September 30, 2013

Oregon museum display honors JA veterans

     Japanese American World War II veterans stood front and center during a ceremony in their honor and a visit to see the Congressional Gold Medal at the Oregon Historical Society’s Oregon History Museum in Portland.
     The medal, awarded in 2011 to Japanese American World War II veterans in the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and the Military Intelligence Service, is on view at the museum through Sept. 29. The medal’s national tour is being displayed in seven cities this year, the Oregon History Museum being the only Pacific Northwest venue.
     “The Oregon History Museum, in partnership with the Oregon Nikkei Endowment, is thrilled to ... share the inspiring story of these men who fought with bravery and valor on the battlefields of Europe and Asia, even while many of their family members were forced to live in internment camps,” said Oregon Historical Society Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk in a release.
     After Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, people of Japanese heritage were sent to war relocation camps in 1942. It was a geographic matter for those who lived on the West Coast, about 110,000 people, relocated by the U.S. government.
By contrast, in Hawaii, where more than “150,000 Japanese Americans comprised more than one-third of the population, only 1,200-1,800 were interned. Sixty-two percent of the internees were American citizens.”
     Washington state had temporary civilian assembly centers in Puyallup, Toppenish and McNeil Island, where residents were sent before being transported to internment and detention camps in California, Colorado, Arizona, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Arkansas.
Local Nisei veterans were honored at a special ceremony at the Oregon museum on Aug. 24. They saw a screening of the documentary “Honor and Sacrifice,” about World War II Nisei veteran Roy Matsumoto, who also attended the event.
     The film follows Matsumoto’s journey from early hardship to a concentration camp and ultimately to the stature of authentic American hero, based on his nearly unbelievable contribution as a member of Merrill’s Marauders.
     Named after Frank Merrill and also called Unit Galahad, the U.S. Army 5307th Composite Unit was a long-range-penetration special operations jungle warfare team that fought in the Southeast Asian theater of World War II.
     Oregon Nikkei Endowment Executive Director Lynn Fuchigami Longfellow said “the exhibit and related public programming provides a wonderful opportunity to recognize and celebrate the values of courage, respect, humility, perseverance, compassion and citizenship exemplified by these true American heroes.
     “The veterans leave an amazing legacy through their service and unwavering loyalty. They fought for the freedom of others, while their own rights and those of their families were being denied by their own country.”
     In conjunction with the Congressional Gold Medal, the Oregon History Museum and Oregon Nikkei Endowment will both be showcasing original exhibits that bring added depth and a local angle to this national story.


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