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Manzanar National Historic Site

Manzanar War Relocation Site

Few places move me like the Manzanar National Historic Site. For one it’s set in the Owen’s Valley in what seems like a spot in the middle of nowhere halfway between Los Angeles and Mammoth Lakes. Add in the Eastern Sierras that rise high in the distance and seem to stand guard over the camp and there is an instant solemn tone to the area.

My father had spoken to me plenty about the Japanese internment camps as a kid. He mentioned the newsreels and the propaganda that was spread throughout Southern California about Japanese-Americans and the Japanese fighter pilots as if they were one and the same. The truth is Americans were being categorized as traitors just because of their appearance. Soon families were uprooted and moved to internment camps around the country. The Japanese-Americans had little options when it came to disposing of their property and soon lost everything when they were moved to the camps.

My love affair with geology, science and skiing takes me through the Owens Valley on a regular basis and stopping into the Manzanar site is one of those things that I must do. Like stopping for beef jerky in Bishop, CA or having a bowl of chili in a bread bowl on the mountain, Manzanar is part of my routine.

Over the years I have met plenty of people who spent time at Manzanar as prisoners. I have met members of the 442nd, the Japanese-American Soldiers who fought in World War II. Some of these soldiers left the camps to fight for a country that had limited their freedom. I have met and become good friends with the descendants of occupants of these camps and I am always surprised at how little resentment there is.

The Manzanar National Historic Site is not necessarily a political place but instead a historic place to look back and learn from what our country has faced. The museum and driving tour are free and the exhibit is quite impressive. When I first visited the spot it was just brush and some makeshift markers. Today the museum is modern and the driving tour is easy to navigate and explore.

Manzanar National Historic Site

Open every day from dawn to dusk.

Manzanar National Historic Site Interpretive Center

Summer hours (April 1 – October 31) 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Winter hours (November 1 – March 31) 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Closed December 25

Located between Lone Pine, Ca and Independence, CA on California Highway 395

 

 

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