|Manzanar War Relocation Center|
|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|U.S. National Historic Landmark|
|U.S. National Historic Site|
|California Historic Landmark #850|
|L.A. Historic-Cultural Monument #160|
|Location:||Inyo County, California|
|Nearest city:||Independence, California|
|Area:||814 acres (329 ha)|
|Governing body:||National Park Service|
|Added to NRHP:||July 30, 1976|
|Designated NHL:||February 4, 1985|
|Designated NHS:||March 3, 1992|
|Designated LAHCM:||September 15, 1976|
Manzanar is most widely known as the site of one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada in California's Owens Valley between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, it is approximately 230 miles (370 km) northeast of Los Angeles. Manzanar (which means “apple orchard” in Spanish) was identified by the United States National Park Service as the best-preserved of the former camp sites, and was designated the Manzanar National Historic Site.
Long before the first prisoners arrived in March 1942, Manzanar was home to Native Americans, who mostly lived in villages near several creeks in the area. Ranchers and miners formally established the town of Manzanar in 1910, but abandoned the town by 1929 after the City of Los Angeles purchased the water rights to virtually the entire area. As different as these groups were, their histories displayed a common thread of forced relocation.
Since the last prisoners left in 1945, former prisoners and others have worked to protect Manzanar and to establish it as a National Historic Site to preserve and interpret the site for current and future generations. The primary focus is the Japanese American Internment era, as specified in the legislation that created the Manzanar National Historic Site. The site also interprets the town of Manzanar, the ranch days, the settlement by the Owens Valley Paiute, and the role that water played in shaping the history of the Owens Valley.
Since the end of World War II, there has been debate over the terminology used to refer to Manzanar and the other camps in which Americans of Japanese ancestry and their immigrant parents were imprisoned by the United States Government during the war. Manzanar has been referred to as a "War Relocation Center," "relocation camp," "relocation center," "internment camp," and "concentration camp," and the controversy over which term is the most accurate and appropriate continues to the present day.
Dr. James Hirabayashi, Professor Emeritus and former Dean of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University, wrote an article in 1994 in which he stated that he wonders why euphemistic terms used to describe camps such as Manzanar are still being used.
Let us review the main points of the debate. Over 120,000 residents of the U.S.A., two thirds of whom were American citizens, were incarcerated under armed guard. There were no crimes committed, no trials, and no convictions: the Japanese Americans were political prisoners. To detain American citizens in a site under armed guard surely constitutes a "concentration camp." But what were the terms used by the government officials who were involved in the process and who had to justify these actions? Raymond Okamura provides us with a detailed list of terms. Let's consider three such euphemisms: "evacuation," "relocation," and "non-aliens." Earthquake and flood victims are evacuated and relocated. The words refer to moving people in order to rescue and protect them from danger.
The official government policy makers consistently used "evacuation" to refer to the forced removal of the Japanese Americans and the sites were called "relocation centers." These are euphemisms (Webster: "the substitution of an inoffensive term for one considered offensively explicit") as the terms do not imply forced removal nor incarceration in enclosures patrolled by armed guards. The masking was intentional.
Hirabayashi went on to describe the harm done by the use of such euphemisms and also addressed the issue of whether or not only the Nazi camps can be called "concentration camps."
The harm in continuing to use the government's euphemisms is that it disguises or softens the reality which subsequently has been legally recognized as a grave error. The actions abrogated some fundamental principles underlying the Constitution, the very document under which we govern ourselves. This erosion of fundamental rights has consequences for all citizens of our society and we must see that it is never repeated.
Some have argued that the Nazi Germany camps during the Holocaust were concentration camps and to refer to the Japanese American camps likewise would be an affront to the Jews. It is certainly true that the Japanese Americans did not suffer the harsh fate of the Jews in the terrible concentration camps or death camps where Nazi Germany practiced a policy of genocide. Although the loss of life was minimal in America's concentration camps, it does not negate the reality of the unconstitutional incarceration of Japanese American citizens. Michi and Walter Weglyn's research concerning Nazi Germany's euphemisms for their concentration camps revealed such phrases as "protective custody camps," "reception centers," and "transit camps." Ironically, two Nazi euphemisms were identical to our government's usage: "assembly centers" and "relocation centers." It might be well to point out, also, that the Nazis were not operating under the U.S. Constitution. Comparisons usually neglect to point out that Hitler was operating under the rules of the Third Reich. In America all three branches of the U.S. government, ostensibly operating under the U.S. Constitution, ignored the Bill of Rights in order to incarcerate Japanese Americans.
