House Passes Bill to Help Restore Topaz, Other Internment Camps

House Passes Bill to Help Restore Topaz, Other Internment Camps

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The U.S. House has passed a bill that would provide $38 million to restore and recognize the 10 World War II Japanese internment camps.

Among them is the Topaz Camp near Delta in west-central Utah, where about 8,000 Japanese-Americans were forced to relocate.

In another development Wednesday, the Virginia-based Conservation Fund said it is moving forward in buying 92 acres of the Utah site to donate to the Topaz Museum Board. When the sale closes in a few weeks, the board will be within 26 acres of owning the entire 640-acre site, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

There is not much left of the camp. The wooden barracks have been converted into sheds or garages in Delta, and homes have been built on the site of the former camp.

Promoters of the restoration work say it is needed to preserve a shameful chapter of history they say is minimized or ignored in some textbooks.

"We went through a lot and if people remember, maybe it won't happen again," said Grace OSHA, an 80-year-old Salt Lake City resident who was forced from her home in San Francisco at age 17 to live in Topaz for three years. "It was unnecessary."

A group of former internees and nearby Delta residents that has campaigned 15 years to raise funds cheered Wednesday's vote in the House.

Dan Sakura called it "a major accomplishment and step forward" in keeping alive a vital part of U.S. history.

"There need to be monuments to those people who survived the camps," said Jane Beckwith, a Delta High School journalism teacher and president of the Topaz Museum Board. "They were wronged; We just don't want to forget that."

Beckwith and others have restored one of the barracks from the site and placed it in Delta for visitors to see.

Plans include building a staffed interpretive center in Delta for people to be able to hear the story of Topaz and to place some type of markers on the site to give a sense of what the camp once looked like.

Most of Utah's federal delegation is co-sponsoring the legislation.

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said Wednesday that he was proud of the work by the museum board and those who pushed for the money.

"The testimonies we have heard throughout this process and during debate today on the House floor have been truly moving," Cannon said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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