TULELAKE, California— It is not unusual for historic structures to disappear as they are reused or demolished to make way for development, but at the Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument, a once lost piece of history has been recovered. Between 1942 and 1946, more than 29,000 Japanese Americans and their families were imprisoned in the Tule Lake War Relocation Center or Segregation Center in Newell. The infrastructure used to hold these US citizens was made available to the local population for use in their efforts to rebuild their lives in the aftermath of World War II. The infamous Segregation Center jail, a powerful symbol of the injustice inflicted upon so many, was considered valuable in a landscape where metal was difficult to obtain or expensive to buy. Like much of the former camp, the metal used in the jail was sold by the Bureau of Reclamation as scrap. The purchasers, however, had the foresight to protect these pieces of history.
On August 30, 2012 the Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was pleased to accept a donation from Bill Osborne and family of significant portions of the Tule Lake Segregation Center jail's metal infrastructure; including cell bars, doors and bunks. Due to the forward thinking of Bill's mother Allison M. and father James Edgar Osborne more than six decades ago; these historic artifacts have been preserved. Mrs. Osborne had a long history of helping Japanese and Japanese Americans discover their history at Tule Lake according to her son. Bill recalls his mother spending time at the Segregation Center helping teach in one of the elementary schools and providing fresh vegetables.
“The National Park Service, and indeed the American people, are grateful to the Osborne family for protecting these treasures and donating them to the Tule Lake Unit,” said Mike Reynolds, Superintendent of the Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. “The significance of these pieces goes beyond serving as part of a building. They symbolize the experiences of those who lived behind barbed wire and metal bars without recourse.”
The Tule Lake Unit of World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument, along with partners such as the Tule Lake Committee, are working to make management decisions on how best to preserve the existing structures and interpret the events surrounding the Segregation Center. The Tule Lake Committee is raising money to help protect what remains of the jail building.