June 24, 2012

Billy Manbo, WWII Flying Ace

This is pretty extraordinary. During World War II, Los Angeleno Bill Manbo and his family were imprisoned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans in an internment camp at Heart Mountain, Wyoming. But he somehow managed to take photos--Kodachrome slides, actually--of daily life inside the camp. I thought that internees' use of cameras was banned or highly restricted.

Yet here was Manbo, snapping away; 65 of his rare color photos are published in a book, Colors of Confinement, edited by Eric L. Muller, which will be released in August 2012. The NY Times has an awesome preview which includes several shots of Manbo's young son Billy--that's Billy climbing the barbed wire fence, in fact, on the first shot.

And that's Billy up top, in his awesome little leather flight jacket, playing with a toy fighter plane. Just like any other American boy during the war. Except for the imprisoned and denied basic civil and constitutional rights part because of endemic race paranoia, of course.

WHOA, FULL STOP: From the acknowledgements, it sounds like these photos surfaced, and the book project came together thanks to the efforts of another Japanese American who'd been interned at Heart Mountain as a boy, the awesomely named Bacon Sakatani. I will repeat that out loud, and you should, too, because it's the greatest name you'll hear all weekend: Bacon Sakatani.

Heart Mountain Japanese American internment camp photographs by Bill Manbo [nyt]
I did, now you can, too: Pre-order Colors of Confinement: Rare Kodachrome Photographs of Japanese American Incarceration in World War II for August 2012 release

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