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Originally published Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 4:00 PM

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Op-ed: Create a Manhattan Project National Historic Park at Hanford

Congress should make Hanford part of a new Manhattan Project National Historic Park, writes guest columnist Clarence Moriwaki.

Special to The Times

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THE National Park Service has an important job: protecting glorious, beautiful places, promoting patriotism and telling stories of American struggle and courage, mistakes and tragedy.

The Park Service has developed several sites that commemorate the history, decisions and moral questions raised during the World War II era. The USS Arizona, Manzanar, Minidoka, Bainbridge Island and Rosie the Riveter sites all memorialize a small part of the American World War II story.

Another momentous chapter of World War II is waiting to be told.

A bipartisan congressional bill would create a new Manhattan Project National Historic Park at Hanford; Los Alamos, N.M.; and Oak Ridge, Tenn. The park plan deserves our support.

On Dec. 6, 1941, the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Engineering District in Central Washington, which would in time become known as the Manhattan Project. It helped create the first two atomic bombs.

When the Hanford Engineer Works claimed 40,000 acres in the Columbia Basin, my father, a farmer, was forced to leave and find work elsewhere. He later served as a U.S. Army sergeant in the Military Intelligence Service during the postwar occupation of Japan.

It was a bittersweet tour. While he met and married my mom there, he also learned that his father and perhaps six of his 13 siblings were likely among the more than 100,000 people who perished at Hiroshima, a result of the Manhattan Project’s bomb.

Some believe a Manhattan Project National Historic Park would glorify nuclear warfare. As someone who lost family because of the atomic bomb, I agree that there is no glory in the first and only use of atomic weapons.

However, the Manhattan Project is an important chapter of American history, and I believe we should recount all parts of our heritage, even the painful moments.

We cannot rewrite history — nor should we cast blame, guilt or shame. But we cannot sweep historic events under the rug either.

During World War II, many difficult decisions were made, and equally difficult moral questions were raised. Concentration and death camps were formed in Europe. Barely two months after the Pearl Harbor attack, an executive order by President Roosevelt set in motion the creation of 10 Japanese American concentration camps.

On March 30, 1942, 227 Bainbridge Islanders became the first of more than 120,000 Japanese Americans, more than two-thirds of them U.S. citizens, to be forced into concentration camps.

With six days notice, they arrived at the Eagledale Ferry Dock and became the first community to enter California’s Manzanar War Relocation Center. Later, most were reassigned to the last barracks at Idaho’s Minidoka War Relocation Center, becoming emblematic bookends of the Japanese American incarceration story.

I helped generate support to make the Eagledale site a national memorial. In 2008, our efforts reached a milestone, when Congress and President George W. Bush approved the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Memorial, making it a satellite unit of Minidoka National Historic Site, managed by the Park Service.

The Park Service has done an extraordinary job to share the sad American chapter of Japanese American incarceration. If authorized by Congress, I believe it would do the same to tell the complex history of the Manhattan Project that created the world’s first two atomic bombs.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, Chuck Fleishmann, R-Tenn., Ben Lujan, D-N.M., and Michael Grimm, R-N.Y.

World War II claimed more than 60 million lives, left vast physical and emotional scars and destruction across the globe, and shaped the destiny of nations for future generations.

Perhaps the beginning inspiration for the potential Manhattan Project National Historic Park could be found in the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial’s maxim: “Nidoto nai yoni” or “Let it not happen again.”

Clarence Moriwaki is president of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial Association and a regional council member of the National Parks Conservation Association.

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