George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Manzanar National Historic Site reminds us not to lose our sense of justice in the fervor of war.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor during World War II, President Roosevelt ordered the internment of any person of Japanese descent. More than 110,000 men, women, and children, mostly living on the West Coast, were forcibly moved to ten militarized camps.
Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first camp to open. The site bears the long scars of displacement. For 1,500 years, this area was home to the Owens Valley Paiute Indians. They were driven out by the U.S. Army in 1863.
More than 11,000 people were locked up at Manazar from 1942 to 1945. The camp doesn’t look as imposing as it did back then. Most of the buildings are gone. Only one of the eight guard towers surrounding the camp has been restored. No military police wave submachine guns. But the sense of isolation remains.
The Interpretive Center at Manzanar National Historic Site explains how the prisoners of war lived and worked through exhibits and a film. A 3.2-mile driving tour of the site takes you through the apple orchard, past the footprints of old camp structures, to the rock garden and the cemetery. The site offers memorable views of the Sierra Nevada.