The Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II is a memorial and monument designed by Davis Buckley and Japanese American artist Nina Akamu. It is located near Union Station and across from Upper Senate Park, at the intersection of Louisiana Avenue, New Jersey Avenue and D Street (MAP) in northwest D.C.’s Downtown East neighborhood. And it was the destination of this bike ride.
The concept for the memorial began with The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in 1988, and legislative approval for the construction of the memorial and sculpture was passed by Congress four years later. Groundbreaking for the memorial did not begin for another seven years. The Memorial was finally dedicated in November of 2000.
The memorial commemorates Japanese-American involvement, service and patriotism during World War II, as well as those held in Japanese-American internment camps during that time. More than 33,000 Japanese-Americans rose above adversity to serve in the military with distinction. Many did so as members of the famed 442nd Regimental Combat Team fighting up the rugged Italian Peninsula and across Southern France. Others were members of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service, or other units. They interrogated Japanese prisoners and translated Japanese documents in the Pacific and China-Burma-India Theaters. Over eight hundred of these loyal Japanese-Americans were killed in action serving their country.
They served despite the great irony of the U.S.’s forced confinement of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry, many the service members’ families, who were held during the war in camps that often were isolated, uncomfortable, and overcrowded. With less than two weeks notice, and without trials, the U.S. Government forced these Americans of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes and businesses, abandoning millions of dollars in property. The refugees were then sent to large confinement sites in the western, southwestern, and southern United States, while others went to smaller facilities across the nation.
The Memorial has a series of panels that lists the names of those Japanese-Americans who gave the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of the fellow citizens. The walls of the Memorial also contain a number of relevant quotes engraved in stone , as well as information about the location of the ten internment sites during the war, and the number of those interned at the sites.
However, the central feature of the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II is a statue depicting two Japanese cranes caught in barbed wire, on top of a tall pedestal made of green Vermont marble. Rising above the rest of the memorial, the cranes are visible from beyond the memorial walls, which symbolically celebrates the ability to rise beyond limitations. Their postures reflect one another – one wing pointing upwards, the other downwards, mirroring each other as they represent the duality of the universe. Pressing their bodies against one another and seeming to hold onto the barbed wire, the birds at the same time show individual effort to escape restraint as well as the need for communal support and interdependency on one another.
The symbolism and meaning of the Memorial to Japanese-American Patriotism in World War II was perhaps best expressed at its dedication ceremony when then-U.S Attorney General Janet Reno shared a letter from President Bill Clinton, which stated, “We are diminished when any American is targeted unfairly because of his or her heritage. This memorial and the internment sites are powerful reminders that stereotyping, discrimination, hatred and racism have no place in this country.”