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Manzanar NationalHistoricSite

• National Park Service • In 1942, the US Army made the abandoned town of Manzanar, CA, into a camp that incarcerated over 10,000 Japanese Americans.

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In less than two weeks, on April 28th, 2018, the @manzanarcommittee will be hosting its 49th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage, followed by the intergenerational Manzanar At Dusk program. Will you be here? #manzanarpilgrimage2018


Come for the rainbows, stay for the history. 🌈 (We also recommend coming for the history and staying for the history! Trust us, it's impossible to get bored here.) #manzanarnationalhistoricsite


Spring is here! 🐝 🌸 Manzanar's historic orchards, which are around 100 years old, as well as some newly planted fruit trees, are in full bloom. Don't miss out on admiring pretty pear, apple, cherry, and peach blossoms. This particular peach tree (featuring a very happy bee) has grown from the rootstock of a tree planted in Block 14 by incarcerated Japanese Americans during WWII. Who can explain why these orchards are so important to Manzanar? (Hint: use your Spanish language skills!) #findyourpark


Manzanar Rangers have been very busy lately working on some exciting things, one of which is an upcoming exhibit about education in Manzanar. What do you think it was like for incarcerated Japanese American high school students to study subjects like US government and democracy under the shadows of guard towers? How did teachers educate students in classrooms that -- at first-- lacked even desks, books, and heaters? Stay tuned for updates as the exhibit comes closer to reality over the next few months. This snowy photo was taken this morning. Pack your coats, warm hats, and gloves if you're visiting this week!


Last night’s storm painted a snowy mountain backdrop for your visit to Manzanar National Historic Site this week! We’ll see you soon, right? #findyourpark


Do you ever find yourself wondering about all the history, all the stories, these trees have seen? This locust was most likely planted during World War II by an incarcerated Japanese American assigned to live in Block 14, Building 2 in Manzanar. It has stood as a silent witness for three-quarters of a century.


On April 3, 1943, a Dodge fire truck arrived at Manzanar, adding a 500-gallon pump capacity to a fire department in great need of some extra resources. Japanese American firefighters -- both paid and volunteer -- used this Dodge truck to fight Manzanar's fires until the camp shut down in November 1945. Over the course of three years and eight months, Manzanar's firemen successfully fought nearly 100 fires. Almost 75 years later, the truck has returned to its wartime home, joining Manzanar's original Ford fire engine. After World War II, the Dodge was picked up by the Lone Pine Fire Department, 10 miles south of Manzanar, and later by the Keeler Fire Department, 25 miles south, where it lived until today. We are grateful to the Keeler Fire Department for donating the Dodge fire truck to Manzanar National Historic Site, and further helping people connect with this important aspect of Manzanar's WWII history. Planning to visit Manzanar? Stop by the Manzanar Fire Department exhibit, where you can see both the Ford engine and the Dodge truck sitting atop their original foundations. Be sure to take a close look at what's underfoot: Japanese Americans who helped build the fire station's ramp inscribed their names, dates, and phrases into the wet cement. About this historic image: The Pirsch Company in Kenosha, Wisconsin, took these inspection photos of the new Dodge fire truck before sending it to Manzanar. The color photo was taken today, January 30th, 2018.


ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT – Yesterday we were excited to welcome siblings Tamiye Oda Kasamatsu and George Oda, who visited Manzanar with their extended family. Both Tamiye and George have recorded oral history interviews with Manzanar National Historic Site, and donated countless photos, documents, and objects, some of which you can see on display in the visitor center. In the spring of 1942, when they were uprooted from their family farm in California’s San Fernando Valley and brought to Manzanar, Tamiye was 22 and George was 18. Tamiye remembered they were worried that their father, Jiromatsu, would be picked up by the FBI, which had been arresting Issei men in West Coast Japanese American communities since December 7th, 1941. In the months preceding removal to Manzanar, she recalled, “We had a little bag with his clothes, underclothes and clothes by the door, because the FBI used to come and just pick up the men. So if they came after my father, we said, ‘We have to have his clothes ready . . . ’” George remembered that, at first, he was surprised by the government order to leave. “Then it finally dawned on us that we have to do what they said. But there were some people who were like my friend – he had things and people came over and said, ‘I'll give you fifty dollars,’ or something, for it. This fellow says, ‘Nope, I'm not going to sell it that cheap,’ so we just piled it up and burned it.” Tamiye recalled that their family had always been poor. “We were finally able to buy a truck and a car. We had to sell it because we had to go to camp. In the end, they were flipping a coin to settle the price.” In reflection, George noted that he met his wife, Fujiko, in Manzanar. “She was from West Los Angeles. So if we didn't go to camp . . . my kids wouldn’t be here.” Tamiye said, “Going to a camp like that wasn’t good. But I think going to camp like that changed my life, too, my friends, the way I think.” ————————— Want to learn more? You can watch George’s entire oral history interview in the archive at


ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT – In June 2016, Yoshiye Okimoto Hayashi reached out to us at Manzanar to let us know she would like to record her story with us in an oral history interview. We’re so glad she did. In this brief excerpt, Yoshiye, who graduated with Manzanar’s High School Class of 1944, describes how she and her parents and brother felt when they first saw Manzanar: “It was very windy, just as it is today. Desert all around us. It was April so it was kind of cold. And we looked at the barracks and the places we’d have to sleep, straw mattresses. I mean, we were poor, but at least we had a fairly clean place. My mother worked very hard at keeping the place clean. So this was really a disaster for us, and being stuck in with so many strangers, to me, it was the worst part. We didn’t have a big enough family to get a room of our own . . . We had one side of the room and there was a couple and two bachelors on the other side.” After a few months, the living situation grew even more uncomfortable for her family. “The fact is, one of the bachelors had an affair with the married couple, the woman. So my dad goes down to the housing department and says, ‘I have two impressionable young children, teenagers, and there’s something going on. There’s business going on in my room. I can’t have that.’ We were in Block 16 and we moved all the way down to 31, which . . . was a new area that was opening up. They had just finished it. So there at least we had the same size room for the four of us rather than the eight of us, and we had a little bit more privacy.” This photo of Yoshiye, her brother Jun, and her parents Yoneji and Miyano was taken in Manzanar a couple of years later.


