1st American and Chinese World War II Memorial Monument at Monterey Park

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On Nov 22,  2010 at the unveiling ceremony ALPHA-LA  former board member Judge Yosh Yamanaka as a guest speaker gave the following speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored guests:

I’d like to thank the Monterey Park City Council and the American and Chinese WW2 Memorial Monument Association for inviting me to this commemoration.

We honor the American and Chinese armed forces and civilians who gave their lives to defend freedom and human rights against the aggressions of Japanese imperialism during WW2. This occasion provides us with an opportunity to reflect upon the causes and consequences of war.

Many historians have said that one of the root causes of Imperial Japan’s militaristic expansion into Korea, Manchuria, Taiwan, and other parts of Asia was Japan’s need for raw materials. That aggressive expansion was rationalized as the benevolence of Japan in creating a so-called “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” Some feel that Japan’s attack on the United States became inevitable when the United States prohibited the shipment of scrap iron to Japan.

Opportunistic nations will often go to extreme lengths to gain access to mineral resources and other raw materials located in foreign lands. War is the worst of these measures, because the destruction extends beyond the military to the civilians of the nation being attacked. Soldiers often fail to stop after vanquishing foreign armies and continue their aggressions by brutalizing the civilian population.

Such crimes against civilians were perpetrated by the Japanese Imperial military. Among those crimes were the abduction, imprisonment, sexual enslavement and rape of Korean and other Asian women. Those girls and women were euphemistically called “Comfort Women.”

The government of Japan has never officially apologized to the so-called Comfort Women. Most of those women have now gone to their graves while bearing the agonizing shame and humiliation of having been raped countless times. Let us hope that Japan recognizes its moral obligation to apologize to those it has victimized. Otherwise, the last of the Comfort Women will have died, and with them, Japan’s possibility for atonement.

In 1995, the U.N. began discussions about expanding the Security Council to allow the seating of Japan, Germany, India, and Brazil as permanent members. Talk of Japan obtaining a permanent seat on the Security Council intensified in 2004. That year, as a member of ALPHA-LA, the Alliance to Preserve the History of World War 2 in Asia, I helped circulate a petition which opposed Japan’s accession as a permanent member of an expanded Security Council. We insisted that Japan not be honored with a permanent seat until the government apologized and paid reparations to Comfort Women, victims of chemical and biological warfare, of slave labor, and of the Bataan Death March.

More than one million signatures were collected in the Peoples Republic of China and many more signatures were collected elsewhere in the world. I was part of a delegation which presented those petitions to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Anan.

My position today is the same as it was in 2004. I continue to feel that Japan should not be honored with a permanent seat on the Security Council until it atones for its victimization of innocent men and women during WW2.

Japan is the country of my birth, and some of my relatives have urged me not to publicly criticize Japan. However, as a free citizen of the world, my conscience requires me to speak out whenever massive crimes are perpetrated by a government, whether that government is that of Japan, the United States, Myanmar, Sudan, or the Peoples Republic of China.

In closing, let me say that it is appropriate that we commemorate the American and Chinese soldiers and civilians who resisted Japan’s imperialist aggression during WW2. Today’s commemoration reminds us that there is a famous wall in Washington D.C. that commemorates American soldiers who gave their lives during our war against the Vietnamese people. And there are other memorials throughout the world dedicated to the memory of those who suffered or died because of war. My hope is that one day, it will be unnecessary to build war memorials, because war will have become an obsolete instrument of our barbaric past.

I believe that if everyone who shares this hope commits to this vision, we can achieve a world which does not choose war as a solution, but one in which all people enjoy a peaceful coexistence.

I wish to again thank the City Council, and the members of the American and Chinese WW2 Memorial Monument Association.

Thank you.

Editor note: Yosh Yamanaka was born in Tokyo, Japan 10 months after VJ Day.  He immigrated to the United States when he was 4 ½ years old and attended public schools in Los Angeles.  He got his undergraduate degree at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Yosh got his teaching credential and M.A. in Special Education and taught math, science and photography for 14 years.  In the meantime, he took evening classes at Southwestern, passed the California Bar Exam, and practiced law for 8 years.

Yosh was appointed to the bench and has been a workers’ compensation administrative law judge for the past 16 years.  He has served as an officer on numerous non-profit boards including Pacifica Foundation, L.A. Friends of Tibet, Captive Daughters, and the Alliance to Preserve the History of WWII in Asia.

Yosh will be retiring from the bench next month to teach English in Laos and work on the unexploded ordnance problem in that country.

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