Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of Jeanne Wakatsuki and her family during World War II, when the Japanese-Americans were confined to interment camps all over America. The first sign of trouble for Japanese-Americans was the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Though many of these American citizens of Japanese descent had never heard of Pearl Harbor, they immediately felt the consequence in wartime America.
Provoked by the violent and deadly surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt declared war against Japan. Almost immediately the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast began to feel an open hatred expressed against them by their fellow citizens of European descent. The government completed matters by arresting more than three thousand Japanese-American males on grounds of treason after the issuance of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt. Though the arrested were American citizens, they were victims of a nationalist paranoia that saw nothing beyond their oriental faces.
Eventually, more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans were taken by the government, causing them to lose their property, homes and belongings. They were sent to live in concentration-style camps, called relocation centers; the camps were located in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Arkansas, and Wyoming. In the beginning, the living conditions at the camp were very sub-standard, for they were quickly constructed and not kept clean. Living quarters were like military barracks, arranged in rows and offering little privacy. In addition, armed soldiers guarded the camps heavily. Although detainees were never tortured or made to do hard labor, camp life was hard and demeaning. In the camp at Manzanar, California, it was particularly dry and dusty, for it was located just outside the Mojave Desert.
In February 1843, all camp detainees were asked to sign a Loyalty Oath, pledging their allegiance to the United States and their willingness to serve in the war against their native country; if they refused to sign, they would be sent back to Japan. Most Japanese- Americans in the camp signed the Loyalty Oath and many of the males were called into military service. Even though many Americans of Japanese descent fought bravely in the war, they were often not trusted and were given no credit.
To end the war, the American government decided to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Soon after the bombs exploded, the Japanese surrendered to the Americans. As a result, the detention camps for Japanese Americans were closed. The detainees, however, had to re-enter society in total poverty, having lost everything when they were sent into the camp. Additionally, they had to face the distrust and paranoia of their fellow Americans of European descent. It was a very difficult time for Japanese Americans, during and after the war.