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.



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.

Twitter screenshot
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

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.

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, 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!