From Academic Kids

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Manzanar sign

Manzanar National Historic Landmark (better known as Manzanar War Relocation Center) was a Japanese American internment camp during World War II that operated near Independence, California. Manazanar was one of ten camps at which Japanese Americans, both citizens and resident "aliens," were detained as a "precautionary measure" during World War II. Located at the foot of the imposing Sierra Nevada in eastern California's Owens Valley, Manzanar has been identified as the best preserved of these camps by the United States Park Service which maintains and is restoring the site as a U.S. National Historic Landmark and a U.S. National Historic Site.

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Manzanar, California. July 3, 1942. (Photo by Dorothea Lange)

Almost all the buildings were sold in the 1940s, and the United States National Park Service is now working to build replicas of barracks and a latrine so that a demonstration block can be built. This particular camp held 10,046 internees at its height. Many Japanese Americans were forcibly relocated and interned as a precautionary provision of Executive Order 9066. Most lost everything they owned.

During the waning years of the war, the military presence of the camp was lessened and many internees were allowed to wander around the countryside and even fish and hunt in the Sierras. The camp was closed in November of 1945. Many internees did not want to leave because most had nothing to leave to. One hundred and thirty-five people died here during its operation as a War Relocation Center but only 15 were buried there (the rest were buried in hometown cemeteries).

On December 6, 1942, there was a riot and sentries shot two detainees. In February of 1943, provisions of the Registration Act required camp officials to transfer detainees who would not take a loyalty oath to the Tule Lake Segregation Center. After the turmoil that this caused, the residents began to improve the camp significantly.

Manzanar shrine
Manzanar shrine
Manzanar shrine (backside)
Manzanar shrine (backside)

A shrine in the form of an obelisk was built in the cemetery by a group of internees led by Ryozo Kado in 1943. There is an inscription in Japanese on the shrine that reads, 慰靈塔 ("Monument to console the souls of the dead.") The inscription on the back reads "August 1943" and "erected by the Manzanar Japanese." The obelisk shrine currently is draped in strings of origami and has offerings of personal items left by survivors and visitors. The park service periodically itemizes and collects these items in order to gauge the changing feelings of visitors.

The novel Farewell to Manzanar was written by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston in 1972, recounting her personal experiences in the camp as a seven year-old internee. The novel has become a staple of curriculum in schools and on campuses across the United States.

Other images

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Cemetery wide shot
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Sentry gate
Baby Ogata gravesite
Baby Ogata gravesite
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Farm workers at Manzanar War Relocation Center with Mt. Williamson in the background. (Photo by Ansel Adams)

See also

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