Near Tucson in Pima County, Arizona — The American Mountains (Southwest)
Catalina Federal Honor Camp
Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site
Why Put A Prison On A Mountain?
Honor Camp prisoners built the Mt. Lemmon Highway
In the early 20th century, the only road to Mt. Lemmon began at the town of Oracle and snaked up the north face of the mountain.
Construction of the Mt. Lemmon Highway, a much shorter route from Tucson, began in 1933. To cut cost, prisoners supplied most of the labor, and a "Federal Honor Camp" was built here in 1939 to replace the temporary prison camps along the route.
At first, prisoners had only picks, shovels, and wheelbarrows to use. "Before I went to the Honor Camp, I thought prisoners only broke rocks with picks in cartoons," one former prisoner recalls. Roadwork progressed faster when jackhammers, bulldozers, and tractors were added.
A Prison Without Bars
There were no fences or guard towers at the camp: painted white rocks marked the camp boundary. Prisoners lived in wooden barracks near the creek. Besides constructing the highway, prisoners built the rock walls, poured the foundations for administration buildings and the guards' quarters, and grew much of their own food at a farm located near the base of the mountain.
After the Mt. Lemmon Highway was completed, the prison site hosted a series of youth rehabilitation camps until it closed in 1973. The
The Honor Camp Today
Although much is known about the history of the Honor Camp, there is little left to see of the prison itself. Most of the buildings were razed when the camp closed in the 1970's. The story of the Honor Camp and its inmates has been reconstructed from official documents and interviews. But what about what was left behind?
The arrangement of building foundations helps us to imagine what the prison looked like and to gain an understanding of the daily lives of the people who lived here. You can still experience the isolated setting that made this site ideal for an outdoor prison. Please explore this historical site, but do not remove artifacts of damage building remains. Help us preserve this piece of the past for the future.
Relocation During World War II
117,000 Japanese Americans were removed from their West Coast homes and imprisoned in internment camps.
After the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, nervous U.S. officials and political leaders were afraid that Americans of Japanese descent would conduct espionage and sabotage along the West Coast. On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive
What followed was the largest forced removal and incarceration in U.S. history. Some 117,000 people, two-thirds of them U.S citizens, were sent to ten internment camps, called "relocation centers," in remote parts of the country. In addition, thousands of Japanese American community leaders were taken to alien detention centers run by the Department of Justice.
Hirabayashi Challenged the Constitutionality of Relocation
Gordon Hirabayashi was a senior at the University of Washington in Seattle when Japanese Americans were ordered to leave the West Coast. Instead of reporting for relocation, Hirabayashi turned himself in to the F.B.I. He challenged the constitutionality of internment and a curfew imposed on enemy aliens and Japanese American citizens alike, since both were orders based solely on race or ancestry. He was convicted of violating both the relocation order and the curfew.
Hirabayashi requested that his sentence be extended so that he would qualify to serve at an outdoor prison work camp. The government did not want to pay his way to the Honor Camp in Santa Catalinas, so Hirabayashi hitchhiked to Tucson, stopping to visit his family interned in Idaho along the way. When he arrived, he had to convince the
Who is Gordon Hirabayashi?
In 1942, at age 24, Gordon Hirabayashi challenged the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
Convicted of violating a curfew imposed on Japanese Americans, he was sentenced to the Catalina Federal Honor Camp, the work camp that stood here between 1939 and 1973.
Hirabayashi's case was reopened in 1987 and led to official apologies from the U.S. government for the mass incarceration of 117,000 Japanese American citizens and aliens alike.
Righting a Wrong
Forty years after Hirabayashi's original conviction, law historian Peter Irons discovered documents showing that the Justice Department had withheld evidence that the forced removal and internment of Japanese Americans was unnecessary.
Hirabayashi's case was reopened, and in 1987, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his conviction.
Later, a federal commission determined that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II was motivated by racial prejudice, wartime hysteria, and failed political leadership.
Erected by Coronado National Forest.
Location. Touch for map. Marker is in the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site at mile 7.3 on the Mount Lemmon Highway. Park at the first parking area on the right and then walk about 100 feet west to the first foot bridge. Marker is just across the bridge. Marker is in this post office area: Tucson AZ 85749, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 11 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Honorable Frank Harris Hitchcock (approx. 2 miles away); Agua Caliente Ranch and Hot Springs (approx. 4.1 miles away); Officer Erik Hite (approx. 7 miles away); Lemmon Rock Lookout Tower (approx. 7.8 miles away); Hacienda Moltacqua (approx. 9 miles away); Where Have All the Saguaros Gone? (approx. 9.8 miles away); Airmen Memorial Bridge (approx. 9.9 miles away); De Grazia Gallery In the Sun (approx. 10.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tucson.
Regarding Catalina Federal Honor Camp. The site was called "Prison Camp" for many years by locals (and still is). The named changed to the "Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site" with the dedication.
Additional keywords. Japanese American
Categories. • Roads & Vehicles • War, World II •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 19, 2010, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. This page has been viewed 2,285 times since then and 54 times this year. Last updated on May 6, 2015, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. submitted on August 19, 2010, by Bill Kirchner of Tucson, Arizona. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.