Dignitaries participating in the dedication were (from left) Bacon Sakatani, chair, Pomona Assembly Center Committee; Sharon Autry, communications/public relations, Fairplex; U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Davis, commander, SGV Recruiting Company; Tina Loza, director, Los Angeles County Fair Association; Dwight Richards, vice president of operations, Fairplex; and Consul General Akira Chiba, Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles. Representing the older seniors in attendance were Ted Hashimoto, 94, and Yoshi Komaki, 95, in the back; Toshi Asano, 93, and Helen Munekiyo, 96, seated. (Photo by Patti Hirahara)
POMONA — A plaque marking the site of the Pomona Assembly Center was dedicated the Fairplex on Wednesday with several dignitaries on hand as well as Japanese Americans who were confined there 74 years ago.
The Los Angeles County Fairgrounds was one of 15 temporary assembly centers established during World War II pursuant to Executive Order 9066, signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
This represented the first phase of the mass incarceration of 97,785 Californians of Japanese ancestry during World War II.
The Pomona Assembly Center held people from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties.
In August 1942, the majority of the detainees were relocated to Heart Mountain in Wyoming, one of 10 detention camps that collectively confined 120,000 people without due process of law, charges, trial or establishment of guilt as a result of hysteria and racism.
With the assistance of the Pomona Assembly Center Committee (chaired by Bacon Sakatani, who has been active in preserving the history of Heart Mountain), the Historical Society of Pomona Valley, the Fairplex, and others, the plaque has become a reality. Representatives of those groups, joined by newly arrived Consul General of Japan Akira Chiba, took part in the ceremony.
“This is part of our history at Fairplex,” said Dwight Richards, Fairplex vice president. “We felt that the installation of the plaque would provide a place for the families and all involved to find peace, closure and a place to reflect. The Los Angeles County Fair Association feels that this recognition is long overdue.”
Retired newsman Joe Blackstock stated, “When I started researching the Pomona Assembly Center at the Fairplex about 14 years ago, I was struck by the almost total absence of information or history about the place. Something that so changed the lives of so many people was mostly forgotten. Creating a permanent recognition that the camp existed, that a group of people were locked up more due to terror than good judgment, this is important.”
Among the approximately 100 people in attendance were retired Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lance Ito, whose father was held at Pomona, and former Los Angeles County CEO William Fujioka, who noted that his parents’ families “lost everything” when they were taken to Pomona and later Heart Mountain “without any charges.”
With the dedication of California Registered Historical Landmark #934, participants expressed hope that the injustice and suffering experienced at Pomona will never occur again.