Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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The WRA continued to administer Manzanar for almost four months after the last evacuee left the camp on November 21, 1945. After conducting its close-out operations, the agency turned over custody of the capital or fixed assets at Manzanar to the General Land Office effective March 10, 1946. [3]

Fixed Asset Inventory

Between August and December, 1945, two specially-trained crews of WRA engineers, accountants, and supply personnel visited each relocation center to conduct a detailed inventory of the physical plant. At Manzanar, the Fixed Asset Inventory was prepared on November 15, 1945, six days before the last evacuee left the camp.The inventory included components relating to six agency control accounts. These were:

Account No. 34— Lands and Farming
Account No. 35 — Buildings
Account No. 36 — Utilities Systems
Account No. 37 — Roads and Bridges
Account No. 38 — Drainage and Irrigation
Account No. 39 — Other Investments (i.e., water stock, hog and poultry plants, processing plants, and miscellaneous items not otherwise covered)

During the inventory process, each element was identified, appraised, recorded by number and check, and reconciled against the account books at the center. Tracings providing details of buildings, utilities, roads and bridges, and drainage and irrigation layouts were prepared.

As shown in the Fixed Asset Inventory, the total appraised value of inventoried items at Manzanar was $2,807,564.28. The original cost of the buildings and utility systems of the camp that had been acquired from the Corps of Engineers was $3,763,441.02, while the estimated cost of WRA additions and new construction was $251,374.27, thus making the estimated total cost of the fixed assets at Manzanar $4,014,815.29.

The inventory team recommended a depreciation of $1,208,427.51, resulting in a net total appraised value of the center's fixed assets of $2,807.564.28. [4]

Surplus Property

From November 21, 1945 to March 9, 1946, the Supply Section at Manzanar was responsible for disposition of all property at the center with the exception of the fixed assets. Early in the spring of 1945, procedures for declaring surplus property were determined "and slowly the writing of declarations began." This particular phase of the program gathered momentum until December 1945." During the next three months, the filing of declarations of surplus property "for all 'major' and 'minor' equipment, materials, and supplies was completed."

Physical inventories of all classes of property at Manzanar were conducted "as soon as released by the using section or unit." After the inventories were completed, all items were classified according to the "Surplus Property Board Manual." A declaration of Surplus Property was made to the disposal agencies on their "forms SPB-1, Declaration of Surplus Personal Property to Disposal Agencies." If and when the disposal agencies certified any items to be "unsaleable," action was initiated so that such property could be removed from property records and placed on the "salvage pile." When disposal agencies sold the property after declaration, the Supply Section delivered the items to the purchaser.

During the process when property was declared to the disposal agencies, it was necessary for Manzanar personnel to work closely with those entities. During early 1945, the disposal agency was known as the Treasury Procurement Surplus Property unit. Later, however, this unit was transferred to the Department of Commerce, thence to the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, and finally to the War Assets Administration. Thus, "the securing and sustaining of necessary cooperation from disposal agencies required considerable ingenuity and effort on the part of the Supply Officer." Despite the efforts of the Supply Officer, the everchanging reorganization of the surplus disposal agencies caused considerable delay and confusion in getting rid of surplus materials at the center.

During late 1945 and early 1946, the Manzanar Supply Section shipped "a great amount of property to the [WRA] Area and Regional Offices for their use in providing temporary housing for relocated evacuees." It also shipped "considerable building material" to various government agencies "for remodeling proposed housing units for relocated evacuees."

