Returning to Bakersfield the long way via 395 I spotted a sign that said I was approaching the turn off to Manzanar. Since I had plenty of time I decided to pull off. I remembered hearing the name somewhere but it wasn’t until I spotted a guard tower nestled in the desert scrub that my history class came back to me. Referred to as a relocation camp or other euphamistic names, Manzanar is a reminder of some of the sadder parts of U.S history as it was one of several concentration camps where Japanese family s were forced to stay during World War 2. One thing that hearing about it in History class never impressed on me the way driving through the site did was the huge number of people affected, as I drove through the camp and stopped to view the spots where a church, ball field or hospital were located I tried to imagine what this enormous camp would have looked like when occupied by the over 10,000 people that were forced to stay here in some very inhospital climates. Imagine being told you had to live here…
The most emotional spot of the tour is probably the graveyard though. 146 people died during their incarceration and were buried at Manzanar, only five graves remain as most were later reclaimed by family members. This is a reminder of how many never returned home though. There’s an annual pilgramage to this site held on the last Saturday of April.
- 44th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage/2013 Manzanar At Dusk – Official Photo Essay (manzanarcommittee.org)