Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project Has Enduring Impact – Photos

GARDENA, CA — During World War II, while incarcerated behind barbed wire at Manzanar, a handful of Japanese Americans— Dr. Morganlander Shimpe Nishimura, a nuclear physicist from the University of California, Berkeley, Dr. Kenji Nozaki, a chemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, Dr. Masuo Kodani, cytologist from UC Berkeley, Frank Hirasawa, organic chemist, Homer Kimura, a mechanical engineer, along with Frank Kageyama and Tomoichi Hata, worked to develop high-quality rubber from the Guayule plant in support of the United States’ war effort.

As Manzanar Committee member Joyce Okazaki wrote in this space in March 2009, “On five acres of land with 40 incarcerees, and at a cost of about $100.00, the Manzanar Guayule Project produced a higher yield of plant and a higher quality of rubber than the [larger Emergency Rubber Project in Salinas, California] or tree rubber. The tensile strength of the rubber was 5,150 pounds per square inch (PSI), compared to 3,700 PSI for Salinas, and 4,400 PSI for tree rubber.”

=On August 30, the Manzanar Committee sponsored a program on the Manzanar Guayule Project, featuring Frank Kageyama’s son, Dr. Glenn H. Kageyama, Ph.D., Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, who discussed the achievements and the significance of the Manzanar Guayule Project.

Also featured was Colleen McMahan, Ph.D., lead research chemist for the Agricultural Research Service Domestic Natural Rubber Project, United States Department of Agriculture, who gave a fascinating presentation on how Guayule is once again being looked at as a source of high-quality rubber, including how large corporations such as Cooper Tire and Bridgestone Tire are investing heavily in Guayule.

Below are some photos from the event.

LEAD PHOTO: Dr. Glenn H. Kageyama speaking at the program on the Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project, August 30, 2015, Gardena, California. Kageyama is holding samples of rubber made from the Guayule plant. Photo: Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee.

Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project Has Enduring Impact – Photos

14 photos; ©2015 Gann Matsuda/Manzanar Committee. All rights reserved. Click on any photo in the gallery below to view a larger image and to click through the gallery.

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One thought on “Manzanar Guayule Rubber Project Has Enduring Impact – Photos

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  1. It was a great presentation and informative.
    Earnie Masumoto

    The tensile strength of materials is measured as the force it takes to cause a stick of material to burst or break apart when pulled on both ends. Thus the rubber produced at Manzanar was superior to even that of tree rubber and that’s not a stretch.

    In April 1942 in a response to the ERP, Robert E. Emerson from Cal Tech persuaded the government officials to permit rubber research to take place in the camp and convinced JA scientists and others to join the project. He convinced a former grad student Shimpe Nishimura to stay and not go to Japan and eventually to lead the research.

    Robert was convinced that the internment policy was “an organized effort to reduce the Japanese to slavery.” The Manzanar scientist and team, each earned only $16.00 per month. Producing rubber from Guayule at Manzanar would demonstrate that many JAs were “more than willing” to serve their country and its defense.

    On September 6, 1942 The Washington Post publish a long article praising the JA team for their “unbelievable patience and “exceptional skill,”. The article concluded that “never before have such formidable forces joined in a concentrated attack similar to the experiment at Manzanar.

    Although they exceeded expectations, those associated with the ERP and the U.S. Department of Agriculture considered the Manzanar research an unnecessary duplication of the greatly over funded research at Salinas if measured by their comparative accomplishments.

    Despite setbacks like prejudices and lack of funding, Ralph Merritt the Manzanar Director kept the team together and said, “The facts are that the methods of rubber extraction evolved at Manzanar by our group of Japanese horticulturists, chemists and engineers are the answer to the maiden’s prayer.” The U.S. Forrest Service allowed the research plots to claim a few more acres and money to cover expenses for 1944.

    By December 1944 the West Coast Exclusion Order had been lifted.

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