A Gesture Of Atonement

Japanese-Americans commemorate soil from World War II internment camps. Nov. 9, 2000. AP

President Clinton announced a plan Thursday to preserve sites of camps where the U.S. government interned 120,000 Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Americans, he said, must "never forget this sad chapter in our history."

One of the camps is Heart Mountain, between Powell and Cody in northern Wyoming, where more than 12,000 Japanese-Americans were relocated.

"We are diminished when any American is targeted unfairly because of his or her heritage," Mr. Clinton said in a letter read at the dedication of a memorial to those interned and to the 33,000 Japanese-Americans who fought for the United States in the war.

"This memorial and the internment sites are powerful reminders that stereotyping, discrimination, hatred and racism have no place in this country."

Attorney General Janet Reno, who represented the president at the ceremony, said the Interior Department is acquiring land and protecting the sites in Wyoming, Utah, Idaho and Arkansas.

"This nation is at a moment in its history that will be recorded in the history books for years to come," she said. "It is a great nation because we have learned from our past and experience."

The memorial near the Capitol is due to be completed in the spring, with stone panels devoted to each of the 10 camps.

Reno noted that Mr. Clinton recently presented the Medal of Honor to 19 of the Japanese-Americans, some of whom took part in Thursday's ceremony.

Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta, the first Asian-American member of the Cabinet, was interned with his California family when he was 10. In a speech, he recalled that Dec. 7, 1941, the day that Japan attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, was the first time he heard his father cry.

"He was filled with grief at the knowledge that the land of his birth had attacked the land of his heart," he said.


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