Owens Valley (detention facility)

US Gov Name Owens Valley Reception Center
Facility Type Temporary Assembly Center
Administrative Agency Wartime Civil Control Administration
Location Manzanar, California (36.7333 lat, -118.0667 lng)
Date Opened March 21, 1942
Date Closed June 1, 1942
Population Description More than 90 percent were from the Los Angeles area; others were from Stockton, California, and Bainbridge Island, Washington.
General Description Located on the site that later became the WRA-run concentration camp Manzanar.
Peak Population 9,666
Exit Destination Manzanar
National Park Service Info

The Owens Valley Reception Center—later the Manzanar Reception Center—was the first of the WCCA -administered short-term detention camps to open when the first "volunteers" from the Los Angeles area arrived on March 21, 1942. Having arrived just a week after construction began, these and later "volunteers" played a major role in building much of the camp. The vast majority of Manzanar's population came from various parts of greater Los Angeles, including Terminal Island , West Los Angeles/Santa Monica, the San Fernando Valley, Little Tokyo and the area just south of it, and Glendale/Burbank. The main non-Los Angeles groups came from Bainbridge Island , Florin and French Camp, largely agricultural areas outside of Seattle, Sacramento, and Stockton, respectively. Located in the Owens Valley in east-central California at an elevation of about 3,900 feet, Manzanar took its name from the Spanish word for the apple orchards that remained as a remnant of an unsuccessful agricultural development of the early 20th century. Manzanar transferred from WCCA to WRA administration as of June 1, 1942; as a result, Manzanar's inmate population did not have the "typical" assembly center experience of having to move to a second concentration camp after having just gotten settled in a first. This article covers only the period Owens Valley/Manzanar was administered by the WCCA, a total of seventy-two days.

Site History/Layout/Facilities

The Manzanar site was located in Inyo County, in the Owens Valley, just east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in East-Central California. The closest towns were Independence, about five miles north of the camp, and Lone Pine, about ten miles south; each had a population of less than 500 as of 1939. The site was about 225 miles north of Los Angeles and 230 miles northwest of Las Vegas. With an average elevation of 3,900 feet, the weather at Manzanar was dry and hot in the summers and cold in the winters, with large extremes that ranged from -10°F to over 100°F. Average temperatures for Independence ranged from 39°F in January to 80° in July. The annual precipitation averaged just 4.6 inches per year, with an average snowfall of nine inches annually. The area was often plagued by intense winds, which brought severe dust storms, particularly in the camp's first months before any landscaping or vegetation was planted. The Sierras located just west of the camp provided often striking vistas, highlighted by the 14,375-foot high Mt. Williamson. [1]

Prior to the arrival of the camp, the region had had an eventful history over the previous century. By the 1860s, the indigenous Paiutes had been forcibly removed to a reservation, and in the 1870s, the Shepherd family had built a prosperous 1,300-acre ranch in the area that included much of the future camp site. In 1905, a Los Angeles area developer named George Chaffey bought the Shepherd lands and other properties and later began the Owens Valley Improvement Company, laying out a subdivision in 1910 that was named "Manzanar Irrigated Farms," "Manzanar" being the Spanish word for apple groves. The apple orchards and the town of Manzanar grew through the 1910s and by 1920 had fifty-seven households, a school, churches, and a post office. However, the orchards were hampered by issues with the climate and shipping, and the town was dealt a death blow by the City of Los Angeles, which had begun purchasing properties in the Owens Valley to secure water rights to supply the city, the water transported by a 230-mile long aqueduct. By the end of the 1920s, Los Angeles owned the land the camp would be built on, and the town of Manzanar was more or less defunct by the mid-1930s. [2]

When word got out that the federal government was looking for concentration camp sites, local boosters led by future Manzanar administrations Ralph Merritt and Robert L. Brown recognized the potential economic benefits to the area and lobbied federal officials to select the site. Merritt and Brown led U.S. Engineers officials on a visit to the site on February 27, 1942, and the engineers recommended the site due to its reliable water supply and its remoteness on the one hand and its accessibility by highway and rail on the other. City of Los Angeles officials initially opposed the selection, fearing that the inmates could sabotage the city's water supply. There was also some local objection based on racism and the sense that ordinary locals didn't have a say in the decision. The Western Defense Command nonetheless announced the selection of Manzanar on March 7 and ultimately leased some 6,000 acres of land from Los Angeles. Legal disputes between the federal government and city over details of the lease agreement continued well after the camp was built. To help assuage local objections, the Owens Valley Citizens Committee formed with Merritt as chairman, and Brown was hired as a PR man for Manzanar on March 15 as construction began. [3]

The Los Angeles based firm Griffith and Company served as the general contractor for the construction of the camp, working under the supervision of the Army Corps of Engineers. Lumber began arriving on March 14, and the first buildings went up three days later. Between 1,000 and 1,500 men worked on the camp during the peak of construction. [4]

