A Life of Honor

Yesterday morning, as I was scrolling across the news of the day and having my morning coffee, I saw something that caught my eye and gave me pause. September 7th would have been the 92nd birthday of 442nd veteran and U.S. Senator (D-HI) Daniel K. Inouye. The realization did not shock me with surprise, as Senator Inouye unfortunately passed away four years ago in 2012. Instead, my thoughts fully deviated to him more due to remembering what he, along with so many more Nisei veterans, accomplished during their lifetimes.

Daniel Ken Inouye was born on September 7, 1924 in Honolulu, Hawaii to an Issei father and a mother who was adopted by Caucasian Methodists in Hawaii. He recalls his grandfather instilling Japanese values and culture in him as a child, while his parents taught him the values of work ethic and sacrifice. These lessons would be put to great use.

On the morning of December 7, 1941, Daniel Inouye was having what he thought was a normal Sunday morning. He was listening to the radio while waiting to go to church with his family, something countless other Americans surely did. As the music abruptly cut off and the residents of Hawaii began realizing what was taking place, Inouye vividly recalled in his oral history interview his memory of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor:

“Three planes…pearl gray with a red dot…flew overhead after their run across Pearl Harbor. I felt that my life had come to an end at that point because obviously the pilot in that plane looked like me.”

Daniel Inouye immediately rushed from his home to fulfill his duties as a medical volunteer at an aid station, disregarding his own safety. This would not be the last time Inouye would act in such a manner. In 1943, when the Army began allowing Japanese Americans to volunteer for military service, Inouye enlisted and was assigned to the segregated 442nd Regimental Combat Team. One of his earliest memories of his time in the service is during basic training at Camp Shelby in Mississippi. Inouye was one of the Hawaiian Nisei soldiers that visited the incarceration camps in Rohwer and Jerome in Arkansas, a visit that was pivotal in galvanizing the Mainland Nisei and Hawaiian Nisei soldiers, who had been constantly fighting amongst each other up to that point. In his oral history interview, Senator Inouye went as far to recall that military leadership contemplated disbanding the 442nd RCT and scattering the soldiers across the country. That is a sobering thought because it is difficult to imagine how drastically different our nation’s history would be without the combined 100th Battalion/442nd RCT.

While fighting in the Gothic Line campaign in Italy, 2nd Lieutenant Daniel Inouye would have perhaps his defining moment of the war, performing actions that would earn him a Distinguished Service Cross that would later be upgraded to a Medal of Honor. On April 21, 1945 while in the vicinity of San Terenzo, Italy (in Tuscany) 2nd Lieutenant Inouye eliminated three German machine gun nests with only grenades and his Thompson submachine gun. He did all of this despite being wounded in the stomach by a sniper’s bullet before even engaging the first machine gun nest and being shot in the right arm by an exploding grenade fired from a German soldier’s rifle. Mind you, this wound was even more gruesome considering Inouye still had a live grenade clenched in his right hand, which he could no longer control because of the injury. Obviously, the simple solution for 2nd Lt. Inouye was to peel the grenade from his clenched right fist using his left hand and complete the mission by destroying the last machine gun nest. He followed that by directing his men into defensive positions for an hour, all while still seriously wounded. I don’t even think Hollywood could write a scene that captures such heroism and sacrifice. Only Daniel Inouye could accomplish that through his actions.

When now-Captain Daniel Inouye returned to Hawaii after the conclusion of the war (minus his right arm) he had to abandon his dreams of becoming a physician and instead turned to politics. The United States, and probably the world, is a better place today because of that single decision. Inouye began his political career by serving as a member of the Hawaiian territorial House of Representatives and later the Hawaiian territorial Senate. When Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959, Inouye won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as Hawaii’s first member. In 1962, he would win his first of nine elections for Senator of Hawaii. Senator Inouye never lost an election or primary in his entire political career and eventually became the highest-ranking Asian American politician in U.S. history due to his time as President pro tempore in the Senate. Senator Inouye served on countless committees and forged fruitful bipartisan relationships during his career. He always represented Hawaii with the highest sense of integrity. Upon his death in 2012, members of both parties in a divided Congress gathered to mourn the loss of someone who President Obama simply (yet truthfully) described as “a true American hero.”

In his oral history interview recorded for our Hanashi oral history project, Senator Inouye recalled that his father always urged him to not bring shame upon their family. He followed with an anecdote recalling how so many of his fellow Nisei soldiers also expressed their desire to not bring shame to their families. It is safe to say that Senator Daniel Inouye, along with his fellow Nisei veterans, accomplished that goal with great success.

To view Senator Daniel Inouye’s Hanashi oral history interview, please refer to our website: http://www.goforbroke.org/learn/archives/oral_histories_videos.php?clip=13701

GFBNEC Archives and Special Collections is Open for Business!

