This week's arts and culture column is about one of the prison camps to which, to our everlasting sorrow and shame, the U.S government consigned those of Japanese descent during WWII.
Here's how it begins:
In 1942, the U.S. government ordered more than 120,000 men, women and children from their homes and detained them indefinitely in 10 isolated, military-style camps they called “War Relocation Centers.”
Manzanar — a four-hour drive from Los Angeles, through the Angeles Forest, the Mojave Desert and the foothills of the Eastern Sierra Nevadas — was one of them.
In 1992, the former camp was designated the Manzanar National Historic Site. Driving in, you still pass the sentry tower where armed guards stood watch. I spent three days there in September, perusing the superbly curated exhibits, wandering the extensive trails through abandoned blocks of barracks, praying in the derelict gardens. The contrast between the breathtaking beauty of the mountains and the misery that had been borne beneath their shadow was stark.
In the wake of the Dec. 7, 1941, bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the military to remove “any and all persons” of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.
Notices went up giving Japanese citizens mere weeks or even days to pack up their belongings and report to be transported by armed train to internment camps.
Commercial fishermen who had been out to sea were detained as they stepped off their boats in San Pedro. U.S. citizens with no idea whether they would ever return sold their furniture and appliances for a pittance. Restaurants were closed. Pets were left behind. Prisoners were not allowed to ship personal items or household goods — they could bring only what they were able to carry.
READ THE WHOLE PIECE HERE.
|SCENES FROM THE TRAILS BEHIND THE CAMP|