The first group of "volunteer" inmates arrived on March 21, less than a week after construction began, and by April 11, there were over 3,300 at Manzanar. These early arrivals found the camp in an unfinished state. "Only bare necessities of pioneer life were available," wrote inmate chronicler Togo Tanaka of that early period. The first arrivals found barracks without windows and bathroom facilities incomplete. Grace Hata recalled that the plumbing was not working when she arrived and that her family washed themselves in a washtub they bought at the canteen. The latrines were an outhouse that was "hooked up and dragged back and forth between barracks," according to the one-year anniversary issue of the Manzanar Free Press , with Tanaka reporting that "an open ditch was the flowing toilet." Construction workers interacted with inmates in the early months; while most were friendly, "many more than a small minority" obscenely harassed inmate women and children, according to an April 1942 WCCA report. [5]

There would eventually be thirty-six residential blocks , each consisting of fourteen barracks, a recreation room, mess hall, two latrines, a laundry room and an ironing room. Each barrack building was divided into four 20 x 25 foot units that required smaller families to share a unit with strangers. An inmate charged with assigning housing reported that "in many cases we had to put four or five couples in one room and assure them of future changes when more rooms became available." Each unit included an oil heater, one cot per person, and a bare light bulb. Inmates filled cotton ticks with straw to serve as mattresses. An inmate who had arrived on April 2 later told WRA Community Analyst Marvin Opler that, "[a]ll the barracks in those early days were bare, and when the wind blew, the dust would seep right up through the cracks in the floor and through the walls, the ceiling and all over.... We had to sweep the room every so often and mop once or twice a day because of the sand which was tracked or blown into the house." The same inmate recalled that when he arrived, only Blocks 1 and 2 had hot water, so that he had to walk to one of those blocks from Block 4 in order to bathe. Hot water in his block came about two weeks after he arrived. Mess halls too, lagged in completion with just ten completed by mid-April and twenty by June 1 even though the camp was fully populated by that time. As a result mess halls had to feed multiple blocks in shifts, with lines that lasted up to forty-five minutes resulting. See the separate article on the Manzanar WRA camp for more detailed information on the barracks, mess halls, and latrines. [6]

While there was a barbed wire fence around the inmate area along with eight guard towers, it is not clear when they were built. Some inmates recall there being no fences or watchtowers when they arrived, though it appears the fence at least was in place at the time of the transfer of Manzanar to the WRA on June 1, 1942. The guard towers may have been built after the transfer and were in place by November 1942. [7]

Under the administration of the WCCA, the camp was first known as the "Owens Valley Reception Center" before becoming the "Manzanar Reception Center" in mid-May. With the transfer to the WRA on June 1, 1942, it became the "Manzanar Relocation Center." [8]

Camp Population

Manzanar's population was a relatively homogeneous and urban one with some 88% of the original inmates coming from Los Angeles County and 72% from the City of Los Angeles. Within Los Angeles, there were substantial groups from Little Tokyo and Boyle Heights, West Los Angeles/Santa Monica, the San Fernando Valley, Burbank/Glendale/Hollywood, and Terminal Island. The largest groups from outside of Southern California included ones from Florin (a farming community in Sacramento County), French Camp (another farming community outside of Stockton), and Bainbridge Island, Washington. See the separate article on the Manzanar WRA camp for more detailed information on Manzanar's demographics and interrelationships. [9]

The first eighty-four "volunteers" arrived at Manzanar via bus on March 21, 1942. Two days later, 710 more arrived, some driving their own cars up in a caravan from Los Angeles, others coming by train or bus. Many of these "volunteers" did so out of a sense of idealism. In a 1944 interview, George Kurata reported that "there were many idealists among us who had visions of making it [Manzanar] the ideal community." George Teiichi Akahoshi similarly recalled that his father, Ted, brought the whole family, with "an idea that Eutopia (sic) could be created so that the war could pass them by." Both were immediately disappointed upon arrival, with Akahoshi recalling that "[f]rom the first moment I stepped within that center, I knew that my dreams for a Utopia there were false illusions. I was bitterly disappointed and I really felt what the true meaning of evacuation was for the first time." In addition to finding themselves in a concentration camp setting that they were expected to finish building, the "volunteers" had been led to believe they would be receiving prevailing wages and were disappointed—and often angered—to eventually learn they would receive the paltry WCCA and WRA-scale wages. [10]

Population by Exclusion Order
Exclusion Order # Deadline Location Number
1 March 30 Bainbridge Island 258
3 April 2 Los Angeles County (families of "volunteers") 3,231
7 April 28 Venice/Santa Monica 1,107
8 April 28 West Los Angeles/Sawtelle 1,299
9 April 28 Burbank/Glendale/Van Nuys 1,472
32 May 9 Los Angeles, just south of Lil' Tokio 393
33 May 9 Los Angeles Lil' Tokio 417
66 May 17 South and east sections of Lil' Tokio, Los Angeles 865
92 May 30 Florin 400
97 May 30 San Joaquin County/French Camp 164

Source: John L. Dewitt, Final Report: Japanese Evacuation from the West Coast, 1942 (Washington D.C.: U.S. Army, Western Defense Command), 363–66. Exclusion orders with fewer than one hundred inductees not listed. Deadline dates come from the actual exclusion order posters, which can be found in The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b016b01_0001_1.pdf and http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b016b01_0001_2.pdf .

