What Are You Working On, Summer Espinoza?

Post by Summer Espinoza, Project Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

This past month has been an exciting one for our archives!  We’ve brought on three graduate student interns who will be helping us index over 4,200 interview files (representative of our 1,180 oral histories) and Gavin Do, our associate archivist, has joined our growing team.  Our project has seen some significant progress as we’ve moved to a new web-publishing platform where we will be able to maximize user accessibility to our intensive indexing and cataloging. Once our project is done, users will be able to apply textual searches to oral histories. Currently, we are testing functionality between the indexing application, the Oral History Metadata Synchronizer and Omeka, our web-publishing platform. Our team also met with scholars, Drs. Kristine Dennehy, Linda Tamura and Thomas Philo, who provided us with fantastic feedback on our subject heading thesaurus.  I also had the opportunity to present our project at the first-annual Society of California Archivists Mini-Conference focused on digital initiatives.

Although I do not have the opportunity to spend much time with the oral histories, I do have the opportunity to guide our indexers and it has been nothing short of inspiring to see both staff and interns working so diligently to unhide these unique narratives.

About the Authors: Gavin Do

Post written by Gavin Do, Associate Archivist at Go For Broke National Education Center

My name is Gavin Do, and I was recently hired to join the Go For Broke team as an Associate Archivist. My main responsibility thus far has been indexing the Hanashi Oral History Interviews collected from the Nisei soldiers of the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regiment, and the Military Intelligence Service. Erin (our Assistant Archivist) and Summer (our Project Manager) have already done so much great work on indexing and providing a clear workflow for the process, and they have helped make my transition to the project very easy and manageable.

While this is only my second week working at GFBNEC (and the first week was spent rapidly preparing for our Evening of Aloha Gala Dinner) I have learned so much about the Nisei soldiers and their massive contributions to the American effort during World War II. Learning that the 442nd is the most decorated unit in the history of the United States military was an eye-opening fact (considering the discrimination and injustice they faced) that makes me very proud to work for GFBNEC. Two hours into my first day on the job, I was able to meet some of the Veterans and their families, and that was an extremely rewarding experience that I will always remember. Preserving and spreading the story of these courageous Veterans is our priority, and I am ecstatic to be contributing to the cause.

With my future posts, I hope to keep everyone updated on the progress we are making on the Hanashi Oral History Project and other great work that we are doing here at GFBNEC.

Why Are Oral Histories So Powerful?

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

Why are oral histories so powerful? Because they record firsthand experiences from the very people who lived them. They are history straight from the source.

That is why our organization spends so much time, energy, and resources to record the oral histories of as many Japanese American veterans as we can. Since 1998, Go For Broke National Education Center has recorded over 1,180 oral histories, and we’re still going strong. We’ve become the world’s largest collection of Japanese American WWII veterans’ life histories.

My favorite part of our oral histories is the wisdom that the veterans impart to the younger generations. At the end of each interview, we ask them what messages they would like to pass on to youth today. Here are some of my favorite – and most inspiring – answers:

Americans, you are free. So guard the freedom as much as you can through being a Good Samaritan. And teach your children and their children what we went through. Keep on going so that this world can be one.

Larry Kodama

Every one of us that grew up in this country, we share the same hopes and dreams. We want to share these dreams. I guess we only hope that for our children.

Mitsunobu Kojimoto

If you show them that what we did was for our country, then I hope they’ll follow in our footsteps.

Hideo Kami

I firmly believe then, now, and in the future, that you have to stand up and fight for what you think is right. Because if you don’t, who is? The next guy? Well, maybe you’re the next guy. You have to stand up and fight for what you think is right. And of course fighting means in different ways, not necessarily just going into the military or going to war. There’s all kinds of ways of fighting.

Harry Fukuhara

Check out more of our oral histories online!


What Are You Working On, Sean Stanley?

Post written by Sean Stanley, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center

I am currently working on an interview with Mr. Roy Matsumoto, who served among the Merrill’s Marauders in Burma and Southeast Asia. Mr. Matsumoto’s story is a fascinating one; Roy was born in Los Angeles, later moving to Japan to attend school, before moving back to Long Beach and finding work as a grocer. Mr. Matsumoto was imprisoned at the outbreak of World War II and classified 4-C, or enemy alien, despite being a citizen of the United States. After spending some time in an internment camp, Mr. Matsumoto was able to utilize his knowledge of the Japanese language and was chosen to undertake a mission with the Merrill’s Marauders in Southeast Asia.

