The Manzanar War Relocation Center was hastily erected in 1942 and then filled with about 10,000 Japanese Americans, most from the West Coast, who were “interned” in the camp for the duration of World War II. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the executive order that created a system of 10 such camps in the United States, which eventually held more than 100,000 Japanese Americans, most of whom were American citizens who lost their possessions, homes and businesses during the “relocation” process.
The Manzanar National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, preserves the memories of that painful part of the nation’s history by preserving the now mostly vacant land that once was a sprawling “town.” Manzanar is located between the towns of Lone Pine and Independence on U.S. 395. The site includes a Visitor Center. The Manzanar Relocation Center has also been designated as California Historical Landmark.
While virtually all of the camp’s buildings are long gone, one of the guard towers has been reconstructed, as has a World War II vintage mess hall. There is a 3.2-mile self-guided driving tour of the camp, which takes visitors past the baseball field, the orchards, the cemetery and the remnants of several recently uncovered traditional Japanese gardens. An annual Pilgrimage is held every Spring to honor those who lived in the camps, and those who fought to preserve the site and its history as a cautionary tale for future generations.