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National Park Service Releases Report on Wakasa Monument

Funeral service for James Wakasa at Topaz in 1943.

DELTA, Utah — On February 4, the National Park Service released its report on the Wakasa Monument, now housed in the Topaz Museum in Delta, Utah.

The NPS requested that the report not be made public “because this report contains sensitive archaeological/location information”.

The 60-page report follows a two-day on-site assessment on November 30 and December 1, 2021, when an NPS team examined the monument at the museum and its original location at the Topaz concentration camp site. . The report is divided into sections which include background and history, methodology, evaluation of the stone known as the Wakasa Monument, evaluation of the site where it was originally discovered at Central Utah Relocation Center (better known as Topaz) and recommendations for museum stewardship of both the monument and its original location.

The Wakasa Monument is named for James Hatsuaki Wakasa (1880-1943), who was shot by a military guard while walking his dog at Topaz Concentration Camp on April 11, 1943. Military officials ordered the monument—half a ton of stone—to be removed after being erected by Wakasa’s fellow inmates.

Its location remained a mystery until its discovery in 2020, partially buried and hidden in plain sight near the Topaz barbed wire fence. Upon publishing its exact location in July 2021, and fearing possible vandalism, the Topaz Museum Board moved the Wakasa Monument from its original location so that it could be sheltered and protected in the secure courtyard of the topaz museum.

Key findings from the NPS report include:

• The stone in the courtyard of the museum was placed under a protective covering structure which was removed on the day of the inspection to allow examination of the stone.

• Natural mineral deposits, lichen and non-living vegetation were noted on the stone.

• Fractures are found to the north, south, east and top of the stone, some of which are surface fractures, while others are deeper. Some may be due to the geological formation of the stone, some may have developed over time, and some “may have been exacerbated by the movement of the stone”.

• Two fragments of the stone that were dislodged during its displacement are now in the Topaz Museum.

• At the original site of the Topaz monument, it was noted that there was a shallow depression measuring 7′ x 7’6″ at its widest point, where the excavated area was backfilled after the monument has been moved to a safe place.

• Adjacent to the depression is a group of 40 to 50 concrete fragments, 10 of which may be from rock movement.

NPS recommendations include:

• Construction of a stable base for the shelter protecting the stone and adding ventilation holes in this shelter to better protect the Wakasa monument in its current location.

• Creation and implementation of a site condition monitoring plan at the location where the Wakasa monument was discovered.

• Discussions with stakeholders to determine the interpretation and future of the Wakasa monument and the Topaz site where it stood.

The Topaz Museum Board, the monument’s legal steward and owner of the Topaz incarceration site, is ready to begin implementing the NPS’s recommendations and invites the broader Japanese-American community and Topaz stakeholders to determine how implement them and plan the future of the Wakasa monument as well as a commemoration ceremony in April 2023.

An Outreach Plan designed to allow interested participants to offer ideas and suggestions will be released soon.

The Topaz Museum is located in Delta, Utah, 16 miles from the Topaz Concentration Camp Historic Site. The museum board owns 639 acres of the area where 11,000 people of Japanese ancestry were incarcerated during World War II. More than 10,000 people, including many students, visit it each year. More information can be found at: http://topazmuseum.org