LOS ANGELES – Many members of the Little Tokyo community, veterans and local officials are angry over recent vandalism to a monument here honoring Japanese-Americans’ service to the U.S. during World War II.
“Although I appear very calm and controlled, inside I boil with anger, and that is the same emotion shared by all the vets and their families,” said retired Col. Young Kim to a group gathered in front of the Go For Broke Monument in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles.
The decorated veteran was the founding chairman of the 100th/442nd/MIS WWW II Memorial Foundation, which was responsible for the creation of the monument.
Volunteers discovered the vandalism on March 18 during a cleaning of the area around the monument listing the names of 16,126 Japanese-American veterans.
Twenty circles containing six-pointed stars were found carved into nine of the monument’s 32 granite panels. The vandalism was reported to Los Angeles police the next day.
Cpt. Blake Chow, commanding officer of the Central Patrol Division of the Los Angeles police, said the carvings were consistent with “satanic symbolism” and described the vandalism as a “hate incident.”
Los Angeles City Councilwoman Jan Perry addressed Japanese-American veterans and others gathered recently at the monument, saying: “When I learned of this incident, I was saddened and horrified. I knew that I could not tolerate this kind of hate, and that is why I stand here today with those who agree.”
Perry, a representative for the Little Tokyo district, said the city council is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
“I would like to send a strong message to those who would show such little respect to our heroes,” she said.
In support of the city’s efforts to apprehend the party responsible for the vandalism, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonivich later announced the County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a separate $10,000 reward.
“Coming together is a message and we are hopeful that whoever is responsible will come forward,” he said.
Brian Kito of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association said: “These etchings have taken it way beyond what we can stand. To desecrate this monument attacks the Japanese community and the veterans. These veterans fought for our honor as Japanese-Americans.”
Kito said he hoped that the support of the Little Tokyo community and the efforts of the Los Angeles police and the $20,000 reward would soon result in an arrest, and a resolution for the veterans, their families and all those affected.
Dedicated in 1999, the monument is the first of its kind in the mainland U.S.
Eight donor pillars representing the trees of European and Pacific forests display the names of 21 Japanese-American soldiers who were awarded the Medal of Honor.
The granite sphere stands 2.7 meters high and 12 meters in diameter and symbolizes the French and Italian mountains where the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team fought.