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[photo]
Angel Island
Photo courtesy of California State Parks
Sitting in the middle of San Francisco Bay, Angel Island State Park offers spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline and the Marin Headlands, as well as more than a century of military history. First occupied by the coastal Miwok Indians, the island came under Spanish rule in 1775. During Mexico's rule of California (1821-1848), ownership of the island was granted to rancher Antonio Osie in 1839. In 1850, under American rule, President Fillmore declared Angel Island as a military reserve. During the Civil War, the island was fortified to defend San Francisco Bay from the potential attack of Confederate ships entering the bay. Angel Island continued to be a military installation during subsequent American wars.

[photo] Immigrants arriving at the Angel Island Immigration Station, c. 1916
Photo courtesy of California State Parks

In 1905, the War Department transferred 20 acres of land on the island to the Department of Commerce and Labor for the establishment of an immigration station. Between 1910 and 1940, an estimated 175,000 Chinese and 60,000 Japanese immigrants were detained in barracks at the Angel Island Immigration Station under adverse and oppressive conditions

During World War II, the immigration station's barracks and the hospital were rehabilitated to house German, Italian and Japanese prisoners of war before they were sent to inland camps. In July 1942, a group of Japanese prisoners from the battle of Midway

[photo]
View of Immigration Station Administration Building, detention barracks and pier, c. 1916
Photo courtesy of National Archives, Pacific Sierra Region, San Bruno, CA
were interred at Angel Island. Other Japanese prisoners included those captured at Attu and the Solomons. German prisoners included high ranking officers captured by the British in North Africa and at the time of Germany's surrender there were 277 German prisoners on the island. After Italy surrendered in 1943, it shifted to the side of the Allies. Italian prisoners of war could not be released, yet they were not prisoners, so they were formed into Italian Service Units, performing non-combative related work. Several Italian Service Units came to Angel Island in 1944 and 1945. Today, the Angel Island, U.S. Immigration Station has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

[photo] Aerial view of East Garrison of Fort McDowell, c. 1938
Photo courtesy of California State Parks

Down the shore, Fort McDowell was used as a port of embarkation during both world wars, shipping more than 300,000 soldiers to the Pacific Theater during World War II. The post's busiest period was at the end of the war, when 23,632 returning soldiers were processed in December 1945 alone. A post-war reorganization of the San Francisco Port of Embarkation did not include Fort McDowell, prompting its closure on August 28, 1946. Buildings from Fort McDowell remaining on the island include a hospital, Quonset mess and drill hall, chapel, restored guardhouse and officers' quarters.

Angel Island, located in the middle of San Francisco Bay, is operated as a California State Park and is accessible by ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon. An information kiosk on the island is open 8:00am to sunset. Visitors can explore the various trails and roads which offer excellent views of Fort McDowell and the Immigration Station. Many of the buildings are identified by interpretive signage. A tram tour of the island departs from the Cove Café on weekends in March, April and November; and daily May-October. Call 415-435-1915 or visit the park's website for further information. You can also learn more about the immigration station by visiting the website of the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.

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