Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Manzanar Relocation Center
(Owens Valley Reception Center, Manzanar Reception Center)
Scenes of Manzanar Relocation Center (National Archives)
Located 50 miles south of Bishop and 9 miles north of the small community of Lone Pine on the west side of US Highway 395. It first opened on March 21, 1942 as one of two reception centers (the other was at Poston, Arizona) to receive and assist ethnic Japanese evacuating the west coast during the short-lived and ill fated voluntary relocation program. It was first operated as the Owens Valley Reception Center by the Wartime Civil Control Administration (WCCA), an agency of the Army's Western Defense Command. When the voluntary relocation program proved to be a failure the camp was transferred to the War Relocation Authority (WRA) and converted into a relocation camp.
It was designed to hold 10,000 people and operated at, or near, that capacity during its existence. The residents worked in agriculture inside and outside the camp. The camp had its own farm area just to the south and a hog farm 1/2 mile further south. Guayule, a rubber-producing plant, was grown in several locations as part of a government-sponsored experimental program to grow natural rubber in the U.S. America's main supply of natural rubber had been lost when the Japanese invaded Southeast Asia. The camp also had a camouflage net factory which was the only factory of any kind in any of the camps.
Conditions at Manzanar were similar to those at the other camps although Manzanar had a golf course where some of the other camps did not.

In 1943 famed photographer Ansel Adams visited the camp and took 240 photographs. These photographs have since become well known and are one of the best photographic records of the camp.
Manzanar closed in November 1945. All of its buildings, except for the camp auditorium, were torn down or sold and moved. Many of those moved remained in use for years. The auditorium later became an Inyo County equipment shop. Visitors can drive through the camp on well-defined but crumbling roads. There are many foundations, two stone guard houses at the main entrance and the cemetery with an impressive monument.
Corps of Engineers History of Manzanar Relocation Center
LOCATION: The former site is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, approximately 9.5 miles north of Lone Pine, California.
SITE HISTORY: In 1910, the Inyo Improvement Company acquired the former site from banks and local ranchers. The Inyo Improvement Company subsequently subdivided the land and developed the community of Manzanar. The entire town was bought by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) between 1924 and 1928. The War Department acquired a leasehold interest in the 5,964 acre site from LADWP on 7 March 1942.

In March 1942, the Wartime Civilian Control Administration (WAA), under the direction of the Western Defense Command/ Fourth Army, requested the South Pacific Division of the United States Engineer Corps to construct suitable facilities at Manzanar to receive voluntary and forced Japanese American internees from the west coast of the United States. Using Army and Japanese American labor, approximately 825 buildings and structures were constructed. These included 445 barracks, 30 recreation halls, 32 mess halls, male and female latrines, and laundry facilities. Other improvements included an administration building, an auditorium, 37 warehouses, 8 observation towers, 2 sentry houses, police headquarters, and maintenance facilities. Hospital facilities and an orphanage were also provided. All of these facilities were constructed of wood, covered with tar paper, and situated on approximately 670 acres of the site. Other facilities on the remainder of the site included a 600,000 gallon reservoir, irrigation improvements, water and sewage treatment facilities, hog pens and chicken houses.

On 21 March 1942, the Wartime Civilian Control Administration organized the voluntary evacuation of approximately 2,100 Japanese Americans from Los Angeles, California, to the Manzanar site. The Commanding General of the Southern California Sector, Western Defense Command provided an escort for the convoy of cars and a collateral train movement. On 29 March 1942, the first compulsory evacuation of Japanese Americans from Bainbridge Island, Washington to Manzanar was executed. Eventually, 10,000 Japanese Americans were relocated to the site. When it became evident that all persons of Japanese ancestry would eventually be evacuated from the west coast, the government urged that a civilian agency supervise the post evacuation phases of relocation. Accordingly, on 18 March 1942, the War Relocation Authority (WRA) was established in the Office for Emergency Management of the Executive Office of the President and liaison was created between the WCCA and the WRA. On 17 April 1942, a formal agreement was executed in which the relocation centers would be acquired and constructed by the Army while the centers themselves would be administered by the WRA. Based on this agreement, the Manzanar Reception Center was formally transferred to the War Relocation Authority on 1 June 1942. In this transfer, the War Department retained its leasehold interest on the 5,964 acre site yet granted to the WRA a license, revocable on 30 days written notice, to occupy the site. In turn, the Army transferred the buildings, installations, fixtures and equipment to the WRA. The accountability for buildings, fixtures, installations and equipment provided by the U.S. Engineer District was transferred to the WRA in addition to all responsibility for administration, expense, and maintenance of the center.

The last internee left the Manzanar Relocation Center on 25 November 1945. On 2 January 1946, the Relocation Center site and its improvements were declared excess and assigned by the War Assets Administration to the Interior Department for disposal. In June 1946, the War Department terminated its lease with the City of Los Angeles. On 1 April 1947, the government transferred to the City of Los Angeles, those Manzanar fixtures not disposed of by the WAA.

The City of Los Angeles subsequently leased portions of the site for grazing purposes. The County of Inyo leased from the City of Los Angeles, and has continuously used the former camp auditorium as a garage and maintenance facility. The United States Congress established and set aside 550 acres of the encampment area, including the former auditorium, as a National Historic Site on 3 March 1992. This acreage is currently administered by the National Park Service under the Department of the Interior. Plans are currently being developed to perform restoration and interpretive activities on the site in order to provide enhanced visitor opportunities. The remainder of the site is still owned by the City of Los Angeles.

The auditorium is the only building that remains intact. All other buildings were either destroyed or moved and many of the structures are still being used throughout the Owens Valley. Structural remains are present at 490 of the 785 structures formerly on the site. The location of most of the other buildings can be defined based on topographic features, vegetation, or artifact concentrations. Internee constructed features which remain on site include ponds, pond/garden complexes, gardens with extensive rock work, and rock walls. Around the camp perimeter, the foundations of five of the original eight guard towers are still in place. The northern boundary of the camp is parallel with a graded road constructed after camp occupation. The foundation blocks for the three northern towers were pulled and are lying at various locations along this road.

The 600,000 gallon reservoir located to the northwest of the site, appears to be in good condition, and has been periodically used as a swimming area by local residents for many years. The sand traps, settling basins, flumes, and dams associated with this reservoir remain in good condition although portions have been overgrown with vegetation and covered with rocks and sediment.

For a more detailed history of the Manzanar Relocation Center, CLICK HERE
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Updated 8 February 2016