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Japanese American soldier statue drive battling price hike for bronze

442nd documentary “Valor With Honor” debuts at Auburn’s State Theater June 24
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Many Japanese American soldiers from Placer County paid a high price for freedom and respect during World War II. But the high price of raw materials is now making a dream of honoring veterans of the famed 442nd Regiment and two other units harder to turn into reality. Plans announced last year call for a bronze statue to be erected at the roundabout of the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. Among the fundraising events will be a State Theater showing June 24 in Auburn of “Valor With Honor,” a documentary on the 442nd. Auburn’s Ken Tokutomi, a treasurer with the Placer County chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League, said the fundraising effort has already netted about $45,000. But the high cost of bronze has been a big factor in raising estimates for the statue project from the initial $110,000 to $150,000, he said. With the rising price of bronze for the statue, the metal for the sculpture has now been purchased in preparation for casting, Tokutomi added. Tokutomi said that events like the documentary showing in Auburn will provide a needed boost for the fundraising drive. The permanent bronze monument at the Placer County memorial will also honor members of the 100th Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service. Many endured the hardships of internment and relocation camps. The Japanese American organization is working with the Placer County Office of Education on a curriculum that would focus on the wartime achievements of Japanese Americans and the World War II internment camps many of their friends and relatives were sent. “You can build a statue but no one will know what it represents,” Tokutomi said. Education can help bridge that gap, he said. A total of 101 Japanese Americans from Placer County served with the 442nd. In all, 14,000 Japanese Americans served with the 442nd during World War II. The 442nd is known as the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history, in terms of size and length of service. The 85-minute “Valor With Honor” has been in production for more than three years and will be released to the public later this year. Showings in Auburn are scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission includes a reception in Central Square, featuring an introduction of the film’s creator Burt Takeuchi and refreshments provided by five local restaurants. The reception will include the unveiling of a bronze, scale model of the monument designed by Placer County artist France Borka. The sculpture, “Rescue of the Lost Battalion,” depicts a member of the 442nd helping rescue a wounded soldier of the 36th Texas Division, which had been pinned down by Nazi troops during fighting in France. Tickets for the event are $45 each or two for $80. Organizers are also looking for businesses and individuals to sponsor the event. Tokutomi can be reached at (530) 888-1303 or at kentokcar@sbcglobal.net. – Gus Thomson