Manzanar California Map

Manzanar Relocation Center, Manzanar

Although it was closed in 1945, Manzanar is an essential stop on any tour of the Top Secret Government. It was here that thousands ol Japanese Americans citizens, including children, were forcibly in terned for the duration of World War II under an executive order issued by President Roosevelt. While never charged with any crimes indeed, most had never been to Japan and couldn’t even speak Japan ese they were kept behind barbed wire and guarded by machine’ guns because they had the wrong skin color. Supreme Court decisions during and after the war upheld the legality of Roosevelt’s executive order and laid the legal foundations for more sweeping executive orders now in effect for future mass detention and relocation of Amer ican citizens. Anyone who says “it can’t happen here” needs to visit Manzanar not only can it happen here, it already has.

Manzanar is America’s answer to the “Hanoi Hilton,” except the POWs held here were law-abiding American citizens who made the bad decision to be of Japanese descent.

Manzanar’s origins were in the rabid anti-Japanese hysteria thal followed Pearl Harbor. In the first few days following the attack, Gen eral John L. DeWitt, commander of the Western Defense Command, sent a report to President Franklin Roosevelt accusing Japanese Amei icans of engaging in espionage and disloyal conduct. His suspicion ol Japanese Americans was based strictly on racism and his report is the work of a very bewildered mind; he believed that the total lack of ev idence that Japanese Americans were disloyal and engaging in sabo tage must be proof that his fears were true. In DeWitt’s own convoluted words: “[t]he Japanese race is an enemy race and while many second and third generation Japanese born on United States soil, possessed of United States citizenship, have become ‘Americanized,’ the racial strains are undiluted… The very fact that no sabotage has taken place to date is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action will I taken.” Newspapers also did their part to feed racist hysteria among the public. The Los Angeles Times editorialized, “[a] viper is nonetheless a viper wherever the egg is hatched, so a Japanese Amer-i’ ,111 -born of Japanese parents grows up to be a Japanese, not an American.”

President Roosevelt responded by issuing executive order 9066 “ii I ebruary 19, 1942. Its scope was breathtaking, giving the military unprecedented powers over the civilian population. It permitted “the |t'( letary of War and the Military Commanders whom he may from lime to time designate, whenever he or any designated Commander ilm>ms such action necessary or desirable, to prescribe military areas in Mich places and of such extent as he or the appropriate Military 1 oinmander may determine, from which any or all persons may be ex-i imled, and with respect to which, the right of any person to enter, re-in.mi in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary mI War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his dis-

