The audience at the kickoff event included former internees and their families.
The audience at the kickoff event included former internees and their families.

SAN BRUNO — The Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial Committee (TACMC), in cooperation with BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), presented a reception to celebrate the commencement of a capital campaign to raise funds to create and install a Tanforan Assembly Center memorial.

The event was held at the San Bruno BART station, just south of San Francisco in San Mateo County, on Oct. 31.

Dedicated to the almost 8,000 persons of Japanese ancestry who were illegally incarcerated in hastily built barracks in the infield of the Tanforan Race Track from April to October 1942, the memorial will be placed between the San Bruno BART station and the shopping mall that now stands at the former confinement site.

The memorial was designed by the internationally known architectural firm RHAA, which created the design for the renovation of Union Square in San Francisco. It will be a sculpture based on a famous photograph by Dorothea Lange of two young children at Tanforan.

The keynote speaker was Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), who has been a longtime supporter of the Tanforan project.

The program was emceed by former broadcast journalist Wendy Hanamura, known for a documentary she produced entitled “Honor Bound; A Personal Journey,” a story of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team seen through the eyes of her father, Sgt. Howard Hanamura.

Foster City Councilmember Steve Okamoto, local JACL leader, lived with his parents and siblings at Tanforan before they were relocated to more permanent camps inland. He recounted how the smell of horse manure was ingrained into his mother’s memory since many families had to stay in horse stalls.

“The memorial not only represents the 8,000 individuals who were falsely imprisoned, but also to serve as a reminder to all of America that this cannot and shall not happen again,” Okamoto said.

In addition to Okamoto, former Tanforan internees on the TACMC board are Ben Takeshita and Richard Sekiguchi.

The TACMC is hoping to have the memorial constructed by the 75th anniversary of the signing of Executive Order of 9066 in 2017.

The committee was formed in March 2012 to initiate an exhibit of wartime photographs by Dorothea Lange and contemporary photographs by Paul Kitagaki Jr. to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the opening of Tanforan. With the approval and support of the BART Board of Directors and staff, the exhibit was installed at the San Bruno BART train station and remains there today. TACMC and the Contra Costa JACL have developed a traveling photo exhibit based on the photos at San Bruno.

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A rendering of the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial.
A rendering of the Tanforan Assembly Center Memorial by RHAA.

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