Fresno State 9066 Exhibition features GFBNEC Archives

Post written by Gavin Do, Assistant Director of Archives and Special Collections at GFBNEC.

The only thing is this, that—I guess I haven’t come up with the saying yet, but the thing that I lost was the worst, and that’s what makes me stronger. And that is, when you were thrown from a free life into a camp without a trial, and just thrown in there by your government, they have taken your freedom away from you. Okay, this is not like going into jail and put behind barbed—behind bars and having your freedom taken away from you, this is a freedom that is inside of you and the only way I can explain it is like somebody taking a knife and cuttin’ your heart out, and you can’t explain it. And you fight for the rest of your life trying to get it back.

-George Morihiro, Minidoka Concentration Camp incarceree, 442nd Regimental Combat Team 

February 19th marked the 75th anniversary of the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066; this infamous act authorized the government to begin forcibly removing Japanese Americans from the West Coast and incarcerating them in desolate camps. There was no trial, no witnesses, and court cases opened decades later proved that the evidence supporting EO 9066 was largely fabricated and inaccurate.


The Henry Madden Library at Fresno State presents the 9066: Japanese American Voices from the Inside Exhibition.

Go For Broke National Education Center recently received an invitation from Fresno State University to participate in their collaborative exhibition called 9066: Japanese Voices from the Inside, which appropriately debuted on February 19.

Materials on display from the Go For Broke National Education Center archives.

We had the proud distinction to be the only participant that focuses on the military/veteran narrative of the Japanese American World War II experience. The exhibition strives to encapsulate the incarceration experience of those 120,000 Japanese Americans who were unlawfully detained and incarcerated during the war. It is inherently an impossible task to design one exhibition to describe the experiences of so many, but it also seeks to tell personal stories and to paint a picture of the daily lives of the families. GFBNEC was able to contribute to the exhibition by curating content from their archives that tells the story of the Nisei soldiers who volunteered for service from the incarceration camps.

Being displayed are personal photographs, letters, and memorabilia from veterans representing the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate), 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), Military Intelligence Service (MIS), and Women’s Army Corps (WAC).

Visitors viewing display on Opening Day, February 19, 2017.

The hope is that by putting these materials on display, the public will gain an understanding of what these veterans went through and what they fought for. They didn’t simply face adversity on the battlefield, but were forced to face injustices at home; while their families were being detained, these veterans faced worries not just for themselves in the Pacific and European theaters, but also for their loved ones in places like Manzanar, Tule Lake, Gila River, Poston, Granada, Rohwer, and Jerome.

Ultimately, my words cannot do justice to the bravery and loyalty of these veterans. Hopefully, the materials on exhibit can help a visitor come to this conclusion: while these veterans are in their own way larger-than-life war heroes, they are also in many ways just normal people that showed extraordinary courage and bravery when it mattered most. These people are parents, spouses, brothers and sisters, like you and me; yet, their actions speak louder than words ever could. I hope that all of us can follow their example and display even an inkling of the courage they have.

Fresno State’s 9066 Exhibition will be on display until June 2nd, 2017. For more information on the exhibition, please visit

A Moment in History: Remembering Pearl Harbor

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

A single devastating event could change everything in an instant. On December 7, 1941, the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii by the Japanese Imperial Army changed the lives of  thousands of Japanese Americans forever.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

Howard Furumoto, who was a college student at Kansas State University at the time of Pearl Harbor, was among those affected by the events of that unfateful day. In his oral history interview, Furumoto recounts his own experience upon hearing the news of Pearl Harbor:

“December 7th, 1941, I happened to be in this one room. I was the single occupant of this room and, of course, I couldn’t afford a fancy room, I was in the basement room all by myself along with two haole fellas and they had an adjoining—adjacent room; they roomed together, I was alone. And they had their radio on, we didn’t have television back in those days, and it was a squeaky old radio and this announcement came over the radio and I heard it. Franklin Delano Roosevelt coming on and he announced, of course, that Pearl Harbor was attacked and then he made declaration that “THIS IS WAR!” That’s what I heard and that was really devastating. Yeah, my whole world came to a stop then.”

