Academic, Event, Family, Film, History, Japanese American, Lecture

Recap: Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian

DOR NMAH Poster

Poster design by Nigel Briggs, National Museum of American History

By Noriko Sanefuji (Curatorial Assistant) and Christine Chou (intern)

This year’s Day of Remembrance (DOR) was special for many reasons. Not only is it the 70th anniversary since the signing of Executive Order 9066, the action that led to the imprisonment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II, it was also to honor the Japanese American WWII veterans that were recently awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

The program began with a keynote speech by Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki (watch the video clip above or download his speech here). He reflected on the roles of Japanese Americans who volunteered in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service during World War II. General Shinseki recognized their merit in receiving the award and stated that their legacy shows what it means to be an American to future generations. He said:

PDF of Shinseki's Speech

Download PDF

“In all my years in the military, I can find no better, no more compelling, and no more inspiring story of what it means to be an American than the stories and battle histories of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service. They were premiere warfighting units ranking among the very best in U.S. military history. The legacy of those who served in those units is a tradition of patriotism, loyalty, courage, honor, dedication and sacrifice that’s as old as the American Revolution. Their’s is an American story.”

General Shinseki’s keynote speech was followed by a film highlighting the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony.  Afterward, there was a panel discussion that included Grant Ichikawa, MIS veteran; Gerald Yamada, Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) president; Christine Sato-Yamazaki Chairperson, National Veteran Network; and Doug Sterner, author of Go For Broke.  The panel was moderated by Franklin Odo, former director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program. Everyone provided insights about the significance of the Congressional Gold Medal and the process of recognizing Japanese American WWII veterans.

DOR Recap

Day of Remembrance Recap

Dr. Odo began the discussion by asking the panelists: “What does the Congressional Gold Medal mean to you?”  Mr. Ichikawa recalled his experiences in the MIS and reflected on how proud he is to be a recipient of the medal.  Ms. Sato-Yamazaki expressed her feelings on how the award ceremony represented the completion of a difficult, two-year effort to obtain congressional approval for the medal.  Mr. Sterner explained how the medal was the highest honor bestowed by Congress.  According to Mr. Yamada, the award gives JAVA the chance to make the Nisei soldiers’ legacy a living story, rather than just a historic one.

Museum visitors viewed the actual Congressional Gold Medal up close during the event.  Objects made inside the barbed wire camps during WWII were also on display at a nearby education cart. Artifacts were brought out of storage for DOR, and experts were also available to answer questions from the visitors at the education carts. Representatives from the U.S. Mint were there to discuss how the medal was created.

Interns at an education cart

Interns Christine Chou (Smithsonian APA Program) and Erin Anderson (National Museum of American History) talk to a visitor at an education cart. Photo by Donald Hurlbert, NMNH

Smithsonian APA Program intern Christine Chou designed a second educational cart as an interactive way of learning about daily life in internment camps. Objects on display included typical mess hall food, tools from working life, school artifacts, leisure items (like a baseball), and craft materials used for art projects. Historical photos complimented the objects to provide a more complete picture of camp living conditions. Everyone was encouraged to pick up and touch the objects. Some of the most popular items were the medical tools, including a stethoscope, head mirror, and elbow splint, which visitors were free to try on and use.

Another popular item, the dog tags of a Japanese American World War II veteran, belonged to Grant Ichikawa, who was interned before joining the military. As visitors held his dog tags, they were told that Mr. Ichikawa was actually in the museum that day to tell people about his experiences, and it was a quietly powerful moment. For visitors and volunteers at the cart that day, having the opportunity to interact with these artifacts helped foster a deeper connection to our national history.

Related Links:

Related Blogs:

Related Podcast: History Explorer: Japanese American Internment and WWII Service
Listen to the Podcast (MP3 file)
View more photos

Curatorial assistant Noriko Sanefuji interviews Grant Ichikawa, a U.S. veteran who enlisted after being relocated to a Japanese American internment camp with his family in 1942. Allowed to join the army after a need for interpreters, Mr. Ichikawa served the country proudly. In 2011, he and other veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service.

Veteran Grant Ichikawa

Curatorial assistant Noriko Sanefuji interviews Grant Ichikawa at the National Museum of American History, February 2012.

