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Taking Action to Honor the Historic Patriotism of Japanese Americans

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Taking Action to Honor the Historic Patriotism of Japanese Americans

Today, as hundreds of Americans gather in the nation's capital to dedicate the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism, President Clinton directed the Secretary of Interior to take action to preserve Japanese American internment camps and interpret the important lessons they offer this nation -- thereby honoring the historic patriotism of Japanese Americans. The President also signed legislation renaming a federal courthouse in Seattle, Washington after William Kenzo Nakamura -- a Japanese American interned during World War II who later enlisted in the U.S. military and died while serving his country.

Working to Preserve Japanese American History. Today, the President reaffirmed the nation's commitment to honor the historic patriotism of Japanese Americans and acknowledge the wrongs of the past by directing the Secretary of the Interior to develop recommendations in 60 days to preserve existing internment sites and provide for their public interpretation thereby ensuring that the difficult lessons learned from this chapter of American history are never forgotten.

In addition, Congress has approved $5.1 million in the FY 2001 budget to establish a visitor center at the Manzanar National Historic Site, at a former Japanese American internment camp in California. This funding builds on the work of the Administration and numerous local and national groups, including the White House Millennium Council's Save America's Treasures, the National Park Foundation, The Manzanar Fund, the Manzanar Advisory Commission, and the Japanese American Citizens League. The new center will allow visitors to learn from archival research and interviews with former internees, architectural and archeological features of the camp, and remaining artifacts.

On February 19, 1942, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, leading to the relocation and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. To carry out the order, the United States government established internment camps in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and other states. Almost 50 years later, Congress passed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, acknowledging that "a grave injustice was done to both citizens and permanent residents of Japanese ancestry by the evacuation, relocation, and internment of civilians during World War II." As a result, all Japanese Americans who were subject to internment received a letter from the U.S. Government that "acknowledged the wrongs of the past and offered redress to those who endured such grave injustice."

Honoring an American Hero. Today, the President also signed legislation designating the United States Federal Courthouse for the Western District of Washington in Seattle, Washington, as the William Kenzo Nakamura United States Courthouse. Born in 1922, William Nakamura grew up in Seattle and was a student at the University of Washington when he and 120,000 other Japanese Americans were removed from their communities and forced into internment camps.

Despite the injustice of his internment, William Kenzo Nakamura enlisted in the 442d Regimental Combat Team and later died fighting for this country in Italy on July 4, 1944, while providing cover for his retreating platoon. On June 21, 2000, President Clinton posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor to Mr. Nakamura, along with 21 other Asian Americans.

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