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National award for effort to honor Japanese-American WWII soldiers

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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A quest by Auburn chartered accountant Ken Tokutomi to honor the Japanese-American soldiers of World War II with a permanent bronze monument has been recognized by the Pacific Citizen. The award-winning Asian Pacific American newspaper published in Los Angeles by the Japanese American Citizens League recently announced the selection of a past McCann Award winner as one of 18 “Extraordinary Asian Pacific Americans of the Year.” The award honors unsung American heroes and community leaders whose work and activism has made a positive impact. Joining Tokutomi as “Extraordinary Asian Pacific Americans,” are Hawaii’s Sen. Daniel Inouye, Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shineski, “Karate Kid” actress Tamlyn Tomita, and California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. “These leaders in our community have shown time and time again how their headline-making accomplishments are making an impact in the Asian-American community,” said Caroline Aoyagi-Stom, Pacific Citizen executive editor. The Pacific Citizen has been a leading voice for Asian Pacific Americans since 1929. The newspaper covered both the forced internment of Japanese-Americans after the U.S. entry into World War II and the exploits of the 14,000 Japanese-Americans who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The 442nd was the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history, in terms of size and length of service. A total of 101 Japanese-Americans from Placer County served with the 442nd. The regiment is the focus of the bronze statue and “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” commemorates one of their most famous wartime feats. Tokutomi has led the drive to erect “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” in time for Veterans Day in November. His Pacific Citizen award also takes note of his years of dedicated work in the Auburn area and Placer County, including Tokutomi’s current posts as chairman of the Salvation Army Advisory Board of Auburn and Placer County Board of Education trustee. Tokutomi, 60, said the story of the 442nd that the sculpture will embody also reflects on the hardships of those who were interned during World War II. That group included Tokutomi’s parents. A plaque with the statue addresses the bigger story, making reference to the sacrifice of the Japanese-American soldiers as their relatives were interned in camps. “We made the point that it has to be part of the story,” Tokutomi said. “And many of those who were interned from Northern California later fought heroically in the European and Pacific theaters and must be remembered.” The monument is a private-public partnership between the Japanese American Citizens League and Placer County. The county has already dedicated a small park to honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. The league has expanded the scope of the monument to include all World War II veterans of Japanese ancestry and those who were interned. So far, the fundraising team headed by Tokutomi has raised more than $100,000 but needs $60,000 more to complete the project. The goal is to have a dedication that will include local surviving 442nd veterans Shig Yokote and Frank Kageta, both now in their 90s. ---------------------------------------------------- More information For information or to donate to the “Rescue of the Lost Battalion” statue fund, visit Placerjacl.org or contact Ken Tokutomi at (530) 888-1303.