October 11, 2018

Independence: Manzanar National Historic Site


High Sierra: Highway 395

Manzanar National Historic Site  5001 Hwy. 395, (760) 878-2194.  Visitor Center open daily 9-4:30; site open daily dawn-dusk.  Free.

Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
Visitor Center at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California

The original inhabitants of this desolate, 1-square-mile spot that was once home to apple orchards (“manzanar” means apple orchard in Spanish) were Paiute Indians, who were massacred and forced out.  Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, the area became one of 10 bleak U.S. internment camps that were used to detain 11,000 Japanese Americans.  They were considered a potential threat to the nation and were held against their will beginning in March of 1942.  Most camp inhabitants here were from San Pedro, California and Bainbridge Island, Washington.
  When the Manzanar War Relocation Center closed after World War II in 1945, most of the buildings were either moved elsewhere or dismantled and sold as scrap.  The prisoners left in November of 1945 and  were given just $25 and a bus ticket to wherever they wanted to go.  Over the years, this site has become a peaceful, beautiful spot, with sagebrush and trees and the Sierra peaks visible in the distance.
  The Visitor Center, which opened in 2004, was originally built by internees in 1944 as a high school auditorium.  Now it is home to state-of-the-art exhibits that are thoughtful and enlightening as well as disturbing.  Begin your visit with a viewing of the excellent documentary movie “Remembering Manzanar,”  which gives a voice to the 11,000 people who endured incarceration here, then browse the museum, and move on to the out buildings--barracks, women’s latrine, and mess hall--which because they were rebuilt to code were reconstructed better than they were originally built.  A self-guided tour weaves through these buildings, providing plenty of food for thought.

U.S. flag flies at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
U.S. flag flies at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


site map at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
site map at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
ranger at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


overview of reconstructed buildings at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
overview of reconstructed buildings at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


inside barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
inside barracks at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


exterior of women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
exterior of women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


view from women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
view from women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


showers in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
showers in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


toilets in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
toilets in women's latrine at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California


exterior of mess hall at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California
exterior of mess hall at Manzanar National Historic Site in Independence, California



5 comments:

  1. Thanks for this. Unfortunately, this era of American history isn't really over yet, is it? We need reminders to help us remember not to repeat these mistakes again.

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  2. Thanks for bringing this to our attention. I heard of such interment camps for the Japanese but this is the first one I have seen in pictures.

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  3. Though always difficult to process, these sites are so necessary when it comes to remembering the history of this country. Thank you for sharing this visit with us- may we all learn from these tragedies.

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  4. Such an important history lesson to remember. I appreciate you bringing Manzanar National Historic Site into focus for me.

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  5. I've only driven 395 a few times and missed visiting Manzanar National Historic Site each time. What a shame! I've heard of this World War II camp --- what a terrible time. Thanks for the pics and information on this historic site.

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