Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shutdown Vacation in Death Valley: Manzanar War Relocation Center

Technically it wasn't in Death Valley, but if you're going to be there for any length of time, you should swing to the northwest side of the park and head towards Mount Whitney.  At the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, you can find Manzanar, where over 10,000 American citizens were interned by Executive Order (President Franklin Roosevelt) for the crime of being of Japanese origin. In all, more than 110,000 were "relocated" to similar camps; Manzanar was the first.  Places like this are important because they remind us that great as America is, it is far from perfect.  They keep us from forgetting what we need to prevent in the future.

Manzanar is free and open from 9am - 4:30 pm every day but Christmas and government shutdowns.  It was a little out of our way and also closed the day we passed by, but we all felt it was important to see.

Because of the shutdown, all the pictures were taken from the roadside.  The area is beautiful but so lonely and desolate.  I have no doubt it was horribly cold in the winter.

Some people still try to say it wasn't really a prison.  So then why the barbed wire and the guard towers?

When they left, all the buildings were torn apart to make trunks and wagons to carry belongings.  This one had to be rebuilt for visitors.

Nice Museum.  Or so I've been told.

Looking north into nothing.

Looking east into another set of mountains.  Death Valley lies just on the other side.

Looking south into nothing.

Looking west at the Sierra Nevadas.  The orchards they planted are still there.

After they were released, many could not return home as their property had been confiscated and sadly many had their homes looted by their own neighbors.  There were some lucky ones whose communities had salvaged the belongings they left behind and returned them, but almost every business and sizable property was gone - often confiscated by the government itself, leading to many accusations that the program was primarily a greed move.  In many cases, the Japanese-Americans were told they could only be released if they would live over a thousand miles east of their original homes.  Entire families were shipped to cities like Chicago and essentially left to fend for themselves.

Lone Pine is about 10 miles to the south and Independence is to the north.  Lone Pine has some fast food and several local restaurants.  It's also a place for lots of sports and camping equipment.


  1. great pics - would love to see that - where did you find your cheap hotels?

  2. I was lucky to have relatives and friends to stay with during this trip!