In 1998, use of the term "concentration camps" gained greater credibility prior to the opening of an exhibit about the American camps at Ellis Island. Initially, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the National Park Service, which manages Ellis Island, objected to the use of the term in the exhibit. However, during a subsequent meeting held at the offices of the AJC in New York City, leaders representing Japanese Americans and Jewish Americans reached an understanding about the use of the term. After the meeting, the Japanese American National Museum and the AJC issued a joint statement (which was included in the exhibit) that read in part:
A concentration camp is a place where people are imprisoned not because of any crimes they have committed, but simply because of who they are. Although many groups have been singled out for such persecution throughout history, the term 'concentration camp' was first used at the turn of the century in the Spanish American and Boer Wars. During World War II, America's concentration camps were clearly distinguishable from Nazi Germany's. Nazi camps were places of torture, barbarous medical experiments and summary executions; some were extermination centers with gas chambers. Six million Jews were slaughtered in the Holocaust. Many others, including Gypsies, Poles, homosexuals and political dissidents were also victims of the Nazi concentration camps. In recent years, concentration camps have existed in the former Soviet Union, Cambodia and Bosnia. Despite differences, all had one thing in common: the people in power removed a minority group from the general population and the rest of society let it happen.
The New York Times published an unsigned editorial supporting the use of "concentration camp" in the exhibit. An article quoted Jonathan Mark, a columnist for The Jewish Week, who wrote, "Can no one else speak of slavery, gas, trains, camps? It's Jewish malpractice to monopolize pain and minimize victims." AJC Executive Director David A. Harris stated during the controversy, "We have not claimed Jewish exclusivity for the term 'concentration camps.'"
Manzanar was first inhabited by Native Americans nearly 10,000 years ago. Approximately 1,500 years ago, the area was settled by the Owens Valley Paiute, who ranged across the Owens Valley from Long Valley on the north to Owens Lake on the south, and from the crest of the Sierra Nevada on the west to the Inyo Mountains on the east. Other Native American nations in the region included the Miwok, Western Mono, and Tubatulabal to the west, the Shoshone to the south and east, and the Mono Lake Paiute to the north. The Owens Valley Paiute hunted and fished, collected pine nuts, and raised crops utilizing irrigation in the Manzanar area. They also traded brown-ware pottery for salt from the Saline Valley, and traded other wares and goods across the Sierra Nevada during the summer and fall.
The Owens Valley had received scant attention from European Americans before the early 1860s, as it was little more than a crossroads of the routes through the area. When gold and silver were discovered in the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Mountains, the resulting sudden influx of miners, farmers, cattlemen and their hungry herds brought conflict with the Owens Valley Paiute, whose crops were being destroyed. The Owens Valley Indian War of 1861–1863 ensued; at the end the Owens Valley Paiute, along with other native peoples in the region, were forced at gunpoint by the United States Army to walk almost 200 miles (320 km) to Fort Tejon, in one of the many forced relocations or “Trails of Tears” inflicted upon Native Americans in the United States.
Approximately one-third of the Native Americans in the Owens Valley were forcibly relocated to Fort Tejon. After 1863, many returned to their permanent villages that had been established along creeks flowing down from the Sierra Nevada mountains. In the Manzanar area, the Owens Valley Paiute had established villages along Bairs, Georges, Shepherds, and Symmes creeks. Evidence of Paiute settlement in the area is still present.
When European American white settlers first arrived in the Owens Valley in the mid–19th century, they found a number of large Paiute villages in the Manzanar area. John Shepherd, one of the first of the new settlers, homesteaded 160 acres (65 ha) of land three miles (4.8 km) north of Georges Creek in 1864. With the help of Owens Valley Paiute field workers and laborers, he expanded his ranch to 2,000 acres (810 ha).