TalkBack Board

TalkBack Board

We also utilized the National Museum of American History’s TalkBack Boards program to invite the museum visitors to post their comments.

Question:
Today the U.S. Mint will be presenting the Congressional Gold Medal to Japanese Americans to honor their service during WII. How do you think America should honor its veterans?

You can join the online conversation by clicking here.

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Japanese American

Fred Korematsu and The Struggle for Justice

Telling the Story of Civil Rights in America: Fred Korematsu and The Struggle for Justice

Fred T. Korematsu. Hand-colored gelatin silver print, c. 1940. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Fred T. Korematsu Family.

On February 2, 2012, our colleague, the National Portrait Gallery welcomes two photographs of Fred Korematsu (1919-2005) into The Struggle for Justice (2nd Floor), the incredible exhibition about civil rights in America.  Korematsu’s images will join portraits of cultural and political icons such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Betty Friedan, César Chávez, Leonard Crow Dog, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver.   Their images are windows onto the journey for civil rights and justice; together, their stories invoke the powerful sentiment from Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The photographs are gifts of the Fred T. Korematsu Family, a relationship that was cultivated by Ling Woo Liu, director of Korematsu Institute for Civil Rights and Education.  Korematsu is the first Asian American featured in the exhibition and joins a growing collection of Asian American portraits at the NPG that includes APAP’s gift portrait of the Honorable Norman Mineta and Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter.

Born and raised in Oakland, California, Korematsu challenged the legality of Executive Order (EO) 9066, the action that authorized the internment of Korematsu and 120,000 other Japanese Americans during World War II.  Americans with heritages that could be traced to the other nations at war with the U.S. at the time—Germany and Italy—were not interned.  Korematsu refused the order.  While Korematsu argued that the order violated his freedoms guaranteed to him as a U.S. citizen by the U.S. Constitution, he was convicted.  His appeals went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in a split decision that the internment was a military necessity.  Korematsu maintained that the basis of his conviction was a clear case of injustice.  After the release of Japanese Americans following the end of World War II, the internment of Japanese Americans remained an unresolved issue for America.

Fred Korematsu

Fred T. Korematsu (center). Gelatin silver print, 1939. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of the Fred T. Korematsu Family

Japanese Americans, researchers, legal experts, a Presidential Commission, and others, continued to review the circumstances and actions behind the internment.  Archival and legal research revealed that documents disputing the justification for the internment were suppressed.  Korematsu’s case was reopened and on November 10, 1983, his conviction was overturned.  The message was powerful, especially for those who were interned: Americans of Japanese descent had done nothing wrong by virtue of their heritage; they were, first and foremost, Americans.  In 1988, Japanese Americans impacted by EO 9066 received redress and reparations from the U.S. government.

Korematsu is a symbol for civil rights and justice.  His opposition to EO 9066 on legal and moral grounds joins the other voices in The Struggle for Justice who were similarly committed to a concept of American democracy that lives up to its ideals.  On every January 30, the state of California will celebrate Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution, the first day in U.S. history to be named after an Asian American.

It will be seventy years since the signing of EO 9066, an event that is the subject of APAP’s Annual Day of Remembrance Program on February 18, 2012 at the National Museum of American History.   The APAP is part of the largest museum and research complex in the world and our role is to connect Americans with their rich heritage and history.


 

Update February 7, 2012

Fred Korematsu Portrait Presentation

From left: Ken Korematsu, Karen Korematsu, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui

The Smithsonian APA Program attended a special presentation and reception for the portrait of Fred Korematsu on February 2, 2012. Two photographs of Korematsu are on display in the Struggle for Justice exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. Click here for more photos from the event, including speakers and guests.

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Event, Japanese American

2012 Annual Day of Remembrance at the Smithsonian

Congressional Gold Medal

February 18, 2012
2 — 4 p.m.

Warner Bros. Theater
First Floor
National Museum of American History
14th Street and Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004

Google Map

Metro: Federal Triangle
or Smithsonian

Free and open to the public.