In addition, the Manzanar Supply Section conducted sales of surplus property to other bureaus under the Department of the Interior. It sold project-produced goods, surplus subsistence supplies, and salvage materials. [5]

Clean-up Operations

As at other the other relocation centers, the Engineering Section, aided by the Supply Section, undertook the clean-up of the grounds and buildings at Manzanar "for declaration to the Surplus Property Board" after the last evacuees left the camp. [6] As movable property was picked up from the barracks and other vacated structures and removed to warehouses, crews cleaned-up the center and placed it in "a standby condition." Each structure was cleaned and swept out, and the outside area was cleared of litter. Stoves were moved from the barracks to central locations for storage. Windows were shut, and doors were nailed tight. Connections in the water, sewage, and electric systems in the vacated areas of the center were turned off, and a weed eradication program was implemented to reduce the fire hazard. [7]

On November 30, 1945, the Manzanar post office was closed, and the task of distributing the staff's personal mail was added to the duties of the Mail and Files Office. That same day telephone operations were curtailed by closing the center switchboard from 11:30 P.M. to 7:30 A.M. each day. Telephones were removed from all center offices that had discontinued functioning, and dial telephones were placed in the apartments of Project Director Merritt, the fire chief and his assistant, and the Internal Security Office. The lone coin-operated telephone in the center was placed in the rock sentry house at the center's front gate. Telegraph service was discontinued on November 21, and teletype service was discontinued on November 30. [8]

After receiving per mission to dispose of its surplus subsistence, the Mess Hall Section shipped remaining supplies to government agencies and to two private dealers. By January 29, 1946, all except $1,000 worth of foodstuffs had been marketed. [9]

Disposal of Evacuee Property

When the last evacuee departed Manzanar on November 21, approximately "100 family lots of property which had not been picked up were still left in apartments." Immediately, the center's Evacuee Property Section began collecting the lots for storage pending its shipment to the relocated evacuees. The work was completed in approximately two weeks.

The property of the Terminal Island people who had recently left the center as a group, as well as numerous other lots, had not been weighed. After the lots were weighed, letters were sent to Terminal Island evacuees who had goods in project storage beyond the "60-day limit." By January 17, 1946, shipping instructions had been received for all but two of the 73 property lots stored at Manzanar.

At that time, it was estimated that about 30 property lots would have to be shipped to the government warehouse in Los Angeles because of the "inability of their owners to accept them." In addition, there were ten unidentified items (for the most part of no value) and four small lots of property which belonged to deceased evacuees without heirs, which would probably also be shipped to the warehouse before the section closed on February 15. [10]

Relocation Center Cemetery

As the WRA was preparing to close the Manzanar War Relocation Center, WRA officials in the Washington office and at the project discussed the status and disposition of the center's cemetery. On June 6, 1945, John H. Provinse, Chief, Community Management Division, in the Washington office wrote to Project Director Merritt requesting recommendations as to what should be done with the cemetery since "it would appear improbable that any long-time arrangements are possible for care and protection of such cemeteries." "Exhumation, shipment, and reburial at some place chosen by the responsible family relatives" was a possibility. "Cremation after exhumation might be acceptable in many cases." Some burials "without known surviving relatives which if moved at all" would "require reinterment in potters' fields" [11]

In response, Lyle G. Wentner, Assistant Project Director, responded to Provinse on June 27, stating that "the people of Manzanar erected a monument at the approximate cost of $1,000 at the entrance to their cemetery site, which they considered a permanent burial ground." Thus, there was "no reason whatsoever why these people could not stay where they are."

Although the cemetery had reportedly once contained 80 burials, only 15 burials (dates of death ranged from May 16, 1942 to December 19, 1944) remained, four of whom "are without relatives and whose remains would, by law, be put in custody of the county of their residence for disposal." When people died "intestate and the county assumes custody, the remains are disposed of by cremation in all cases." Bodies that were removed from the cemetery "must be shipped by state law" in metal boxes, "which are not obtainable at the present time." The cost of the metal containers was $50, and the cost of paperwork "incident to removal and shipment" was $25. The project management did not "deem it advisable to request local communities to accept remains for burial."