In 1905, George Chaffey, an agricultural developer from Southern California, purchased Shepherd's ranch and subdivided it, along with other adjacent ranches. He founded the town of Manzanar in 1910. Chaffey's Owens Valley Improvement Company built an irrigation system and planted thousands of fruit trees. By 1920, the town had more than twenty-five homes, a two-room school, a town hall, and a general store. Also at that time, nearly 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) of apple, pear, and peach trees were under cultivation; along with crops of grapes, prunes, potatoes, corn and alfalfa; and large vegetable and flower gardens. "Manzanar was a very happy place and a pleasant place to live during those years, with its peach, pear, and apple orchards, alfalfa fields, tree-lined country lanes, meadows and corn fields," said Martha Mills, who lived at Manzanar from 1916 to 1920. Some of the early orchards, along with remnants of the town and ranches, are still present at Manzanar today.
As early as March 1905, the City of Los Angeles began secretly acquiring water rights in the Owens Valley. In 1913 it completed construction of its 233-mile (375 km) Los Angeles Aqueduct, to transport Owens River water diverted to Los Angeles instead of allowing it to drain into Owens Lake. But it did not take long for Los Angeles water officials to realize that Owens River water was not enough to supply the rapidly growing metropolis. In 1920, they began to purchase more of the water rights on the Owens Valley floor. As the decade went on, the City of Los Angeles bought out one Owens Valley farmer after another, and extended its reach northward into Mono County, including Long Valley. By 1933, the City owned 85% of all town property and 95% of all ranch and farm land in the Owens Valley, including Manzanar.
Although some residents sold their land for prices that made them financially independent and relocated, a significant number chose to stay. In dry years, Los Angeles pumped ground water and drained all surface water, diverting all of it into its aqueduct and leaving Owens Valley ranchers without water. Without water for irrigation the holdout ranchers were forced off their ranches and out of their communities; that included the town of Manzanar, which was abandoned by 1929. Manzanar remained uninhabited until the United States Army leased 6,200 acres (2,500 ha) from the City of Los Angeles for the Manzanar War Relocation Center.
There was so much water during those early years, that when a horse pulled a buggy, the water frequently came up to the horse's knees," said Lucille DeBoer, who lived on a ranch at Manzanar. "When this happened, the children took off their shoes and socks to walk home. In the early 1900s the City of Los Angeles started to purchase ranches in the Owens Valley for the sole purpose of supplying water to the people in Los Angeles. People started to sell their land to the City; the City put in wells to drain the water out of the ground; the trees began to die; and the land finally turned to vacant dirt. This ended the Land of the Big Red Apples.
After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States Government swiftly moved to begin solving the “Japanese Problem” on the West Coast of the United States. In the evening hours of that same day, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested selected “enemy” aliens, including 2,192 who were of Japanese descent. The California government pressed for action by the national government, as many citizens were alarmed about potential activities by people of Japanese descent.
On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to designate military commanders to prescribe military areas and to exclude “any or all persons” from such areas. The order also authorized the construction of what would later be called “relocation centers” by the War Relocation Authority (WRA) to house those who were to be excluded. This order resulted in the forced relocation of over 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were native-born American citizens. The rest had been prevented from becoming citizens by federal law. Over 110,000 were imprisoned in the ten concentration camps located far inland and away from the coast.
Manzanar was the first of the ten concentration camps to be established. Initially, it was a temporary “reception center”, known as the Owens Valley Reception Center from March 21, 1942, to May 31, 1942. At that time, it was operated by the US Army's Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WCCA).
The Owens Valley Reception Center was transferred to the WRA on June 1, 1942, and officially became the "Manzanar War Relocation Center". The first Japanese American prisoners to arrive at Manzanar were volunteers who helped build the camp. By mid–April up to 1,000 Japanese Americans were arriving daily, and by July the population of the camp neared 10,000. Over 90% of the prisoners were from the Los Angeles area, with the rest coming from Stockton, California; and Bainbridge Island, Washington. Many were farmers and fishermen. Manzanar held 10,046 prisoners at its peak, and a total of 11,070 people were imprisoned there.
The weather at Manzanar caused suffering for the prisoners, few of whom were accustomed to the extremes of the area's climate. The temporary buildings were not adequate to shield people from the weather. The Owens Valley lies at an elevation of about 4,000 feet (1,200 m). Summers on the desert floor of the Owens Valley are generally hot, with temperatures exceeding 100 °F (38 °C) not uncommon. Winters bring occasional snowfall and daytime temperatures that often drop into the 40 °F (4 °C) range. At night, temperatures are generally 30 to 40 °F (17 to 22 °C) lower than the daytime highs, and high winds are common day or night. The area's mean annual precipitation is barely five inches (12.7 cm). The ever-present dust was a continual problem due to the frequent high winds; so much so that prisoners usually woke up in the morning covered from head to toe with a fine layer of dust, and they constantly had to sweep dirt out of the barracks.
