Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo, organizer of the flag project, speaks to former incarcerees at a flag-signing on Monday at the GVJCI.

The Japanese American Incarceration Memorial Legacy Project came to the Los Angeles area on July 5.

Two vintage American flags with 48 stars traveled to the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo, and Kazuo Masuda Memorial VFW Post 3670 in Garden Grove to be signed by Japanese Americans who were incarcerated during World War II. They also wrote down which camps they were in.

Bacon Sakatani chronicled the Gardena signing event. He also signed a flag as a Heart Mountain incarceree and as a Korean War veteran.

Some signed on behalf of parents and grandparents who have passed away or were unable to attend. The stars were reserved for those who served in the military, including the Nisei units of World War II.

The project is led by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Johnny Cepeda Gogo, who brought the flags from the Bay Area and chatted with attendees during the signings.

He was inspired by fellow Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Roberta Hayashi, civil rights attorney Dale Minami, and civil rights activist Karen Korematsu, daughter of Fred Korematsu. Among those who have signed the flag are former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta (Heart Mountain) and former Rep. Mike Honda (Amache), both of whom have represented San Jose in Congress.

The flags have also traveled to Monterey Park, Camarillo, Sacramento and Seattle, and more signings are planned in Utah and elsewhere.

The goal is to display the flags at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose on the next Fred Korematsu Day in January 2022.

For more information on the project, email Judge Gogo at

Sisters Atsuko and Betty Fukunaga signed as former internees of the Justice Department camp in Crystal City, Texas. Atsuko was born there.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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