Though we received some snow on the Sierra Nevada in last week's storm, we're still looking for our first snowfall on the valley floor -- perhaps something like what 4th grader Ronald Osajima wrote about in February 1945: ________________________________________________________"In Manzanar we had a blizzard, The wind came very fast, Everything hid, even the lizard. And very long did it last..."


Manzanar got quite a bit of rain today, and the Sierra Nevada and Inyo mountain ranges were painted with snow. This puddle formed atop the historic foundation of what was once the Block 14 laundry room, and vividly reflected the reconstructed women's latrine. #findyourpark


The storm that rolled in yesterday has almost completely hidden the mountains on either side of Manzanar from view. When the clouds parted briefly, rangers (looking though a pair of binoculars) were excited to see fresh snow on the Inyo mountains to the east. #manzanarnationalhistoricsite


This is the perfect time of year to come visit Manzanar -- where you'll find history in all directions. #findyourpark


Manzanar National Historic Site will be closed December 25th. In contrast to the experience of twelve-year-old George Tanioka and thousands of other incarcerated Japanese Americans during World War II, those of us who work here will be free to leave and spend the holiday as we wish. George wrote this insightful poem 73 years ago. It was published in the Manzanar Elementary School Newspaper, the "Manzanar Whirlwind" in December 1944. From age 9 to age 13, George was incarcerated by the U.S. Government in Manzanar. Though he didn't know it at the time, this poem would commemorate his last Christmas spent behind barbed wire.


These visitors (see the tiny red taillights?) started the driving tour this evening just in time for one of the most fantastic sunsets we've seen in a while. #manzanarnationalhistoricsite #easternsierra #nationalparkservice #finyourpark #sunset


On December 30, 1942 -- 75 years ago -- Charles Isamu Morimoto painted this scene of Manzanar's Judo Dojo with people inside working on construction projects. On that day, Charles likely had little inkling how much more his life would change in the coming year. The winter of 1942-43 was a tumultuous time for those incarcerated in Manzanar. Spurred on by the Manzanar "riot" of December 6, 1942 -- in which two young men were shot and killed by military policemen -- government officials rushed an ill-conceived questionnaire which claimed to determine people's loyalty with yes or no answers. In February 1943, all incarcerated Japanese Americans age 17 and older were required to answer this “Loyalty Questionnaire.” At the time, they did not know what the consequences of their answers would be. Charles Isamu Morimoto was one of thousands in Manzanar who answered “No” to questions 27 and 28. As a result, the government segregated Charles and his family, along with more than 2,000 others, to Tule Lake, a high-security camp in Northern California. From Tule Lake, thousands of people, from infants to the elderly, were re- or expatriated to Japan. At age 13, Charles had immigrated to the United States with his father, from Fukagawa in Hiroshima prefecture. Charles’s wife and daughters were US citizens, born in California. The family was removed from Tule Lake and sent by ship to Japan on December 25, 1945. This painting by Charles Isamu Morimoto is one of many donated to Manzanar National Historic Site's Museum Collection by his daughter, Miyoko Morimoto Mizuki.


ORAL HISTORY HIGHLIGHT As an orphaned child of a Japanese American mother and a white American father, the US government forced eight-year-old Dennis Tojo Bambauer to leave the Children’s Home Society orphanage and travel to Manzanar for incarceration in the camp’s “Children’s Village” with 100 other orphaned children. In his 2009 oral history interview with Manzanar National Historic Site, Dennis said he recalled the bus trip to Manzanar “quite vividly”: “We were having great play on the front lawn of wherever we were waiting for the buses to arrive. So that was a pretty jovial mood. Then the buses arrived and – you know, I used to have livestock and when they wouldn’t go, I’d kind of push them along and encourage them to – and there were some of us that were afraid of getting into that bus. And so they got pushed along. That’s not a very pleasant experience to either watch or be a part of. But we found ourselves in that situation. You have to remember the Military Police was in charge. And their personnel carried a billy club and guns. And I can only speak for my feelings – that was a scary time. Instead of . . . having the feeling of they were there to assist us, one had the feeling that they were there to control us.” Dennis remembered that the other kids at the Children’s Home Society, where he had spent much of his childhood, “were all Caucasian, except this interloper who thought he was Caucasian but his name was Tojo and he was half Japanese and half Caucasian.” As a result, none of the children or adults that Dennis grew up with would be forced to make the same journey to Manzanar. “I didn’t know anybody. I was bigger and taller than everybody else. But not knowing anybody, I had no family, I had nobody. So all I could do is sit and wonder what was happening, going to happen next . . . Nobody ever took the time to tell us why we were [there] or what was going to happen to us.” The lesson Dennis took from this? "We as a country, we as a nation, must protect vigorously our Bill of Rights. Because that’s the only protection and strength that we have. And I could not overstress that. I could not overstress that.”


Wow! It is extremely windy at Manzanar this morning! Back in 1942, this movie would have captured a solid wall of dust storms -- a reality incarcerated Japanese Americans had to face frequently. Today, dust storms are less common due to ground cover like rabbit brush and other plants, but visitors and rangers (like the one who shot this video in Block 14) sometimes have to dodge invasive tumbleweeds flying across the ground at high speeds!