"In the summer, the heat was unbearable," said former Manzanar prisoner Ralph Lazo (see Notable Manzanar prisoners section, below). "In the winter, the sparsely rationed oil didn't adequately heat the tar paper-covered pine barracks with knotholes in the floor. The wind would blow so hard, it would toss rocks around."
The camp site was situated on 6,200 acres (2,500 ha) at Manzanar, leased from the City of Los Angeles, with the developed portion covering approximately 540 acres (220 ha). The residential area was about one square mile (2.6 km2), and consisted of 36 blocks of hastily constructed, 20-foot (6.1 m) by 100-foot (30 m) tarpaper barracks, with each prisoner family living in a single 20-foot (6.1 m) by 25-foot (7.6 m) “apartment” in the barracks. These apartments consisted of partitions with no ceilings, eliminating any chance of privacy. Lack of privacy was a major problem for the prisoners, especially since the camp had communal men's and women's latrines.
“...One of the hardest things to endure was the communal latrines, with no partitions; and showers with no stalls,” said former Manzanar prisoner Rosie Kakuuchi.
Each residential block also had a communal mess hall, a laundry room, a recreation hall, an ironing room, and a heating oil storage tank, although Block 33 lacked a recreation hall. In addition to the residential blocks, Manzanar had 34 additional blocks that had staff housing, camp administration offices, two warehouses, a garage, a camp hospital, and 24 firebreaks. The camp also had school facilities, a high school auditorium, staff housing, chicken and hog farms, churches, a cemetery, a post office, a cooperative store, other shops, a camp newspaper, and other necessary amenities that one would expect to find in most American cities.
Manzanar also had a camouflage net factory, an experimental plantation for producing natural rubber from the Guayule plant, and an orphanage called Children's Village, which housed 101 Japanese American orphans. The camp perimeter had eight watchtowers manned by armed Military Police, and it was enclosed by five-strand barbed wire. There were sentry posts at the main entrance.
After being uprooted from their homes and communities, the prisoners found themselves having to endure primitive, sub-standard conditions, and lack of privacy. They had to wait in one line after another for meals, at latrines, and at the laundry room. Each camp was intended to be self-sufficient, and Manzanar was no exception. Cooperatives operated various services, such as the camp newspaper, beauty and barber shops, shoe repair, and more. In addition, prisoners raised chickens, hogs, and vegetables, and cultivated the existing orchards for fruit. Prisoners made their own soy sauce and tofu.
Food at Manzanar was based on military requirements. Meals usually consisted of hot rice and vegetables, since meat was scarce due to rationing. In early 1944, a chicken ranch began operation, and in late April of the same year, the camp opened a hog farm. Both operations provided welcome meat supplements to the prisoners' diet.
Most prisoners were employed at Manzanar to keep the camp running. Unskilled workers earned US$8 per month, semi-skilled workers earned $12 per month, skilled workers made $16 per month, and professionals earned $19 per month. In addition, all prisoners received $3.60 per month as a clothing allowance.
The prisoners made Manzanar more livable through recreation. They participated in sports, including baseball and football, and martial arts. They also personalized and beautified their barren surroundings by building elaborate gardens, which often included pools, waterfalls, and rock ornaments. There was even a nine-hole golf course. Remnants of some of the gardens, pools, and rock ornaments are still present at Manzanar.
Although most prisoners quietly accepted their fate during World War II, there was some resistance in the camps. Poston, Heart Mountain, Topaz, and Tule Lake each had civil disturbances about wage differences, black marketing of sugar, intergenerational friction, rumors of “informers” reporting to the camp administration or the FBI, and other issues. However, the most serious incident occurred at Manzanar on December 5–6, 1942, and became known as the Manzanar Riot.
