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In the early part of World War II, 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were interned in relocation centers by Executive Order No. 9066, issued on February 19, 1942.
Manzanar, the first of ten such concentration camps was bounded by barbed wire and guard towers confining 10,000 persons, the majority being American citizens.
May the injustices and humiliation suffered here as a result of hysteria, racism and economic exploitation never emerge again.
California Registered Historical Landmark No. 850
Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Manzanar Committee and the Japanese American Citizens League, April 14, 1973.
MAN_130714_053.JPG: Block 14, Barracks 1:
When the first group of Japanese Americans arrived at Manzanar on March 21, 1942, they moved into give newly and hastily built army-style barracks. The Inyo Independent headlined, "Manzanar is Mushroom City" as an "Army of Carpenters" rushed to erect buildings at a rate of 39 per day. An early report described the 20-by-100-foot barracks as "divided into 4 'family cubicles'," with 10 cots in each 20-by-25-foot room. Though temperatures were still dropping below freezing, "they had no heaters; nor was there protection from the severe dust which came pouring through the openings in the eves, the wide cracks in the floor. By night, sleepers could gaze up at the stars through knot holes and slits in the roof."
Throughout the spring of 1942, new arrivals were directed to the buildings that -- for some -- would serve as their homes for three and one-half years. Rose Honda remembers "the first night.. just wondering where in the world we were." The room "was barren... and the floor was wood, and beds, beds, that were metal beds and straw mattresses. We also had to share at that time with three other families." Saburo Sasaki recalls the challenge of living with strangers. "We had never met, never seen them before... So we hung a blanket to divide their family from our family."
Blanket partitions were some of the first of many modifications Japanese Americans made to their barracks. Even before the installation of linoleum and plasterboard -- intended to limit dust and guard against winter cold -- Japanese Americans improvised as best they could to transform buildings designed for soldiers into buildings in which civilian families could live. Archie Miyatake recalls, "one of the first things I had to do was go to the kitchen and get the tops of the can that they cut off, and pound that onto the floor... We had to cover up those knot holes." By June 1942, Housing Coordinator George Kurata was working as quickly as possible to correct overcrowding in barracks, reporting that in one week, "90 families have been moved to the new quarters."
"They gave us an army blanket, and they said, 'Well, you have five in your family; we'll send up there five cots and five sacks filled with straw,' and that was our mattress. I don't think we even had sheets. I don't remember, but it was so crude; and, you know, at that time I don't think they had inside boards, outside just tar paper. The floors were very rough."
-- Chiyeko Matoba
MAN_130714_056.JPG: Block 14 Today:
The US Army ordered the construction of more than 500 barracks buildings at Manzanar during World War II. In 2010, the National Park Service (NPS) reconstructed these two barracks in Block 14, consulting hundreds of original documents and photographs, and implementing necessary modifications for modern safety codes and visitor access.
Barracks 1, located in the southeast corner of the block, generally appears the same as when Japanese Americans first arrived at Manzanar in early 1942. Barracks 8, located in the northeast corner of the block, illustrates a later barracks with improvements made by Japanese Americans and the War Relocation Authority before the camp closed in late 1945. Future plans for both barracks include the installation of exhibits as well as furnishings seen in historic photographs of Manzanar barracks.
The mess hall, located in the northwest corner of the block, is original to the World War II era. In 2002, the NPS moved the structure to the National Historic Site from Bishop Airport, and later restored it. Today the mess hall houses exhibits which illustrate the intricacies and challenges of feeding more than 10,000 people three times daily for more than three years. The locations of other buildings in Block 14 are marked to help visitors visualize one of Manzanar's 36 blocks.
MAN_130714_086.JPG: Block 14, Barracks 8:
In early July 1942, Manzanar's Chief Engineer's Office ordered "two and a half million square feet of celotex boards to line the walls of barrack interiors," Kenichi Tanaka, linoleum crew foreman, received "17 carloads of material" to cover 27 acres of barracks floor space. As wallboard and linoleum closed up knotholes and cracks once haphazardly sealed by tin can lids, and newly-planted gardens and lawns subdued the vigor of Manzanar's notorious dust storms, families and individuals worked to transform bleak army-style barracks apartments into more livable spaces.
