The Manzanar War Relocation Center was located in an area that was known as Owens Valley west of Los Angeles, Calfornia. The land was leased from the City in early 1942 by the U.S. government for the sole purpose of imprisoning over 7,000 people of Japanese ancestry from Terminal Island, California and another 3,000
from Bainbridge Island, Washington. The camp was quickly built in just 4 months on what was formerly Paiute country and used as farmland.
The entire area was approximately one-square mile and included 36 blocks in which to house and support over 10,000 men, women and children, all of whom were already traumatized from being uprooted form their lives as productive citizens of the United States. Not knowing what would happen next created fear, apprehension and helplessness. There was little they could do to change their situation let alone plan for their future, nor did they have any certainty of their property and possessions that in many cases were handed down from their ancient ancestors.
Although their were many hardships, the sense of community, dedication to maintain normalcy and perseverance, gaman, as it was known, the internees created a habitable environment that lasted until the camps closed in late 1945.
Among their achievements, these resourceful individuals created the only orphanage situated within the 10 relocation camps in the United States; reestablished the applefarms and help develop a training center for nurses at the Manzanar Hospital. When the campsite was closed and returned to its original condition, as per the terms of the agreement with the City, the barracks were auctioned off along with furniture and other implements used to maintain a community of this size. Today the Manzanar War Relocation Center is a museum that houses artifacts, photographs and historical documents open to the public. There is a cemetery with trees planted by the internees along with the guardhouses and auditorium.
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