Our archives and special collections department would like to notify everyone that we have photographs and manuscripts to help supplement our oral histories interviews! We have a selection of these materials that we make available for research by appointment. Please refer to our updated “special collections” page on the Go For Broke National Education Center website (http://www.goforbroke.org/learn/archives/special_collections.php) for more information about the materials and how to get in contact with us to set up a research appointment. We look forward to seeing you!

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Some of the special collections in the GFBNEC archives.

 

 

Archives Team attends UCLA’s 2016 NDLC

Post written by Erin Sato, Assistant Archivist at Go For Broke National Education Center


NDLC logo

Yesterday, the Go For Broke archives team attended the National Diversities in Libraries Conference (NDLC) at UCLA to present about our ongoing project. We titled our presentation “Faster Access or Perfect Metadata? The Balance in Indexing and Cataloging Oral Histories.” NDLC Presentation screenshotIn our presentation, we first gave a background about the history behind the Nisei soldiers’ experience during World War II.
We then described our approach in indexing and cataloging the oral history narratives provided by Nisei soldiers. We also presented the challenges that we faced along the way in creating our controlled vocabulary index.

We received very positive feedback from our audience. We were surprised to hear that some of the viewers were already aware of the work that we were doing with the Hanashi Oral History Project and the National Digital Archives of Japanese American Military Service (NDAJAMS). We also received comments about how our passion for this project and the Nisei story was clearly evident during our presentation. It is comments like these that put our efforts into perspective and encourage us to continue our work towards spreading this story to a much wider audience.     

One viewer, who we found out was from Japan, approached us after our presentation to tell us that she was surprised to learn about the Nisei soldier experience. She then assured us she would share our project and the story of the Nisei soldiers with her friends. She was so intrigued about how powerful the Nisei story is and how important it is for others to know about their experience.

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Courtesy of Emily Drabinski.

 

Another viewer even shared updates about our presentation via social media (Twitter). Being such a small cultural heritage organization, it was incredible to see how well of a reception we received upon presenting our project. We hope to continue to inspire others to learn more about the Nisei soldier experience during World War II.

The Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection: Uncovering Layers

Post written by Gavin Do, Assistant Director of Archives and Special Collections at Go For Broke National Education Center


Since I began my time with Go For Broke National Education Center, one of the exciting projects I have been able to take on is processing the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection. This opportunity came about as I stumbled upon a picture from Sugiyama’s collection and proceeded to briefly research his story and publish it in this blog.

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Items from the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection processed by Gavin Do. The following items include (left to right): Sugiyama’s Purple Heart citation; leather portfolio with life insurance documents; and monogrammed ring.

As Sugiyama’s story began to emerge and become more visible, our archives department began to use his collection as an example to continue asking questions that apply to our non-digital archives collections here at Go For Broke. These questions included:

Where did this collection come from?

How did GFBNEC acquire this collection?

Who are the people represented in these collections?

Where are the locations that are represented in these collections?

What are the dates of events or items represented in these collections?

Does this fit into the Nisei soldier narrative that we are attempting to tell?

There are many more questions that we have had to ask as a staff regarding our collections. Luckily, our questions were met with answers in the case of the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection. Archivists use the term provenance in order to describe where items or a collection has been or come from in its past, starting from the origin with the creator to its current whereabouts (and everything in between). For the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection, we are initially unaware of the provenance of the collection other than that many of the items came from Hiroshi himself. We were in luck, however, because our archives staff was able to find information regarding the provenance of the Sugiyama collection. Staff found a copy Torch from 2006 that publicized the purchase of the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection from an auction. While that explained where the collection came from, the collection still needed to be physically processed. Upon doing that, we realized that a number of items were missing from the collection. Upon reviewing the paperwork, however, we came to the conclusion that the missing items were not missing, but actually on loan to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

Finding an old press release, featuring our own Don Seki of the 442nd RCT, confirmed these thoughts:

Don Seki Museum of Tolerance
Wells, Annie –– – 131981.ME.1220.stamp Press conference at The Museum of Tolerance for support of Japanese American WWII vets to get a US postage stamp in their honor. Don Seki, of the 100th Infantry Battalion, stands in front of a display case at the museum that contains artifacts of Hiroshi Sugiyama, a medic in the US Army who earned a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star and a Good Conduct medal. Sugiyama was killed while administering first aid to a wounded soldier near Tendola, Italy.photo by Annie Wells 12/20/07. Courtesy of Getty Images. Editorial #563981693. Part of LA Times Collection.

We have since contacted the Museum of Tolerance and had very pleasant conversations with them regarding continued collaboration with the Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection.

