Additional Resources on Japanese-American Internment Camps During World War II

I began this series of posts talking about how little I knew about the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, even when I was an upper-division college student at UC-Berkeley. At the same time I “discovered” the internment, I also discovered resistance within the internment camps.

Almost 30 years later, now, and much more has been done to publicize both the internment and the resistance. In addition to the digital copies of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records that I explored in hard copy at UC-Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, there is Densho, a grassroots organization dedicated to preserving, educating, and sharing the story of World War II-era incarceration of Japanese Americans, with its rich and growing online encyclopedia. The Smithsonian National Museum of American History has exhibits online, as does the National Archives. The National Park Service is doing a great job at Manzanar, as I wrote about already. They also published a free on-line book, Confinement and Ethnicity: An Overview of World War II Japanese American Relocation Sites, which I consult often.

In addition, John Okada’s 1956 novel, No-No Boy, is back in print. The first Japanese-American novel, it is a fictional telling of the story of the resistance to the loyalty questions.

I was interested to learn just recently that a documentary called “Resistance at Tule Lake” is just being finished and screened. The trailer is available on YouTube:

The aforementioned Densho site also has made available a number of interviews with individuals who resisted their unjust internment by answering “No-No” on the loyalty questionnaire or otherwise resisting the draft. Here a a few:

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This is obviously just a start. If you know of other resources beyond these, please mention and link to them in the comments.

Pilgrimage to Manzanar Internment Camp

For my wife’s birthday last November, we traveled to California to visit family and tour some of the national parks in Southern California. After visiting Joshua Tree National Park, we headed north to Death Valley. Not exactly between Death Valley and Pinnacles National Parks, but not too far out of the way, is the site of the Manzanar internment camp.

For reasons outlined in posts on my discovery of the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and its history, we made the pilgrimage to Manzanar.

The first internment camp to receive detainees, Manzanar was opened on 21 March 1942 and remained open for over three years, closing on 21 November 1945. It’s peak population was 10,046, housing prisoners from Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, and San Joaquin County in California, and Washington’s Bainbridge Island. In the shadow of Mt. Whitney’s 14,500 foot peak, Manzanar is 200 miles from Los Angeles, but felt like 1,000 miles from nowhere when I visited.

Manzanar is also one of the best-known and best-documented of the 10 permanent internment camps for Japanese-Americans during World War II. It drew the attention of photographers like Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, among others.

“Street scene in winter, photographer Ansel Adams, 1943, Manzanar concentration camp, California.,” Densho Encyclopedia http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i93-00023-1/.

It has been a California Historical Landmark since 1972, and was designated a National Historic Site when President George H.W. Bush signed H.R. 543 into law in March 1992.

The National Park Service runs the site, which includes a replica of one of the watchtowers, a visitor center in the restored Manzanar High School Auditorium (including exhibits, gift shop, movie theater), reconstructed barracks, the archeologically excavated “Pleasure Park,” and the iconic monument at Manzanar cemetery.

It is definitely worth a visit for anyone interested in this and related aspects of our nation’s history. For those who can’t make it, following are some photos that may give a feel for the place.

Sign at the gate of Manzanar War Relocation Center. Photo by David Yamane

Replica of one of the guard towers positioned at the perimeter of the internment camp. Photo by David Yamane

Exhibit superimposing names of detainees at Manzanar on photo of the camp. Photo by David Yamane

20 detainees named “Yamane” among the 10,000+. Photo by David Yamane

Exhibit listing names of individuals who entered the U.S. Army from Manzanar internment camp and/or had immediate family interned at Manzanar while they served in the U.S. military. Photo by David Yamane

Exhibit of reconstructed barracks. Photo by David Yamane

Exhibit showing condition of barracks upon initial arrival in 1942. Photo by David Yamane

View from window of barracks exhibit. Photo by David Yamane

“Pleasure Park” marker. Photo by David Yamane

Excavated bridge and ponds in Pleasure Park. Photo by David Yamane

“Turtle Rock” at Pleasure Park. Photo by David Yamane

“Soul Consoling Tower” (Kanji inscription) monument at Manzanar cemetery, just outside the barbed wire fence of the internment camp. Photo by David Yamane

Chains of origami cranes left at Manzanar cemetery monument. Photo by David Yamane

150 people died while interned at Manzanar. 15 were laid to rest in the Manzanar cemetery, and 6 remain including “Baby Jerry.” Photo by David Yamane