Roy became a master sergeant and served on the Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon and as an interpreter throughout the Marauders’ campaign in Burma. What struck me throughout Mr. Matsumoto’s reflections was the enduring theme of loyalty to his county, despite the fact that discrimination was at its highest point against Japanese Americans in the States during World War II. Roy was also faced with the difficult task of fighting a war which pitted him against relatives and friends (his cousin and brother both served in the Japanese Army) and put his family in harms way (his extended family just escaped the bombing of Hiroshima). While critical of the treatment of fellow Japanese Americans during the war, Mr. Matsumoto never hesitated to help serve the country that was his home and he loved.

It may be hard to imagine having to face these types of situations, but the truth is Roy Matsumoto was not unique. There were thousands of Japanese Americans that experienced similar effects of discrimination and cultural allegiances that made the war era very difficult. In a quote from an earlier interview with Grant Hirabayashi, Japanese Americans, especially soldiers were “happy to be accepted for who they were” while serving in the military, giving them back a sense of pride and belonging through this trying time. Despite all of this, many Nisei soldiers served their country with the utmost respect and loyalty.

When we see and hear discrimination in history, I believe there is always an opportunity to learn and better ourselves as a society and these men’s stories can be used as tools for understanding the importance civil rights in our own modern society.

What Are You Working On, Alan Hino?

Post written by Alan Hino, Intern at Go For Broke National Education Center

I am currently working on Mr. Saburo Nishime’s Hanashi Project Oral History interview clips. I was really impacted by a quote from Mr. Nishime when he was discussing how often his Captains were being replaced. One Captain delivered a very powerful quote. This quote was so powerful that I had to copy it down verbatim in order to deliver it just as Mr. Nishime had recited it. Here is the following quote:

“Nisei soldiers, we have to get into combat, to make the necessary sacrifice as common soldiers, before we can hold our heads up as Americans. That would affect us even when we get back to Hawaii, we can hold up our head because we were in combat. We have to get into combat to get the status, we can up hold ourselves as Americans.”

That quote really had an impact on Mr. Nishime, since it had stuck with him after all of these years. The weight and responsibility of that quote must have been humbling to hear as a young man entering combat. The “necessary sacrifice” was such a bold statement, I had to rewind it a few times to fully understand its meaning. For these men, it was not enough to defend our country – their Captain demanded sacrifices so they can all call themselves Americans. This was such an awe-inspiring quote for me. It stuck with me throughout the rest of the day, and I felt a renewed patriotism. This quote tied directly into another quote that Mr. Nishime had discussed.

While describing his family history, he mentioned that, although his parents did not offer him this advice before he left, he had heard that many Japanese families telling Nisei soldiers to “not shame the family name.” This quote really showed how important pride, honor, and family were to Japanese American soldiers. Rather than focusing on the individual and the danger the soldier would be facing, the family focused on their name. This reminded me of the old saying that “wounds heal, scars fade, but glory is forever.” Your actions will be forever attached to your name, and your name is something that cannot be so easily forgotten. This quote was something I just quickly glossed over the first time I heard it. But when I took the time to really pay attention, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Although they were never spoken to me explicitly, my family has always preached this sense of pride. This pride comes with being courageous and doing what is right. Like the Captain’s quote, the actions and sacrifices of the soldiers ties into their status as Americans. So, too, does the actions of the soldier tie into the family name.

Why Are Most Museum Exhibits So Boring?

Post written by Chris Brusatte, Exhibit Manager at Go For Broke National Education Center

I remember when I was in high school and college, this was the question that would always pop into my mind. I loved history, but I always found myself bored to tears at history museums. I felt that it was always the same boring labels, the same plastic dioramas, and the same lack of any relevance at all to my own life. Why should I care about black and white photos, arcane details, and impersonal objects that I couldn’t touch?

Well, we’re not going to make those same mistakes when our new exhibition opens next spring in downtown Los Angeles. We’ll tell the history of the Japanese American soldiers of WWII, but we’ll do so in an engaging and dynamic way. Most important of all, we will make the experience relevant to our visitors. Most of our visitors will be high school and college students, and they’ve helped plan the exhibition from day one.

In our exhibition, visitors won’t just read and observe – they’ll do. They will get their hands dirty. They will get their minds exhibit room viewchurning. THEY will help create the space and the experience…in a sense, visitors will themselves be the “curator” of their visit to our exhibition. They will have a chance to create art. They will have the opportunity to make mini-documentary films. They will get to make choices and live a “life” as if they were filling the shoes of a WWII-era Japanese American youth.

And this immersive and engaging experience will be made possible by our one-of-a-kind collection. Our thousands of oral histories and hundreds of photographs will form the core of every activity and exhibit area. Every single day our archivists are uncovering and preserving new photos and oral histories, and these are the very assets that will make our exhibition so rich.

So, at least in my opinion, we have finally created the type of history exhibition that is not boring or impersonal. Don’t believe me? Come check us out next spring, when we open to the world in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo district!