Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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The Manzanar War Relocation Center comprised an area of 5,464.09 acres. The entire acreage was in Township 14 S, Range 35 E, except the garbage pit which was located in Township 14 S, Range 36 E. The acreage components were:


Project bounded area5,414.90
Well 75 (150 ft. x 600 ft., along the east right of way of U.S. 395)2.07
Well 92.72
Pipeline to Well 921.9
Road to Well 921.7
Road to sewage treatment plant5.3
Main trunk-line sewer pipe5.1
Sewage treatment plant6.3
Sewage outfall ditch6.2
Garbage pit east of Owens River19.9
Total5,464.09 [117]

The program for land improvements at Manzanar consisted of (1) clearing and developing; (2) irrigation and drainage; (3) streets and roads; (4) bridges; and (5) fencing,

Clearing and Developing

Most of the land to be developed at Manzanar had once been covered with orchards or farms. Thus, "extensive further development was not needed." The relocation center's program consisted of clearing sage and smaller brush and leveling the land for irrigation. Because of wind erosion of the light sandy soil, leveling of agricultural land was a major project. Approximately 360 acres were cleared and improved. Of this total, approximately 80 percent of the center area and 1 percent of the agricultural land was cleared and developed under the Corps of Engineers prior to June 1, 1942. The remainder of the area was cleared and improved by the WRA Agricultural and Engineering Sections after that date. [118]

Irrigation and Drainage

Approximately 12.3 miles (67,162 feet) of irrigation ditches and pipelines were constructed for agricultural purposes by the WRA. The water from George, Bairs, and Shepherd creeks was distributed for irrigation through pipelines and ditches by gravity. These creeks were fed by melting snow, resulting in considerable fluctuation of the streams. George and Shepherd creeks flowed year-round, but Bairs Creek dried up in late summer. Because of the fluctuation and insufficient supply of water for late crops (Shepherd Creek, for instance, fluctuated from a maximum of 47 second-feet during early summer to a minimum of 3 second-feet during the winter), the Manzanar irrigation system was supplemented by the City of Los Angeles' water and "power wells" in the area. Wells 76 and 95 supplied water for the fields south of the center, and Well 92 for a portion of the fields north of the center. Because of crooked casing, Well 99 in the north area could not be used.

The WRA Engineering Section constructed a concrete dam on Shepherd Creek and distributed water from there to farm-area ditches through open laterals lined with rock and concrete. The laterals were approximately 6 feet wide at the top, 3 feet wide at the bottom, and 3 feet deep. Wood flumes were constructed over "coulees" in this system. The farm area had a system of open ditches lined with rubble and concrete. The ditches were approximately 3 feet wide at the top, 1 foot wide at the bottom, and 1 1/2 feet deep with wood gates for controlling the water.

A concrete dam was constructed on George Creek and "connected by 7,450 feet of 12-inch concrete pipeline with the control box." This watercourse, in turn, connected with the existing system on Bairs Creek, from which the outlet emptied into open ditches lined with rubble and concrete that distributed water to the south fields. Wooden gates were installed in these ditches for controlling the water.

The pipelines and ditches constructed for irrigation by the WRA cost approximately $27,980. The types of irrigation lines included:



    Open Concrete-lined
67,162 [119]

Streets and Roads

There were approximately 14 miles of oiled-surface streets in the Manzanar center and 1 1/2 miles of oiled-surface roads in the farm area outside of the fenced center area. Approximately 5 1/2 miles of dirt roads were constructed in the farm area and to the reservoir and sewage treatment plant.

The cost for street and road construction was low due to the type of sandy soil which required little additional gravel before the surface could be oiled. Because of the center's topography and the small amount of rainfall, the streets and roads were elevated very little above the adjacent ground, thus making it unnecessary to install many drainage structures. All surfacing of streets and roads at Manzanar was "by the penetration method using M.C. 2 asphalt except at the entrance to the Center from highway 395 and the one block on First Street which was road-mixed to carry heavy traffic of large freight trucks."

The Corps of Engineers contracted "for surfacing 151,808 square yards" on "parts of different streets" at a cost of $14,574. The WRA surfaced new streets and roads for the staff housing area, completed surfacing of streets in the center, and constructed and surfaced roads in the farm area. The penetration coat of M.C. 2 asphalt that was applied cost approximately 2 1/2 cents per square yard. [120]


The WRA constructed two bridges and a cattle guard on roads outside of the center. These structures were;

  1. A bridge constructed on the farm road over the north fork of Shepherd Creek was 12 feet long and 20 feet wide. The structure had stone masonry walls and a wood superstructure and deck. Its cost of construction was $250.

  2. A bridge constructed on the farm road over the south fork of Shepherd Creek was 12 feet long and 15 feet wide. The bridge had stone masonry walls and a wood superstructure and deck. Its cost of construction was $150.

