Manzanar National Historic Site

Audio Available:

Overview

This is the audio-only version of the park’s official print brochure. It tells the story of Manzanar, located in California, and provides information related to your visit.

Side one includes quotes, historic photographs, and photographs of artifacts. Most photos are black and white unless indicated as color. The text explains the history of this site where the US Government incarcerated Japanese Americans and resident aliens during World War II, from the camp's opening in 1942 to its closing in 1945, and to the presidential apology and issuance of letters and redress payments in the 1990s.

Side two begins with the title "Reading the Landscape." It consists primarily of a map of the site and a legend that explains the map. Additional visitor information is included as are more photos and text related to the site's history.

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Manzanar's Story in Images in Quotes

Across the top of side one of the brochure are a series of photographs and two quotes. Below and in the middle section of the brochure, where the story of Manzanar is told, is a painting of a barren landscape and people walking into or against the wind. Across the bottom of the brochure are three images associated with stories about conflict, remembrance, and apology. 

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A Windy, Dusty Place Painting Description

Dominated with shades of yellow and dotted with red, this painting in the middle of the brochure is of an outdoor barren landscape with sparse clumps of grass tilted to the right from the blowing wind. The caption: Among the hardships of Manzanar, the wind and dust storms were some of the most unforgiving and unforgettable. Artist Kango Takamura captured this windy street scene in March 1943.

Description: On the landscape are 10 people. Two are men in the left and center foreground. They wear hats and coats with upturned collars. The man on the left walks to the left. He leans forward, pushing himself into the wind while holding his hat. The other man has his back to the wind and leans forward walking toward the right. Left of center behind these men are four others all being blown by the wind as they walk. The same is true for four other individuals who are right of center and further back. At the very far back right side of the painting are the uniform buildings of the camp in a row. They are only partially seen with the dust obscuring the full view.
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Pieces From the Past: Quotes and Photos

The first sentence of the caption for this entire section reads: “The photos above evoke life at Manzanar.” The images and associated text are described from left to right as they appear on the brochure.

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One Camp, 10,000 Lives; One Camp, 10,000 Stories

In spring 1942, the US Army turned the abandoned townsite of Manzanar, California, into a camp that would confine over 10,000 Japanese Americans and Japanese immigrants. Margaret Ichino Stanicci later said, “I was put into a camp as an American citizen, which is against the Constitution because I had no due process. . . . It was only because of my ancestry.”

For decades before World War II, politicians, newspapers, and labor leaders fueled anti-Asian sentiment in the western United States. Laws prevented immigrants from becoming citizens or owning land. Immigrants’ children were born US citizens, yet they too faced prejudice. Japan’s December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor intensified hostilities toward people of Japanese ancestry.  

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942, authorizing the military to remove “any or all persons” from the West Coast. Under the direction of Lt. General John L. DeWitt, the Army applied the order to everyone of Japanese ancestry, including over 70,000 US citizens. DeWitt said, “You just can’t tell one Jap from another. . . . They all look the same. . . . A Jap’s a Jap.” 

They were from cities and farms, young and old, rich and poor. They had only days or weeks to prepare. Businesses closed, classrooms emptied, families and friends separated. Ultimately, the government deprived over 120,000 people of their freedom. Half were children and young adults. Ten thousand were incarcerated at Manzanar. From this one camp came 10,000 stories. 

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Two Families, Two Stories

Before the war, the Miyatake and Maruki families lived near each other in Los Angeles. In Manzanar, they lived in neighboring blocks, yet their experiences were far apart. The Miyatakes’ eldest son Archie met and fell in love with Takeko Maeda. They later married and spent over 70 years together.

The Marukis’ eldest daughter Ruby came to Manzanar married and pregnant. She died in the camp hospital on August 15, 1942, along with the twin girls she was delivering. Decades later, Ruby’s youngest sister Rosie said, “My mother never got over it. It just broke her heart.” 

Below this text on the right upper side of the brochure are a photo and caption. The caption: Hundreds attended the Buddhist funeral of Ruby Maruki Watanabe and her twin girls, Diane and Sachiko. Description: In the black and white photo a large group of people, nearly all dressed in black, surround one adult casket and two children's caskets. The caskets are white. Multiple wreaths and other arrangements of paper flowers are placed on top of and around the caskets.

