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‘Manzanar Nice Place — It Better Than Hollywood’

This dispatch, passed by military authorities, is the first close-up report from a newspaperman who has visited one of the Japanese concentration centers in California.—The Editor.

United Press Staff Correspondent

MANZANAR, Cal., April 21.—This is the youngest, strangest city in the world—inhabited by Japanese who hoist American Flags, put up pictures of George Washington and pray to the Christian God for the defeat of Japan’s armed forces.

It is a settlement that grew—in the magic time of three weeks—out of the sagebrush of the Mojave Desert. This is one of the places where the 118,000 Japanese who are being moved out of the strategic area of the Pacific Coast are being resettled.

Three weeks ago this was empty land between two mountain ranges.

Today it is a city of 3303 population with a fire department, a hospital, a police force, an English-language newspaper, baseball teams and community recreation centers.

It probably is the fastest growing town in the world because soon its population will be doubled and eventually quadrupled.

Most of the inhabitants are Japanese who have tasted American democracy and found it good. Probably 95 per cent at least of the Japanese here are loyal to the United States. They are the ones like S. Akamatsu, who moved into Building No. 6 and immediately put up pictures of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and President Roosevelt.

Many of the loyal ones came here with fear and doubt in their hearts, expecting a Nazi-type concentration camp. Instead they found comfortable wooden buildings covered with tar paper, bathhouses and showers and plenty of wholesome food.

There is no fence around Manzanar now and while U.S. soldiers guard the main gate, there is nothing to prevent a Japanese from slipping away at night except the knowledge that he undoubtedly would be caught. Nobody has tried it. Emon Tatsui who was brought here from Los Angeles, looked around the camp a few days ago and decided to write a letter to his former employer, Murphy McHenry, Hollywood motion picture executive:

“Dear Sir: Kindly send my money to new address by U.S. Post Office money order. It may be too much trouble for you but we do not have bank open yet here. I like to tell you about this camp. Nice place to live. It better than Hollywood. Snow on mountains. Fresh air. Snow is bright. Every day is 80 to 85.

“No blackout in here. There are liberty, safe and build up new life. Hundreds of carpenter, hundreds plummer Hundreds so and so working hard to build up. One thousand Japanese coming to this camp almost every day now. Good ball ground. Baseball field. Swimming pool. School building. Danceroom is about start building then movie is next.

“Yours truly,

“P.S. Over 300 miles away from your city but still in Los Angeles city limit.”

No attempts have been made to separate the loyal from the disloyal. Those whose sympathies lie with Japan are keeping quiet about it. Eventually there will be a police force of 75 Japanese and the camp management believes the loyal will maintain surveillance over the disloyal.

There are all types of Japanese here—rich, poor, old, young; issei, mostly old persons born in Japan; nisei, the younger group born in this country, and kibei, born in this country but sent back to Japan to be educated.

Democracy is at work among them. An election has been held to choose block leaders. Eventually from these block leaders will be chosen an advisory committee of five to work with the camp management in preserving order and arranging for the planting of crops. Manzanar hopes to become a self-sufficient community when irrigation is brought to the rich but arid land.

The lives of the inhabitants have fallen quickly into the normal pattern of living. The Japanese firemen play solitaire while waiting for an alarm. A baby has been born and named Kenji Ogawa. Howard Kumagai, a mechanical engineer, has fallen in love with Kimiki Wakamura, former beauty shop operator, has proposed and been accepted. Boys and girls make dates for dances and for the movies where James Cagney is extremely popular.

Some volunteered to evacuate their homes and come here. Among them is Miss Chiye Mori of Los Angeles, news editor of The Manzanar Free Press, the settlement’s mimeographed newspaper.

She was asked if she could write a brief statement explaining the feelings of the Japanese who were loyal to the United States. She turned to her portable typewriter and tapped this out on a sheet of paper:

“If Japan wins this war we have the most to lose. We hope America wins and quickly. We voluntarily evacuated as the only means by which we could demonstrate our loyalty. We want to share in the ware effort. We want o share the gloom of temporary defeats and the joys of ultimate victory. We are deeply concerned with our American citizenship, which we prize above all else.”

San Francisco News
April 21, 1942

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