After several months of tension between prisoners who supported the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and a group of Kibei (Japanese Americans educated in Japan), rumors spread that sugar and meat shortages were the result of black marketing by camp administrators. To make matters worse, prisoner and JACL leader Fred Tayama was beaten by six masked men. Harry Ueno, the leader of the Kitchen Workers Union, was suspected of involvement and was arrested and removed from Manzanar. Soon after, 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners gathered and marched to the administration area, protesting Ueno's arrest. After Ueno's supporters negotiated with the camp administration, he was returned to the Manzanar jail. A crowd of several hundred returned to protest, and when the people surged forward, military police threw tear gas to disperse them. As people ran to avoid the tear gas, some in the crowd pushed a driverless truck toward the jail. At that moment, the military police fired into the crowd, killing a 17–year–old boy instantly. A 21–year–old man who was shot in the abdomen died days later. Nine other prisoners were wounded, and a military police corporal was wounded by a ricocheting bullet.
On November 21, 1945, the WRA closed Manzanar, the sixth camp to be closed. Although the prisoners had been brought to the Owens Valley by the United States Government, they had to leave the camp and travel to their next destinations on their own. The WRA gave each person $25 ($302 in current dollar terms), one-way train or bus fare, and meals to those who had less than $600 ($7,253 in current dollar terms). While many left the camp voluntarily, a significant number refused to leave because they had no place to go after having lost everything when they were forcibly uprooted and removed from their homes. As such, they had to be forcibly removed once again, this time from Manzanar. Indeed, those who refused to leave were generally removed from their barracks, sometimes by force, even if they had no place to go.
The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was built by prisoner stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. An inscription in Japanese on the front of the monument reads, 慰靈塔 (Soul Consoling Tower). The inscription on the back reads "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese" on the left, and "August 1943" on the right. Today, the monument is often draped in strings of origami, and sometimes survivors and other visitors leave offerings of personal items as mementos. The National Park Service periodically collects and catalogues such items.
After the camp was closed, the site eventually returned to its original state. Within a couple of years all the structures had been removed, with the exception of the two sentry posts at the entrance, the cemetery monument, and the former Manzanar High School auditorium, which was purchased by the County of Inyo. The County leased the auditorium to the Independence Veterans of Foreign Wars, who used it as a meeting facility and community theater until 1951. After that, the building was used as a maintenance facility by the Inyo County Road Department.
As of 2007, the site also retains numerous building foundations, portions of the water and sewer systems, the outline of the road grid, remains of the landscaping constructed by prisoners, and much more. Despite four years of use by the prisoners, the site also retains evidence of the ranches and of the town of Manzanar, as well as artifacts from the days of the Owens Valley Paiute settlement.
"Embrey took her pain and anger from the unjust internment and turned it into a life dedicated to making certain that would never happen again," said Rose Ochi, legal counsel for the Manzanar Committee, after Embrey died on May 15, 2006. "She was just tireless and as a teacher she was making certain that our history books did talk about the tragic episode."
"The reason [that the Manzanar National Historic Site has] been accepted by Japanese Americans, local Owens Valley residents and general visitors is in large part because of [Embrey's] knowledge and her personal experience," said Alisa Lynch, Chief of Interpretation, Manzanar National Historic Site. "She had the insight to help us be able to be truthful, to be accurate. She was a historian and an internee, she could wear many different hats."
Yoshinaga-Herzig and her husband, John "Jack" Herzig, pored over mountains of documents from the War Relocation Authority, a task that "was roughly equivalent to indexing all the information in a library, working from a card catalog that only gave a subject description by shelf, without giving individual book titles or authors." Their efforts resulted in the discovery of evidence that the US Government perjured itself before the United States Supreme Court in the 1944 cases Korematsu v. United States, Hirabayashi v. United States, and Yasui v. United States which challenged the constitutionality of the relocation and internment. The government had presented falsified evidence to the Court, destroyed evidence, and had withheld other vital information. This evidence provided the legal basis Japanese Americans needed to seek redress and reparations for their wartime imprisonment. The Herzigs' research was also valuable in their work with the National Coalition for Japanese American Redress (NCJAR), which filed a class-action lawsuit against the US Government on behalf of the prisoners. The US Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff.