The implementation of executive order 9066 was draconian, i n’.lers headlined “INSTRUCTIONS TO ALL PERSONS OF JAPANESE Alii ISTRY” appeared in Los Angeles and other cities with significant Milanese American populations ordering Japanese Americans to report |m “< nntrol stations.” They were instructed to report carrying no more H' in Iwo suitcases per person, and permitted items were restricted to f)pi«.‘.ities such as clothing, toiletries, and food. After arriving at the «**iitiol centers, Japanese Americans were then relocated to various iitl< 11iment camps. In addition to Manzanar, there were nine other Manzanar was a particularly brutal place to be interned. It is located along the eastern range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, almost directly underneath 14,375-foot Mount Williamson. The area is in the "rain shadow” of the Sierras and as a result quite arid, making it difficult to grow most crops or other plants. Summer temperatures often top 100, while snow and freezing temperatures are common in winter; violent storms and high winds can sweep down from the Sierras any time of year with little warning. It is little wonder that pneumonia was common in Manzanar and was the cause of several internee deaths. Most internees were housed in one-room barracks measuring 20 x 25 feet, with four people sharing each one. When possible, families were housed in a single barracks. [gallery ids="257693,257694,257692,257695,257696,257697,257698,"] Manzanar was closed in September 1945, and most of the wooden structures were disassembled and removed. In a symbolic ges ture, executive order 9066 was withdrawn by President Ford in 1976. What's There: For many years, the camp auditorium and the two pagoda shaped guardhouses at the entrance were the only buildings standing at Manzanar, although there were many foundations left of the wooden buildings and tents that were used to house internees. However, the National Park Service now administers Manzanar as a national historic site. It has announced plans to construct replicas of a typical barrack', used to house internees and a guard tower; the camp auditorium i\ being converted into a visitor center/museum that will contain inter pretive exhibits. Presently there is a driving tour road through the site, and you arc free to walk around the 500-acre site on foot. (Be careful, however, a\ this is rattlesnake country; the stone and rock foundations are their fa vorite hiding places.) The Park Service has added signs indicating tin1 locations of various buildings and what different areas were used foi For example, you can see the locations of the schoolhouses, medical clinic, housing for the staff, and even the site of the camp's Catholn church. If you walk around the area on foot, you may still find various relics, such as bottles or chunks of stone with Japanese characters on them. Please leave these where and as you find them so future visiloi may enjoy them. Manzanar was a particularly brutal place to be interned. It is located along the eastern range of the Sierra Nevada mountains, almost directly underneath 14,375-foot Mount Williamson. The area is in the “rain shadow’’ of the Sierras and as a result quite arid, making it difficult to grow most crops or other plants. Summer temperatures often top 100, while snow and freezing temperatures are common in winter; violent storms and high winds can sweep down from the Sierras any time of year with little warning. It is little wonder that pneumonia was common in Manzanar and was the cause of several internee deaths. Most internees were housed in one-room barracks measuring 20 x 25 feet, with four people sharing each one. When possible, families were housed in a single barracks. Manzanar was closed in September 1945, and most of the wooden structures were disassembled and removed. In a symbolic gesture, executive order 9066 was withdrawn by President Ford in 1976. What’s There: For many years, the camp auditorium and the two pagodashaped guardhouses at the entrance were the only buildings standing at Manzanar, although there were many foundations left of the wooden buildings and tents that were used to house internees. However, the National Park Service now administers Manzanar as a national historic site. It has announced plans to construct replicas of a typical barracks used to house internees and a guard tower; the camp auditorium is being converted into a visitor center/museum that will contain interpretive exhibits. Presently there is a driving tour road through the site, and you are free to walk around the 500-acre site on foot. (Be careful, however, as this is rattlesnake country; the stone and rock foundations are their favorite hiding places.) The Park Service has added signs indicating the locations of various buildings and what different areas were used for. For example, you can see the locations of the schoolhouses, medical clinic, housing for the staff, and even the site of the camp’s Catholic church. If you walk around the area on foot, you may still find various relics, such as bottles or chunks of stone with Japanese characters on them. Please leave these where and as you find them so future visitors may enjoy them. On the last Saturday in April of each year, a day of remembrance r. held at Manzanar. Surviving internees and families of deceased inlernees return. Kuy Facilities: It’s not a facility, but the cemetery is the most moving part of Manzanar. A stone obelisk was added years ago in its middle, Hid the area is fenced off and well maintained. Most of the graves are unmarked, and several are obviously those ol children. Couldn’t the money have been found somewhere in the budget to buy headstones for their graves? Secret Stuff: The legitimacy of executive order 9066 was challenged in lour separate cases reaching the U.S. Supreme Court and it was upheld each time. In the most famous case, Hirabayashi v. United States, 320 U.S. m I (1943), the Court upheld “differentiating citizens of Japanese an-i estry from other groups in the United States.” The Court further wrote, “[t]he adoption by Government, in the crisis of war and threatened invasion, of measures for the public safety, based upon the recognition of facts and circumstances which indicate that a group of "lie national extraction may menace that safety more than others, is not wholly beyond the limits of the Constitution and is not to be con- These largely forgotten Supreme Court decisions still serve as the le|»al underpinning for the standby executive orders allowing detention md relocation of American citizens if the president (not Congress) de-i hires a national emergency. And who decides what constitutes a “national emergency”? The president in his sole judgment. Unusual Fact: The number of possible Japanese American internees was only a fraction of what it could have been because it was restricted almost exclusively to those of 100% Japanese descent. DeWitt’s racial paranoia was so high that he originally envisioned interning American citizens with as little as one-sixteenth Japanese blood (he actually imposed such restrictions on workers in some defense-related industries). Getting There: Manzanar is located Highway 395 midway between Lone Pine and Independence. The site is located on the eastern side of the highway; look for the two pagoda-shaped buildings and a sign recently added by the National Park Service.

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