Life in the American concentration camp of Manzanar, 1943


Manzanar, Spanish for "apple orchard", originated in the dream of a fruit-growing empire soon after 1900 and is today a national symbol of America's decision at the start of World War II to cut thousands of citizens of its Japanese ancestry into barbed wire. limits behind. . The photographs collected here were taken by the great photographer Ansel Adams in 1943.

After the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States government moved quickly to begin solving the "Japanese problem" on the West Coast of the United States. In the evening hours of the same day, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested select "enemy" aliens, including more than 5,500 Issy men. Many citizens in California were concerned about possible activities by people of Japanese descent.

On February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the Secretary of War to determine military areas to military commanders and exclude "any or all persons" from such areas. The order authorized the construction of what would later be called "transfer centers" by the War Rehabilitation Authority (WRA), which were to be laid out.

The order resulted in the forced relocation of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were Native American citizens; The rest were barred from becoming citizens by federal law. More than 110,000 people were imprisoned in ten concentration camps located inland and off the coast.

The area around the rehabilitation camp.

Without due process, the government gave all people of Japanese descent living on the West Coast only a few days to decide what to do with their homes, farms, businesses, and other assets. Most of the families sold their belongings at huge loss. Some rented out their property to neighbours.

Others left property with friends or religious groups. Some left their possessions. They didn't know where they were going and for how long. Each family was assigned an identification number and loaded into cars, buses, trucks and trains, carrying only what they could carry.

Manzanar Concentration Camp was located in Manzanar on 6,200 acres (2,500 ha) leased from the City of Los Angeles, including about 540 acres (220 ha) in the developed portion. Eight guard towers armed with machine guns were located at intervals around the perimeter fence, which was topped by barbed wire. The grid layout used in the camp was standard, and a similar layout was used at all transfer centres.

The residential area was approximately one square mile (2.6 km) and consisted of 36 hastily built, 20-foot (6.1 m) by 100-foot (30 m) tarpaper barracks, each housing a family (up to eight people). The barracks contained a single 20-foot (6.1 m) by 25-foot (7.6 m) "apartment".

These apartments included partitions with no ceilings, eliminating any opportunities for privacy. The lack of privacy was a major problem, especially since the camp had communal men's and women's toilets.

Interns harvest the crop.

The camp had school facilities, a high-school auditorium (also used as a theater), staff housing, a chicken and hog farm, churches, a cemetery, a post office, a hospital, an orphanage, two community toilets, a Outdoor theaters, and other essential amenities one would expect to be found in most US cities. Some of the facilities were not built until the camp had operated for some time.

The camp's perimeter contained eight watchtowers manned by armed military police, and was surrounded by five-strand barbed wire. There were sentry posts at the main gate. Many employees of the camp administration lived inside the fence in the camp, although the military police lived outside the fence.

Every American concentration camp was intended to be self-sustaining, and Manzanar was no exception. The cooperatives operated various services, such as camp newspapers, beauty salons and barber shops, shoe repair, libraries, and more.

In addition, there were some who raised chickens, pigs and vegetables and cultivated existing orchards for the fruits. At the time of Manzanar's operation, 188 marriages took place, 541 children were born in the camp and 135 to 146 persons died.

Florence Kuwata practices with sticks.

Some of those incarcerated in the camp supported policies implemented by the War Rehabilitation Authority, leading them to be targeted by others in the camp. On 6 December 1942 a riot broke out and two trainees were killed. Togo Tanaka was one of those targeted, but he escaped disguising himself and meeting the crowd that was looking for him.

Others were outraged that his patriotism was being questioned because of his ethnic heritage. Despite the hardships they faced, the apprentices gradually "turned [the] concentration camp into a community" by spending their days "making beautiful things".

Most of the adults were deputed to Manzanar to keep the camp running. To make the camps self-sufficient, adults were employed in a variety of jobs to supply the camp and the army. Jobs included clothing and furniture manufacturing, farming and gardening, military manufacturing such as camouflage nets and experimental rubber, teaching, civil service jobs such as police, firefighting and nursing, and general service jobs operating stores, beauty parlors and a bank.

A farm and orchards provided vegetables and fruits for use by the camp, and people of all ages worked to maintain them. By the summer of 1943, the camp garden and farm were producing potatoes, onions, cucumbers, Chinese cabbage, watermelon, eggplant, tomatoes, asters, red radishes, and peppers.

After all, there were more than 400 acres of farmland producing more than 80 percent of the produce used by the camp. In early 1944, a poultry farming operation began, and at the end of April of the same year, the camp opened a hog farm. Both operations provided welcome meat supplements in the diet.

A total of 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. From a peak of 10,046 in September 1942, the population declined to 6,000 by 1944. The last few hundred trainees left in November 1945, three months after the war ended. Many of them had spent three and a half years in Manzanar.

One hundred thirty five and one hundred and forty six Japanese Americans died in Manzanar. Fifteen were buried there, but only five graves remain, as most were rebuilt by their families elsewhere.

The Manzanar cemetery site is marked by a monument that was erected in 1943 by stonemason Ryozo Kado. On the front (east side) of the monument an inscription in Japanese reads ("Soul Consoling Tower"). The inscription on the back (facing west) reads "Manzanar Built by Japanese" on the left-hand column and "August 1943" on the right-hand column.

The removal of all Japanese Americans from the West Coast was based on widespread distrust of their loyalty after Pearl Harbor. Nevertheless, none of the Japanese Americans were accused of espionage.

In 1988, Congress passed legislation apologizing for "race bias, war hysteria and failure of political leadership" that led to the detention, and calling for compensation for victims. The survivors and heirs of the survivors eventually received $1.6 billion in settlement for their unconstitutional detention.

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