Arrivals at Manzanar
Arrival Date Origin Number
March 21 "Volunteers" from LA 85
March 23 "Volunteers" and family members, LA 800
March 25 Los Angeles 500
March 25 Palo Alto 9
April 1 Bainbridge Island 227
April 3 "Volunteers" and family members, LA 1,000
April 4 Terminal Island 900
April 26 Los Angeles (West LA, San Fernando Valley, Hollywood) 927
April 27 Los Angeles (West LA, San Fernando Valley, Hollywood) 973
April 28 Los Angeles (West LA, San Fernando Valley, Hollywood) 1,972
May 8 Los Angeles (Lil' Tokio area) 562
May 9 Los Angeles (Lil' Tokio area) 400
May 16 Los Angeles (Lil' Tokio area) 850

Source: Manzanar Free Press . Note that later arrivals from Florin and French Camp are not noted in Free Press .

The first "involuntary" arrivals at Manzanar were 227 from Bainbridge Island, Washington, forcibly removed under the auspices of Civilian Exclusion Order No. 1, who arrived on April 1. A group of about 900 from Terminal Island followed on April 4, bringing the population to about 3,300. After a three-week hiatus, nearly 4,000 from Los Angeles (from Santa Monica/West LA, the San Fernando Valley, and Hollywood/Glendale) arrived on April 26–28, bringing the population to 7,182. Additional groups from Los Angeles arrived on May 8 and 9 (about 1,000 from the area just south of Little Tokyo) and May 16 (about 850 from Little Tokyo). The final large groups from Florin and French Camp arrived at the end of May. At the time of the transfer to the WRA on June 1, 1942, Manzanar's population stood at 9,666, just a tic below the later peak population of 10,046. [11]


The manager of Manzanar during the WCCA period was Clayton E. Triggs. Like many of the camp level administrators under the WCCA, Triggs had worked for the WPA prior to the war where he had been in charge of camps for road construction workers. WRA Community Analysis Section Head John F. Embree described Triggs as a "political appointee" who was a friend of the local newspaper editor. He left Manzanar on May 21 to become the manager of Pomona Assembly Center , where he remained until that camp's closing. He later worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), an organization that managed refugee camps in Europe. Several other staffers also took positions at UNRRA after leaving Manzanar. The first two assistant managers under Triggs, Ellis Pulliam and Harry L. Black, both stayed only about a month before leaving to helm other "assembly centers," Pulliam taking over the Fresno Assembly Center in mid-April and Black the Merced Assembly Center in mid-May. Other key staffers during the WCCA period included Public Relations Officer Robert L. Brown, who would become an assistant project director of Manzanar in the WRA period; J. M. Kidwell, who headed the service division, which oversaw the police, hospital, and canteen; and Aksel G. Nielsen, who headed the recreation section. Brown and Nielsen would be among the few staffers from the WCCA period who remained at Manzanar into 1945. [12]

Given how quickly Manzanar had been established and how quickly inmates arrived to populate the camp, it is not surprising that the early weeks and months were chaotic. Since Manzanar was the first of the WCCA camps, many of what would become standard practices had not been established, and the staff sometimes gave out conflicting information that fed inmate discord. An outstanding example was the question of wages. Early arrivals believed they would be paid prevailing wages, something Triggs seemed to imply in early statements. The WCCA itself was not clear on the wage policy for the first weeks, finally announcing on May 14 an $8/$12/$16 per month wage scale (for "unskilled," "skilled," and "professional and technical" workers, respectively), far less than prevailing wages. To make matters worse, paychecks were delayed for months, with payment for work done in March not issued until the end of June. Along with other problems in the camp, the seeds of discontent had been planted among many inmates by the time of the transfer to the WRA. [13]

Institutions/Camp Life

Community Government

"Block leaders"—more or less the equivalent of block managers at other camps—at Manzanar met as a group and served as a proto community governmental body in the WCCA period. As inmates arrived and blocks became populated, the inmates were asked to nominate three candidates for block leader, out of whom the administration appointed one. The first group of block leader appointments was announced on April 22. Among their duties was to conduct a nightly "roll call" of all block residents between 6 and 11 pm every night, a grim staple of "assembly center" life. Most block leaders were Issei. Because of their appointed status and their general powerlessness when it came to fixing the many problems that dogged the camp, the block leaders were apparently not held in high regard. Inmate chronicler Togo Tanaka wrote in June 1942 that given their status as appointees, "they were frequently not looked upon as elected representatives of the residents," and that they were often referred to as "'stooges,' 'lap dogs,' and 'messenger boys for the Administration.'" [14]


