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Federing: Don’t Dismiss World War II Tragedy

Roll Call’s interview (“Day of Infamy, Years of Resolve,” Dec. 7) with the author of “December 1941” was a bit too casual on the subject of the internment of Japanese-Americans by the U.S. government during World War II.

The quoted response of the book’s author implied an “also” parallel between the wholesale incarceration of 120,000 innocent Americans of Japanese ancestry and the many individual-focused incarcerations drawn from other American communities at that time. The numbers, the purpose, the administration of the camps, the denial of personal justice and so many other factors were neither in parallel nor are they analogous.

The Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians found the forced removal of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast to be unique and due to “race prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” The roundup included mostly American citizens (62 percent), and half of the internees were children. This history and its documentation ultimately led to the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, through which President Ronald Reagan and Congress apologized on behalf of the nation. That act of redress was historic, uplifting and fine insurance against the United States ever making a similar tragic mistake in the future.

Standing at the foot of Capitol Hill on the Senate side is the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II. Among its many facets, the memorial tells the story of patriotism, perseverance and sacrifice of those who volunteered for our armed forces from the internment camps to defend the United States during the war. They gave their all in Europe and, less well-known, in the Pacific.

Redress, the memorial and the award of the Congressional Gold Medal on Nov. 2 honoring all Japanese-Americans who volunteered to serve during the war offers a trifecta of hope that the tragedies and triumphs of this chapter in American history will remain crystal clear for our posterity.

— Eric Federing, board member, National Japanese American Memorial Foundation

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