The purpose of this blog post is multifaceted. For one, I always love bringing more attention to the Hiroshi Sugiyama Collection. I think it is a collection full of history, context, and research value that tells the story of a brave soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice. Secondly, I think that it is important that as an archives staff, we explain and display what we do and how we do it. Archives is admittedly a very obscure and abstract field of work, and we want to be transparent with the community about our developments. We recognize that Go For Broke is an organization that has a team of outstanding volunteers and supporters, and we rely on all of you to survive. The supporters need to be kept in the loop.

That being said, we as an archives staff want to express our excitement that items from the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection are on exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance. Their exposure and traffic will allow the collection to tell the story of Hiroshi Sugiyama, and by extension, the story of the Nisei soldier.

Check out the “Defining Courage” Exhibition!

Have you seen our new exhibition?  In late May, we opened The Defining Courage Experience, a hands-on and participatory learning center in the heart of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo historic district. The exhibition explores the concept of courage through the lives of the young Japanese Americans of World War II, and asks modern visitors to act with similar courage in their own lives.

The exhibition is one-of-a-kind in its dynamic, hands-on, and experience-based approach, engaging visitors through participatory learning experiences. These experiences teach the history of the Japanese American World War II story and its relevance to our lives today. This isn’t your typical history museum!

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Photos by Jon Endow

Throughout the exhibition, visitors get to “meet” hundreds of young Japanese American men and women from the World War II era.  Our archivists worked hard to find photographs, quotes, and oral history clips from throughout our entire collection, and these are powerfully presented in the exhibits and hands-on activities.  Countless hours were spent by our archivists, and the result is an exhibition centered around the real first-person stories of hundreds of young WWII soldiers and their contemporaries.  In interactive high-tech and low-tech exhibits, visitors feel that they really “meet” these young men and women, discovering their courage first-hand as they experience our exhibition.  Visitors can even make their own mini-documentaries, using our vast collection of historic photos and oral history videos!

Our exhibition is one way that we bring our archives out of the “old dusty boxes” and into the public knowledge.  Our archivists are experts at discovering the most powerful, historic, and important pieces in our collection, and they love using numerous methods to showcase these to the public.  It is through their hard work that our organization raises awareness of the Nisei soldier story and its continued relevance to our world today.  If you haven’t stopped by our exhibition yet, pop in and see the fruit of their labors!

http://www.goforbroke.org/visit/exhibit/index.php

Kim Ida Surh on Freedom

Post written by Summer Espinoza, Director of Archives and Special Collections at Go For Broke National Education Center


As I reflect on this Independence Day weekend, I hope sharing this brief segment from Kim Ida Surh’s oral history interview will resonate and inspire others to reflect on the meaning of patriotism and freedom as it inspired me.

Surh was born in Nogales, Arizona in 1915, grew up in Los Angeles, California and volunteered as an Army nurse in World War Two. Surh explains what patriotism and freedom meant to her and why she felt compelled to volunteer.

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CLICK HERE TO VIEW INTERVIEW SEGMENT

The Power of Oral Histories

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Director of Education & Exhibits at Go For Broke National Education Center


Our oral histories are a treasure.  Ask any family member who has seen their loved one on camera, opening up about their war experience in a way both beautiful and sorrowful.  For many of these families, this is the first time that their loved one has spoken openly about the war, and over the course of our filming, these families get to learn more about their loved ones than they had previously known.

I myself am not Japanese American, but I had two cousins who fought for our country in World War II.  How I wish that both of them could have had the chance to sit down and record their oral histories.  Because they never had this opportunity, I know very little about their wartime experiences.

Bernie Brusatte was 21.  He enlisted alongside his cousin Ray Brusatte, also 21, on October 7, 1942.  Of that much I know, but little else.  Why did they join?  What motivated them?  What were their thoughts about the war, their sacrifices, about leaving their families behind?

I definitely had the chance to ask my cousin Bernie about his experiences before he passed away when I was in high school, but I never did.  I wish that I would have.  I don’t know if he would have felt comfortable sharing his experiences, but I at least should have asked.

Thanks to our organization, almost 1,200 World War II veterans have been able to share their personal stories.  Their families – and also generations of historians, students, and the general public – now have the ability to watch the footage of their interviews and learn about their courageous lives.  Even hundreds of years into the future, their stories will not be lost.  Even after the last of this remarkable WWII generation has passed, their primary accounts will live on.  Our oral history videos ensure that.

