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Manzanar is best known for being one of ten concentration camps where over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly relocated during World War II in the United States. I visited the Manzanar War Relocation Center on my vacation.

Manzanar

Me and my brother at the Manzanar War Relocation Center

After the December 7, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, giving power to the Secretary of War to relocate Japanese-Americans to “relocation camps.” The conditions at Manzanar, were harsh. The climate caused much suffering to those who were not accustomed to the extremely cold winters and the unbearable summers, and the camp was only partially built at the time. The Japanese-Americans were behind barbed wire and under guard by the United States Army, supposedly there to “protect” them. Roosevelt had condemned over 100,000 human beings to these camps. They were forced out of their homes on the basis of fear alone, and by the same man who had once ironically said: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Most accepted their fate at Manzanar, though one protest in camp caused two deaths in 1942. Those forced to live in Manzanar found things to do, like building elegant gardens, and playing baseball and football. However, on November 21, 1945, Camp Manzanar was closed. All incarcerates were given $25 in compensation and sent away, though many no longer had anywhere to go, having lost everything (including their homes) when they were incarcerated. For more information regarding Manzanar, click here.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology to those who were incarcerated and driven from their homes and their lives, but this does not make up for the wrongs that were forced upon Japanese-Americans, American Citizens whose Constitutional Rights had been violated. We can and will honor their memory, and hope to learn from the mistakes made long ago.

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