Sunday, June 24, 2001

memorial dogged
by controversy

The Washington, D.C. memorial
includes a statement
some find objectionable

By Carl Hartman
Associated Press

WASHINGTON >> Thousands of Japanese Americans fought against their ancestors' homeland and died for the United States in World War II. Another 120,000, mostly from California, were confined in internment camps.

Now, all Japanese Americans of the era have a memorial: a small park on the edge of the Capitol grounds. It includes symbols of Japan such as cherry trees. Rocks in a pool of moving water recall the Japanese islands. The central piece, by Japanese American Nina Akamu, is a tall, bronze sculpture of two cranes struggling against barbed wire.

Presidents have apologized for the injustice to those who were interned, and Congress has voted compensation to survivors. "You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice and you won," President Harry S. Truman told Japanese-American units when the war was over.

The ribbon-cutting for the memorial Friday will include Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, the first Japanese-American cabinet member, and Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who was seriously wounded in the war.

A tube-shaped bronze bell created by Paul Matisse, grandson of French painter Henri Matisse, will be unwrapped. Visitors will be encouraged to ring the bell as a call to reflection, organizers said.

Americans of Japanese ancestry contributed more than $13 million to the National Japanese-American Memorial Foundation to build the memorial.

The memorial is not without controversy. Francis Y. Sogi and Yeiichi Kuwayama, two members of the Foundation's board of directors, objected to the inclusion of an excerpt from a "Japanese American Creed" by veteran Mike M. Masaoka.

"I believe in this nation's institutions, ideals and traditions," Masaoka wrote. "I glory in her heritage; I boast of her history; I trust in her future." Sogi and Kuwayama called the creed "an embarrassment of hyperbole" and "delusional."

Masaoka was secretary of the Japanese-American Citizens League, which opposed legal action against the United States for the internments. The memorial identifies Masaoka as a civil rights advocate.

"If persons are to be honored as 'civil rights advocates,'" Sogi and Kuwayama wrote, "they must be those individuals who raised the challenges in the courts by demanding the restoration of those freedoms."

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