Even though I can never revisit the chance to sit down with my cousins and talk to them about the war, I can at least view the oral histories of their contemporaries.  Through these stories, I feel that I can learn a little bit about the time in which my cousins lived, and the circumstances that they were called to face with courage.  I invite you all to do the same.  Check out our website.  View one of these courageous men’s oral history videos.  I promise you that you will be glad that you did.

http://www.goforbroke.org/oral_histories/oral_histories_video.php

Footsteps left by Nisei Soldiers

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Director of Education & Exhibits at Go For Broke National Education Center


Footsteps.  That is perhaps what archives and historical documents leave us.  A well-worn path, trodden by the footsteps of those who have gone before us.  The person may be gone, but his marks remain along the path.  His journey may be over, but it can influence ours which is just beginning.

Some of our oral histories acknowledge this fact rather straight-forwardly.  For example, World War II veteran Hideo Kami told us that his interview will help “show others that what we did is for our country, and then I hope that they’ll follow our footsteps.”  Yoshio Matsumoto concurs.  “You should be grateful for the things that people who have gone before have done for you.  Don’t take things for granted.”  Jun Shiosaki wants young people today to seek out the path already trod before them by the Nisei veterans, who “paved the way and gave the younger generations the opportunity to do the things that they’re doing.”

So the path is there.  The footsteps remain.  Our life of courage can begin by following their valorous steps.  But we also have to extend the effort ourselves and know that our situations are sometimes different.  As Masaji Inoshita told our interviewers, “I’m not telling you, you gotta do this, I’m not telling you you gotta follow a certain principle.  I got to tell you, you have to follow your own heart.”  So the footsteps are there, but we must actively see which parts of the path most fit our modern situations.  As Inoshita continued, “You have to find out for yourself what you have to do to make this world smoother and rounder.”

Such powerful words, such wise words.  The lessons of the past are there for us, ever present as our guides.  But we too must exert effort in adapting them to our own situations.  And in the end, it completely falls to us whether we follow their courageous example or forget about their lives, much to our own peril.  Ultimately it’s up to us.  The footsteps are there, the path is in front of us, but we have to make the effort to start the journey.  As veteran Richard “Dick” Narasaki told us, “no doubt that our experience is important.  But how the next generation reacts to it is something else again.  I don’t know whether they’ll look upon it and think, ‘That’s somebody else’s life; it has no effect on mine,’ or whether they will take it to heart saying ‘Hey, they gave us a building block, let’s build on it.’”

Our archives are here for your guidance.  The footsteps remain visible.  Let’s build on it.

From MIS to NBA

Post written by Erin Sato, Assistant Archivist at  Go For Broke National Education Center


While cataloging records for the interviewees from the Hanashi Oral History Project, I came across a very interesting individual by the name of Wataru Misaka. He is not only known for being a Military Intelligence Service veteran who participated in the occupation of Japan, but also for being the first Japanese American to be drafted into the NBA (National Basketball Association).

Wataru “Wat” Misaka was born in Ogden, Utah to two Issei parents from Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan. At a young age, Wat took an interest in sports, playing on various sports teams starting in junior high school, and continuing into high school and college. Luckily, he and his family were not forcibly removed into an incarceration camp after the implementation of Executive Order 9066, so he was able to continue his education at Weber Junior College (now Weber State University) and later at the University of Utah.   

While attending his first year at the University of Utah in 1944, he helped the basketball team win the NCAA and NIT (National Invitational Tournament) Championship. As soon as he returned home from New York, Wat received his draft notice and reported to Fort Douglas, Utah for his induction into the US Army. He completed his basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, and was reassigned to military language training at Camp Savage, and later, Fort Snelling, Minnesota. After completing language training, Wat was shipped to the Philippines, then to Tokyo where he was assigned as an interviewer for the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS) team.

wat misaka
Photo courtesy of http://www.watmisaka.com

Wat returned to the United States after receiving his discharge in 1946, where he continued his studies and re-joined the basketball team at the University of Utah. A year later, he helped his team win the NIT (National Invitation Tournament) Championship in New York. Back then, the National Invitation Tournament was the top college basketball tournament that a college team could qualify to compete in (equivalent to the NCAA college tournament today).

In that same year, Wat was drafted by the New York Knicks, becoming the first Japanese American to play in the NBA. This was a huge milestone, considering this was a time when people of color had little presence within the professional sports world. “The thing that makes it special to me,” Wat said in his Hanashi oral history interview, “is that I was the first, and maybe the only, Japanese American to ever play on a national basketball championship team. And I was the first non-white to get drafted into, what is now, the NBA. Jackie Robinson […] played for the Yankees in 1947 and he was the first black that year, but that was something really tremendous because blacks were forbidden to play up until then. There was no such restrictions on Japanese Americans, but still I was the first, and up to now, the only one, I guess.” When asked in his interview if he was treated like a celebrity, he responds: “No. It was not that big of a deal, you know. It’s still not that big a deal, but it’s something that I am proud of.”