J and L Research and Exploration is a blog for travelers and curiosity seekers desiring to see and know about the world. From our own backyard to destinations far and wide, J and L seek to research, explore, and share the discoveries we make. Whether it's about people or places, near or remote, we hope you find something of interest to you here.
One of the darkest days in the
history of the United States was when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued
Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This document allowed local military
commanders to remove any person from the West Coast of the country who had
Japanese ancestry. The illogical reasoning behind this was that the United States was
now at war with the Imperial country of Japan the American military wanted to
ensure no one of Japanese descent would willingly aide the enemy by allowing
access to the western coastline. So, over 110,000 Japanese-Americans were taken
from their homes and businesses and distributed through the country into ten
different relocation camps.
One in Utah, one
in Idaho, one in Colorado, one in Wyoming, two in Arizona, two in Arkansas, and
two in California.
With this in mind
J & L took a brief trip to visit one out of the relocation camps in
California. A visit to Manzanar, just south of the town of Independence and
about 230 miles north of Los Angeles along Highway 395, will let the visitor to
get a first hand glance at the isolation and breath taking emptiness of the
area. It would be enough to make a corpse cold.
Main Entrance to Manzanar
The eastern edge
of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains is a postcard in perfection. Towering mountain
peaks stretch into the clear blue skies like fingers looking for freedom. The
majestic mountains on the western edge of Owens Valley with Mount Whitney to
the north reaching over 14,500 feet in elevation are things of beauty. This is
an area in which to camp, hike, travel, and reside if that is your choice. It
is not a place to be suddenly dropped into because of your ancestry.
The stark reality
of Manzanar is made more than apparent when you drive through the one square
mile camp with the nicely folded auto tour pamphlet given out at the Forest
Service headquarters at the entrance.
Reconstructed Guard Tower
Row upon row of
vacant lots depicting where barracks were set up for the internees are a
reminder of what ‘we’ did to fellow citizens. As stated earlier, a very dark
chapter in our often glorious history.
One famous internee
was Ralph Lazo who was both of Mexican and Irish descent who felt, at the young
age of 16 felt that if the United States could simply place citizens into ‘holding
facilities’ because of their nationality then he should, in protest, join the
deportation. He jumped aboard a train out of Los Angeles in May of 1942 and in
solidarity went voluntarily to Manzanar with his fellow neighbors and friends.
immoral. It was wrong, and I couldn’t accept it. These people hadn’t done
anything that I hadn’t done except to go to a Japanese language school,” Lazo
told the Los Angeles Times.
Not once did
anyone in authority ask for his identity papers but placed him behind the
barbed wired fences just east of the Sierra Nevada’s. He stayed there until the
end of the war when the rest of the internees were released and sent home.
A hero? We think
so as researchers and Americans.
person interned during World War II for the fact they were of Japanese descent
was the actor George Takei, fame from all the Star Trek series and films as
Hikaru Sulu. He was not at Manzanar but in two different camps, Camp Rohwer in
Arkansas and Camp Tule Lake in California.
Takei Family (George in inset)
Famous now, a mere child at the time, like the tens of thousands of
other everyday citizens, living and growing up inn a relocation camp -- it numbs the mind. Hard working, loving, and peaceful friends,
co-workers, and neighbors were treated as though they were criminals.
They weren’t and in
honor of these people put through hell because of a random genetic moment it
would behoove all those who read this blog to take the time to visit Manzanar
or what remains of the other nine internment camps. It would be
this reflection remembering what we put our fellow citizens through during a
given time of extreme caution that will make us stronger individuals.
I wonder if it's fair to question what we did to our citizens to what Nazi Germany to the Jewish population. With the exception of the attempt for a final extermination of a race, how fine is the line? The Japanese-Americans
only lost their respect, property, and dignity but not their lives.