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Manzanar Internment Camp

(Operational 1942-1946)

(Several images, please scroll down.)

   Manzanar and several other locations in the midwest and western states were used to intern more than one hundred thousand Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry during most of World War II. The history of this tragic episode has been written up in several books. I recommend "Farewell to Manzanar" by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, and "Only What We Could Carry," as excellent sources. (Less well-known is the fact that the United States also interned several thousand German-Americans and Italian-Americans during the same period, see "America's Invisible Gulag," by Stephen Fox.) We visited Manzanar in October 2004 and found a large modern Park Services building with useful models and movies of the original camp but very little else to indicate that thousands of people had lived here for 5 years. Apparently the Park Service plans to reconstruct a dormitory and some of the other buildings. The images below show some of the area.

     This stark tree stands near the Park Services building (right) and the main parking lot. It expressed my mood in seeing this place. Manzanar was formerly a large ranch and lies in a high valley, hot in summer and cold in winter, on the eastern side of the Sierra near Bishop, California.

    This obelisk stands in the cemetery and was photographed by Ansel Adams in 1943 as part of his series on the internment camp (http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/coll/109_anse.html). The inscription reads "Monument to console the souls of the dead."  Another inscription on the back reads "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese August 1943." The eastern slope of the Sierra rises in the background. The steps of the obelisk are littered with "offerings" left by  visitors: money, childrens' toys, flower vases, etc. The hints of color on the fence are chains of paper origami cranes, see below. Although over one hundred of the elderly died while interned, most of the remains were moved after the war and only one or two graves remain.

The origami crane is traditionally considered a sign of peace or hopefulness. 

One of the few remaining graves in the cemetery. A few origami cranes are present.

   Ten-family barracks once lined both sides of this road. At peak occupancy, more than 9700 people lived at Manzanar.

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