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.

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!

Day of Remembrance

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

February 19th, 1942 commemorates the Day of Remembrance, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enacted Executive Order 9066, which called for the forced removal and incarceration of Americans of Japanese ancestry during World War II. This day changed the lives of thousands of Issei and Nisei living on the West Coast, for they had to pack up whatever belongings they could carry and move into various incarceration facilities located in California, Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas, Idaho, and Utah. About two thirds of those forcibly removed from their homes were American citizens, who had shown no signs of disloyalty to the United States.

My friends and I passed by the historic site of Manzanar Incarceration Camp driving home from Mammoth last Sunday. Although we did not stop for a visit, I could see the stand-alone barracks, a guard tower, and the remnants of a basketball court – it was hard to miss among the barren landscape. In that moment I thought to myself, “Could I have endured life in an incarceration camp?” It was hard to imagine what it must have been like to live within the cramped quarters of the barracks, eating in a crowded mess hall, and showering in a communal bathroom with little to no privacy. But what disturbed me the most was the fact that it was the American government who had forced Japanese Americans, like myself, to live in those conditions in the first place.

Then I began to think about the brave men who volunteered from those camps to serve in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team/100th Infantry Battalion and the Military Intelligence Service. They were able to overcome the hardships that were imposed on them and perform incredible feats overseas, earning numerous awards, commendations, and accolades for their bravery and acts of heroism during the course of the war. They showed incredible resilience amidst oppression, fighting to prove their loyalty to the same government who incarcerated their families. To me, the Day of Remembrance not only signifies the day that the American government committed a heinous injustice against the Japanese American community, it helped rally the Nisei men and fueled their famous “Go For Broke” attitude.

Never forget.


GFBNEC Essay, Poetry and Video Contest


Attention high school and college students – and yes, grad students too!  It’s your turn to explore our archives and possibly win some serious money!

Again this year, we are having a Student Essay, Poetry, and Video Contest, with $8,500 in prize money and complimentary tickets to our annual gala dinner in the fall.  All that you have to do is research the Japanese American World War II story and write an essay, create a poem, or film a short video about what inspires you.  If you are one of the top finalists, not only can you win a monetary award, but you also have the chance to meet the WWII veterans themselves at our annual gala dinner.  It’s an opportunity that is definitely once-in-a-lifetime!

All of the information can be found here:

The deadline for submissions is June 30, 2016.

Last year, we received over 245 entries from all over the country.  Entries came in from 16 states and the District of Columbia, approximately 55 high schools, and 20 universities.  Winners came from California, Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Idaho, and Nevada, with all first place winners hailing from different states.

Please contact Chris Brusatte (, 310.222.5711) with any questions.  There has never been a better chance to explore our archives, find out what inspires you, and tell us about it through word or film.  And, hey, who knows – you might actually win some serious money and get to meet the very heroes whom you researched!