Archeologists have discovered a long-forgotten Japanese internment camp from World War II in what is now Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, according to the Associated Press. A remembrance ceremony was held last Friday at the site, which was identified through an Army study using the only remaining identifying documents - two known photographs and a map.
The ceremony, which fell on the official Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, was held to remember the hundreds of Alaskans who were sent to the camps, with over 100,000 Japanese Americans having been held in camps during WWII overall. One of the attendees was Alice Tanaka Abo, whose father, Shonosue Tanaka, was one of the 15 Japanese nationals who was held in the short-lived camp. It was the first time that Abo had seen the camp in the seven decades since her father had been there, and she told KTVA that it doesn't matter that there are no physical remainders of the site.
"It's things that can't be destroyed ever, like the air," Abo said. "They touched this earth, they saw this sky, they felt this weather... It's kind of like coming home."
Archaeologists who located the site had very little data to go on, with local archaeologist Morgan Blanchard stating at the ceremony that it was difficult to definitively identify the site as a former internment camp. A rare map gives an idea of the structure of the camp, which Blanchard focused on particularly, according to Alaska Public Media.
"It's important because it's an architecture of containment," Blanchard said of the camp's security layout, "It's a structure that tells us that people were held here against their will."
Abo's sister, Alice Tanaka Hikido, stated that as a child, she had had little knowledge of the political strife between Japanese and American nationals and that it saddened her to see some of that hostility towards foreigners replicated today by politicians. She believes that education is the way forward to rectify this.
"It's incumbent upon citizens to be well-informed," Hikido said. "If you're well-informed, then fear doesn't overcome your better judgement."