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Manzanar Historic Site

January 05, 1994

* Re "Plans to Honor Manzanar Create Divided Camps," Dec. 23:

In opposing plans for making Manzanar a national historic site, Bill Michael, administrator for the Eastern California Museum in Independence, is quoted as saying, "For some of these people, it's very hard to separate the soldiers in the Japanese Imperial Army from Japanese Americans . . . they don't think any big deal should be made over the camp." Also, it was reported that the local VFW, in the 1980s, passed a resolution opposing the development of a proposed historic area at Manzanar.

I am saddened and angered that after 50 years, some people still don't get it. It was because our government failed to distinguish between the Japanese enemy and loyal Japanese Americans that we were banished to camps like Manzanar. Volunteers from the camps into the 442nd Regimental Combat Team provided a "demonstration in blood" on the European front, and it was estimated that the work accomplished by Nisei serving in military intelligence in the Pacific shortened the war by two years.

The suffering and humiliation of the camps were not endured by men, women, children and babies who were the enemy, but rather they were endured by fellow American citizens, ostensibly possessing full constitutional guarantees.

I suppose the fact that there are those who still don't get it only indicates the need for the historical site. A bill, signed by President Reagan in 1988, has provided an apology and token financial redress to practically all of the surviving internees. What remains is a means to tell our story so as to salvage some semblance of meaning to this American tragedy.

We probably can't change the minds of those folks around Independence, and others who we have not succeeded in convincing, but a national historic site would surely help to instruct the uninformed, and it could serve to enlighten future generations.

PHIL SHIGEKUNI

Board Member

San Fernando Valley Chapter

Japanese American Citizen's League

North Hills

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