George Takei Remarks at Grand Openings

The WWII Japanese American Internment Museum at McGehee and the interactive outdoor exhibits at the Rohwer Japanese American Relocation Center Cemetery both celebrated their Grand Opening on April 13, 2013. Actor George Takei, interned with his family at Rohwer, made remarks at both locations. The video above includes remarks at the museum, while the text below includes comments at the Rohwer site:

This is the third time that I’ve been back here since I left as a boy. The first time I came here with a lot of memories welling up in my mind, and trying to validate that. There were pools of water out here—barbed wire fence was right around here and there was a roadway and a ditch there, and I used to catch pollywogs in that ditch and watch them sprout legs and magically turn into frogs. And beyond the barbed wire fence there were pools of water and trees growing out of them. And so, in 2004, when I came back here, I wanted to remember whether those were real or not. When I got here, it was all gone. There was no swampy area at all. The land had been all drained, and the trees had been cut down and it was miles and miles of ripe cotton growing. It was cotton fields.

And the second time I came back was last year when I had the unique privilege of working with the Little Rock Symphony Orchestra, narrating a Schurenberg piece. And I wanted to spend that visit again to come back here to Rohwer. And I expected to see miles and miles of cotton fields, but they were all gone. It was just plain dirt, because it was wintertime—I think it was February. So, it was a totally different place from what I had expected to see.

And this third visit has been profoundly moving and heartwarming. All of you are here at this site, where I spent a small portion of my life. I’m 75 years old, and I was here when I was 5 and 6, so it’s just a very, very small portion of that 75 years—but it has been the most defining experience of my life. And it’s my incarceration here and in the other internment camp that has made me such an active participant in our democracy. And it is so gratifying to come back here and see all of you here who have worked to make this a hallowed ground for America—and certainly for me.

And the most important and moving piece of this land here is that cemetery. Because, in the middle of that cemetery is a crumbling monument which will very soon be restored. It’s a concrete monument that bears the names of a lot of Japanese-American men’s names. And it’s followed by the date and year that they passed, and the place where they died.

They were young men who went from imprisonment here, in this internment camp, to fight for this country: a country that was imprisoning us and taking all our rights away, including the word “citizen.” And now they wanted us to serve in the military. And they, indeed, did serve, with amazing, incredible heroism. They fought with unbelievable courage and, indeed, with incredible patriotism, and they sustained the highest combat casualty rate of any unit of its size. They fought in some of the most impossible battles.

The Gothic Line was one of the last strongholds of the Nazis. They were buried into this rock mountainside, and the Allied forces had been doing battle for a half a year—6 months. Many, many units had fought, and not removed the Nazi force.

The 442nd was called in to make that last push. It was an impregnable fortress, buried in that rocky mountainside. The 442nd had decided to do what was never done in any of the other assaults. The backside of that mountain was a sheer, rocky cliff—about a 400-foot drop. The Nazis didn’t expect an attack from that area. The men of the 442nd decided to do the impossible: to scale that sheer cliff, and attack from that side. And on a moonless night, in full combat gear, they began scaling that rocky cliff. And in the darkness, a few men lost their footing or their grip, and fell to their death in the ravine below. They all fell silently. Not a single man cried out. The others kept climbing. And at the first light of day, the men of the 442nd attacked.

They took the hill, and broke the Gothic Line. A six-month stalemate was broken by the men of the 442nd, in 32 minutes—an amazing achievement. A few of those men who perished in that battle are on that list here in the cemetery. They fought for their country with unbelievable heroism, and their patriotism was beyond American patriotism. They fought to prove they were Americans. They had to prove they’re Americans—and they didn’t just fight for mom’s apple pie, as almost all the others did. They fought to get ‘mom’ out of imprisonment. They are true, exemplary American heroes.

And I look forward to my fourth visit here, when I see that monument restored, as it should be. And that monument undisturbed, not only by the people of McGehee, or the people of Desha county, but all Americans. I hope that they travel from throughout this country here to Desha county to visit this cemetery and this monument, because it is a hallowed, American monument of American patriots.