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Conflict

Quote: "Why didn’t the government give us the chance to prove our loyalty instead of herding us into camps?" Joseph Kurihara  

People’s diverse reactions to incarceration and conditions in Manzanar often led to conflict, erupting on December 6, 1942. A large crowd gathered to protest the jailing of Harry Ueno. The confrontation escalated and military police fired into the crowd, killing two men and injuring nine others. Soon the consequences of what came to be known as the Manzanar "riot" reverberated through all ten camps. Government officials issued a controversial questionnaire to identify and segregate those they deemed “disloyal.” Koo Sakamoto and her husband gave conflicting answers. She was 19 and pregnant with their second child when her husband was sent to Tule Lake Segregation Center. They never saw each other again.

A historic black and white photo is below the text. The caption: Japanese Americans boarded trains for a 500-mile journey to the high-security Tule Lake Segregation Center in northern California. Description: In the photo, on snow-covered ground, two late 1930s or early 1940s cars in the left foreground are parked. In the middle and right are small groupings of people, their backs to us. They carry bags and suitcases and walk towards a train. Behind the train rise the snow-covered Inyo mountains.

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Remembrance

Quote: "It was shocking to your soul, to your spirit, and it took many years for people to talk about it."  Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston 

The Manzanar camp closed on November 21, 1945, three months after the war ended. Despite having regained their freedom, some people found life equally difficult after the war. Most spent decades rebuilding their lives, but few spoke openly about their wartime experiences. Buddhist and Christian ministers returned to the cemetery each year to remember the dead. In 1969, a group of activists came on their own pilgrimage of healing and remembrance. With the formation of the Manzanar Committee, this pilgrimage grew into an annual event attended by over one thousand. Efforts to remember and preserve the camp led to the creation of Manzanar National Historic Site in 1992.

Below the text is a contemporary color photo. The caption: The annual pilgrimage is open to the public. It includes a procession of banners, which ends at Manzanar’s iconic cemetery monument. Description: In the photo twelve people stand in a row, each holding a long colorful banner with text, such as Tule Lake, Topaz and Minidoka. Behind them is the cemetery monument that is at least twice as tall as the people with the banners. It is white and four-sided with a point on top and three Japanese characters carved on the front. Behind it, high in the distance, rises the Sierra Nevada range. 

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Apology

Quote: "America is strong as it makes amends for the wrongs it has committed . . . we will always remember Manzanar because of that." Sue Kunitomi Embrey 

In the 1980s, a congressionally authorized commission concluded “race prejudice, war hysteria and a failure of political leadership” led to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. It recommended a presidential apology and individual payments of $20,000. After receiving her apology letter from President George H. W. Bush, Miho Sumi Shiroishi “felt as though the shame of all these years had been lifted and I was able to talk about the experience with much more ease. This letter of apology has meant a great deal to me, more than anyone can imagine.” 

Below the text are two images. The caption for both images: The US government issued over 82,000 apology letters and redress payments to Japanese Americans in order of age, oldest to youngest, between 1990 and 1999. 

Description: In a color photo on the left, an elderly gentleman with white hair in a suit and tie is seated. He holds a piece of paper which he looks at. To his left a man in a suit, Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, stands, leaning over to hand the man a letter with his right hand while gesturing with his left.

The right image is a photo of the apology letter. At the top center is the Presidential Seal embossed in gold, followed by the words "The White House, Washington." Below are two paragraphs of blue typed text which read:

"A monetary sum and words alone cannot restore lost years or erase painful memories; neither can they fully convey our Nation’s resolve to rectify injustice and to uphold the rights of individuals. We can never fully right the wrongs of the past. But we can take a clear stand for justice and recognize that serious injustices were done to Japanese Americans during World War II.

In enacting a law calling for restitution and offering a sincere apology, your fellow Americans have, in a very real sense, renewed their traditional commitment to the ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. You and your family have our best wishes for the future." 

The letter ends with "Sincerely," and the signature of President George H.W. Bush.


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Reading the Manzanar Landscape

With this title at the top, side two of the brochure begins.

After the war, the government removed most of the structures and buried gardens and basements. As time passed, Manzanar was further buried, both in sand and in memory. Today, when visitors see Manzanar, they may think there’s nothing out there. Yet for those who learn to read the landscape, the place comes to life. A pipe sticking out of the ground becomes a water faucet where children splashed their faces in the summer heat. A foundation reveals the shoe prints of a child who crossed the wet cement. Ten iron rings embedded in a concrete slab evoke the humiliation of ten women forced to sit exposed next to strangers, enduring private moments on public toilets. 

