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Farewell to Manzanar: the Horrific Consequences of Pearl Harbour

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Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat (Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary (10th ed.). (1999). Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster Incorporated). Fear can be such an overwhelming emotion that it often comes hand in hand with anxiety and prevents rational thinking. Throughout time, fear has been the cause behind many historical events that have impacted the world. This same fear in many cases has been the reason for the developing of laws. An example of an event that caused fear through the United States and was the force behind Executive Order 9066 was the Attack on Pearl Harbor. In this case, Executive Order 9066 caused Japanese Americans to be placed in Internment Camps such as Manzanar.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the United States Pacific Fleet, stationed in Hawaii. This attack is also known as the attack on Pearl Harbor and marked the beginning of the United States’ involvement in the World War II. The next day after the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet, which killed a lot of people, the United States declared war on Japan.

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On February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was passed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorizing the relocation and/or internment of anyone threatening the war effort (Grolier Educational Danbury Executive Order 9066. Connecticut, 1988). This order marked the beginning of the establishment of Internment camps for people of Japanese American Ancestry. Following this order, people of Japanese Ancestry were forced to leave their homes and belonging without any warning. They were only given a few days to decide what to do with their belongings. Some families had to sell their houses, farms, businesses, and other properties and lose money as a result. Many families rented their properties to friends or neighbors. The people that could not rent or sell their properties, were forced to abandon them. This caused a great impact on the economy. Business had to close and people did not pay their taxes. Each family was given an identification number and loaded into either cars, buses, trucks, or trains. They were only allowed to take what they could carry with them. Families were escorted by military police to 1 of 17 temporary assembly centers, before they were relocated to internment camps.

Manzanar is 1 out of 10 Internment Camps established during World War II. Manzanar Internment Camp was located in the Owens Valley of California, between the Sierra Nevada and the Iyon Mountains. In March 1942, the first Japanese Americans arrived in Manzanar. These Japanese Americans helped build the camp. Manzanar was a 500 acre housing unit surrounded by barbed wire and 8 guard towers. Guard towers has searchlights that were patrolled by military police. Outside the housing unit, there were military police housing, a sewage treatment plant, and agricultural fields. In total, Manzanar had 36 housing block units.

Life at Manzanar was hard because there were about 200-400 people living in the same block. There was little to no privacy at all. By September 1942, there were more than 10,000 Japanese Americans crowded into 504 barracks organized into 36 blocks. Most families living in Manzanar worked in order to overcome adversity. They dug irrigation canals, took care of acres of fruits and vegetables, adn raised chickens, hogs, and castles. These also worked as mess hall workers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and teachers. In addition, they learned to make their own clothes and furniture.

Although people of Japanese American ancestry were forced to live behind bars due to Executive Order 9066, they tried to make the best out of their current situation and tried to keep their culture alive. They formed advisory committees, boys and girls clubs, sports, dances, and music clubs. They played with black and white stones, made flowers arrangements, and participated in high school dances. They also formed clubs such as USO clubs and created a newspaper that published the Manzanar Free Press.

The attack on Pearl Harbor caused great fear and distrust in Japanese Americans, which caused over 11,000 Japanese Americans to be housed at Manzanar Internment Camp. This same fear impacted the United States in many ways. In January 1942, the Selective Service denied Japanese American enlistment into the military because they thought they were “enemy aliens” (Grolier Educational Danbury Executive Order 9066. Connecticut, 1988). Fear was so great that Japanese Americans had to answer questions to test their loyalty and were also not allowed to become United States citizens. In January 1944, Japanese Americans were allowed again to enlist in the military and over 26,000 served in World War II.

Manzanar is an example of a historical event that changed and will impact California in the future. The Japanese American survivors are a reminder of what happens when fear impacts political decisions. Future generations like me need to be active and not be afraid to speak our minds when we do not agree with something. We cannot allow the color of someone’ skin, gender, religion, age, or race decide their future.


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