Given its presumed temporary status as a "reception center," the WCCA had no plans or budget for schools at Manzanar during the "reception center" period. Realizing that the 3,000 plus children at the camp would thus be idle, Assistant Manager Ellis Pulliam contacted the State Board of Education about establishing schools at Manzanar, but was told that they would do nothing until the fall. Inmate leaders took the initiative to at least start preschool and adult education programs that spring. A nursery school program began by mid-April with two preschool centers established, each serving a zone of four blocks. About fifty students enrolled in each center. By May 9, there were fifteen inmate teachers running centers in the recreation halls of six different blocks. An adult English language and American history instruction program led by Elizabeth Nishikawa was established on May 15 with five inmate instructors. In a June 1 report on the eve of transfer to the WRA, future Education Supervisor Genevieve W. Carter noted a preschool program that now had about three hundred enrolled despite "almost no equipment for the children—a few dolls, some storybooks, crayons, and one set of clay." She also reported that the adult education program had an enrollment of 265 after its first week. [15]

Medical Facilities

With the arrival of the first "volunteer" group on March 21, a temporary infirmary was established in Block 1, Building 2 that included a clinic and temporary ward with five beds. On April 14, the hospital moved to Block 7—displacing inmates who had already been assigned barrack units there—and eventually grew to take up most of the block. The all inmate staff included five doctors, headed by Chief of Medical Staff Dr. James M. Goto, formerly of the Los Angeles County Hospital, and included an operating room, isolation ward, outpatient clinic, children's ward, and dental clinic. In the meantime, ground was broken for the new hospital complex in the western corner of the camp that would open in July 1942. [16]

Conditions in the makeshift hospital were atrocious. Since it was situated in regular barrack buildings, there was no running water, so medical staff had to go outside to wash their hands, and water used to bathe patients was just dumped on the ground outside. Some hospital beds had mattresses made of straw ticking, and the nursery was equipped with homemade cribs with a cardboard box being used as a bassinet. In her June 1 report, Carter reported a shortage of supplies such that a sheet used for patient's operation had to subsequently be used to dress her bed after the operation. She described home-made dental chairs and a two-block long line for typhoid and smallpox shots. Describing the hospital staff as "terribly overworked," they nonetheless had to serve the needs of a population that was approaching 10,000 by the June 1 transfer to the WRA. Despite these handicaps, the hospital served 954 outpatients and 75 inpatients in April and 2,300 outpatients in May. At the time of the transfer on June 1, there ninety-two patients hospitalized. [17]


As with the schools, the WCCA allotted no funds for libraries, but inmates built them anyway on their own initiative. Under the leadership of Takako Saito, the first community library was in the Block 7 recreation hall, stocked by 1,000 discarded books from the Los Angeles Public Library and other donations. By mid-May, the library had moved to the Block 22 recreation hall, where it would remain, augmented by branch locations throughout the camp. The May 16 Manzanar Free Press reported a "meager volume of books on hand" and that "all reading must be done at the library" as a result." In her June 1 report, Carter noted just "two or three rough tables and a few chairs," with most people reading while sitting on the floor or leaning against tables or walls. There were nonetheless fifty people "busily occupied" there when she visited. [18]


Under the auspices of the Information Service and Public Information Officer Robert Brown, the first issue of the Manzanar Free Press —the first newspaper of any kind produced in a WCCA or WRA administered concentration camp—appeared on April 11, consisting of four mimeographed pages. An opening editorial calls the paper "one of America's most unique newspapers" and is followed by an article thanking John DeWitt , Tom C. Clark , and Karl Bendetsen —three of core architects of the mass forced removal of Japanese Americans—"for the expedient way in which they have handled the Manzanar situation." [19]

Seventeen issues of the Free Press would appear during the WCCA period, between two and three issues per week, with all text in English. The first twelve issues were put out by an "editorial board" consisting of Joe Blamey, Sam Hohri , Chiye Mori , and Tom Yamazaki, with Yamazaki being named the editor with the May 19 issue. All four were considered leftists or socialists and part of a group of intellectual and anti- JACL "Nisei." Hohri, Mori, and Yamazaki were also experienced journalists, having worked for various Japanese American newspapers prior to the war. A block leader active in camp politics, Yamazaki left the Free Press soon after the WRA takeover and was succeeded by Mori as editor. Blamey, Mori, and Yamazaki were all among those who were removed from Manzanar for their own protection after the riot/uprising of December 1942. [20]


Under the administration of the WCCA, only Christians were allowed to hold regular services and only in English. The first services were held on March 29 by a Methodist group, and Protestant and Catholic groups also organized. Though not permitted to hold regular services, Buddhist funeral services were allowed. [21]