In the late 1970s he became the chair of NCJAR, which brought a class-action lawsuit against the US Government on March 16, 1983, asserting that it had unjustly imprisoned Japanese Americans during World War II. The lawsuit stated 22 causes of action, including fifteen alleged violations of constitutional rights, and sought $27 billion in damages. Despite the fact the US Supreme Court eventually ruled against the class action plaintiffs, the lawsuit helped bring the Japanese American case for redress and reparations to public awareness. It showed the Congress and the Executive Branch that the US Government would have far greater exposure in the still-pending lawsuit than by legislation under consideration in Congress for reparations. The proposed bill called for $20,000 reparations payments to each former prisoner or their immediate relatives, along with money for a civil liberties education fund (see Civil Liberties Act of 1988).
...(The class action lawsuit) remained active until after Congress had passed the redress legislation. While it remained alive, it played a significant part in publicizing the issues. The NCJAR lawsuit demanded $220,000 for each individual whose liberties had been denied. This was more than 20 times greater than the $20,000 per surviving incarcerated person that the redress bills proposed, allowing proponents to portray the legislative solution as a moderate alternative.
"Internment was immoral," Lazo told the Los Angeles Times. "It was wrong, and I couldn't accept it." "These people hadn't done anything that I hadn't done except to go to Japanese language school."
In 1944, Lazo was elected president of his class at Manzanar High School. He remained at Manzanar until August of that year, when he was inducted into the US Army. He served as a Staff Sergeant in the South Pacific until 1946, helping liberate the Philippines. Lazo was awarded the Bronze Star for heroism in combat. After the war, he was a strong supporter of redress and reparations for Japanese Americans imprisoned during the war. The film, Stand Up for Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story, from Visual Communications, documents his life story, particularly his stand against the internment.
"Ueno made us aware there was opposition in the camps," said Omori. "He made us feel that people did fight back and made us realize that one person can make a difference."
In 1969, about 150 people departed Los Angeles by car and bus, headed for Manzanar. It was the "first" annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. But as it turned out, two ministers, Reverends Sentoku Mayeda and Shoichi Wakahiro, had been making annual pilgrimages to Manzanar since the camp closed in 1945.
The non-profit Manzanar Committee, formerly led by Sue Kunitomi Embrey, has sponsored the Pilgrimage since 1969. The event is held annually on the last Saturday of April with hundreds of visitors of all ages and backgrounds, including some former prisoners, gathering at the Manzanar cemetery to remember the internment. The hope is that participants can learn about it and help ensure that what is generally accepted to be a tragic chapter in American history is neither forgotten nor repeated. The program traditionally consists of speakers, cultural performances, an interfaith service to memorialize those who died at Manzanar, and Ondo dancing.
"My mother was a very staunch Buddhist and she would always say, 'Those poor people that are buried over there at Manzanar in the hot sun—they must be so dry. Be sure to take some water [as offerings],'" said Embrey. "She always thought it was important to go back and remember the people who had passed away."
In 1997, the Manzanar At Dusk program became a part of the Pilgrimage. The program attracts local area residents, as well as descendants of Manzanar's ranch days and the town of Manzanar. Through small group discussions, the event gives participants the opportunity to hear directly about the experiences of former prisoners first-hand, to share their experiences and feelings about what they learned, and talk about the relevance of what happened at Manzanar to their own lives.
Since the events of September 11, 2001, American Muslims have participated in the Pilgrimage to promote and increase awareness of civil rights protections in the wake of widespread suspicions harbored against them in the post 9/11 world.
The Manzanar Committee's efforts resulted in the State of California naming Manzanar as California Historical Landmark #850 in 1972, with an historical marker being placed at the sentry post on April 14, 1973.
The Manzanar Committee also spearheaded efforts for Manzanar to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and in February 1985, Manzanar was designated a National Historic Landmark. Embrey and the Committee also led the effort to have Manzanar designated a National Historic Site, and on March 3, 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed House Resolution 543 into law (Pub.L. 102-248; 106 Stat. 40). This act of Congress established the Manzanar National Historic Site "to provide for the protection and interpretation of the historical, cultural, and natural resources associated with the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War II." Five years later, the National Park Service acquired 814 acres (329 ha) of land at Manzanar from the City of Los Angeles.
The site features an Interpretive Center housed in the historically restored Manzanar High School Auditorium, which has a permanent exhibit that tells the stories of the prisoners at Manzanar, the Owens Valley Paiute, the ranchers, the town of Manzanar, and water in the Owens Valley.