Whether driving the 3-mile self-guiding tour or exploring Manzanar on foot, visitors can see a number of Japanese gardens and ponds. People built gardens to beautify the dusty ground outside their barracks. Others built larger gardens near mess halls where people waited in line for meals three times a day. The most elaborate garden was Merritt Park, which Tak Muto, Kuichiro Nishi, and their crew built as Manzanar’s community park. In 2008, the Nishi family helped park staff remove decades of soil to reveal the park.  

The National Park Service continues to uncover and preserve historic features, ­­including elements of the early 1900s farming town of Manzanar. This land is home to the Owens Valley Paiute, whose own stories have been passed down through millennia and are an important part of the history of Manzanar. 

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Clues on the Landscape

To read Manzanar’s landscape, look for:

Many pieces from Manzanar’s past lie scattered on the ground. It is against federal law to disturb or collect these items. 

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Reading the Landscape in Pictures

Quote: "There is not much there anymore in the way of structures . . . but a lot of memories remain." Miho Sumi Shiroishi 

In the upper right corner of the brochure along with this quote is a collage that includes a color illustration of a large Japanese garden and two photos. The caption below this collage: (Above) Artist Kitaro Uetsuzi depicted Merritt Park in 1943 as an oasis where people could escape the monotony of barracks living. Top right: That same year, Ansel Adams photographed the park at the invitation of Project Director Ralph P. Merritt. Top left: In his 90s, Henry Nishi, son of park designer Kuichiro Nishi, helped excavate and restore his father’s inspired landscape. 

Description: The color illustration of the Japanese garden includes a path leading to an open-air gazebo with people standing and sitting within it. There is a waterway in the background, with rocks in clusters at the water's edge and foliage including small trees and shrubs. Behind the gazebo, a curved wooden bridge arches over the water. In the background, there are barracks buildings. Above to the right of this illustration is the black and white Ansel Adams photo of the park, taken from the opposite side of the bridge. It shows water, like a small stream, in the foreground and running through the center of the image. The curved bridge to the left stops at the water's edge. Behind it is the gazebo. Foliage and rocks are scattered throughout. To the left of this photo is a contemporary color photo of Henry Nishi crouching on a dirt surface in the park. He wears a yellow baseball cap, long-sleeve gray shirt, light jeans, and black gloves. His left hand is placed on a log being used to reconstruct the bridge. His right hand rests on his knee. Behind him, large granite boulders define the edge of the empty stream bed.


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Cemetery Monument

Underneath a photo of the monument the text: "Catholic stone mason Ryozo Kado built this obelisk in 1943 with help from residents of Block 9 and the Young Buddhist Association. On the east face, Buddhist Reverend Shinjo Nagatomi inscribed kanji characters that mean “soul consoling tower.” People attended religious services here during the war. Today the monument is a focal point of the annual pilgrimage, serving as a symbol of solace and hope."

The photo caption: Buddhist Reverend Shinjo Nagatomi conducts a service at the cemetery. Description: In this historic black and white photo the reverend stands in front of the monument, facing forward, speaking into a microphone. He wears a tie and a black Buddhist priest's robe which extends well below his knees. Over his left shoulder and around his middle, he wears a light color sash. To his left a couple faces the monument, bowing with their heads. Behind him, another man in a hat appears to be placing an item on the monument's base. The sky is clear and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada fill the distant background.   

This photo is located on the right lower half of side two of the brochure.

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City of Barracks

Text: Manzanar was arranged into 36 blocks. In most blocks, up to 300 people crowded into 14 barracks. Initially, each barrack had four rooms with eight people per room. Everyone ate in a mess hall, washed clothes in a public laundry room, and shared latrines and showers with little privacy. The ironing room and recreation hall offered spaces for classes, shops, and churches. Over time, people personalized their barracks and the blocks evolved into distinct communities.

A detailed diagram of Block 14 is presented. The buildings in Block 14 are laid out in three columns. From left to right: the first column consists of buildings that are rectangular in shape with the long side parallel to the top and bottom edges of the diagram. The first building at the top of this column is labeled "Recreational Hall." Barracks seven through one follow. At full scale, the recreation hall and barracks are each 20 feet wide by 100 feet long.

