The Journey to Internment

Calisphere has a large collection of photos by Dorothea Lange documenting the round up and deportation of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.  The most heart wrenching show individuals and families waiting for transport, many with confused and dazed expressions. In this particular photo, three old people wait together in San Bruno California, a transport hub from which people were sent off to camps. Manzanar and Tule Lake were the major sites in California.

The evacuation began in the early spring of 1942, a time when the weather can be warm in California. These three old people are quite bundled up compared to the younger ones visible in the background. But then older people typically suffer from the cold more than younger ones. Perhaps they were also following the common wisdom of evacuees all around the world–wear what you can on your body in case your luggage doesn’t make it.

Note that the woman on the right wears a big tag, as if she herself were luggage marked for transport. All of them have put on what looks to be their best clothes, which makes the photo particularly poignant. Their outfits seem so poorly suited to their final destinations. I wonder what it would be like to arrive in the dusty high plains of Manzanar wearing a tie, or a fine black hat, or your best coat with a fur collar.

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5 Responses to The Journey to Internment

  1. Rhoda K says:

    This is very sad. Just two days ago, we watched a D-Day special showing all nationalities, including Japanese Americans, fighting for the US.

  2. Katrina B says:

    In the memoirs of people who were forced into internment, the constant unrelenting dust is a common thread.

    That tag looks larger than the ones I’ve seen, but every internee was issued a large white tag with a number, and they were known by their numbers rather than names. The families were numbered together so it was very important especially for children and elders to keep their tags visible so they wouldn’t get separated. It makes my skin crawl to even write such a thing but it is our true, terrible history.

    There is a museum on the site of Manzanar, and if anyone is ever halfway to nowhere in California, it is worth visiting.

  3. Mema says:

    What a terrible time.

  4. Becky Imamoto says:

    When I first started at UCI, I sent my dad the link to JARDA in Calisphere. He found a picture of himself, brother, and mother at Amache Internment Camp. He’s partially obscured on the far left with his mom holding his arm. His brother is next to him with the large white collar.

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