DELTA, Utah (ABC4) — A group of Japanese-Americans from across the country made a pilgrimage to Delta to visit the location of the historical internment camp in memory of a man who was killed there by guards 80 years ago.
James Hatsuaki Wakasa was shot and killed by a guard while walking his dog at the Topaz concentration camp on Apr. 11, 1943, according to the Wakasa Memorial Committee.
This weekend, camp survivors and descendants paid their respects to Wakasa and honored the stories of relatives.
“The Japanese-Americans have for decades not talked about their imprisonment because they felt shame,” an attendee Nancy Ukai said.
A man who was born in the concentration camp, Kenny Kiyoshi, said he learned more about his family’s experiences in the camp from his mother’s diaries than from his parents while they were alive.
The group visited the Wakasa Memorial Stone, which was originally ordered to be destroyed by the government but was rediscovered in the ground, according to Ukai.
Instead of destroying the 2,400 pound memorial stone in 1943, the builders buried it, where it was discovered 78 years later in 2020 by the Topaz Museum, according to the event website.
The group also held an interfiath ceremony and did a ceremonial walk from his barrack to the place where he was killed.
“People come to this country with hopes and dreams, and in his case, because of his race, he was taken from San Francisco and he ended up with a bullet in his body,” Ukai said.