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SANTA MONICA PATCH: Dozens Gather on 70th Anniversary of Forced Relocation of Japanese
April 25, 2012
By Paul Chavez
More than a thousand people of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu gathered at a Venice intersection 70 years ago and were loaded onto buses and sent to a World War II relocation camp.
More than 50 people gathered on a corner of a busy Venice intersection Wednesday morning to mark the 70th anniversary of the relocation of people of Japanese ancestry to a World War II relocation camp and to see a full-scale model of a monument planned for the site.
On April 25, 1942, more than a thousand adults and children of Japanese ancestry from Venice, Santa Monica and Malibu reported to the northwest corner of Lincoln and Venice boulevards to be transported to the War Relocation Authority camp at Manzanar in Inyo County.
More than 120,000 Japanese and Japanese-Americans along the West Coast were sent to 10 relocation camps following the Dec. 7, 1941, sneak attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into World War II.
A handful of internees returned Wednesday to the corner where they and their families departed for the relocation camp.
Arnold Maeda of Santa Monica said he was a teenager when he and his family were sent to Manzanar and a quote from him was engraved on the monument model saying, "Instead of being worried about where we were going, I was obsessed with the fact that I had parted with my constant companion, my pet dog, Boy. For a fifteen-year-old, that was kind of traumatic."
"Let this monument be a constant reminder so this shall never happen again," he said Wednesday.
His younger brother, Brian Maeda, who was born in Manzanar, recalled how his father used to own a nursery in Santa Monica.
"He had to sell and liquidate everything and report to this corner," said Maeda, became a filmmaker and produced the documentary "Music Man of Manzanar."
Amy Ioki, an internee from Malibu, also had a quote on the monument model that read: "As a sixteen-year-old I didn't realize it fully, but in time we learned how our rights as citizens were ignored. Thanks to the strength and resilience of our Issei parents, we were able to survive."
The dedication of a memorial monument has been the goal of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee, which includes former internees and other concerned citizens. The proposed site next to a car wash is where the former "Civil Control Station" used to stand and it's where local residents reported and then were placed on buses bound for Manzanar.
Emily Winters, a VJAMM committee member and a founder of the Venice Arts Council, said the monument was fashioned after an obelisk that was built by internees at the Manzanar cemetery. The marker will stand 9-feet, 6-inches tall and will be made of black granite to keep it easy to clean and prevent graffiti.
The Venice Peace and Freedom Party in the wake of 9/11 helped kick-start the efforts to erect a marker to honor those locals of Japanese ancestry who were forced to abandon their homes. The effort gained momentum in April 2003 when the Free Venice Beachhead first printed photos from April 25, 1942, on its front page.
Phyllis Hayashibara, a former teacher at Venice High School, and students in her honors U.S. history class in 2009 began to lobby Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl to support a memorial marker.
In 2010, the City Council approved Rosendahl's motion supporting the memorial marker and state Sen. Ted Lieu and Assemblywoman Betsy Butler also introduced resolutions supporting it.
The VJAMM committee has received financial support from the Venice Neighborhood Council, Rosendahl's office and others, but still needs funds to build the monument. The groups has its own Website and Facebook page for more details.
Rosendahl acted as the master of ceremonies for the event and he talked about his recent visit to Manzanar and the "incredible humility" of the people who were imprisoned there.
"They were able to keep their culture and dignity together even when they were being abused," Rosendahl said.
He called the force relocation a "shameful" period in U.S. history and said that we "must remember so this will never happen again."