General Eric Shinseki

General Eric Shinseki

For Country: Japanese American Soldiers and Citizens & the 70th Anniversary of Executive Order 9066

Update March 5, 2012 - This event has passed. For a full recap, click here.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program is honored to host Secretary of Veterans Affairs General Eric Shinseki.  This year marks 70 years since the signing of Executive Order 9066, the action that led to the internment of more than 110,000 Japanese Americans during World War II.  However, this year also celebrates the formation of heroic Japanese American World War II military units such as the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and sections of the Military Intelligence Service.

Learn more about this period in American history through objects, veterans, speakers, and film. Learn about the Congressional Gold Medal (pictured above) awarded to Japanese Americans who served in World War II. Join us for an afternoon of reflection and hear amazing stories about perseverance and service.

Schedule

2:00 p.m. For Country
A keynote address by Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General Eric Shinseki
2:30 — 3:30 p.m. Congressional Gold Medal
Presentation by the U.S. Mint
3:00 p.m. Remembering Voices:
Executive Order 9066 & Japanese American WWII Veterans

Screening, panel discussion, and Q&A featuring veterans and historians. Panelists: Grant Ichikawa, MIS veteran; Gerald Yamada, Japanese American Veterans Association (JAVA) president; Christine Sato-Yamazaki Chairperson, National Veteran Network; and Doug Sterner, historian/author; moderator: Franklin Odo, historian.  
4:15 p.m. Book Signing by Panel Participants
LeFrak Lobby, near Warner Bros. Theater entrance
2 — 4 p.m. Educational Carts
LeFrak Lobby, near Warner Bros. Theater entrance

Warner Bros. Theater

Parking info:
Please click here to download a PDF for more details on where to park at the Smithsonian.

Closest Metro:
Federal Triangle and Smithsonian.

Sponsored by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program, National Museum of American History, National Japanese American Memorial FoundationJapanese American Veterans Association, and the Japanese American Citizens League.

Travel support provided by Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines is proud to be the official airline of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.

442nd Combat Team Song. Courtesy of National Japanese American Historical Society.

442nd Combat Team Song. Click for more info.

Related Links:

Related Blogs:

Related Podcast: History Explorer: Japanese American Internment and WWII Service
Listen to the Podcast (MP3 file)
View more photos

Curatorial assistant Noriko Sanefuji interviews Grant Ichikawa, a U.S. veteran who enlisted after being relocated to a Japanese American internment camp with his family in 1942. Allowed to join the army after a need for interpreters, Mr. Ichikawa served the country proudly. In 2011, he and other veterans were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his service. 

Veteran Grant Ichikawa

Curatorial assistant Noriko Sanefuji interviews Grant Ichikawa at the National Museum of American History, February 2012.

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History, Japanese American

Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi (right) and Grace Uyehara at the Supreme Court. Photo by Doris Sato, 1987.

Gordon Hirabayashi (right) and Grayce Uyehara at the Supreme Court. Photo courtesy Doris Sato, 1987.

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program honors the life and legacy of Gordon Hirabayashi, who passed away on January 2, 2012. Hirabayashi was a sociology professor, civil rights activist, and known for challenging the basis of Executive Order (EO) 9066, which had authorized the evacuation and imprisonment of Americans of Japanese descent during World War II.  He was the petitioner in court case, Hirabayashi v. United States (1943).

Gordon Hirabayashi in 1942.

Gordon Hirabayashi, 1942.

While a student at the University of Washington,  Hirabayashi objected to EO 9066 by refusing to abide by a curfew imposed on Japanese Americans and refusing to enter a relocation camp.  The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the government’s argument that the restrictions were a military necessity. It took four decades for Hirabayashi to be vindicated, with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the internment policy “had been based on political expediency, not on any risk to national security,” as The Associated Press wrote.

Hirabayashi’s story about U.S. civil rights history was featured in the landmark exhibition, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution at the National Museum of American History.

