A registered California historic landmark is gone from the spot where the U.S. government imprisoned 4800 Japanese-Americans in 1942.
The memorial is at least 20 pounds of brass, worth about $50 at a recycling center. But police say it'll be extremely hard to sell to a recycler because its true value is so much higher.
A modern day office park disguises a dark mark in American history in Northwest Fresno. A memorial sits on the former home of an assembly center --where thousands of Japanese-Americans reported as federal officers herded them into one of America's own short-lived concentration camps. Six years ago, survivors, their relatives, and veterans joined together to pay tribute to their sacrifice and courage with a plaque stamping the site as a state historical landmark.
"It's very significant to our Japanese-American community but as I mentioned, this is a very American story," said Judge Dale Ikeda.
The plaque stood as a centerpiece to the Pinedale Remembrance Plaza, along with 12 storyboards telling tales of Japanese immigrants working towards the American dream. Judge Ikeda is one of its many caretakers. But in a sad postscript to the already disturbing story of his ancestors, Ikeda learned this week the plaque had disappeared -- apparently ripped off by thieves.
"To take something like that is pretty low," asked an Action News reporter.
"It has to be," said Bruce Thiessen, CEO of the Clovis Veterans Memorial District. "I mean, you'd probably need a chisel to get them off the floor, that's how low they are."
The district owns the remembrance plaza. Thiessen says it'll cost up to $5000 to replace the plaque, but he's hoping it won't come to that. The district did file a police report, but they're willing to let the thieves go, under one condition.
"We're more than happy just to take it back for the bringing it in and won't have any hard feelings, but just hope and pray that whoever's got it realizes the injustice they've done," he said.
Judge Ikeda told Action News he initially worried the crime might've been directed at the entire Japanese-American community since the landmark is so important to them. But after seeing all the storyboards in good condition, he now believes it was just run-of-the-mill metal thieves.