At the present time, according to Wentner, there were only three families "living in Manzanar who are relatives of deceased persons in our cemetery." Four of the deceased people had no relatives. Eight had relatives who had relocated to various places in the United States. Accordingly, Wentner recommended that the WRA write to the relatives informing them that the center was closing and that the agency wished "to respect their wishes if they desire to have deceased relatives removed from the Manzanar Cemetery." [12]

By early January 1946, all but six bodies had been removed from the Manzanar cemetery. On January 7, Project Director Merritt ordered A.M. Sandridge, Senior Engineer - Public Works, to build a "three-wire fence, with posts 4 feet high, around the smallest area of the Manzanar Cemetery necessary to enclose the remaining six graves." The ground "where bodies have been dug and removed" was to be smoothed out. Markers were to be left "only on the six graves in which there are bodies." A two-foot-wide opening in the fence should be provided "for people to enter." The little graves to the north of the cemetery were not to be included as they "are the burying places only of pets." [13]

Labor Needs

After the last evacuees left Manzanar, the center was forced to recruit common laborers, as well as a few skilled workers, to complete the camp's clean-up and close-out operations. Between November 21, 1945, and February 9, 1946, when the center's personnel records were forwarded to the Washington office, the Personnel Section at Manzanar recruited 155 new employees, and separated 74. The recruitment of labor was complicated by the fact that many of the mines and chemical companies in the Owens Valley region were restarting postwar operations, and some companies were offering wages that "were excessive even when compared with wartime wages."

Thus, many of the new employees tended to be itinerant laborers "who were more or less chronic drunkards." [14]

Beginning in October 1945, the appointed staff mess hall at Manzanar was staffed with a crew brought in from Los Angeles. This crew, consisting primarily of former evacuees from other relocation centers, remained at Manzanar until the end of February 1946. [15]

Reductions in Force

Beginning on November 30, 1945, when the first WRA appointed employee at Manzanar was terminated because of a reduction in force, the Personnel Section conducted a survey of permanent employees and remaining work at 15-day intervals. A decision was made concerning which employees in the closing sections could be transferred to sections needing additional help, and termination notices were issued to those employees whose services could not be utilized. Notices were issued 30 days prior to the time that an employee's services were terminated.

Early in November, a representative of the Civil Service Commission visited the center and interviewed every employee who desired to be placed in another federal agency In December, two representatives of the War Relocation Authority in Washington visited Manzanar for the same purpose. Late in January 1946, another representative of the Civil Service Commission interviewed employees for approximately a week relative to future employment opportunities. In addition, Project Director Merritt and other administrators at the camp gave the placement of Manzanar employees priority over all other business. All personnel records were transferred to Washington on February 9, and thereafter the Personnel Office confined itself to advising employees on personnel matters, forwarding personnel information to the Washington office, and placing Manzanar employees in other federal agencies. [16]

Shipment of Files and Records to Washington

The Washington office directed the Statistics Section at Manzanar to collect and forward all essential information concerning the evacuees. When the last evacuee had left, personnel from the Statistics Section joined those in the records unit in the effort to dispose of the center's records, separating the papers which should go to Washington from those which should not. Two former workers in the Relocation Division were also detailed to assist in the work. [17]

Final Report

The last staff meeting was convened by Project Director Merritt at Manzanar on February 15, 1946. On that date, the Final Report, Manzanar, a 5-volume document consisting of nearly 1,600 pages, was submitted to the Washington office. The voluminous report, prepared in compliance with a directive from the Washington office to all relocation centers, featured exhaustive descriptions of the management and accomplishments of each administrative office, division, and section, and thus provides the most comprehensive and detailed history of the operation of the camp. In the first section of the document, entitled "Project Director's Report," Merritt observed:

Thus ends the story of Manzanar as a relocation center. . . . The war-time job of every member of the Manzanar staff ended with credit to themselves and a successful completion of the program laid down for them by the national Director. . . .

Manzanar will return to the desert and be forgotten, but the spirit and achievements of staff and evacuees who here worked together will not die or be forgotten. In these three years and a half, while the world was engaged in its bloodiest war, the people of Manzanar of many national and racial origins, learned by practise [sic] the way of tolerance, understanding, and peace. [18]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002