Here is an interview from the exhibit:

“I was charged with uh, violation of uh, exclusion order. And then, subsequently I was given a count two, uh, curfew violation by my own admission. They said: ‘If you feel this way, what’d you do about the curfew?’ I said: ‘Well, uh what were you doing the last coupla’ nights, were you out after eight?’ And he says ‘Yeah.’ And I said: ‘Well, so was I.’ And he said: ‘Oh, then you violated the curfew.’ And he put me down. So those were the charges against me. The uh, instruction (I’m condensing this) but the instruction of the judge to the jury uh, as they were to leave was: ‘You can forget all that Constitutional discussion by the defense. The Western Defense Command order is: That all persons of Japanese ancestry both alien and non-alien must abide by these orders. You are to determine first of all whether he is of Japanese ancestry. If he is, did he abide by these orders?’ And, all of those questions were admitted by me.”

— Gordon Hirabayashi: Violation of Exclusion Order

Save the Date!

The Smithsonian Annual Day of Remembrance (DOR) is on February 18, 2012.  It will be at 2pm at the Warner Brothers Theater in the National Museum of American History.

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Event, General APA, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal – Event Recaps

Nisei Veteran George Joe Sakato and Senator Dan Inouye

From left: Nisei Veteran and Medal of Honor recipient George Joe Sakato of Denver and Senator Dan Inouye at the Gala dinner on November 1, 2011 (Washington Hilton Hotel). Photo by Kris Ikejiri.

Congressional Gold Medal

Ceremony program and the Congressional Gold Medal

Related Links:

Members of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program attended events celebrating the Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the Japanese Americans who served in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service. Their Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., was donated to the National Museum of American History.

Here is our recap of key events: 

On the morning of November 2, more than 1,250 veterans and family representatives gathered at Emancipation Hall in the Capitol for the Congressional Gold Medal (CGM) Ceremony. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave the opening remarks followed by: Majority Leader of the United States Senate Harry Reid (D-NV); Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (KY); Democratic House Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA); Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA); Representative Ralph Hall (R-TX); Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA); Senator John McCain (R-AZ); and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) who also served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. Inouye stated:

70 years ago we were enemy aliens, but today, this great Nation honors us in this special ceremony. We, gathered here this morning, are all proud Americans, and grateful to our nation for giving us the opportunity to serve our nation as loyal, patriotic citizens.

That evening in the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton Hotel, close to 2,500 people gathered for the gala dinner program featuring General Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, as the keynote speaker. Shinseki stated:

I know that today’s ceremony brings with it some deep and complex emotions for the Veterans here tonight. Those who survive war know that others, those who fought and died, whose stories are known only to God, never received their deserved recognitions. The Congressional Gold Medal corrects those oversights of history.

The Smithsonian is honored to host this symbol of honor, sacrifice, and freedom.  The Congressional Gold Medal will be on display in the near future.  Replicas of the Congressional Gold Medal are available for purchase from the U.S. Mint.

Congressional Gold Medal White House Briefing

Click for more photos

Honorees attending the Congressional Gold Medal Celebration were invited to the White House for a briefing on November 3, 2011, at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building. Eisenhower served as commander of the Allied forces in Europe during WWII, thus the venue was especially fitting for this occasion. Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program  and Japanese American Citizens League staff joined in recognizing the Japanese American Army veterans of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the 100th Infantry Battalion, and the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) of the United States Army for their distinguished service during WWII.

These veterans received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Congress on November 2, 2011. The Congressional Gold Medal represents the highest expression of national appreciation for their sacrifice in combat and for battling racial prejudices against Japanese Americans during imprisonment. Their victory abroad was a victory at home because their legacy has continued to touch future generations of Japanese Americans.

Invited speakers included:
Shin Inouye, Director, Specialty Media
David Mineta, Deputy Director, Demand Reduction
Danielle Gray, Deputy Assistant to the President for Economic Policy
Chris Lu, Cabinet Secretary, Assistant to the President
Ronald Sagudan, Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans
Earl S. Newsome III, Deputy Director, Center for Minority Veterans

While the Congressional Gold Medal recipients never asked for this recognition, it has been long overdue. The valiant service of these men stands as a punctuation point in history.

Recaps provided by Noriko Sanefuji, Curatorial Assistant, National Museum of American History and Krista Aniel, Program Assistant, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program.

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History, Japanese American

Congressional Gold Medal Award Comes to the Smithsonian

President Obama and guests after signing S.1055

President Obama and guests after signing S.1055*. Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Congressional Gold Medal Awarded to the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service to come to the Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Program honors the soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and members of the Military Intelligence Service for their dedicated service during World War II.