So many people worked to make this happen—this actual site. I was told that the barrack that I lived in—block 6, barrack 2, unit M—was right around there, and they placed this platform here to signify that, and I feel very honored by that. We were near the barbed wire fence. I was here very briefly, just about a year, but my heart and my Americanism lies here. And I thank you all for what you’ve done to make this an important American landmark. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

$300,378 National Parks Service Japanese American Confinement Sites grant awarded to University of Arkansas, Fayetteville for “Rohwer Reconstructed: Interpreting Place through Experience”

Rohwer Reconstructed: Interpreting Place through Experience

Rohwer Relocation Center, Desha County, AR

The University of Arkansas will create an online 3D visualization of Rohwer Relocation Center during World War II. Documents, oral histories, photographs and material objects currently housed in multiple collections throughout Arkansas will be digitized and integrated into the interactive virtual environment, allowing online visitors to experience a sense of Rohwer during its occupation.

Award publication posted here.




On February 4th, 2013, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle hosted the 11th Annual Craig Noel Awards last night to a crowd of nearly 500 of San Diego’s most dedicated theatre lovers, producers and participants. Among those were some of the larger theatre companies in the city including The Old Globe, Moxie and La Jolla Playhouse.

The Old Globe took home 10 awards from the shows in its season, the most by any theatre company. The new musical Allegiance, which had its World Premiere at the Old Globe in September of 2012, took home the top award, for Outstanding New Musical, along with two other awards, for Outstanding Featured Performance Male, and Outstanding Orchestrations.

Other notable wins for the Globe including Outstanding Resident Musical for The Scottsboro Boys, and Outstanding Resident Musical for The Recommendation.

Allegiance also won Outstanding Featured Performer in a Musical for a Male for Michael K Lee’s heart-wrenching portrayal of a conflicted Japanese American, Frankie Suzuki. Allegiance won its third award, Outstanding Orchestrations for the work of Lynne Shankel. This third award tied Allegiance for the second-most awards of any single show, and for the highest number of awards for any new musical in the season.

“All of us at The Old Globe are truly honored by this recognition from the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle,” Artistic Director Barry Edelstein said in a statement Monday night. “I am so proud to join a great institution that brings so much exciting work to San Diego audiences, and I am genuinely happy to see up close the passion and vibrancy of this city’s wonderful and diverse theater community.”

“We are grateful to the Critics Circle for the awards and for recognizing these productions, of which we are particularly proud,” added Managing Director Michael G. Murphy. “Allegiance and The Scottsboro Boys both shed light on dark periods of American history, and through the lens of theater we were able to entertain and educate Southern California audiences. Each year we strive to produce powerful, important work that generates conversations in our community. We are thankful for the Critics Circle’s ongoing support of excellence in local theater.”

Allegiance, starring Lea Salonga and George Takei, is currently aiming for a Broadway run in the 2013-2014 season.

Founded in 1983 and re-established in 2002, the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle is an independent, nonprofit organization of print and online theater critics dedicated to open and honest dialogue about theatre in San Diego County and to honoring artistic excellence. The members of the Circle are professional critics writing for daily newspapers, magazines, alternative weeklies, entertainment trade publications, broadcast media, and web sites in San Diego County. The Circle’s annual awards for outstanding San Diego theatre are named for Craig Noel, founder and longtime artistic director of The Old Globe.

For the original article, click here.

A-STATE announces completion of Rohwer Japanese-American Relocation Center Interpretive Project

Arkansas State University announces the completion of the Rohwer Japanese-American Relocation Center Interpretive Project.   ASU’s Arkansas Heritage Sites program, under the direction of Dr. Ruth Hawkins, received more than $190,000 from the National Park Service to interpret and preserve the story of Japanese-American internment during World War II in the Arkansas Delta.

Located in Desha County in southeast Arkansas, the Rohwer Relocation Center housed more than 8,000 Japanese-American citizens as a result of President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 requiring their internment in the months following the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Rohwer was one of two relocation centers in Arkansas during the war and is the easternmost internment camp site of the 10 in the United States.

ASU and partners designed, fabricated, and installed directional signage, an interpretive kiosk and panels, audio vignettes, and an informational brochure, all of which are accessible to visitors to the former Rohwer Relocation Center site.

Arkansas State University collaborated with the nearby cities of Dumas and McGehee, Arkansas State Parks, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and descendants of Japanese American internees to produce an accurate and emotional experience for visitors to the site.

A walking tour guides visitors along the southern boundary of the former camp, past the existing Japanese-American cemetery, terminating with a view of the remaining camp smokestack across fields of cotton.  Actor George Takei, who was interned at the Rohwer Relocation Center with his family in 1942, narrates an accompanying audio tour along the route.