17-year-old Archie Miyatake learned how to build furniture out of lumber he "borrowed for the duration" from WRA scrap piles. In September 1952, "the populace went on an imaginary shopping spree as a truckload of Sears, Roebuck and Co's fall and winter catalogs arrived at Manzanar." Japanese Americans relied "on the mail order house for most of the merchandise not carried in local stores." Rose Honda remembers her mother, as well as her neighbors, ordering fabric and sewing supplies, and "really trying to make apartments attractive" with curtains and tablecloths. By early 1944, Manzanar's mattress factory was producing "new cotton mattresses to replace the old straw ticks."
A report of October 15, 1942 noted that Manzanar residents had "more breathing space" and "more privacy" due to 1,000 beet harvesters leaving camp on furlough. "Congestion and overcrowding of several families into a single room, a condition prevalent in May and June , has been 65% relieved, as of this date," the report stated. More space opened up in 1943 as Japanese Americans began to resettle out of camp into Midwestern and Eastern states, and in 1944, over 2000 people from Manzanar transferred to Tule Lake Segregation Center in Northern California. George Matsumoto remembers moving into a recently-vacated apartment with his brother: "It was sparsely furnished with two cots and a makeshift 'bureau' of stacked orange crates... but it seemed palatial compared with the crowded quarters we had shared with the rest of the family."
MAN_130714_129.JPG: A Park for All:
Merritt Park was an oasis of beauty and solitude for a crowded, confined community. Meandering paths and waterways, bridges, lawns, and flower gardens filled its 1.5 acres, delighting the senses and lifting the spirits of many who came here. Internee landscape designer Kuichiro Nishi created the park in 1943, together with floriculturist Tak Muto and a crew of internee workers, all employed by he War Relocation Authority.
Below a waterfall at the pond's west end a large "turtle" rock represented longevity. A gazebo built of locust wood stood on a concrete foundation nearby, and two upright stones marked the park's southern corners. Nishi dedicated his work "To the memory of fellow Japanese immigrants, who although ushered to this place with the breaking of friendly relations between two countries, have come to enjoy this quiet, peaceful place."
First called Rose Park, then Pleasure Park, it was finally renamed Merritt Park, in honor of Project Director Ralph Merritt. Internees and camp staff alike enjoyed this place and gathered here in friendship. Once cameras were allowed, the park's beauty became a favorite backdrop for photographs of special occasions.
Over the decades, Merritt Park disappeared under several feet of sand. In 2008, Kuichiro Nishi's children and grandchildren returned to assist National Park Service staff and volunteers in unearthing the park. While the water that flowed through the pond and the plants that once graced the park are gone, these stones remain as a testament to beauty created behind barbed wire.
"You could face away from the barracks, look past a tiny rapids toward the darkening mountains, and for a while not be a prisoner at all. You could hang suspended in some odd, almost lovely land you could not escape from yet almost didn't want to leave."
-- Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston
MAN_130714_138.JPG: Pleasure Park
MAN_130714_148.JPG: Waiting in Beauty:
You are standing before San-shi-en, or 3-4 Garden. Water once flowed over these silent stones, soothing troubled spirits and easing the monotony of long meantime lines. Designed and built by internees, mess hall gardens served as a source of block identity and pride.
This and other gardens in Blocks 9, 12, and 22, share symbolic roots in ancient Japanese design. In each, you will find three distinct levels aligned north and south: a hill of earth represents the mountains from which water flows south to a pond, symbolizing an ocean or lake. Here, internees planted trees from the camp nursery and hauled stones from the rugged Inyou Mountains to the east.
As you walk around the garden, look for the crane and turtle rocks. Found together, they are said to ensure ageless vitality.
Unearthing the Gardens:
This pond was buried by sand and sediment for fifty years, until National Park Service anthropologists unearthed it in 1999. They later excavated a mess hall root cellar to your left, reconstructed the historic fence, secured stones, and repaired and extended the mess hall sidewalk.
