The Memorial in Washington, DC is designed to commemorate the patriotism of Japanese Americans during World War II. Its design is a response to a dark chapter in our nation’s history when war hysteria and prejudice led to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans. Many were American citizens by birthright and despite the egregious injustice done to them by their own country, they still felt compelled by a sense of loyalty and duty to fight for our country. When he signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, President Ronald W. Reagan stated, “Here we admit a wrong. Here we affirm our commitment to equal justice under the law.” This statement, meant as an apology to all those who suffered civil liberties injustices, is a key part of the ideological fabric of the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism during World War II.
Dimensional granite with the inscribed names of those Japanese Americans who died while fighting in World War II envelopes the space and a still pool of water encourages visitors to pause for a moment of self-reflection. The pool is illuminated at night with energy efficient fiber optic lights transforming the memorial. “The Golden Cranes” sculpted by Nina Akamu, a third generation Japanese American, majestically stands at the center of the space.
My Uncles served in the Army, Military Intelligence Service during WW2. My Uncle Sus told me he had to interrogate Japanese prisoners of war. It must have been a difficult experience for him. As a result, he rarely talked about it. Instead, he always said he was “just a dumb old solder” rather than take any credit. His service to our country was taken in stride. I am very proud of his contribution to ending the war early (according to General Douglas MacArthur).
The Memorial honors those members of the 100th Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the Military Intelligence Service and other units who fought with conspicuous bravery. The names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice are engraved on several of the panels. In addition, the Memorial honors those who experienced dislocation and were held in the War Relocation Authority concentration camps during the period 1942-1945.
As you know, all of my Mom and Dad’s family were sent to either blistering desert of Gila, AZ or the swamps of Jerome, AK. When they talked about it, it was never in harsh or bitter tones. Best of all, they eloped to Phoenix to get married, and soon headed to Chicago to work in the war effort. They came back to California as the war was ending, back to Kingsburg, and soon, 1946, I was born.
Personally, I think the Memorial should have more components. It does not accurately reflect the struggles of the Relocation period.