Utah war veterans and Japanese-Americans joined Monday in hailing an attempt by the U.S. government to correct an "injustice" committed more than 45 years ago.
In 1941 after the war broke out with Japan, the government rounded up Japanese-Americans. Distrusting their loyalty, these U.S. citizens were imprisoned in unclean, crowded camps.Since then, Congress has tried to rectify the wrong.
In an attempt to erase the shame of internment and compensate for monetary losses, the government soon will start sending $20,000 checks to each of the surviving Japanese-Americans sent to camps during the war.
"Personally I think it is overdue. Our government has realized that we incarcerated people out of fear - took people's rights away just because of their race," said Al Warden, chief of the Veterans Assistance Section in Salt Lake City. "I think this action is just to compensate them for a wrongdoing on the part of our government."
One of the former internees, Frank Yatsu, never thought he'd live to see his government apologize for imprisoning him. But his check, along with an apology, should arrive in a few days, just before he turns 107.
Gene S. Jacobsen, a former Japanese POW, agreed that the government's compensation program is overdue.
"Some of these (Japanese-Americans) were citizens by birth, others were naturalized. Those who became naturalized held up their hands and swore to defend the United States. Yet they (the U.S. government) discriminated against them," he said.
Jacobsen believes the action of interning Japanese-Americans "was fairly consistent with what had transpired ahead of time - the Pearl Harbor mess and general unpreparedness for war."
"There was a mentality that one wouldn't expect would exist among leaders of the U.S. government," he said.
Salt Lake County Commissioner Tom Shimizu agreed the compensation is appropriate for those who "suffered injustice in conditions not conducive to normal living conditions."
But Shimizu emphasized that the real issue isn't the checks - or an apology by President Bush.
"The real important point - is that something like this doesn't happen again."