"Six months ago Manzanar was a barren, uninhabited desert. Today, green lawns, picturesque gardens with miniature mountains, stone lanterns, bridges over ponds where carp play, and other original, decorative ideas attest to the Japanese people's traditional love of nature and ingenuity in reproducing beauty in miniature."
-- "Best Garden Contest" ,Manzanar Free Press, Fall 1942
MAN_130714_161.JPG: Sacred Space:
Life at Manzanar was uncertain, but the prospect of dying behind barbed wire, far from home, may have been unthinkable. On May 16, 1942, Matsunosuke Murakami, 62, became the first of 150 men, women, and children to die in camp. He and 14 others, most infants and older men without families, were laid to rest in this cemetery outside the barbed wire fence in an old peach orchard from Manzanar's farming era. Here, in the shadow of majestic Mt. Williamson, their somber funerals and memorials were attended by hundreds of mourners.
While some deceased were sent to hometown cemeteries, most were cremated and their ashes held in camp until their families left Manzanar. Gilchi Matsumura, an internee who died in 1945 while exploring the Sierra, is buried high in the mountains above you.
Today, only six graves here, including Matsunosuke Murakami's, contain remains; families requested the removal of others after the war.
I Rei To:
The Japanese Kanji characters read "Soul Consoling Tower." Master stonemason Ryozo Kado, c Catholic, and Buddhist minister Shinjo Nagatomi designed this iconic monument as a permanent tribute to Manzanar's dead. Kado built the obelisk with the assistance of Block 9 residents and a young Buddhists' group, funded by 15-cent donations from each family in camp. Rev. Nagatomi carefully inscribed the monument's characters -- including "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese, August 1943" on the west side.
While Rev. Nagatomi and Ryozo Kado live on in the memories of family and community, Kado also left his legacy in cement and stone. He built the sentry posts at the camp entrance and other camp features in his distinctive faux wood style. Compare the posts surrounding this monument to those near the sentry posts and look for other examples of Kado's craftsmanship around Manzanar.
Over the years, this monument has become an icon, inspiring a grass-roots movement to preserve Manzanar and remember the sacrifices of 120,313 Japanese Americans confined by their own government.
Buddhist minister Sentoku Mayeda and Christian minister Shoichi Wakahiro first returned here on Memorial Day 1946. For the next 30 years, they made "pilgrimages" to honor Manzanar's dead.
Amid the 1960s civil rights struggles, younger Japanese Americans spoke out, shattering their elders' silence and shame about the camps. On a cold December day in 1969, 150 people journeyed here on the first organized pilgrimage. An annual event ever since, the Manzanar Pilgrimage attracts hundreds of people of all ages from diverse backgrounds. On the last Saturday of April, they gather here for a day of remembrance with speeches, a memorial service, and a traditional ondo dance.
Visiting the cemetery anytime can be a personal pilgrimage -- of reflection, worship, remembrance, or protest. Some people leave offerings -- coins, personal mementos, paper cranes, water and sake, and religious items -- as outward expressions of the ongoing, unspoken conversations about America's past and its future.
"America is strong as it makes amends for the wrongs it has committed ... We will always remember Manzanar because of that."
-- Sue Kunitomi Embrey
Sue Kunitomi Embrey, 1923-2006:
Sue Kunotomi arrived at Manzanar in May 1942, at age 19. In camp, she served as a teacher's aid, wove camouflage nets to support the war effort, and worked as a reporter and then managing editor of the Manzanar Free Press.
Years later Sue Kunitomi Embrey was among the first of her generation to speak out about the camps. As the driving force behind the Manzanar Committee, she organized the Manzanar Pilgrimage for 37 years and worked tirelessly to ensure that this site and its stories would be preserved to protect the human and civil rights of all. Today, Sue's legacy endures in the ongoing work or informing and inspiring future generations.
MAN_130714_192.JPG: Shikata ga nai -- "it cannot be helped" or "nothing can be done about it"
MAN_130714_210.JPG: Baby Jerry Ogata
MAN_130714_240.JPG: Weaving for the War:
America went to work for the war effort in 1942, and Manzanar was no exception. More than 500 young Japanese Americans wove camouflage nets here for the U.S. Army. Since citizenship was a job requirement, most saw weaving nets as a chance to prove their loyalty -- and earn some money. A friend camaraderie grew among the crews -- who often worked to big band music blaring from loudspeakers -- as they turned out an average of 6,000 nets a month.