From that day on, Furumoto went from being an ordinary college student to a feared and hated “Jap”:

“I had many friends, you know, before Pearl Harbor but then after Pearl Harbor, of course, I was, I was Japanese, a Jap to them. They made no distinguish—distinction, yeah. Even the places where they served meals, places where they cut hair, barbershop, we couldn’t get the proper service. I was turned down by the barbershop, they couldn’t cut—he wouldn’t cut my hair anymore; the same barber. Go to a restaurant, they wouldn’t serve you.”

This response towards Japanese Americans resonated throughout the entire nation. What manifested from this wartime hysteria was President Roosevelt’s authorization and implementation of Executive Order 9066, which allowed for the forced removal and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. In addition, due to fear of sabotage, the government reclassified all Japanese Americans who were eligible for the wartime draft from 1A (available for military service) to 4C (enemy alien). However, this did not stop the Nisei from proving their loyalty and volunteering to enlist into the United States Army. Some Nisei went through extreme lengths to volunteer. Tsuneo “Cappy” Harada mentions in his oral history interview, how he hitchhiked 35 miles from his junior college to Camp San Luis Obispo to enlist.

Those living in Hawaii at the time of the attack endured a different course of events that contrasted the experience of their counterparts living on the Mainland. For instance, all soldiers of Japanese ancestry who were serving in the Hawaii Territorial Guard were disarmed and discharged from service. Undeterred, this did not stop them from volunteering their services towards the war effort.

Men of the VVV constructing an army barrack. Photo courtesy of Ted Tsukiyama.

By gathering a number of volunteers, this group was formed into the Varsity Victory Volunteers (VVV), which was attached to the 34th Engineer Battalion. As a civilian labor battalion, the VVV worked hard to construct roads, build barracks and water towers–contributing any type of labor work to help. The dedication and hard work conveyed by the VVV led to the creation of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 changed the lives of the entire Japanese American population in the United States. The situation that the Nisei were put into forced them to take a course of action; instead of letting the response of the American public hold them back, they focused on reaffirming their American identity by offering their services and sacrificing their lives to fight for the country that doubted their loyalty. It is this type of patriotism and willingness to “Go for Broke” that made the 100th Infantry Battalion (Separate) and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team the most highly decorated military unit in United States military history.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

CSULA Students Relate Past to Present with GFBNEC Archives

CSULA students make class presentations at Go For Broke National Education Center.

California State University, Los Angeles Cultural Anthropology 3600-01 students, led by Professor James Sera, conducted research in the National Digital Archives Japanese American Military Service to create comparative analyses of the experiences of Japanese Americans after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and of Muslim Americans after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Go For Broke archives staff welcomed forty students into the archives, each of whom worked in groups to create a website exhibit with items from the archives and other sources.  On December 1, 2016, the students presented their findings to Go For Broke staff.

Go For Broke archives staff express their thanks and reflect on the experience of sharing the archives with the students.

Reflections from Summer Espinoza

Learning history can be boring. Textbooks can be dry; memorization of dates, important figures and events can be daunting. What makes these facts and figures mean something to you?  When I think about history and events, I look for personal stories, because when I hear a personal story, I am emotionally and intellectually engaged. This leaves an impression on me. 

That is why Go For Broke welcomed CSULA cultural anthropology students into the archives. We share the oral histories of World War II

Summer Espinoza helping CSULA students conduct research within the GFBNEC archives.

Japanese American veterans’ personal experiences so that students are engaged with video content–with the personal stories.

Yesterday, students showed thoughtful engagement. They recalled the personal stories of the Nisei soldier videos at Go For Broke and they located other digital sources of both Japanese American and Muslim American narratives, investigating public policy written in response to these events and displayed maturity of thought and growth in how history in the first-person narrative can be a teaching tool.