  3. A cattle guard constructed on the road to the sewage treatment plant was 9 feet long and 14 feet wide. Railroad steel rails were installed on "6-inch centers laid on timber stringers placed on concrete abutments." The structure cost approximately $200. [121]


The WRA constructed fences for the poultry and hog farms. Existing fences were repaired at the cattle farm as part of the camp's maintenance program. Girdner and Loftis, Great Betrayal,[122] The aforementioned "Appraisal Report" stated that the fence around the chicken ranch consisted of 4-7 strands of double barbed wire and was 2,360 feet in length, while the fence at the hog farm consisted of 5-7 strands of double barbed wire and was 1,740 feet in length. [123] The aforementioned "Fixed Asset Inventory" noted that the fences in the poultry and hog farm areas were constructed by the WRA from wire already at the site. Posts for the fences were cut by the evacuees. The posts were five feet in height and varied between 3" and 6" in diameter. [124]

Landscaping, Gardens, Parks, and Picnic Areas

In a speech on July 3l, 1942, Roy Nash, Project Director at Manzanar, described the drab, monotonous setting of the camp. He noted:

There is nothing beautiful about Manzanar except its background of the Sierra Nevada. The sun rising out of Death Valley looks down upon a square mile of barracks arranged in nine great wards separated by wide fire breaks, each made up of four identical blocks. In each block, sixteen identical buildings 20 x 100 feet of the simplest board and tar paper construction; what the Army calls the 'Theatre of Operations' type. Fourteen are living quarters, one of double size - a mess hall, the last a recreation hall. In the center of each block are latrines and shower baths with abundant hot water, for men and for women; a wash-house with tubs where clothing can be laundered; an ironing room where they can be dried. [125]

A project report on October 30, 1942, provided a description of Manzanar that indicated the transitory nature and military-like conformity of its construction and physical layout. The report stated:

Outwardly the Center presents the same monotonous, drab, ugly tarpaper appearance: straight lines, uniform block arrangements, 15 barracks and a mess hall in exact 40-feet-apart locations; each block with two latrines, a laundry room and ironing room between the rows. . . . There is very little in the physical construction of Manzanar to indicate permanence; the entire Center impresses one with its temporary nature. [126]

In addition to the efforts of evacuees who worked on WRA improvement projects conducted by the camp Public Works and Community Activities sections, many evacuees at Manzanar undertook personal projects to beautify their surroundings. To make the camp more hospitable, evacuees at Manzanar undertook efforts to improve their surroundings by planting lawns and small flower gardens adjacent to their barracks and larger "Victory Gardens" in firebreaks. Some evacuees also built Japanese-style rock gardens and parks. The result was the transformation of a monotonous, drab, and barren camp landscape into a community that took pride in its appearance.

After assuming administration of Manzanar, the WRA requested that the Farm Security Administration design a park for the camp that could accommodate at least 1,000 people. However, it is not known if the design was provided, and no such park is evident in maps or photographs of the camp. In addition, the Soil Conservation Service prepared a planting plan for Manzanar, entitled "A Program of Conservation Operations," which recommended use of 21,000 trees and 25,000 shrubs as a response to the large amount of dust blown around the camp area resulting from its sandy soil, arid climate, and high winds. While the camp administration did carry out some planting and landscaping projects, it did not fully implement the planting plan. [127]

Meanwhile, the evacuees went forward with their own camp beautification efforts. As early as June 15, 1942, a Victory Garden was planted in the firebreak between Blocks 11 and 17, and by July lawns were being planted between barracks. The area around the main administration building, which was described by a visitor as "beautful," had also been landscaped by July. That month Ryozo Kado, a professional rock garden artist, had four young evacuees working under him to construct gardens in the camp. [128]

A project report written on August 8, 1942, stated that the "transformation of sagebrush covered semi-arid land into a green-studded landscape has already made considerable headway." The report noted that 155 lawns had been planted between barracks, six fish ponds stocked with carp had been constructed and several "picturesque rock gardens bordered with local shrubbery have contributed to the elimination of 'dustspace' (open ground)." In addition gardens had given "the center an increasingly 'green' appearance." [129]

One of the best examples of the evacuees' beautification efforts at Manzanar was the Japanese Cherry Park located in front of the Children's Village. In September 1942, F. M. Uyematsu, owner of Star Nurseries in Montebello, California, agreed to donate approximately 1,000 Japanese cherry trees as well as a large number of shrubs and plants to the camp for landscaping purposes. The WRA secured a military permit for him to travel to his nursery and bring the trees to Manzanar in his own truck during late 1942. Uyematsu, who was a member of the camp Community Development Committee, supervised the planting of the trees in what became known as Japanese Cherry Park.