As with other elements of community life, the WCCA had no budget for recreational activities beyond salaries. Aksel G. Nielsen arrived as chief of the recreation section on April 9 and, working with inmate aides, put together an ambitious recreation program, while relying on supplies and equipment brought by the inmates or donated by outside friends and advocates such as Fred Fertig or Herbert Nicholson . Nielsen and his staff set up arts and crafts classes taught by inmate artists who used their own tools and equipment as well as a music program. Softball became the most popular sport, with games played in fields laid out in the firebreaks between blocks. In her June 1 report, Carter praised Nielsen's efforts, calling the recreational program "well balanced for all ages and both sexes" despite its lack of resources. [22]


When the first "volunteers" arrived at the end of March, a small canteen located in Block 1 opened and apparently did a brisk business. Later, a canteen and general store in Block 8 opened and did well selling food items such as soft drinks, candy and ice cream; newspapers; and toiletries, among other items needed by the incoming population. Run until April 22 by the army, the WCCA camp administration ran it subsequently. In May, the canteen and dry goods store split, with the canteen remaining in Block 8 and the general store—whose focus was on clothing and household supplies—moved to Block 21. In the meantime, Manzanar Community Enterprises—an inmate run organization that planned to apply proceeds to camp improvements—was established on May 24 and took over management of the stores. Sales of the canteen averaged about $1,000 a day. On May 24, the day of the transfer, 8,182 customers bought goods worth $1,847.18. [23]


Manzanar had relatively restrictive visitation policies relative to other WCCA-run camps. On the eve of the WRA transfer, visitors were allowed only on weekends and only in the police headquarters in the presence of a policeman. Furthermore, only visitors "with legitimate business," and no social visitors or "Japanese" visitors were allowed. Restrictions on visitation were loosened considerably under WRA administration. [24]


The U.S. Post Office established the Manzanar Post Office within the camp as a substation of the Los Angeles Post Office. As was true with other camps run by the WCCA, all packages sent to inmates were inspected. [25]

Because Manzanar was conceived of as a long-term facility in contrast to other WCCA camps, it was one of the few to have an agricultural program. By the time of June 1 handoff to the WRA, about 125 inmate workers had planted 75 acres and prepared 100 more. Because of its early start, it would be the only one of the WRA camps to harvest a crop in 1942. [26]


March 7, 1942
The Western Defense Command announces the selection of Manzanar as a detention camp site.

March 14, 1942
Construction of the Manzanar site begins.

March 21, 1942
The first group of inmate "volunteers" arrive.

April 1, 1942
The Bainbridge Island group, numbering 227, arrives.

April 7, 1942
A food poisoning outbreak strikes nearly 200 inmates, during a period when the mess halls lacked hot water and refrigeration.

April 11, 1942
The first issue of the Manzanar Free Press appears.

April 25, 1942
Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt visits Manzanar, joined by WRA Director Milton Eisenhower and others.

April 26, 1942
A group of 927 arrives from Los Angeles. Over the next three days, nearly 4,000 from Los Angeles would arrive bringing the total population of 7,182

May 14, 1942
The wage scale for "assembly center" workers is announced as $8 per month for unskilled workers, $12 for skilled workers, and $16 for professional and technical workers.

May 17, 1942
Roy L. Nash is introduced as the new director of Manzanar.

May 21, 1942
Clayton Triggs leaves Manzanar to become the manager of Pomona Assembly Center.

May 24, 1942
Manzanar Community Enterprises is established.

May 24, 1942
As part of the transition to WRA administration, the first Japanese language Protestant services were delivered by Issei ministers Rev. S. Abe and Rev. K. Suzuki.

June 1, 1942
Administration of Manzanar is officially transferred to the War Relocation Authority.


"Manzanar is a nice place if you can go there only for a short vacation. As we turned the bend approaching camp I saw Manzanar for the first time and it looked beautiful with the mountains in the background. I guess I had the impression at that moment that I would be living in a sort of Paradise, but I was doomed to disappointment. As we got closer, we saw the dirty tar-paper shacks and the crowds of people and it really was depressing…. My first impression of Manzanar was that it was so dark and dirty. There was sand blowing all over the place and the barracks were just filthy."
Sakae Hirooka, 1944 [27]

"As soon as we got there we had to wait in line. I got so angry at the idea of being herded and counted so much. It was very trying to stand around after our long and tiring trip down there. We finally got over to our barracks and I find huge cracks in the floor. The weather was very cold that night, 10 degrees, so that we practically froze to death when the cold wind shook the building. My mother couldn't sleep at all during our first 2 nights there as she was afraid the roofs would fly off. There was dust all over the place and nothing could keep it out."
George Teiichi Akahoshi, 1944 [28]

"And we had to actually cover our heads because the wind was blowing so hard, the barrack wasn't finished yet, the wind was blowing in and the dust was coming in. And you walked on the floor, and the floor had openings and the wind was blowing through there, and it was whistling all night. You had the lights going, and searchlights going back and forth in the window, through the window, and you had to hear the jeeps going up and back. It was really a nightmare that first night, and I thought to myself, 'Oh my gosh, what are we into?'"
Sumiko Yamauchi, 2013 [29]

"The Maryknoll Mission fathers are in the camp, and there are two Japanese nuns — good sports but very timid about the lack of privacy, especially in the ladies' rest rooms, which have the privacy of a gold fish bowl."
Genevieve W. Carter, 1942 [30]


As of June 1, 1942, the administration of Manzanar passed from the WCCA to the WRA. Manzanar remained under WRA stewardship until it closed on November 21, 1945.

