By GWEN MURANAKA
Rafu English Editor-in-Chief
Names — 11,070 of them — are an emotional testament to the presence of the men, women and children who called Manzanar their home during World War II. At the Manzanar Interpretive Center, an opaque screen printed with those names is a centerpiece of the exhibition, and now it’s getting an update. The public’s help is sought in correcting omissions or misspellings.
“The original list of 11,070 names came from a roster database created by numerous Manzanar volunteers who were working from a photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopied roster that Sue Kunitomi Embrey gave us in 2002,” explained Alisa Lynch, chief of interpretation. “Many of the names were hard to read because on the old typewritten originals. Many E’s looked like O’s or A’s and I’s looked like L’s, etc.”
Lynch also noted that there were no doubt typos in the original rosters created by the War Relocation Authority.
Since the interpretive center opened in April 2004, National Park Service staff have received dozens of corrections. Grant money has now allowed them to update the names.
To create a more accurate listing of names, the staff has cross referenced various sources including rosters at UCLA and websites like Ancestry.com. Sarah Bone, a volunteer who is familiar with Japanese names, has been working on roster corrections.
“Cross referencing various sources that we can digitally zoom in on, is really helpful and really time consuming,” Lynch said.
Sets Tomita, a resident of Northridge, noticed a typo on the wall when he visited the interpretive center. He was 10 when his family was incarcerated at Manzanar and his experiences are featured in the documentary film “Manzanar Fishing Club.”
“There is a list of my family, my youngest brother’s name is misspelled,” Tomita explained.
He has submitted his brother’s name — Joseph Tsuneki Tomita — and he hopes other incarcerees will take this opportunity to make corrections.
“We were young, but we knew the consequences of what happened. We knew that all my dad’s work was lost. The attitude of my mom was shikata ga nai,” Tomita said.
“I feel good about the fact I went through the camps, but it didn’t defeat me. Not just me all, the people in camp, there was never any grumblings.”
Individuals who have corrections are asked to submit the names by Aug. 31. They should include date or year of birth, as well as the names of other family members. Submissions should also include a contact in case there are follow-up questions.
Names may be sent to Patricia Biggs at [email protected] For more information, contact Biggs at (760) 878-2194 ext. 3316.