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Arizona holds ceremony to memorialize Gila River WWII internment camp

Kyodo

A city in Arizona memorialized a WWII internment camp for Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Americans on Saturday by unveiling a series of panels with information about the area’s wartime history.

“I felt desperate after I was taken to the camp at 15, but baseball was my hope,” Kenso Zenimura, 89, said at a ceremony in Nozomi Park near Chandler, Arizona, referring to his time at the nearby Gila River camp during World War II.

The park takes its name from a Japanese word meaning hope.

“I secretly took water from a tap at night and sprinkled it in the outfield to grow the grass,” said Zenimura, a former infielder who played for the Hiroshima Carp after the war. Internees were permitted to play baseball while detained at the facility.

The ceremony came ahead of the 75th anniversary of the Feb. 19, 1942, signing by President Franklin Roosevelt of an executive order that resulted in the incarceration of Japanese immigrants and U.S. citizens of Japanese descent, mostly on the West Coast.

Chandler Mayor Jay Tibshraeny said in his address that what happened 75 years ago was a “difficult” part of history and that it is “important” to remember that the state once hosted such a camp.

Gila River was among the 10 main internment camps set up under Roosevelt’s order. The total number of people detained, many of whom were stripped of their assets and the right to work, reached 120,000 by the end of the war.

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan apologized for the violation of human rights and had the U.S. government pay compensation to the victims.