Sat, Dec 23, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Bush backs funding to save Japanese internment camps

AP , WASHINGTON

US President George W. Bush signed into law a US$38 million grant program to preserve notorious internment camps where Japanese-Americans were kept behind barbed wire during World War II.

The money will be administered by the National Park Service to restore and pay for research at 10 camps. The objective of the law is to help preserve the camps as reminders of how the US turned on some of its citizens in a time of fear.

The camps housed more than 120,000 Japanese-American US citizens and residents under an executive order signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1942, when the country still was in shock over the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

At the time there were fears that Japanese-Americans were loyal to Japan, and Roosevelt's order prohibited such people from living on the West Coast in a position possibly to help an invasion force.

Thousands of families in California and parts of Washington state, Oregon and Arizona were pushed from their homes and into camps surrounded by armed guards. The sites named in the legislation are in California, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

The last of the camps closed in 1946, and President Ronald Reagan signed a presidential apology to Japanese-Americans in 1988.

Co-sponsors of the bill included the two current members of Congress who spent time in the camps as children: Democratic Representatives Mike Honda and Doris Matsui of California. Matsui was born in the Poston camp in Arizona.

The National Park Service already operates facilities at two of the 10 camps: the Manzanar National Historic Site in California and the Minidoka Internment National Monument in Idaho.

The law will give grants to nonfederal organizations for historical, research and restoration work at the sites named in the legislation, as well others selected by the head of the Interior Department, which includes the National Park Service.

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