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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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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!


Just before Pfc. Ben Hatanaka was shipped overseas, he visited his family in Manzanar and posed for this photo at the camp's front entrance. Before incarceration, he and his family lived in Lathrop, CA. Pfc. Hatanaka left Manzanar on April 9, 1943 for a job in Blackfoot, Idaho, most likely working in the sugar beet fields of that region. At age 22, he was sworn into the military July 1, 1944 at Fort Douglas, Utah, received basic training at Camp Blanding, FL, and served in 442nd/100th Battallion, Company A, in Italy. He received the combat infantryman badge and the purple heart for his service. Ben Hatanaka was one of 1,025 men and women who served in the US Military during World War II, while their families were behind barbed wire in Manzanar.


Rangers today were thrilled by a surprise visit from Frank Yamani. Before World War II, Frank was a star gymnast at San Fernando High School, who had reason to hope for a successful future in gymnastics. Then, in spring of 1942, his senior year was interrupted when the US government forced him and his family from their home into years of incarceration at Manzanar. The Yamani family was assigned to a barracks in Block 8. One day Frank had an idea to build a set of gymnastic rings and bars, not only so he could continue practicing his sport, but so that the younger people in Manzanar could have the opportunity to learn gymnastics and find a good way to pass the time behind barbed wire. When you come to the Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site, take a close look at the exhibit that Frank, now 94 years old, is standing next to in this photograph – the first exhibit you’ll see when you walk into the main part of the museum. Frank, at age 22, is the eighth person from the left in the back row. And if we hadn’t placed that black text box where it is, you would have seen the rings and bars Frank built for the people of his block, who all gathered for this Block 8 photograph by renowned photographer Toyo Miyatake. This past August, Frank very generously recorded an oral history interview with Manzanar National Historic Site. When asked what he hopes people can learn about his experience at Manzanar, he said that he hopes “they take away all the bad memories we have in there. This is a place where we spent the best years in life . . . especially the young people that were there. The prime of their lives. Like me, just graduating, best time of your life.” Frank felt that those were years he could never get back, and that incarceration changed the course of his life forever. After being released from Manzanar, Frank was hit with what he called a “double whammy” when he was drafted into the US Army. Frank is one of 1,025 Japanese American men and women who served their country during the World War II years, after being incarcerated in Manzanar, or with family members still behind barbed wire.


Marine Pfc. Robert E. Borchers received this holiday card from Tomiko Sakata, who was incarcerated in Gila River, Arizona. Come to Manzanar this Saturday, November 11th at 2:00 pm for a special presentation by Robert E. Borchers' son. ___________________________________________ "A cheery 'Hello' to a Marine with an American heart. I read your letter to the American Legion and I think it was swell of you to write what you wrote. It takes courage to be out in the battle-front – I know - but it must take courage to write a letter like that. More power to you! I just wanted to wish you the best of everything – always, Private Borchers, and may all your buddies come home safely under the guidance of God. Sincerely A Nisei girl Tomiko Sakata 'God Bless America'"


This Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 2:00 p.m. we hope you will join us for an unforgettable Veteran's Day event. In October 1943, twenty-two year old Marine Pfc. Robert E. Borchers wrote a fiery letter in defense of Japanese Americans. Robert had learned that, while he was at war in the Pacific, the United States had incarcerated 120,000 people. His letter was published in Time magazine, angering some but lifting the spirits of many others — including Japanese Americans who read his words from behind barbed-wire. Come hear Bob Borchers share his father's incredible story. The program will also include two special presentations: Ross Stone of the Big Pine Paiute Tribe will give a talk about local Native American veterans, and Rocio Gomez, Latino Heritage Intern at Manzanar National Historic Site, will talk about Manzanar High School student and WWII veteran Ralph Lazo. All veterans are specially invited. Everyone is welcome. Manzanar NHS is located at 5001, Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence, CA.


Have you visited the fire station at Manzanar? Did you find inscriptions carved into the cement by incarcerated Japanese Americans? #findyourpark


We were thrilled today to welcome the Yonsei23 basketball program to Manzanar, where they spent the day learning about Manzanar's history and playing basketball on the reconstructed historic basketball court in Block 14. Many of these high-school aged athletes had family members incarcerated in Manzanar and the other nine camps during World War II. The uniforms today -- white tank tops and shorter shorts -- were worn to resemble historic basketball photos from Manzanar, and honor those who spent up to four years behind barbed wire. ----------------------- Today's activities were due to the hard work of Manzanar's arborist extraordinaire, Dave Goto, who grew up in Orange County playing in the same leagues as these kids, and who also had family members incarcerated in Manzanar and other camps during WWII. After helping to reconstruct the Block 14 basketball court in 2015, Dave was inspired to create a program in which kids could not only have an educational tour of Manzanar, but also connect directly with the stories of sports behind barbed wire by having fun and playing basketball on the location of the historic court. Thank you to all who participated! We look forward to seeing you again. ----------------------- To see all the photographs of today's basketball game, please visit (and follow!) Manzanar's Facebook page. #findyourpark


We are honored today to welcome Frank Kikuchi to Manzanar. Frank was incarcerated here as a 17-year-old, who was a skilled bugler with the Eagle Scouts. If you've watched "Remembering Manzanar," the film we play every half hour in the Visitor Center, you have heard Frank talk about his experience as a young man, and his reflections on what we all can learn from Manzanar. At the bottom of this portrait by artist Steve Cavallo is a quote from Frank: "I still think this is the best country in the world, and it's just up to everybody to see that it stays that way." #findyourpark


Volunteers and staff are hard at work on day one of our Labor Day weekend public archeology project at Manzanar. They've spent the morning uncovering historic waterways and culverts, and resetting damaged rock alignments. Have you ever taken part in one of Manzanar's award-winning public archeology projects? Tell us about it in the comments! #findyourpark