Moments of Serenity within a World of War

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


Blog 20
Rohwer, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of the family of Satoru Nakamura.

This is one of my all-time favorite photographs in our collection.  Sure, the quality is a little blurry.  True, it is hard to make out any individual face.  As a piece of “art,” this photograph would definitely not grace the walls of a photography shop.  But that is not the point.

As a snapshot of history, of daily life, of human emotions, this photograph is hard to beat.  Two Japanese American soldiers, on leave in the midst of World War II, “jump rope with the kiddies” as they visit their incarcerated families in Rowher, Arkansas.  Other soldiers stand and watch.  Both the children and the servicemen have looks of joy on their faces.

What were the soldiers thinking?  How about the “kiddies”?  The soldiers were in the midst of a horrific war, knowing that their next overseas assignment could very well end in death.  The children were locked up in an incarceration camp, surrounded by barbed wire and far away from their homes.  What were they thinking?  What was going through their minds?

I would like to think that in this very moment, all that crossed their minds was a sunny day, a fun game of jump rope, and the wide grins of those around them.  I smile thinking that perhaps all of them were lost in this moment, temporarily forgetting about the horrors of the battlefield and the injustices of the camps.

Where are these people now?  What happened to the smiling soldiers, the grinning kids, in the moments, months, and years after the camera caught this shot?  Did the soldiers survive the war?  Did the children go on to do great things in an increasingly tolerant America?  Did any of them remember this beautiful sunny day, when for a single moment they could forget about their many troubles?

I hope so.  And as I look at this photograph I can’t help but see the beauty of humanity even in the midst of war.  A smile can light up even the worst of times in even the bleakest of places.  Sometimes all that it takes is a jump rope, a sunny day, and a good group of friends.


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