Congressional Gold Medal

Congressional Gold Medal, photo from the U.S. Mint

On November 2, 2011, members of these units will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian award, in a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Congress.  The 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service were the units of predominantly Japanese Americans, and some Korean and Hawaiian Americans, who would serve with great courage, distinction, and sacrifice.

The Congressional Gold Medal will be donated to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and tour across the country.  Display schedule to be announced in the near future.

*S.1055 – A bill to grant the congressional gold medal, collectively, to the 100th Infantry Battalion and the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, United States Army, in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II.

Related Links:

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History, Intern Update, Japanese American

Picture Bride Toku Shimomura

Written by Stephanie Chang, Summer 2011 intern.

There are several perks to being an intern at the Smithsonian Institution.  With a wave of my purple badge, I am able to breeze on by the long lines at the museums, receive discounts at various Smithsonian food courts and even get free tickets to the Smithsonian IMAX.   But I must say, perhaps the best perk of all has to be the opportunities I get to work with prolific Asian American scholars and notable members of the APA community. Roger Shimomura, a ground-breaking artist to be featured in next month’s Smithsonian exhibit, Portraiture Now: Asian American Portraits of Encounter at the National Portrait Gallery, was one such member that I had the pleasure to collaborate with.

Toku Shimomura

Toku Shimomura

Professor Shimomura has created a wide range of, as stated by his biography on his website, “paintings, prints, and theatre pieces [that] address sociopolitical issues of ethnicity.”1  Much of his art, which convey his experience being Japanese American, is said to have been inspired by several sources.  One source that I found particularly interesting was his grandmother.  Shimomura’s grandmother, Toku Shimomura, was a picture bride.  Picture brides, an entity that most Americans know nothing about, were some of the first Japanese and Korean women in America.  These women were arranged into marriages by the sole exchange of pictures. They would arrive in America as complete strangers to their husband, customs, and the land.  It was an undoubtedly terrifying experiencing for all the brides. However, with a bit of luck, some of these brides were able to rise to the occasion and become strong women in charge of their families, and even in some cases, communities.

Picture Brides and Shimomura's Grandmother on the bottom-right.

Picture Brides and Toku (bottom-right)

Toku Shimomura’s tale is filled with courage, hard work, and a bit of good fortune.  It began in a Tokyo silk factory where Toku and her future brother-in-law, Sabe, both worked.  Sabe found her suitable for his brother in America, and proposed a picture marriage.  She accepted.  In 1920, Toku arrived in Seattle. There, she met her husband for the first time.  Similar to most picture brides’ sentiments at the time, Toku felt disappointed with who met her at the harbor. However, as Roger stresses, his grandmother eventually overcame her initial dissatisfaction and soon fell in love with her arranged spouse.  With the love and support she received from her husband, Toku was able to earn a midwifery license and begin her own private practice.

Toku Shimomura with her grandson, Roger.

Toku Shimomura with her grandson, Roger.

Toku’s business boomed—she eventually delivered over 1,000 babies, including her own grandson, Roger—granting her economic power and status as the household breadwinner.  Toku was heavily involved in the Japanese Methodist Church as a member of the choir. She even held the distinction as the first Japanese woman to acquire a driver’s license in the United States. Toku took advantage of the opportunities available to her and was able to assert her strength as a woman. Her neighborhood looked upon her with respect and admiration. Mrs. Shimomura, a “matriarchal figure in a quiet way”, as Roger reminisces, eventually ascended to the role as a leader of the community.  With her passing in 1968, she left a lasting legacy in her hometown, the APA community, and, of course, as the artist’s own personal inspiration.

While Toku’s story is certainly atypical of most picture brides (and women for that matter) at the time, it is a wonderful testament of female empowerment within the APA community.  Many of Professor Shimomura’s artistic renderings reflect her strength and elegance, and are an incredibly noble and honest tribute to his grandmother’s memory.

Artwork by Roger Shimomura (1980): "Diary: December 12, 1941." Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Related Links

You can see his pieces live at the National Portrait Gallery from August 12, 2011 through October 14, 2012.  We hope to see you there!

Photos courtesy Roger Shimomura.

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