The U.S. Army plans to open the National Museum of the United States Army — NMUSA — near Washington, D.C., in 2019 that will include recognition of World War II AJA soldiers of the Military Intelligence Service, 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Work on the three-story, 185,000-square-foot facility is underway on 83 acres at Fort Belvoir in northern Virginia, located about 20 minutes by car from the nation’s capital. See https://armyhistory.org/
Information about the project was presented by officials of the National Veterans Network and NMUSA at a July 26 briefing at the 100th Infantry Battalion Veterans clubhouse. About 70 people attended, including World War II MIS veterans Herbert Yanamura and Ted Tsukiyama, both of whom initially volunteered for the 442nd RCT and were then transferred to the MIS.
Speakers included retired Army Gen. Eric Shinseki, a board member for the Army Historical Foundation, which is raising $200 million for the museum; NVN executive director Christine Sato-Yamazaki; NMUSA director Tammy Call; and Dr. Charles Cureton, chief curator for the Army’s Center for Military History.
Call introduced a brief video about the museum and described its layout. She said the Nisei soldiers would initially be featured in three locations within the museum. One location is a set of 10 pylons, each telling the story of an AJA soldier. Dick Hamada, who served with the Office of Strategic Services in Burma and China, has been selected to represent Hawai‘i MIS soldiers. Another Nisei special exhibit will highlight the Congressional Gold Medal, which was awarded to the veterans of the 100th, 442nd and MIS in 2011. That exhibit will have additional display space for artifacts the museum hopes to obtain from the AJA community.
Text and photos are not enough, Cureton said. He and Call came to Hawai‘i to personally ask the AJA community for artifacts. “We have more items from the American Revolution than we have from the Nisei community,” Cureton said of their current collection.
The NMUSA is seeking personally meaningful, historically significant objects of known provenance — origins. An example, Cureton said, might be a wristwatch worn by a 442nd Nisei during the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in France.
Sato-Yamazaki said MIS-related artifacts might include a Japanese-English dictionary used by an AJA soldier during the war, or a Japanese map captured on the battlefield. Artifacts will be submitted through a process that starts with the NVN. Anyone with an item to donate should photograph it and then send an email with the photo, the veteran’s name and unit and the artifact’s history to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. NVN will facilitate the process and submit the offers to Army officials for selection and final approval by the Army curator. Donors whose artifacts are selected will be asked to provide further information, including an appraisal.
In order for an artifact to be considered for the special Nisei exhibit, it must be submitted for review by Sept. 30, 2017. Only a few artifacts will be shown initially, but the museum hopes to build its collection for future exhibits and so that artifacts can be rotated regularly.
Cureton said the museum is requiring that items be donated rather than loaned. Donors will be acknowledged, he said, and the museum will have the facilities and ability to preserve the artifacts for generations to come.
Gen. Shinseki, the Kaua‘i native who always credits the World War II Nisei who made it possible for him to rise to Army chief of staff, said he still encounters people who are surprised to hear about the World War II service of the AJAs.
Shinseki noted that the Smithsonian Institution, where the AJAs’ Congressional Gold Medal has been on temporary display, draws 4 million visitors a year. NMUSA wants to attract 1 million visitors in its first year, Shinseki said. “This museum is going to open with our without us in 2019,” he said. “This may be the last, best opportunity for us” to tell the story of the Nisei soldiers, Shinseki said. — by Mark Matsunaga