Terminal Island

We prefer two of the older names for this island in Los Angeles Harbor–Rattlesnake Island or Deadman’s Island (after the latter was dynamited and added to the landfill here)–considering one of the more infamous episodes of its history.

The fishing Japanese-Americans who settled here called it Fish Island and, without bridges to the mainland, developed an odd culture and even dialect that never completely landed them in either country. Not that it mattered after December 7, 1941, and Pearl Harbor. The entire adult male population was immediately rounded up by the FBI and sent to prison without trial. The rest of the inhabitants were shortly thereafter bussed off to interment camps for the duration of World War II without the slightest excuse other than pure hysteria. Everything has to start somewhere, and this operation gave rise to President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 and the instant dispossession of an entire race of American citizens.

After the war, the stolen island was taken over by various maritime enterprises–all safely in Caucasian hands–which have nearly all gone bust by now. The road out past Al’s Boatyard and all those empty yards, rusty cranes, and dreary hulks leads to the immaculate Federal Terminal Island Correctional Facility, home of the Manson Family during their 1970 trial. Karma indeed.

The statue in the photo was erected in 2002 by descendants of the lost fishing villagers. The dignity of this memorial at the entrance to the island says everything about the victims and nothing about the perpetrators.


Categories: California