After leaving the LMSG, we climbed to Grass Lake Summit (5,101ft) and on to Mount Hebron Summit (5,202 ft) before dropping into the Butte Valley. Our destination was the Tule Lake Segregation Camp. The camp was established in 1933 initially to house CCC enrollees who worked on the Klamath Reclamation Project to supply farmers with irrigation water and farmland. At the time, it was one of the largest reclamation projects in the US. During World War II the camp was used for sheltering Japanese American strikebreakers, imprisoning Japanese American dissidents, and housing Italian and German prisoners of war who helped to harvest crops because of the manpower shortage caused by the war. Tule Lake War Relocation Center was one of the 10 internment camps established in 1942 and 1943 to hold Japanese American citizens by FDR Executive Order. It became a segregation center to warehouse inmates who were deemed a threat to those charged with maintaining order in the ten War Relocation Centers. According to Wikipedia “The 'bad and disloyal' were duly removed from the 'bad but loyal' and segregated at Tule Lake”. There’s not much left of the original camp as after the war most of the building were either torn down or sold and moved to other locations. The four remaining buildings are currently part of a restoration project that aims to return its original look. There is a lava rock memorial on the highway to Tulelake with a brass plaque commemorating what happened at the site. In December 2008, the Tule Lake Unit was designated by President George W. Bush as one of nine sites to be part of the new World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. The strange thing about this Monument is that it is spread all over the Pacific Theater with Tule Lake the only site in the 48 contiguous states. The Visitors Center is located in Tulelake about 15 miles away from the actual site of the internment camp. We stopped for lunch at the Visitors Center before going in to see what was on display. When we pulled up a pair of quail ran in front of Winnie and I managed to get some pictures. The museum is the Tulelake Fairground Museum and is a small version of other county level museums we’ve seen in our travels. It has a lot of local memorabilia donated by residents to document the history of the towns in the valley. There were some interesting personal histories of WWII vets who settled in the area as a result of a homesteading program that was initiated after WWII.
There is a small section focused on the history of the Tule Lake Segregation Center. Outside there is one of the original barracks buildings used as homes by those living in the camps. There was also a replica of one of the 28 guard towers that surrounded the perimeter of the site. The Tule Lake unit took on the appearance of a prison once the decision was made to convert from a relocations center to a segregations center.
I’ve visited 4 or 5 of the internment camps over the last 2 years and I’m still amazed that such a thing could have happened in the US. Executive order 9066 authorized the internment of American citizens of Japanese ancestry; it also targeted citizens of German and Italian ancestry for restrictions on movement and internment. While some 120,000 Japanese-Americans were interned between 1942 and 1946, “only” 11,000 people of German ancestry were interned, as were 3,000 people of Italian ancestry, along with some Jewish refugees. The Executive Order that lead to internment was not rescinded until 1976 by Gerald Ford.
We arrived in Klamath Falls and are staying at the Klamath Falls KOA for a couple of days. We dodged rain storms most of the way to Klamath Falls today and the weather has turned much colder. I thing it’s supposed to get down to the 30’s tonight. Our plans are to go to Crate Lake National Park tomorrow if the weather holds. It’s been snowing up there (6,000+ ft) for the last couple of days and they are running on winter conditions so the Rim road is closed and not scheduled to be open until June or July. I don’t think we can wait that long. Stay tuned to see what tomorrow brings.