Another View: Let’s memorialize contributions of Japanese Americans

Another View
By: Ken Tokutomi, Japanese American Citizens League
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I was blessed to grow up here in Placer County. I believe that the success I have experienced as a businessman and community leader is the direct result of the influence and culture that the Japanese American community imparted to me. My generation of Americans of Japanese ancestry owes much to our parents, who ingrained in us the Japanese work ethic, prodded us to pursue higher education and encouraged us to become solid citizens and leaders in our community, despite myriad trials and tribulations. The characteristics they demonstrated inspired us to become a successful generation of Americans. We must recognize those Americans who faced the injustice of internment, yet fought bravely for our country. The Placer County chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League along with the Sacramento and Florin chapters are affording us the opportunity to honor this “greatest generation” with a project that will erect a larger-than-life-size bronze monument at the Bill Santucci Placer County Justice Center located in Roseville. All five Placer County supervisors spoke at the memorial site in a dedication on Dec. 16, 2009. To honor the motto of the heroic 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of its size in American military history, the county named a street at the memorial Go For Broke Road. The memorial honors the 442nd combat team, the 100th Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service of World War II. These units were made up of patriotic Americans of Japanese ancestry, many of whom had families interned in camps far from their homes. These men suffered — and many sacrificed their lives — to enable our generation to gain acceptance in a society that would not allow my grandparents to own property in Newcastle. As part of its partnership with the citizens league, Placer County funded a landscaped area designed by Yamasaki Landscaping of Auburn as the first phase of the memorial project. The space currently bears a compass symbol which points to meaningful locations for the 442nd, along with two plaques set into large granite boulders that honor the dedication of this memorial. The second stage of the project is to erect a bronze statue of a Japanese-American soldier from the 442nd combat team helping a wounded soldier of the 36th Division of the Texas Battalion (now known as the “Lost Battalion” because of the dire condition of the soldiers after a long and brutal siege) off the battlefield. Artist France Borka, an accomplished sculptor and Placer County resident, completed his design for the monument, “Rescue of the Lost Battalion.” Donors have already given more than $45,000 toward the $150,000 needed to complete the large bronze monument. Research reveals that the internment of most West Coast Americans of Japanese ancestry was influenced by economic and political fears. Some say it was a form of social engineering by the Roosevelt Administration. The top secret Munson report, commissioned prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, evaluated the Japanese American community on the West Coast and found minimal threat from these people. Nevertheless, our parents — American citizens—were stripped of their constitutional rights and made prisoners on some desolate piece of ground. To learn more about the project, see a roster of Placer County men who served, or donate securely, visit www.placer If you know of Japanese American WWII veterans who are not listed, contact David Unruhe at davicki@wizwire. com or (530) 906-5448. In conjunction with this memorial, local JACL chapters are developing an educational component, in cooperation with Placer County Office of Education and Sierra College, which will be part of our school curriculum. After all, what good is a monument if young people don’t understand what it represents? Please help us by making a tax-deductible donation online or by mailing your check to Placer County JACL Monument, 11850 Kemper Road #D Auburn, CA 95603. You can contact me at (530) 888-1303 or by e-mail to