Bronze Monument to Nisei Soldiers Gets Boost from City Grant

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A maquette of the completed monument depicting a 442nd soldier helping a member of the "Lost Battalion." (Photo by Keith Sutter)

ROSEVILLE, Calif. — The Roseville City Council announced grant awards from its Citizens’ Benefit Fund totaling over $530,000 to more than 30 local non-profit organizations on June 1.

Placer County JACL received $14,625 toward the completion of a large bronze monument to be installed at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. This sculpture will honor Northern California citizens of Japanese ancestry who fought in World War II and will acknowledge local residents who were interned during that period.

This project, a public-private partnership between the JACL and Placer County, will provide a permanent marker for future generations to understand the significance of World War II to Roseville and Northern California.

In 2009, the county dedicated a landscaped memorial at the site to honor the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, a unit made up of Americans of Japanese ancestry. The 442nd is the most decorated unit of its size and length of service in U.S. military history.

Over 100 men from Placer County served in the 442nd and the 100th Battalion, which merged with the unit during the war. Many of these men who fought so valiantly to defend their country endured, along with their families, the hardships of internment. Many would later say that they served to prove their loyalty to America.

“The display will inform students and visitors about World War II, and the injustice of the internment that affected these brave Americans and their families,” said a JACL spokesperson. “Just as important, the monument and its educational materials will examine the patriotism, sacrifice, and dedication to honor that has exemplified Americans of Japanese ancestry who have helped build our cities, county and regions.”

The Roseville Grants Advisory Commission reviewed and recommended the recipients from about 65 applicants. The commission oversees the competitive application process of three grant programs. The largest, the Citizens’ Benefit Fund, was established in 1993 with the proceeds from the sale of Roseville Community Hospital for the purpose of improving the quality of life for local citizens. Each year up to 90 percent of the interest from these funds may be distributed to non-profit organizations.

Auburn businessman E. Ken Tokutomi has led the JACL fundraising effort, which has raised over $100,000 but is in need of $60,000 more to be completed. The goal is to have a dedication of this monument while local surviving 442nd veterans Shig Yokote and Frank Kageta are still around to be honored.

“Many of those who were interned from Northern California later fought heroically in Europe and the Pacific theaters and must be remembered,” Tokutomi said. “We owe these men our gratitude.”

Bronze Monument Taking Shape

Since beginning this project in 2009, the Placer County, Sacramento and Florin chapters of JACL have been able to raise more than two-thirds of their $160,000 goal to install a larger-than-life size bronze monument at the Memorial to World War II Soldiers of Japanese Ancestry in Roseville. These funds have been used to move forward with the design, floor the bronze to lock in the price, create promotional pieces, and produce the sculpture.

Sculptor Ronnie Frostad, who stands about 5'6", with a foam model of the monument.

The sculpture depicts a Nisei soldier helping a member of the Texas “Lost Battalion,” which was rescued by the 442nd after being trapped behind enemy lines in France. The men of the 442nd, who suffered heavy casualties, were later named honorary Texans.

Last month the foundry, Frostad Atelier, assembled an actual-size foam enlargement of the design, and the sculpture is beginning to receive a layer of clay so that detailing can occur. Then a set of molds will be constructed, and the molten bronze will be poured into the molds.

When the metal cools, artisans will assemble and finish the piece. Finally, it will receive a custom patina and sealer before delivery to the memorial site and completion of its installation. The timetable is dependent on donations, but  JACL hopes to complete this project in the fall of this year.

Working with local artist France Borka and Sacramento sculptor Ronnie Frostad, JACL has completed six bronze maquettes (scale models) of the monument and a numbered, limited edition of bronze commemorative medallions for donors. These are benefits offered for donations at certain levels.

Sponsors (individuals who contribute $1,000 and businesses who give $2,500) receive a bronze commemorative medallion; major donors of $8,000 or more will receive a bronze maquette. Commemorative bricks are available for donors of $300, and Placer JACL is holding a drawing prior to the dedication for one of the bronze maquettes, offering tickets at $10 each (six for $50). Any donations, no matter how small, are appreciated.

Those interested in learning more and supporting this project can visit www.placerjacl.org and donate online, or contact Tokutomi, Placer JACL treasurer, at (530) 888-1303.

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