A traveling exhibit chronicling the story of the Japanese American experience in World War II opened on Veterans Day at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai‘i. “Courage and Compassion: Our Shared Story of the Japanese American WWII Experience” was produced by the Los Angeles-based Go For Broke National Education Center. It will be on display through Saturday, Dec. 9.
GFBNEC president and CEO Dr. Mitchell Maki, board chair Stephen Kagawa and several members of the organization’s board traveled to Hawai‘i for the opening. They were joined by Gov. David Ige and his wife Dawn Amano-Ige; Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., the top military commander in the Indo-Pacific region; and JCCH president and executive director Carole Hayashino.
“Courage and Compassion” focuses on the events spanning World War II — from Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor; the birth of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service; the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans and their postwar resettlement and Hawai‘i’s changing socio-economic culture. The JCCH is supplementing the exhibit by highlighting the unique role Hawai‘i played during the war years and sharing little-known stories of people who demonstrated integrity, conscience and community that aided AJAs during and after the war.
The exhibit is interactive and features images and audio recordings of the firsthand accounts of AJA soldiers drawn from GFBNEC’s Hanashi Oral History collection.
Hayashino said JCCH is honored to work with the Go For Broke National Education Center in hosting “Courage and Compassion” and to have been selected as one of the 10 cities that will host the exhibit.
Maki recognized all of the veterans in attendance. He said it was fitting that the exhibit open on the day observed as Veterans Day in the most racially diverse state in the entire United States.
Gov. David Ige, whose father volunteered for the 442nd and served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, said the impact of the World War II story is much bigger than just the war. Ige thanked GFBNEC and JCCH for helping to tell the full story. He said he would not be governor today were it not for the World War II AJA veterans. He also applauded the many new projects being undertaken to tell the wartime story, including the Broadway musical, “Allegiance.”
The Nisei veterans are “all heroes in my book,” noted Adm. Harris. He said World War II was the most important event in his life, despite the fact that it happened before he was even born. He said, however, that the war impacted his life forever. “It shaped the boy I was and the man I became,” he said. “I stand on the shoulders of giants — it’s because of the Nisei soldiers,” Harris said.
“The Hawai‘i story is integrated into each component of our exhibition — from the troubled days following the Pearl Harbor attack to the unparalleled exploits of the 100th Infantry Battalion and beyond. Our exhibit honors the everyday people who rose above the public hysteria of WWII to recognize Ja-
panese Americans as friends, neighbors and citizens,” Maki explained in a press release. He noted that for nearly 150 years, Hawai‘i has played a major role in defining the AJA experience.
The exhibit debuted in Salem, Ore., this past July. Future venues will include Kingsburg, Calif.; Oberlin, Ohio; Rochester and Minneapolis, Minn.; Monterey, Calif.; Peoria, Ill., and Albuquerque, N.M.
“Courage and Compassion” was funded in part by a grant from the National Park Service’s Japanese American Confinement Site Grant Program. It is on display in the JCCH Community Gallery, which is open Mondays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; Tuesdays through Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. General admission during regular operations is $10 for adults and $7 for youth, students and seniors. For additional information, visit www.jcch.com or call JCCH at (808) 945-7633.