Notable Alumni

Koji Ariyoshi , labor organizer
Frank Chuman , attorney
Sue Kunitomi Embrey , educator and activist
Henry K. Fukuhara , painter
Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga , redress movement researcher
William Hohri , writer and redress activist
Jack Iwata , photographer
Miya Sannomiya Kikuchi , journalist and cultural ambassador
Hideo Kobashigawa , painter and printmaker
Joe Kurihara , dissident leader in Manzanar
Toyo Miyatake , photographer
Charles Isamu Morimoto , painter
Momo Nagano , artist
Mary Nomura , singer
Tokutaro Slocum , citizenship activist
Iwao Takamoto , animator
Kango Takamura , artist
Togo Tanaka, journalist
Fred Tayama , businessman and key figure in riot/uprising
Harry Ueno , central figure in riot/uprising
Karl Yoneda , labor organizer
Wendy Yoshimura , artist and fugitive

For More Information

[Note: This section includes works on Manzanar in general, not just those that focus on the "reception center" period.]

Books, articles, and dissertations

Bahr, Diana Meyers. The Unquiet Nisei: An Oral History of the Life of Sue Kunitomi Embrey . New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Burton, Jeffery F. Garden Management Plan: Gardens and Gardeners at Manzanar . Washington, D.C.: National Park Service, 2015.

Cates, Rita Takahashi. “Comparative Administration and Management of Five War Relocation Authority Camps: America's Incarceration of Persons of Japanese Descent during World War II.” Diss., University of Pittsburgh, 1980.

Chiang, Connie Y. Nature Behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese American Incarceration . New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

Embrey, Sue Kunitomi. The Lost Years, 1942-1946 . Los Angeles: Moonlight Publications, 1972.

———. "From Manzanar to the Present: A Personal Journey." In Last Witnesses: Reflections on the Wartime Internment of Japanese Americans , ed. Erica Harth. New York: Palgrave, 2001. pp. 167–85.

———, Arthur A. Hansen, and Betty Kulberg Mitson. Manzanar Martyr: An Interview with Harry Y. Ueno . Fullerton: Oral History Program, California State University, Fullerton, 1986.

Garrett, Jesse A., and Ronald C. Larson, eds. Camp and Community: Manzanar and the Owens Valley . Fullerton: California State University, Fullerton, Japanese American Oral History Project, 1977.

Hayashi, Brian Masaru. Democratizing the Enemy: The Japanese American Internment . Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004.

Ng, Laura W., and Stacey Lynn Camp. "Consumption in World War II Japanese American Incarceration Camps." In Historical Archaelogies of Capitalism . Ed. M. P. Leone and J. E. Knauf. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2015. 149–80. [Includes a discussion of gardens and other objects unveiled through archeological work at Manzanar.]

Unrau, Harlan D. The Evacuation and Relocation of Persons of Japanese Ancestry During World War II: A Historical Study of the Manzanar War Relocation Center . Historic Resource Study/Special History Study, 2 Volumes. [Washington, DC]: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1996.


The Manzanar Committee: https://manzanarcommittee.org/

Manzanar National Historic Site: https://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm

Literary works and memoirs

After the Bloom
All the Way Home
American Scrapbook
Bend with the Wind: The Life, Family, and Writings of Grace Eto Shibata
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves
By the Hands of a Working Man: A Japanese Background, a Mexican Childhood, an American Life
Chikara!: A Sweeping Novel of Japan and American from 1907 to 1983
Daughter of Moloka'i
Farewell to Manzanar
Ganbatte: Sixty-year Struggle of a Kibei Worker
Garden of Stones
Gardens of Hope
A Girl Like You
The Legend of Fire Horse Woman
Manzanar and Beyond
Manzanar Daze and Cold Nights
Manzanar to Mount Whitney: The Life and Times of a Nisei Hiker
Manzanar Rites
Masao and the Bronze Nightingale
My Life with a Thousand Characters
Nurse of Manzanar: A Japanese American's World War II Journey
Sleeping on Potatoes: A Lumpy Adventure from Manzanar to the Corporate Tower
Snow Falling on Cedars Some Lines for a Younger Brother...
Two Homelands
21st Century Manzanar
Woman With a Blue Pencil
Yukiko & Carlos