In the second column, the center of the block, four smaller buildings are represented by rectangles with the long sides running perpendicular to the buildings on either side (columns one and three). After an oil tank which is identified as a square at the very top, the central buildings are the Ironing Room, Laundry Room, Women's Latrine, and Men's Latrine. 

In the third and final column, the buildings are the same rectangular size as the first column with their long sides running parallel to the top and bottom edges of the diagram. The Mess Hall, which is twice as wide as a barrack, is at the top, with barracks eight through fourteen below it.

This diagram is located on the right lower half of side two of the brochure.

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Administration Area

There is a photo at the far left center of side two. The caption: Property Clerk Mildred Causey and her daughter Ann pose at the traffic circle, next to the administration building. Description: Below, the caption is a historic black and white photo. Two women sit on the outside of a circular rock wall about 2 feet high. The circular area is 24 feet in diameter and is filled with dirt from which a large Joshua Tree grows with two trunks. Cacti and large boulders surround the Joshua Tree. A long white administrative building extends into the background, where a dark sedan is parked. 

The text below the photo: "Over 200 War Relocation Authority (WRA) staff—and often their families—lived and worked here, trying to reconcile directives from Washington, DC, with the realities of managing an incarcerated community. Erica Harth recalled, “The administrative section where we lived was literally white. Its white painted bungalows stared across at the rows of brown tarpaper barracks.” Scores of Japanese Americans also worked in WRA offices." 

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Manzanar's Site Map

Side two features a large map of Manzanar, which illustrates both historic features and the logistics of visiting Manzanar today. The north arrow on a compass would point to the lower right corner of the map. For ease of use, the following description is of the site rather than strictly the map. 

The camp’s living area was just under one square mile. It was surrounded by a five-strand barbed wire fence with a clear area around the inside of the fence. Aside from a main entrance at the bottom left of the map and access to the camp cemetery near the top center of the map, small openings in the fence area are located on the left, top, and right. 

The locations of eight guard towers are indicated outside the fence, one at each corner and one at each center point. Guardtower No. 8, located at the bottom center of the map, was reconstructed in 2005. Old US Highway 395 passes the tower, paralleling the east fence. 

At the lower left, outside of the fence, is the military police compound. Not much remains there today. At the upper left, also outside the fence, is the Chicken Ranch. Numerous foundations and other features remain there today.

Within the fence, there are a series of 36 blocks that make up the housing area for Japanese Americans. Each block has 20 buildings including 14 barracks, a recreation hall, a mess hall, men’s and women’s latrines, a laundry room, and an ironing room. These nearly-identical blocks run in columns from east to west—the bottom of the map to the top—numbered one through six, seven through twelve, thirteen through eighteen, and nineteen through twenty-four. After the first four columns (left to right), there are two columns of five blocks each, twenty-five through twenty-nine, and thirty through thirty-four. The large 250-bed hospital complex was located west of Blocks 29 and 34 at the top right of the map. The last column, at bottom right, only has two blocks, thirty-five and thirty-six.

There are four large empty spaces called firebreaks dividing each group of four barracks. Starting at the left, they were known as the east, west, north, and south firebreaks. Some structures were built in these open spaces, including near Block 10, the Judo dojo and Kendo dojo; in the center of the east firebreak, an outdoor theater; at the west end of the north firebreak, the Children's Village orphanage and pre-war orchards; and at the north end of the west firebreak, Merritt Park, the largest garden in the camp.

The south area of the camp (the left side of the map) varies from the regular pattern of blocks. The lower left, inside southeast corner of the fence, shows the Administration Area with housing and offices for War Relocation Authority staff. A traffic circle is shown among the buildings. Just to the northeast (right) of the Administration Area, the map shows two stone sentry posts and the police station. The sentry posts served as the camp’s entrance and exit beginning in late 1942, and remain in place today.

West or above the Administration Area, there are a series of warehouses, a camouflage net factory, root cellar, garages, and a lath house. Most warehouses resemble the housing barracks in size and appearance.

North, or to the right, of the administrative area, the high school in indicated in Block 7. The high school auditorium was built in the south firebreak north (right) of Block 7 in 1944. It was used for a variety of purposes. Today, the restored building serves as the Manzanar National Historic Site Visitor Center, with 8,000 square feet of exhibits, two theaters, a bookstore, and restrooms. The site’s introductory film, Remembering Manzanar, is shown every 30 minutes and audio description is available upon request.

The visitor center is accessible for wheelchair users and has accessible parking. Rangers are on duty to answer your questions, orient you to the site, and assist you.

