‘Only the Oaks Remain’ to Open at MIS Historic Learning Center

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SAN FRANCISCO — The opening reception for “Only the Oaks Remain: The Story of Tuna Canyon Detention Station” will be held on Sunday, June 10, from 12 to 2 p.m. at the MIS (Military Intelligence Service) Historic Learning Center, 640 Old Mason St. in the Presidio of San Francisco.

Featured speakers Nancy Oda, Grace Shimizu, and Larry DiStasi will provide perspectives on the Department of Justice internment camp experience.

“Only the Oaks Remain” tells the true stories of those targeted as dangerous enemy aliens and imprisoned in the Tuna Canyon Detention Station, located in the Tujunga neighborhood of Los Angeles, by the U.S. Department of Justice during World War II. Rare artifacts such as photographs, letters, and diaries bring the experiences of prisoners — who included Japanese, German, and Italian immigrants and extradited Japanese Peruvians — to life.

During the decade before the war, the U.S. government compiled lists of people it saw as potential risks to national security. When the war began, Presidential Proclamations 2525, 2526, and 2527 authorized the FBI and other agencies to arrest such individuals — mostly spiritual, educational, business, and community leaders from the Japanese, German, and Italian immigrant communities. The government also rounded up Japanese and other individuals who had previously been forcibly removed from Latin America.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the Department of Justice took over a vacated Civilian Conservation Corps camp and converted it into a detention station by installing 12-foot-high barbed-wire fences, guard posts, and floodlights. The Tuna Canyon Detention Station became one of many initial confinement sites set up by the government. Targeted individuals were quickly arrested in their homes, leaving behind confused and frightened families; most detainees were later sent to Department of Justice or Army internment camps.

“Only the Oaks Remain” commemorates the history of the Tuna Canyon Detention Station and seeks to educate the public about the violation of civil rights that took place there. The exhibition features photographs, letters, diaries, interviews, declassified government documents, and other rare artifacts that serve to illuminate a largely untold story that goes beyond the more widely known story of the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans.

A highlight is an Honor Wall that bears each detainee’s name, creating a contemplative space for viewers. By taking an unprecedented look at war’s impact on a disparate group of detainees, examining striking similarities as well as differences among them, the exhibition encourages present and future generations to learn from our nation’s mistakes.

The exhibition will be on view until Jan. 6, 2019.

“Only the Oaks Remain” is organized by the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising public awareness about the site’s history. It is working to develop a permanent Tuna Canyon Detention Station Memorial, which will include a plaque and educational posts installed along a walking path lined with mature oak trees, to further educate future generations. For more information, visit http://tunacanyon.org.

This project was organized by the Tuna Canyon Detention Station Coalition; funded, in part, by a grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service, Japanese American Confinement Sites Grant Program; and sponsored by the San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community Center.

The MIS Historic Learning Center is located in the building where the Army trained Japanese American soldiers to be translators and interpreters. The language school was established at the Presidio prior to Pearl Harbor and later moved to Minnesota when Japanese Americans were barred from the West Coast. The Nisei linguists served with distinction throughout the Pacific Theater during the war and played an important role in the postwar occupation of Japan.

For more information on the museum, call the National Japanese American Historical Society at (415) 921-5007 or visit http://njahs.org/640.

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