City Recognizes Griffith Park’s Past as Home of WWII Internment Camp

The placement of a sign announcing the dark moment in the green space’s history was approved by the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners

The northwest corner of Los Angeles’ famed Griffith Park, where the Travel Town Museum is located, has a dark past — the location was a World War II internment camp, according to a report recently released by the city.

The time has come to recognize that part of history, the city has decided. This has taken the form of an educational sign regarding the area’s dark past; the placement of this sign was approved on Thursday by the Board of Recreation and Park Commissioners. It will display information on Griffith Park’s Internment Camp and contain information gathered from research conducted over the past year by Russell Endo, a scholar in the area of the history of internment camps, and Linda Barth, a Griffith Park historian.

File for a prisoner at the Griffith Park Internment Camp (L.A. Parks Dept)

Following the 1941 attack on the U.S. military base at Pearl Harbor — which killed 2,403 U.S. personnel, including 68 civilians, and destroyed or damaged 19 U.S. Navy ships — the government set aside funds to build the camps and earmarked $32,000 to build the Los Angeles facility, which was used to detain first-generation immigrants from Axis countries—101 Japanese people, 21 Germans, and four Italian immigrants—from 1942-1943.

The facility was not set up for long-term detention; people interred there were detained for anywhere between a single night to multiple months. In 1943, the Army closed the location in order to redistribute military guards who were needed elsewhere, according to the report.

While the city is taking this small step to acknowledge the park’s dark chapter, over the years, Griffith Park has also been a resource for the needs of city residents, according to Friends of Griffin Park. During the Great Depression, the Park housed CCC camps to provide jobs and homes to thousands of men from across the country. After World War II, the current zoo parking lot housed soldiers and their families. And these days, the park hosts a bridge housing facility that provides shelter for the unhoused until permanent lodging can be found.

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