Fort Missoula Alien Detention Camp

During World War II, Fort Missoula in Missoula, Montana, was turned over to the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service for use as an Alien Detention Center (ADC) to hold foreign nationals and resident aliens. This collection includes correspondence, telegrams, memoranda and maps documenting the creation of the Fort Missoula Detention Camp between 1941 and 1942.

The majority of the records originate from Willard F. Kelly, Chief Supervisor of Border Patrol, Immigration and Naturalization Service. Details are provided about the construction of new facilities; the renovation of existing facilities; the securing of supplies including vaccinations, clothing and food; and other logistics such as sanitation and entertainment. Some documents include personal information about the detainees including name, rank, age, hometown, and marital status. Some of the documents also relate to provisioning Fort Lincoln just south of Bismarck, North Dakota.

Between 1941 and 1944, the ADC held 1,200 non-military Italian men, 1,000 Japanese resident aliens, 23 German resident aliens, and 123 Japanese Latin and South Americans. The 1,200 Italian men were merchant seamen, World's Fair employees and the crew of an Italian luxury liner seized in the Panama Canal. Many of the Italians, who referred to the Fort as "Bella Vista," spent the war as paid laborers replacing American men working in forestry, farms, the sugar beet industry and constructing Highway 12. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the FBI arrested more than a 1,000 of the most prominent Japanese leaders on the west coast as potential security risks. Ultimately, over 1,000 Japanese men - all resident aliens barred by law from American citizenship - were held at Fort Missoula for loyalty hearings. None was ever charged with any act of disloyalty but all were held at Fort Missoula or other camps for the duration of the war. A handful of German resident aliens were held for short periods at Fort Missoula, although most were held at Fort Lincoln in Bismarck, North Dakota. The 123 men of Japanese ancestry from Latin and South America, mostly Peru, were a very small part of several thousand held primarily at the Santa Fe camp or at Crystal City, Texas.

The documents in this collection were scanned from notebooks maintained by the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. These notebooks contain only photocopies. Documents which include medical or case file information about detainees have not been made available online. There are indications that the original documents were held at one time in the record vault of the Missoula County Records office. Official records of internment camps, including those of Fort Missoula, are held by the National Archives and Records Administration in RG 85.

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