TORRANCE — On July 1, members of the WWII Camp Wall Committee gathered at Columbia Park with Assemblymember Al Muratsurchi (D-Torrance), his aides, Torrance city councilmembers, former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jan Perry, and others involved with the camp wall project.
They came together to celebrate Torrance’s move to accept a state grant facilitated by Muratsuchi and build the monument in the 52-acre park, located at Prairie Avenue and 190th Street.
The motion passed well past midnight at a City Council meeting weeks ago, and the group was finally able to celebrate.
A state grant of $5 million is going to the city to build a monument consisting of 12 walls, which will represent the various War Relocation Authority and Department of Justice camps where approximately 125,000 Japanese Americans were detained during World War II. Each wall will list the names of those who were incarcerated.
Monuments have been established at former confinement sites, but this will be the first to list all of the incarcerees.
Torrance resident and former incarceree Kanji Sahara, who spearheaded the concept of this monument, thanked all present with a bento lunch.
Born in 1934 in Hiroshima and raised in the Uptown area of Los Angeles, Sahara was held at the Santa Anita Assembly Center and the Jerome and Rohwer concentration camps in Arkansas. After leaving camp, he lived and worked in Chicago before eventually returning to California. He worked for General Dynamics in Pomona and was a docent for the Japanese American National Museum for many years.
WWII Camp Wall President Nancy Hayata greeted guests and thanked individuals for their service in bringing this project to fruition. Muratsuchi presented Sahara with a Certificate of Appreciation from the State Assembly.
The group also held an informal ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sahara cut the ribbon at the future location of the monument.
Gregg Maedo of Orange-based Gregg Maedo Associates, the architect for the project, attended the event.
Also serving on the Executive Board are Nancy Kyoko Oda and Kristen Tang, vice presidents; Kaitlyn Tang, treasurer; Marlen Diaz Sanchez, secretary. (Kristen and Kaitlyn Tang are Sahara’s granddaughters.) Members at large: Former Torrance Mayor Pat Furey, Kay Susumu Oda and Sid Morrison. Community liaisons: Ann Burroughs, Japanese American National Museum, and Bruce Embrey, Manzanar Committee.
Morrison, a Vietnam veteran and a former history and English teacher, assistant principal and principal in the Torrance Unified School District, stressed the importance of educating people of all backgrounds about the Japanese American wartime experience, a cautionary tale of how easily people can lose their constitutional rigths.
WWII Camp Wall classic logo T-shirts were being worn by many, and were available for a small donation. This symbolically kicked off fundraising efforts for the $5 million needed to build the walls. The next goal is to raise $2.5 million to develop educational display panels with QR codes to teach more about the camps, and eventually provide audio tours.
A presentation on the WWII Camp Wall was given this past weekend during the JACL National Convention in Little Tokyo.
Logo shirts and donation links can be found at www.wwiicampwall.org.