“...Stories like this need to be told, and too many of us have passed away without telling our stories," Embrey said during her remarks at the Grand Opening ceremonies for the Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center on April 24, 2004. "The Interpretive Center is important because it needs to show to the world that America is strong as it makes amends for the wrongs it has committed, and that we will always remember Manzanar because of that."
The site, which has seen 522,749 people visit between 2000 and 2007, features restored sentry posts at the camp entrance, a replica of a camp watchtower, a self-guided tour road, and informational markers. Staff offer guided tours and other educational programs, including a Junior Ranger educational program for children between four and fifteen years of age. The National Park Service is working to restore an historic mess hall; build a replica of a portion of a residential block, including barracks; and plant historically appropriate vegetation. They are also taking oral histories of former prisoners and others from all periods of Manzanar's history.
A made-for-television movie, Farewell to Manzanar, aired on March 11, 1976, on NBC. It was based on the 1973 memoir of the same name, written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, who was imprisoned at Manzanar as a child, and her husband James D. Houston. The book and the movie tell the story of the Wakatsuki family and their experiences behind the barbed wire through young Jeanne's eyes.
Come See The Paradise was a feature film about how forced relocation and imprisonment at Manzanar affected a Japanese American family from Los Angeles and a European American union organizer. The film, released in 1990, starred Dennis Quaid and Tamlyn Tomita, and was written and directed by Alan Parker.
The 1994 award-winning novel, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, contains many scenes and details relating to Japanese Americans from the Puget Sound, Washington, area and their internment experiences at Manzanar. The 2000 film based on the book also details that connection.
Fort Minor's song "Kenji", from the album The Rising Tied (2005), tells the true story of Mike Shinoda's family and their experiences before, during, and after World War II, including their imprisonment at Manzanar.
The Asian American jazz fusion band Hiroshima has a song entitled "Manzanar" on its album The Bridge (2003). It is an instrumental song inspired by Manzanar and the Japanese American internment. Also, its song "Living In America", on its album titled East (1990), contains the phrase "I still remember Manzanar."
A 2007 episode of the CBS television crime drama Cold Case, titled "Family 8108", dealt with the 1945 murder of a Japanese American man in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania after he and his family were released from Manzanar. The episode originally aired on December 9, 2007.
Folk/country musician Tom Russell wrote "Manzanar", a song about the Japanese American internment, that was released on his album Box of Visions (1993). Laurie Lewis covered the song on her album Seeing Things (1998), adding the Japanese string instrument, the koto, to her performance.
Manzanar was the site of an Internment Camp for people of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
In time of war, it is normal and accepted practice to imprison or confine citizens of an enemy country who reside in the opposing country. The Japanese Internment of World War II went far beyond these reasonable bounds. During World War II, all people of Japanese descent living on the west coast of the continental United States including American citizens were stripped of property and most belongings and sent into imprisonment at remote locations in the West.
To properly understand why this improper internment happened, one first needs to understand some background: California had a significant history of racism against Asian peoples including preventing Asians from participating in the gold rush, blaming Asians for economic bad times and getting Japan to voluntarily reduce emigration to California, and forbidding Asians from owning land.
The Manzanar Relocation Camp is the best preserved example from this deplorable episode in American History, and is slowly being turned into a National Historic Site.
In some Asian cultures, there is a severe injunction against being a troublemaker or being out of step with good behavior. For such Asians, to be interned or jailed is a mortifying embarrassment. If you should happen to meet someone who may have been interned, keep in mind that this embarrassment may (or may not!) apply.
West of town on Onion Valley Road is access to the Sierra Nevada and the Pacific Crest Trail via Kearsarge Pass. Take Onion Valley Road to the trailhead; the pass is some hours' climb farther up. Above 11,000 ft, the air becomes thin. Fall colors along Onion Valley are very nice, for California. From the Pass, the views are empyrean- to the west, the Sierra, and to the east, the White Mountains, Last Chance Range, and others into the Great Basin.
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Manzanar was the name of a Japanese American internment camp in California. It was located near Lone Pine, California, in the desert near Death Valley. Thousands of people were kept there; most of them were Japanese people from Los Angeles. The camp opened in 1942 and was closed in 1945. Today, the camp is a National Historic Site.