Film and video

The Brighter Side of Dark: Toyo Miyatake, 1895–1979
California's Gold with Huell Howser: Manzanar
California's Gold with Huell Howser: Songbird of Manzanar
Come See the Paradise
A Crossroad Called Manzanar
Encounter with the Past: American Japanese Internment in World War II
Farewell to Manzanar
From a Different Shore: An American Identity
G-Men vs. The Black Dragon/Black Dragon of Manzanar
Half Kenneth
Hell to Eternity
Manzanar Fishing Club
Manzanar: Never Again
The Music Man of Manzanar
Old Man River
Only the Brave
Rabbit in the Moon
Remembering Manzanar
Sanga moyu
Snow Falling on Cedars
Songbird of Manzanar
Stand Up for Justice: The Ralph Lazo Story
Toyo Miyatake: Infinite Shades of Gray
Toyo's Camera: Japanese American History During WWII
Words, Weavings and Songs

Children's books

I Am an American: A True Story of Japanese Internment
In America's Shadow
The Japanese American Internment: An Interactive History Adventure
The Lucky Baseball: My Story in a Japanese-American Internment Camp
Mei Ling in China City
Mystery at Manzanar
Painting the Rainbow
Paper Wishes
Remembering Manzanar: Life in a Japanese Relocation Camp
So Far from the Sea
Take What You Can Carry


