Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Mazanar National Historic Site

In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center, just a few miles from Lone Pine, California, was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens were interned during World War II.   Its 500 acre housing area was surrounded by barbed wire with 8 guard towers, complete with search lights.     Manzanar was our destination today.   To see and to remember and to wonder.

It was a powerful and sobering experience.   We wandered around the well done exhibits, looking at photographs, reading letters, listening to voices.   We watched a movie.   It was hard to understand that there was enough fear in this country to virtually imprison an entire group of Americans, innocent Americans.

These were not concentration camps.   Families were not separated,  children were educated,  health was taken care of.  Their accommodations were spartan and crowded, hot in the 110 degree summers and cold in the below freezing winters.  There were community latrines and showers, Mess halls for meals, mattresses filled with straw.   They were paid for their work, they beautified their surroundings, built lovely gardens, married and had children.  But they could not leave,  the guns in those guard towers were pointed inward, not outward......

Some only had 48 hours notice to leave their homes and their businesses and their schools, even their pets.   Their property was not stolen, or looted, but it was lost to them forever, nonetheless.    They were allowed to take only what they could carry.

signs mark where rows of barracks used to be stretch to the mountains

Most of the buildings have gone back to the earth, but a few have been restored for people to see.   To help us remember and not repeat.      

little girl's tiny shoes next to a bed
A number of their original gardens and water features have been uncovered and left for our imagination.

They used found objects to try and beautify their harsh desert home.

Rice, stones, bits of pottery, rusted nails, beads, coins and origami have been left on the base of the white cemetery obelisk built to commemorate the Japanese who died here and all the Japanese Americans who were interned by their own government.

I have no idea where the blank white lines between photos in this post have come from.  Perhaps the google gods are feeling playful tonight and thought I was too serious - sigh.....


  1. We have not visited Manzanar yet, thank you for taking me. Another lesson this country (and world) needs to learn, remember and not repeat.

  2. Beautiful post and photos, you really captured the feel of it. As you said yesterday, it's a moment in history we haven't yet learned well enough to avoid in the future.