The three 18" tall sheds built on these long slabs soon became a flash point for discontent over wages and friction between citizens and non-citizens that spread throughout camp. The work proved hazardous, too, with internees enduring long hours of breathing fine lint and contact with harsh dyes,
The net factory closed after the Manzanar Riot in December 1942 and the sheds were converted to other uses. To your left, a mattress factory produced 4,020 mattresses for the camp before fire destroyed it in 1943.
Manzanar became nearly self-sufficient by 1944 due to its agriculture and industries, ranging from shoe and typewriter repair to soy sauce and tofu processing. A clothing factory produced uniforms and work clothes for the camp's nurses, mess hall workers, and policemen, while a furniture factory built desks, chairs, baby cribs, and toys.
"Our pay was $16 a month and we certainly earned it as we took pride in our work. Interestingly, after I finished college many years later, I became a weaver. It might have been because I enjoyed weaving the camouflage nets."
-- Momo Nagano
MAN_130714_258.JPG: First Street, Manzanar, USA:
Standing here in 1942, you would have been at the nerve center of camp life: First Street. Supply trucks and automobiles rumbled by on this thoroughfare, where the lines between camp life and the world outside seemed to intersect. The street always bustled with activity, as internees and administrators together transacted the business of camp.
The white buildings on the street's south side included the War Relocation Authority (WRA) offices and staff housing as well as the Town Hall, where elected block leaders met weekly. At the main post office, 1,500 letters arrived each day to be delivered to barracks addresses. On the north side of the street, black tar-papered barracks housed the police station, Manzanar Free Press newspaper office, and other cap functions and services. Wooden signs identifying each swayed outside in the Owens Valley wind.
A typical morning on First Street saw secretary Mary Kageyama walking to her job at the Public Works office and Jack Takayanagi signing up for a softball league at the Community Activities office. Marian Fujimoto checked the job board for employment opportunities out of camp, while WRA staff children Art Williams and Fred Causey waited near the sentry post to catch the school bus to Independence.
Manzanar Free Press reporter Sue Kunitomi enjoyed walking around camp to find out what was going on. "They had set up a co-operative," she recalled. "It included beauty and barber shops, a shoe repair shop, dry goods store, and what we called the canteens -- like a little grocery store." The stores were located all over camp but were administered by the Manzanar Cooperative Enterprise here on First Street. Catalog companies like Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward also did brisk mail-order business in camp.
MAN_130714_268.JPG: In Honor of Americans of Japanese Ancestry who served in the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service during World War II
AAA "Gem": AAA considers this location to be a "must see" point of interest. To see pictures of other areas that AAA considers to be Gems, click here.
Wikipedia Description: Manzanar
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Manzanar is the site of one of ten American concentration camps, where more than 120,000 Japanese Americans were incarcerated during World War II from March 1942 to November 1945. Although it had over 10,000 inmates at its peak, it was one of the smaller internment camps. The largest was the Tule Lake internment camp, located in northern California with a population of over 18,000 inmates. The smallest was Amanche, located southeastern Colorado, with over 7,000 inmates. It is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California's Owens Valley, between the towns of Lone Pine to the south and Independence to the north, approximately 230 miles (370 km) north of Los Angeles. Manzanar means "apple orchard" in Spanish. The Manzanar National Historic Site, which preserves and interprets the legacy of Japanese American incarceration in the United States, was identified by the United States National Park Service as the best-preserved of the ten former camp sites.
The first Japanese Americans arrived at Manzanar in March of 1942, just one month after President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, to build the camp their families would be staying in. Manzanar was in operation as an internment camp from 1942 until 1945. Since the last of those incarcerated left in 1945, former detainees and others have worked to protect Manzanar and to establish it as a National Historic Site to ensure that the history of the site, along with the stories of those who were incarcerated there, is recorded for current and future generations. The primary focus is the Japanese American incarceration era, as specified in the legislation that created the Manzanar National Historic Site. The site also interprets the former 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.
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