Wall of honor to pay tribute to Japanese Americans of World War II
Seattle's Nisei Veterans Committee Foundation plans to erect a memorial wall at its International District offices to honor those of Japanese ancestry who either served in the U.S. military or were sent to internment camps during World War II.
Seattle Times staff reporter
To learn moreTo donate and to learn more about the project, go to www.seattlenvc.org.
One plans to honor his mother, another his uncles and father. Louise Kashino plans to honor her husband, and her daughters plan to honor her.
Each is behind a memorial wall they say will be unique, to be built in Seattle's Chinatown International District in honor of people of Japanese ancestry who were interned during World War II, served in the U.S. military — or, in some cases, both.
"The first and second generations have established a legacy that's second to none," said Keith Yamaguchi, commander of Seattle's Nisei Veterans Committee. "... I don't think people really understand their hardships and the garbage they had to put up with."
Fundraising kicked off May 1 for the $1.2 million memorial wall, to be built of up to 4,000 bricks, each 4 inches by 12 inches in size and inscribed with the name of an internee or veteran.
The wall will be installed outside the committee's offices, at the Nisei Veterans Hall at 12th Avenue South and South Jackson Street.
The project's lead architect, Jay Deguchi, said the memorial will feature benches and a parklike feel — creating a place where, "as third-, fourth- and fifth-generation people come and visit, they can feel the history, whether they go up to the wall and touch it or just look at it."
The project will memorialize anyone for whom a brick is purchased, for a minimum $250 donation. Organizers expect most honorees to be from this region.
The Nisei Veterans Committee Foundation, which is raising funds for the memorial, has collected about $120,000. Organizers hope to break ground next year.
The idea of a memorial has gained urgency as local Nisei veterans pass away at a rapid rate — 35 in the past year alone.
"We're losing our veterans left and right," said Kashino, 83, who was sent to Idaho's Camp Minidoka with her family and now readily shares her experience in classrooms and elsewhere.
"There's not going to be many of us left to talk about it. ... Living the legacy is very important to me."
Kashino was 15 when the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 drew the U.S. into the war.
Pulled from school
A month before she was to graduate from Seattle's Broadway High, she and her family were among nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry who would be imprisoned under President Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066.
There she met her future husband, Shiro, who — like many other internees — decided to volunteer for military service.
Shiro went on to earn six Purple Hearts with the Army's famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team, whose campaigns included the liberation of Jewish prisoners at Dachau and the legendary "Rescue of the Lost Battalion," an Army division trapped behind German enemy lines in France.
At the time of his death in 1997, Shiro's daughter, Debbie McQuilken, said her father saw himself as fighting "for the sake of the children" — his generation's legacy.
The family has bought a brick to honor Shiro, who died in Seattle at age 75.
Leaders of the Nisei veterans organization were thrilled when an adjacent property owner offered to sell the land next to theirs.
Parking had become an increasing worry on their busy street, and when they realized the expanded site would be large enough to house more than just additional parking, they thought: Why not build a memorial?
The knew that existing memorials across the country honored Japanese-American veterans or those who had been sent to internment camps such as Manzanar or Tule Lake, both in California. On Bainbridge Island, the Nidoto Nai Yoni Memorial honors island residents who were the West Coast's first to be exiled.
But none, as far as they knew, did both.
Yamaguchi says the memorial wall also will be special in that it honors Nisei — or second-generation Japanese Americans — along with the first-generation Issei, to whom internment memorials generally are dedicated.
Such refocusing has become necessary with time as Nisei — now in their 70s, 80s and even 90s — take their place as community elders.
"Most of the Issei are gone now," said Yamaguchi, a third-generation Sansei, "and the people taking up the cause are people like myself, even fourth and fifth generations."
Deguchi, the project's lead architect, whose father, uncles and grandfather were interned, said that despite losing all they'd worked for, those elders paved the way for future generations. The idea of a wall represents the foundation they laid.
"It's there, supporting the organization," he said. "So what goes on top can flourish because of the strong foundation."
Marc Ramirez: 206-464-8102 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 09:46 AM
Exxon Mobil wins ruling in Alaska oil spill case
NEW - 7:51 AM
Longview man says he was tortured with hot knife
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
Furniture & home furnishings
POST A FREE LISTING