Manzanar

Manzanar Enterance and sign. Photograph by Ansel Adam

Manzanar Enterance and sign. Photograph by Ansel Adam

Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941, President Roosevelt ordered the forced relocation and incarceration of peoples of Japanese descent.  Initially, the American population and newspapers sided with the plight of the Japanese.  However over the next few weeks, public opinion soured against the Japanese.  The justification for this order was a fear that Japan was preparing to invade mainland USA and that the large population of would join an invading Japanese force.

As political pressure mounted, despite no evidence of any Japanese espionage, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19th, 1942 which authorized the military to designate exclusion zones, which allowed the military determine “from which any or all persons may be excluded.”  A series of proclamations and orders soon followed which along with public outcry greased the bureaucratic gears.   The end result was the illegal and immoral arrest, relocation and incarceration of over 110,000 persons of Japanese Descent, many of whom were second generation US Citizens.

Scene of barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority Center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. A hot windstorm brings dust from the surrounding desert.

Scene of barrack homes at this War Relocation Authority Center for evacuees of Japanese ancestry. A hot windstorm brings dust from the surrounding desert.

Located just outside of Independence, CA, Manzanar is one of ten Japanese relocation camps used during World War 2.   The 6200 acres leased from the City of Los Angeles was set aside to inter the Japanese was started and receive its first of 11,070 prisoners in 1942 and held them until November of 1945.  The prisoners were  housed 20ft by 100ft barracks arranged into 36 quickly constructed Blocks.   In addition to Barracks, each Block communal mess hall, a laundry room, a recreation hall, an ironing room, and a heating oil storage tank.  Each family interred and Manzanar was given a 20ft by 25ft apartment barracks.  With a few exceptions, the Japanese endured their fate with quiet dignity and honor.

After the war, the Japanese detainees were released.  Many left the facility quickly, however some stayed as they no longer had a place to go.  A further indignity was again placed upon them, when once again they were forced to relocated.  Time saw to removal of much of the buildings and it quietly returned back to Owens Valley.  President George H.W. Bush issues a formal U.S. Government apology for the Japanese internment.

Manzanar is currently a historical landmark and offers tours of the facility.

Other Japanese Internment Camps:

  • Gila River War Relocation Center, Arizona
  • Granada War Relocation Center, Colorado (AKA “Amache”)
  • Heart Mountain War Relocation Center, Wyoming
  • Jerome War Relocation Center, ArkansasManzanar War Relocation Center, California
  • Minidoka War Relocation Center, Idaho
  • Poston War Relocation Center, Arizona
  • Rohwer War Relocation Center, Arkansas
  • Topaz War Relocation Center, Utah
  • Tule Lake War Relocation Center, California

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