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.

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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.

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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.

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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.
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CSULA Students Relate Past to Present with GFBNEC Archives

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Sue Kato in WAC uniform. Photo courtesy of http://www.discovernikkei.org.

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.

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


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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.

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