This year, on Saturday September 11, I reflected on how Go For Broke, the archives and working with the CSULA students had affected me:

I am at work this morning and it is a great experience, even though I am sick. There are eight students sitting near me who are doing research in the database we are creating. They are in a class that is comparing Muslim American experiences with Japanese American experiences in the United States… it [also] gives me personal satisfaction because I had always wanted to do work where I learn and where I feel like I am directly affecting people. In my job, I really feel like I am doing something that is both powerful and that allows me to do it quietly. I feel like a “silent activist” and being an archivist and an activist is something of a dream for me.

Thank you to the entire Cultural Anthropology 3600-01 class for your hard work this semester!

Reflections from Gavin Do

As I made my way to the presentation area and the groups began their presentations, I could sense a good deal of nervous energy in the room, from the students, GFB staff, and their professor. We all knew that the students had put in a good deal of time and effort into their work, but conveying information in a clear and articulate manner to an audience is a separate challenge in and of itself. The student groups, one by one, discussed the conclusions that they reached by researching statistics, news stories, photographs, and oral history interviews related to Japanese Americans and Muslim Americans.


A student group presents their findings.

Much of their content was similar and overlapped, which was to be expected. Their topic of research was one that had a somewhat expected outcome in terms of the tone of the content. Yet, my eventual take away from their presentations was that the fruit of their research was the secondary prize for us (their research institution).  The most gratifying aspect, in my opinion, was realizing that these students had performed their own research using our collections and had come to their own conclusions by way of that process. A few of them admitted during and after their presentations that prior to this course, they were not overly familiar with the story of the Japanese American experience during World War II. Even fewer of them knew about the feats of the Nisei veterans who served. The fact that Go For Broke was able to use our archives to positively impact students, even on a small scale, was both gratifying and encouraging for the future. With our push to become an organization with a national presence that can affect change by enhancing education through curriculum and general awareness of the Nisei Veteran story, small steps like this one can be significant stepping stones. Years later, I hope that I can look back at moments like this one and cite it as a time where I helped play a tiny role in telling the story of an underrepresented and underappreciated group of people. That is the goal of archives, and I am glad to work daily in pursuit of that goal.

Reflections from Erin Sato

After many weeks of observing these CSULA students work and research within the GFBNEC archives,  I was excited to see what each group had compiled for their class presentations.

Because I am not a huge fan of making presentations, I understood how these students were feeling standing in front of their class, teacher, and the entire GFBNEC staff with their nerves getting the best of them.

Students present their Omeka webpage.

However, each student group did an excellent job in presenting their findings about the parallels between the treatment of the Japanese
American population after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the treatment towards Muslim Americans after the terrorist attack on 9/11. They found that both ethnic groups were targets of discrimination based solely on the fact that each group resembled the enemy who had conducted the attacks, and these feelings were ultimately fueled by fear and war hysteria.

Being a part of the GFBNEC archives staff, it was refreshing to see what these students were able to compile for their presentations based off of the work that we have done here. It made me extremely happy to see that the students were able to utilize information from our archives and use it to create their own perspectives and conclusions about the Nisei experience during World War II and relate it to present day events.

Remember, Educate, and Inspire: Learning from Our Past to Improve our Future

This Saturday, October 22nd, 2016, a few members of the Go For Broke National Education Center staff will be making a presentation at the Japanese American History Museum at 2pm.

Gavin Do, Assistant Director of Archives and Special Collections, will share his experiences of discovery by showcasing the Hiroshi Sugiyama collection from the GFBNEC archives. Erin Sato, Assistant Archivist, will be speaking about her experiences working within the archives, connecting life, work and passions as lead cataloger. Megan Keller, Director of Education and Exhibitions, will be making the first public announcement of a new and exciting traveling exhibition coming soon.

The program will be free with JANM and GFBNEC exhibition admission, or free to members of JANM and GFBNEC. Please come join us to learn more about the Go For Broke staff and their work within the organization. Thank you!

Go For Broke Archives at the 2016 OHA Conference

The GFBNEC Archives team will be attending the Oral History Association (OHA) Annual Meeting on Friday, October 14th, 2016 in Long Beach, California. We will be giving a presentation about the work we have been conducting using the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer (OHMS). OHMS is a web-based application created by the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral Histories at the University of Kentucky Libraries, and is used to import and index oral history interviews. We are using OHMS to catalog and index our oral history interviews from our Hanashi Oral History Project.

