DELTA, Utah — The Topaz Museum Board announces the launch of the Topaz Community Outreach Project, as part of its effort to preserve and interpret a recently discovered stone monument, first erected in 1943 in honor of James Hatsuaki Wakasa.
Wakasa was a Japanese American man unjustly imprisoned (along with nearly 11,000 others) during World War II at the Topaz concentration camp in Utah. On April 11, 1943, Wakasa was shot and killed by a sentry guard, inside the prison fence. Incarcerated Japanese Americans erected a stone monument in his honor, but were forced to bury it by order of the camp overseers. It remained buried until its recent discovery.
Over the next eight months, the Topaz Museum Board will gather crucial community input and perspectives on the future of the Wakasa Monument. The collected feedback, combined with recommendations from the National Park Service, will be assembled into a public Interpretive Project Plan.
This plan will provide executable guidelines for the long-term preservation and interpretation of the monument, will inform a commemoration plan for the 80th anniversary of Wakasa’s death, and will address future interpretive programming, educational outreach, and community engagement at the Topaz Museum.
The Topaz Community Outreach Project will officially launch in June 2022 and include community engagement via online and print surveys, and public meetings, held both virtually and in person. While special efforts will be made to reach former Topaz camp survivors and their descendants for their input, all outreach components will be free and open to the public.
April 11, 2023 marks the 80th anniversary of James Hatsuaki Wakasa’s death. On April 11, 1943, he was shot by a military sentry as he was walking his dog near the fence that encircled the Topaz concentration camp. His killing was ruled as “justified” during a military trial although no evidence exists to explain why.
Nearly 2,000 Topaz incarcerees attended Wakasa’s funeral. However, after fellow inmates erected a monument in his memory, they were ordered by the Topaz camp administration to remove it, and the monument was subsequently buried in an attempt to stifle the inmates’ rage and grief.
The exact location of Wakasa’s memorial was unknown until 2020, when a hand-drawn map was found in the National Archives. The discovery of this important artifact was significant and prompts further discussion about its future.
Subsequently, the Topaz Museum Board requested thata a team from the National Park Service assess the current condition of the Wakasa Monument and its original location at the Topaz site. The Topaz Museum Board is now working to implement their recommendations. Details on how to access the online survey, request a printed survey to be mailed to your home, and join the public meetings will be released to the community in coming weeks.
The Topaz Museum’s mission is to preserve the Topaz site and its World War II history; to interpret the impact of Topaz on the incarcerees, their families, and the citizens of Millard County; and to educate the public in order to prevent a recurrence of a similar denial of American civil rights. For more information, visit the Topaz Museum website (http://topazmuseum.org/), email email@example.com, call (435) 864-2514 or mail correspondence to 55 West Main, Delta, UT 84624.
I am interested in accessing the NPS online survey and joining the public meetings.