Arkansas Heritage Sites program will continue working with the cities of Dumas and McGehee to direct visitors to the Rohwer site.  The Rohwer Relocation Center interpretive experience is a key attraction along the developing Delta Heritage Trail State Park, and will play a significant role in plans to create tourism opportunities in southeast Arkansas.

$250,000 grant to preserve Rohwer monuments


The National Park Service awarded a $250,000 grant to preserve two monuments at Rohwer, one of two Arkansas sites used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II.

The project is one of 24 that the service is funding with $2.9 million in grants.

The grant for Rohwer will be used to stabilize and restore two historic monuments at the cemetery there.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock applied for the grant.

In addition, two other grants were awarded for Rohwer projects, including $93,000 for educational kiosks, interpretive panels and an audio tour. Arkansas State University received that grant.

The Central Arkansas Library System received $67,821 for its project to preserve artwork created by the internees.

The original article is posted here.

The Butler Center Receives Rohwer Japanese American Internment Camp Collection

We try not to be too parochial here at The BDA Institute for Cultural Investigations but we’re sorta proud we’re based in Little Rock, Arkansas and we’re always happy to pass on the good word about local folks. So let us congratulate the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies on their acquisition of some intriguing materials from the World War II-era Japanese-American internment camp located at Rohwer. 

The press release from the Butler Center ( a department of the Central Arkansas Library System) tells us that Rosalie Gould, former mayor of McGehee, Ar., has donated a “remarkable collection of artwork and other materials” from the Rohwer camp. (Of the ten internment camps that operated in the U.S. during the war years, two were located in Arkansas. The other was at Jerome.) Gould’s collection includes several hundred paintings and other art works of art produced by U.S. citizens of Japanese descent interned during World War II. Here’s what the release says about it:

Appraiser Jennifer Carman describes the materials Gould has given the Butler Center as “unique among internment collections” and cites experts Franklin Odo and Delphine Hirasuna who have said it contains artwork and documents that are “truly unmatched among objects in public collections.” The collection also includes a large amount of material documenting day-to-day life in the camp, which had its own school system, police department, and mayor.

Internees worked with an art teacher at the high school in the camp, Mabel “Jamie” Jamison Vogel. Many of them let her keep much of the art they created. Over the years since the war, Gould became a champion of preserving the camp-which was dismantled after the war and essentially vanished-and its story, and she and Vogel became close friends. Gould was named in Vogel’s will as the recipient of the entire collection, which includes hundreds of documents and photographs dealing with the schools, the “town” government, and many of the people who lived in the camp. A particularly important feature of the collection is a set of 185 handwritten autobiographies of internees dating from 1942. The collection is also noteworthy because the camp sent several hundred men to Europe as part of the U.S. Army’s famous 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which is said by many authorities to have been the most highly decorated American combat unit of World War II. Camp newsletters and other documents attest to the pride internees at Rohwer took in the service these men offered their country.

Works by internee art students

According to appraiser Jennifer Carman, the art is evidence of the emotional costs of the internees being what amounted to civilian prisoners of war in their own country. “For incarcerated Japanese Americans,” she said, “the creation of these works was less about learning skills such as watercolor, but rather became a means of coping and survival, and of expressing the psychological and emotional experience of confinement.”

David Stricklin, head of the Butler Center, said, “This collection really contains two stories. The first is the extraordinary testament it makes to the perseverance of American citizens in the face of a truly unfortunate wartime situation. It is also the story of Mrs. Gould’s determination to help preserve the history of the camp, her friendship with Mrs. Vogel, her decision to keep the collection together in the many years since Mrs. Vogel’s death, and the relationships she has formed with people all over the world who are interested in the collection. These include people who lived at the camp, their kids, art historians, and other scholars. We are deeply honored that she has chosen to place the documents and the art with us and look forward to sharing them with the people of Arkansas and many others.”

Gould has been visited over the years by representatives of numerous universities, including the University of Tokyo, along with staff members from the Smithsonian Institution, the Japanese American National Museum, and various auction houses, to examine the materials.

“She could have sold the collection piece by piece for a considerable amount of money, but she wanted to keep it together as a tribute to the people who experienced life in the camp at Rohwer and created the art and to Jamie Vogel. She also wanted to make it available to the public, in Arkansas,” said Stricklin.

For the original article, click here.


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