  1. A note on sources: this article relies heavily on two sets of sources. One is Harlan D. Unrau's The Evacuation and Relocation of Persons of Japanese Ancestry During World War II: A Historical Study of the Manzanar War Relocation Center, Historic Resource Study/Special History Study , 2 Volumes ([Washington, DC]: United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service, 1996). This study is online on the National Park Service website, with segments of each chapter given their own page. It will be cited here by chapter and the associated web link. The second set of sources are the War Relocation Authority documents that are part of the Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement Records collection at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. The first set of these records went online in August 2018 in a project funded by the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program. They are cited below as "JAERR" along with the Bancroft call number and web link. Karl Lillquist, "Imprisoned in the Desert: The Geography of World War II-Era, Japanese American Relocation Centers in the Western United States" (Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, September 2007), 329, 337, 349; Unrau, "Introduction," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs0a.htm ,"Chapter Seven: Early Days at Manzanar—Commencement of Construction and Operations Under the Wartime Civil Control Administration, March–May 1942," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7d.htm , and "Chapter Ten: Operation of Manzanar War Relocation Center, March–December 1942," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10h.htm ; Roy Nash, Project Director's Bulletin No. 4, June 27, 1942, JAERR BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O1.15, https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6xk8nph/?brand=oac4 .
  2. Unrau, "Chapter Six: Site Selection for Manzanar War Relocation Center—Historical Background of Owens Valley and Manzanar Vicinity," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs6c.htm .
  3. Unrau, "Chapter Six, https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs6.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs6c.htm ; Connie Y. Chiang, Nature Behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese American Incarceration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018), 49–50.
  4. Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7.htm
  5. Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7a.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7e.htm ; Togo Tanaka, "Summary Report on Center Requested by Dr. Carter," July 24, 1942, p. 199, JAERR BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O10.06 (2/4), http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b210o10_0006_2.pdf ; Grace Hata Interview by Martha Nakagawa, Segment 13, West Los Angeles, California, March 16, 2012, Densho Visual History Collection, Densho Digital Repository, http://ddr.densho.org/interviews/ddr-densho-1003-10-13 .
  6. Unrau, "Chapter Eight: Construction and Development of the Manzanar War Relocation Center—1942–1945," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs8a.htm , https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs8b.htm , and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs8d.htm ; Tadao George (Cracker) Kurata interview by Charles Kikuchi, July 17, 1944, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.973 http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b282t01_0973.pdf ; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7d.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7e.htm ; Genevieve W. Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar, Japanese Relocation Settlement," p. 4, June 1, 1942, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O10.02 http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b210o10_0002.pdf ; Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Interview by Tim Carpenter, Segment 18, Nov. 21, 1995, Los Angeles, California, Japanese American Oral History Project, Center for Oral and Public History, California State University, Fullerton, CSU Japanese American History Digitization Project, Densho Digital Repository, https://ddr.densho.org/media/ddr-csujad-29/ddr-csujad-29-64-1-transcript-e38e5de4cb.pdf ; Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10c.htm .
  7. Unrau, "Chapter Eight," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs8a.htm ; Isao Kikuchi Interview by Richard Potashin, Segment 14, Los Angeles, California, May 15, 2009, Manzanar National Historic Site Collection, Densho Digital Repository, https://ddr.densho.org/media/ddr-manz-1/ddr-manz-1-71-transcript-93de999750.htm ; Diana Meyers Bahr, The Unquiet Nisei: An Oral History of the Life of Sue Kunitomi Embrey (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 50.
  8. Manzanar Free Press , May 16, 1942, 1.
  9. Unrau, "Chapter Nine: Histoical Background of the Evacuee Population at the Manzanar War Relocation Center," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs9.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs9d.htm .
  10. Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7a.htm ; Tadao George (Cracker) Kurata interview, 75–76; George Teiichi Akahoshi, Interview by Charles Kikuchi, pp. 25, 63, Nov. 10, 1944, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.987, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b283t01_0987.pdf ; Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10h.htm .
  11. Manzanar Free Press , Apr. 11, 22, and 29 and May 9 and 14, 1942.
  12. Jason Scott Smith, "New Deal Public Works at War: The WPA and Japanese American Internment," Pacific Historical Review 72.1 (Feb. 2003), 73–74; Rita Takahashi Cates, "Comparative Administration and Management of Five War Relocation Authority Camps: America's Incarceration of Persons of Japanese Descent during World War II," (Ph. D. dissertation, University of Pittsburgh, 1980), 230; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7b.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7e.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , Apr. 24, 1942, 1 and May 19, 1942, 2; Robert L. Brown, interview by Arthur A. Hansen, Dec. 13, 1973 and Feb. 20, 1974 in Jesse A. Garrett and Ronald C. Larson, eds. Camp and Community: Manzanar and the Owens Valley (Fullerton: California State University, Fullerton, Japanese American Oral History Project, 1977); Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar"; Aksel G. Nielsen and Rollin C. Fox, Final Report of the Community Activities Section, Oct. 1945, JAERR BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O1.05:4, https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6gm8ff6/?brand=oac4 .
  13. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm ; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7c.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , May 14, 1942, 1.
  14. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10e.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , Apr. 11, 1942, 3; Tadao George (Cracker) Kurata interview, 78; Togo Tanaka, Documentary Report Number 9, June 20, 1942, p. 47, JAERR BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O10.06 (1/4), http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b210o10_0006_1.pdf .
  15. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10i.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10j.htm ; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7e.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , May 9, 1942, 2; Genevieve W. Carter and Rollin C. Fox, Education Section Final Report, p. 2, JAERR BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder O1.05:2, https://oac.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/k6r217hx/?brand=oac4 ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 7, 10.
  16. Unrau, "Chapter Eight," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs8a.htm ; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7d.htm ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 8; Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10k.htm .
  17. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10k.htm ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 8–9.
  18. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10i.htm ; Unrau, "Chapter Twelve: Operation of Manzanar War Relocation Center, January 1943–November 1945," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs12e.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , May 16, 1942, 3; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 7.
  19. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10b.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , Apr. 11, 1942, 1.
  20. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10b.htm . Blamey, Hohri, and Yamazaki all had somewhat unusual backgrounds in that they were technically Issei, but came to the U.S. as young children and were essentially raised as Nisei. See Densho Encyclopedia articles on Hohri and Mori for more on them. For more on Yamazaki, see Karl Yoneda's Ganbatte: Sixty-Year Struggle of a Kibei Worker (Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, University of California, Los Angeles, 1983), Togo W. Tanaka interview by Arthur A. Hansen, Aug. 30, 1973, p. 170fn31, California State University, Fullerton Oral History Program, Japanese American Project, Japanese American World War II Evacuation Oral History Project, Part III: Analysts , edited by Arthur A. Hansen (Munich, K.G. Saur, 1994), https://oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=ft0p30026h&brand=oac4&doc.view=entire_text , and an article on his death in a plane crash in the Pacific Citizen , Dec. 21, 1946, 1. For more on Blamey, see Lon Kurashige's Japanese American Celebration and Conflict: A History of Ethnic Identity and Festival, 1934-1990 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 90.
  21. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10g.htm ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 12–13.
  22. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm and https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10i.htm ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 6.
  23. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10h.htm ; Unrau, "Chapter Seven," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs7d.htm ; Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 13.
  24. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm ; Manzanar Free Press , Apr. 15, 1942, 1.
  25. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10d.htm .
  26. Unrau, "Chapter Ten," https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/manz/hrs10.htm .
  27. Sakae Hirooka, Interview by Charles Kikuchi, pp. 38–39, Jan. 23, 1944, The Japanese American Evacuation and Resettlement: A Digital Archive, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley BANC MSS 67/14 c, folder T1.955, http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/jarda/ucb/text/cubanc6714_b280t01_0955.pdf .
  28. George Teiichi Akahoshi interview, 63.
  29. Sumiko Yamauchi Interview by Whitney Peterson, Segment 9, Chula Vista, California, July 23, 2013, Manzanar National Historic Site Collection, Densho Digital Repository denshovh-ysumiko_2-01, https://ddr.densho.org/media/ddr-manz-1/ddr-manz-1-135-transcript-06ad1f1b18.htm .
  30. Carter, "Progress and Organizational Report on Manzanar," 13.

Last updated Dec. 30, 2020, 8:43 p.m..