The Manzanar fire station has been reconstructed in Block 13. A 1942 Ford fire engine used in Manzanar is parked there.

An accessible sidewalk links the visitor center to Block 14, located just northwest of the auditorium. All of the building locations are marked in Block 14. There are two reconstructed barracks, a reconstructed latrine building, and a restored World War II era mess hall. A basketball court was reconstructed between the barracks. All of the buildings in Block 14 have exhibits about daily life in Manzanar. The barracks exhibits provide the greatest level of accessibility on site, with tactile Braille maps and audio description. There are also six audio programs and one video program, all featuring the voices and recollections of people who were incarcerated in Manzanar.

The elementary school was located two blocks west, in Block 16.

A one-way tour road encircles the site, leading past key features. Highlights (counter-clockwise from bottom center) include Manzanar’s main baseball field where “pro” teams competed. As you head west, the largest Japanese garden in Manzanar, Merritt Park, is located one block south of the road. The garden is described in photos at the top of side two of this brochure. The tour road also passes gardens in Block 34, at the hospital, at Block 12 and Block 9. Each garden is unique.

As the road turns to the south past Block 34, you pass the site of Manzanar’s main hospital. Stairs, rock walls, and a Japanese garden remain.

Along the tour road, just southwest of the hospital, you come to the camp cemetery, with its tall white obelisk. Six people—three older men and three babies—are still buried here. This is also the site of the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage on the last Saturday of April. A pit toilet is located in the northeast corner of the cemetery parking area.

The auto tour road continues through the south-half of the camp, passing more blocks, and the foundations of the warehouses, the camouflage net factory, and the administration area. As you complete your route along the tour road, you have the option of exiting the site past the historic sentry posts or staying on the road to return to the visitor center.

The map graphic shows many structures that no longer exist, including nearly 800 buildings. It also identifies uses of the buildings, such as the Buddhist, Protestant, and Catholic Churches in Blocks 13, 15, and 25, respectively. Japanese gardens are indicated in Blocks 9, 12, 15, 17, 22, 33, 34, as well as at Merritt Park and the hospital. 

Icons indicate the location of outdoor exhibit panels throughout the site, including at many of the locations highlighted on this map. Due to ongoing archeology, stabilization projects, and evolving site conditions, please contact Manzanar National Historic Site in advance—or ask a ranger during your visit—for up-to-date information on the areas you wish to explore.

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Let it Not Happen Again

Quote from Rose Hanawa Tanaka: "I have come to a conclusion after many, many years that we must learn from our history and we must learn that history can teach us how to care for one another."

Text: The story of Manzanar has not ended—Japanese Americans and others keep it alive. At age 95, Fumiko Hayashida testified before Congress to support the Nidoto Nai Yoni (“Let it not happen again”) memorial on Bainbridge Island, Washington. She was photographed at that site in 1942, holding her daughter—an image that became an icon of the World War II Japanese American experience. At age 100, Fumiko and her daughter Natalie returned to Manzanar for the first time since World War II (left). Today, thousands of people who visit Manzanar and other sites of conscience feel connected to these places and their stories (right). At Manzanar, some see their own struggles reflected in the injustices that over 10,000 Japanese Americans faced here.

Description: At the bottom left of the brochure are two color photos side-by-side. The photo on the left is of an older woman, who is Fumiko Hayashida. She sits next to a middle-aged woman, her daughter Natalie Hayashida Ong. Fumiko holds the black and white photo of them taken on March 30, 1942. The photo shows Fumiko carrying Baby Natalie in her arms, both wearing identification tags assigned by the US Army. The photo she holds is also described under the section titled: Pieces From the Past: Quotes and Photos and is on Side One of the brochure. 

In the second photo, two young women from the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) stand in front of the Manzanar cemetery monument. The one on the left wears a hijab and scarf around her neck. Both women hold purple-covered booklets from the 2014 Manzanar Pilgrimage. Behind them, others mill around in front of the cemetery monument. In front of the monument, people hold tall, colorful banners with the names of the camps. The monument is a fifteen-foot-tall white obelisk with four sides and a pointed top. Three Japanese characters are carved into the monument's east face. Behind the monument rises the snow-capped Sierra Nevada range. 

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For More Information

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Safety and Regulations

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Accessibility

We strive to make facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website: www.nps.gov/manz


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Contact Information



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