Example of a Hanashi oral history interview that has been indexed in OHMS.

Our presentation is going to be a part of a larger panel discussion called “Discovery in the Digisphere: Oral history at the intersection of technology, archival technique, and the law.” We will be discussing our own experience with using OHMS, and how it has become an integral part of our workflow within our National Digital Archives of Japanese American Military Service (NDAJAMS) project.

Uncovering the Life of Sue Kato through the Lens of an Archivist

Post written by Summer Espinoza, Director of Archives and Special Collections at GFBNEC

Sue Kato was a self-identified tomboy as a child. She grew up in Platte, Nebraska in what she perceived as a diverse community for its size.  She lost her mother at a young age and her father was a farmer with land in Colorado and who was a share-farmer in Platte. She attended Japanese language school in the summer months and wore a lot of denim, well, because she liked to play. In high school she became active in the Girl Reserve, Latin Club and Pep Club.  In Girl Reserve, she got a knack for stamp collecting, which later translated into a hobby for scrapbooking.  I am thankful that she developed this hobby and you will understand why in a few moments.

After high school she was a bookkeeper at a tire re-tracking business at which point she decided she wanted join the Women’s Army Air Corps. She did not initially hear back from the army and later learned that the renamed Women’s Army Corp was now accepting applications from Nisei women, she reapplied and began her service on December 13, 1943.

Fast-forward seventy three years and imagine you are a historic investigator, someone who is looking to understand and share the Japanese American experience in World War Two with anyone and everyone.  Now, imagine coming across this very large scrapbook, obviously aged and with a note, “Donated by Sue Kato.”  In addition to being an investigator, you also are someone who works with the largest Japanese American Nisei veteran oral history collection known in the world, so first order of business—do we have an oral history for this woman? Yes! You try to contain your excitement.  You open this scrapbook and see layers upon layers on every page.  There are letters, faded handwritten notes on the scrapbook pages, Women Army Corps brochures and pamphlets, newspaper articles, currency, V-Mail, programs for musical performances, original photographs of Women Army Corps’ members and all of these are intact and little sign of use.  Some of these letters are on rice paper, folded meticulously and you do not dare try to unfold it no matter your excitement; you know it is too fragile.

Sue Kato spent three years in the Women Army Corps.  Basic training began in Fort Des Moines, Iowa, followed by Fort Devens, Massachusetts and language training at Fort Snelling, a stint at Camp Richard, Maryland and finally to Fort Myers where she was part of an allied forces translation team.

Sue Kato in WAC uniform. Photo courtesy of

Sue Kato may not have been faced with military combat, but she was touched by the hand of fear and hatred by her fellow WACs and military personnel:

 The first day, we were in Fort Des Moines, new recruits… I go to my closet and my civilian clothes, overcoat and outfit are on the floor and my shoes are kicked in the corner.  And I was startled and I said, “Who did this?”  And a tall slim WAC, about three rows of our bunks came quietly and she says, “I did.… One of your kind shot and killed my only brother, he was a naval officer. … I said, “I was born in the States, in Nebraska, and I’m an American just like you.” 

 Kato recalls another incident walking into a military hospital.

“They saw this oriental in uniform and I had to walk down this long corridor and all these GIs, injured GIs sitting there you know. And I’ll never forget the feeling, their eyes just, just burned into me.”

Come back with me again to 2016 and now you have seen this oral history and you have only scratched the surface of this scrapbook.  You now have the tools to share this knowledge with others. This rich content is exactly what people in my field live to experience and we cherish any opportunity to share. Sue Kato was a courageous woman who volunteered because she felt compelled to serve her country first as a clerk and then as a translator. She lived a life of service working for the City of Long Beach.  Sue Kato was born in 1921 and passed in 2011, but we will continue to share her legacy in the archives.

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:

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 ( 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!

Some of the special collections in the GFBNEC archives.