Last year I was honored to write a profile of Cory Shiozaki’s wonderful documentary, The Manzanzar Fishing Club. One of the stories Shiozaki talked to me about that he researched in making the film was about an interned fisherman who was lost during a backcountry trip shortly before the end of the war and the closing of the camp. Here’s a snippet from our story:
One of Shiozaki’s favorite stories from his research was one he had to cut from the film. Near the end of the war, about the time the U.S. had dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the war seemed destined to end, a group of internees wanted to make one last long hike to fish a remote high-elevation lake.
One of the members of the party was a middle-aged man who wasn’t in the best of shape but was an artist who decided to stay behind and paint while his friends fished. But an unexpected snowstorm blanketed the mountains and the fishermen huddled in a cave. They never found their friend.
“They made maybe three attempts with search parties to look for him and couldn’t find him. And about a month later there were two hikers from Independence (who wanted to climb Mount Williamson),” Shiozaki says. “And when they were hiking they noticed a wooden stick protruding from the rocks and felt that it was an anomaly because they were above the tree line and there’s no wood up there. And they went over to take a look at what that was, and what happened was that was the guy’s fishing pole next to the decaying remains of the fisherman. They just buried him up there.”
As the above Facebook post suggests, it’s possible that human remains found in a remote Eastern Sierra wilderness area could very well be the missing fisherman from nearly 75 years ago, though news reports didn’t cite the possibilty that the body found in the high-elevation location was the missing Manzanar fisherman. But here’s more from KTLA TV on the discovery:
Closer inspection revealed a fractured human skull. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner moved rocks aside and discovered an entire skeleton. It appeared to have been there long enough that all that remained were bones, a pair of leather shoes and a belt.
The discovery a week ago beneath Mount Williamson unearthed a mystery: Who was the unfortunate hiker? How did he or she die? Was the person alone? Were they ever reported injured, dead or missing? …
The body was discovered Oct. 7 near a lake in the remote rock-filled bowl between the towering peaks of Mount Tyndall and Williamson, which rises to 14,374 feet. The behemoth of a mountain looms large over the Owens Valley below and overshadows the former World War II Japanese internment camp at Manzanar.
Here’s hoping forensic technology will reveal who this person was, whether it’s the location of the Manzanar prisoner or not.
Update: The Associated Press contacted Shiozaki and filed a report about the possibility of the mystery of Manzanar being unearthed, literally. Here’s AP writer Brian Melley:
Over the years, as the little-known story faded along with memories, the location of Matsumura’s remote burial place was lost to time, and he became a sort of ghost of Manzanar, the subject of searches, rumors and legends.
Now, 74 years later, his skeleton may have finally been found.
The Inyo County sheriff’s office told The Associated Press it is investigating the possibility that a set of bleached bones discovered earlier this month in the rugged Sierra Nevada is Matsumura’s.