Food for Freedom."

Gradually, the locals got to know the newcomers. Mayor Fisher helped this process, talking to various organizations about Wada's group. The media wrote stories about how hard the Japanese Americans were working to help the war effort.

The newcomers began to play with local children. One local mother asked her son if he liked playing with the "Jap boys." The son replied, "They're not Jap boys. We're all Americans."

Over time, understanding grew, while suspicion and fear dwindled. Two different groups learned to know and appreciate each other. After the war, most of the Japanese left Utah, though a few stayed. The little settlement at Keetley became nothing more than the name of a junction, and now it lies, at least partly, under the water of Jordanelle Reservoir.

We can overcome

But what happened there during a time of war and high tensions shows that groups can choose understanding and friendship over hatred and fear.

From an article by Sandra C. Taylor in the Fall 1986 Utah Historical Quarterly