Rose Park, located in the firebreak between Blocks 33 and 34, was also constructed in 1942. This park included rosebushes, 100 different types of flowers, and a Japanese tea house. [130]

One of the most prominent landscaping projects by the evacuees at Manzanar was the construction of Merritt Park by Kuichiro Nishi during a ten-month period in 1943. The park, which was named in honor of Project Director Ralph P. Merritt, covered a large area and included rock gardens, ponds, at least one rustic wood bridge, and a gazebo.

Nishi designed a memorial stone for the park, on which were inscribed Japanese characters, dedicating the park "to the memory of fellow Japanese Immigrants" who, although ushered to "this place with the breaking of friendly relations between the two countries" "have come to enjoy this quiet, peaceful place." He dedicated the park "for the enjoyment of the people and to the memory of the time of our residence here." [131]

Merritt questioned the propriety of putting Japanese characters on the stone, believing that it would "not make for friendly understanding" with the people of the Owens Valley, upon whom "we must depend to maintain the park in later years." [132] It is not known if the memorial stone was included in the park.

During the time that Merritt Park was under construction, the WRA determined that it would not sponsor construction of additional parks at Manzanar because of the shortage of materials and a lack of funds. In the future, materials for new parks and landscaping projects would have to be provided by evacuees, although the WRA would allow them to use surplus government materials. In order to maintain the parks already constructed, the landscapers Nishi and Uyematsu, who were on the payroll of the Public Works Section, would each be allowed a team of three evacuees to assist them in this task. [133]

Other landscape improvement projects at Manzanar included the development of picnic areas in and around the camp. When the barbed wire fence on the south side of the camp was moved out 100 yards, bringing Bairs Creek into the southwestern corner of the camp, work was begun in July 1942 to create a picnic area, including landscaping, paths, rustic bridges, and open air fireplaces. The picnic area became so popular with the evacuees that permits had to be issued for its use. During 1943 an area in the northern part of the camp was also developed as a picnic area with a large fireplace built by the Public Works Section, and after the evacuees were permitted to leave the center area, two more picnic areas were developed, one about one-half mile north of the camp and the other along George Creek, about one mile from the south fence. [134]

On August 4, 1943, the Manzanar Free Press reported that a new entrance sign for Manzanar had been placed in a "little rock and cacti garden constructed by Mr. Kado and his crew." The words "Manzanar War Relocation Center" were written "on the beautiful 3-1/2 x 6 foot sign with an antiqued background." Located near the highway, the sign was supported "by two 12 x 12 inch posts" that were ten feet in height. [135]


Most of the people who died at Manzanar were cremated or buried at places other than the camp. However, a number were buried in the camp cemetery, located on the west side of the barbed wire fence enclosing the center area.

The first recorded burial in the Manzanar cemetery was Matsunosuke Murakami on May 16, 1942. Official correspondence indicates that 28 people were buried in the cemetery during operation of the camp. According to a staff memorandum on June 28, 1945, fifteen burials remained in the cemetery, the most recent being December 19, 1944. [136]

On July 24, 1943, the Manzanar Free Press reported that the center of the Manzanar cemetery had been selected as the site for construction of a monument by members of the Town Hall Committee and the Buddhist and Christian "priests." At the request of the committee, R. F. Kado, manager of the masonry department, agreed to construct the monument. He had "years of experience on masonry work and has shown his ability on the hospital garden and guard-house entrance." [137]

Funds for the construction of the monument, which cost approximately $1,000, were raised by evacuee contributions. One side of the obelisk bore the date and place of the monument. The Japanese characters inscribed on the other side of the monument translate to English as "This is the place of consolation for the spirit of all mankind." [138]

In late August 1943 a well-attended service was held to dedicate the monument. Mr. Senkichi, an evacuee, was the master of ceremonies. Other speakers included Father Steinbach, pastor of the Catholic Church at Manzanar, Rev. Oda, the camp's Buddhist priest. Project Director Merritt, and Town Hall chairman Kiyocharu Anzai. A letter of thanks and a memento were presented to Kado for constructing the memorial obelisk.[139]

As Manzanar was closing in late 1945, relatives of the 15 persons who remained buried in the cemetery were contacted concerning their wishes for the deceased. As a result nine bodies were removed from the cemetery and reburied elsewhere.

On January 7, 1946, nearly two months after the camp closed. Project Manager Ralph Merritt asked A. M. Sandridge, Senior Engineer - Public Works, to install a fence around the cemetery. His memorandum stated:

Will you please put a three-wire fence, with posts 4 feet high, around the smallest area of the Manzanar Cemetery necessary to enclose the remaining six graves. Have your men smooth out places where bodies have been dug and removed. Leave markers only on the six graves in which there are bodies. Leave a small opening in the fence about two feet wide for people to enter. . . .

The little graves to the north of the cemetery are not to be included. These are the burying places only of pets. [140]

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002