More than 100 people quietly gathered at the Stanislaus County Fairgrounds on Saturday to remember the Japanese Americans who were interned at the Turlock Assembly Center during WWII.
The fairgrounds served as an assembly center for the relocation of more than 3,000 people from May to August of 1942. The internees were all of Japanese descent, and many were American citizens.
On Saturday, a monument was dedicated to those 3,692 people who were ordered out of their homes and into the Turlock Assembly Center. The monument, a pinnacle stone set with a plaque, was placed at the fairgrounds through the fund raising efforts of Kayla Canelo and David Seymour, both graduate students at California State University, Stanislaus.
Several guest speakers addressed the audience at the dedication, including Larry Oda, national president of the Japanese American Citizens League. Oda said that the relocation and internment of Japanese Americans was the consequence of ignorance, war time hysteria and racial discrimination. He urged attendees to learn from the Japanese internment and always protect their constitutional rights and the rights of others.
Nancy Taniguchi, a professor of history at CSU Stanislaus, gave a brief history of the Turlock Assembly Center. She said that education was a daily goal of parents at TAC, and they set up schools where their children learned reading, writing, math, art, music and other subjects. Residents of Turlock Assembly Center even created their own newspaper, TAC. Taniguchi said that internees considered the assembly center to be their community, even if it wasn't their home.
Several former internees attended the ceremony, most of whom were children at the time of their internment.
Carl and Sid Yamada were among those former internees. Carl was a little over 20 years old during his stay at Turlock Assembly Center, Sid was 15. They both remember the tar paper barracks with asphalt floors that served as their apartment during that summer over 60 years ago.
“We think having a monument for remembrance is great, we only wish we had found out about this sooner,” Sid Yamada said.
The official dedication of the monument was accompanied by the draping of paper cranes around the monument by Ballico School students. Canelo explained that it was said that someone who makes 1,000 cranes can have whatever they wish.
“Our wish for the TAC memorial is that it will serve an educational purpose,” Canelo said.
Canelo and other speakers at the dedication said that they hope anyone who passes the monument will take the time to read it, and learn about Turlock Assembly Center. The message of the dedication was that the only way to prevent events like the Japanese Internment is to study the past and learn from it.
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