LIHUE — Barbara Bloemke, a fourth-grade teacher at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School, is disappointed about what her students do not know.
“It’s so sad that these children’s grandparents and some great-grandparents are heroes, and the children don’t know about them,” Bloemke said. “This ‘Go For Broke’ exhibit should be a must-see for them, and everyone else. The people depicted in the exhibit could be related to your neighbors, relatives or friends.”
The “Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts” exhibit opens free to the public today through Jan. 30 at the Kauai Veterans Center on Kapule Highway in Lihue. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturdays. The exhibit is closed on Sundays.
“Go for Broke: Japanese American Soldiers Fighting on Two Fronts” chronicles the history of Japanese-American soldiers from the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service who served during World War II.
Fighting in eight campaigns across Europe, the groups earned an unprecedented seven Presidential Unit Citations. To this day, the 442nd RCT remains the most decorated unit in United States military history for its size and length of service.
These veterans remain active in the community today, working and enjoying life among us.
Whitey Kurasaki, leader of the 442nd group on Kauai, was recently enjoying the annual Kauai Veterans Council Christmas party with other veterans from the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and more recent conflicts such as Desert Storm and Afghanistan.
He was joined by Jiro Yukimura, father of Kauai County Councilmember JoAnn Yukimura, who said he was on the deck of the USS Missouri when the surrender papers were signed. Also present were Norman and Mabel Hashisaka, recently announced as one of Kauai’s Living Treasures.
Kazuma “Monty” Nishiie was enjoying the celebration with his wife Celia, being greeted by Capt. Bruce Hay, commander of the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Mana.
The “Go for Broke” exhibit covers the Japanese immigration to the Territory of Hawaii and the continental United States, which started in 1885 and continued until 1924.
It expands to cover the prewar Japanese experience in Hawaii and the Mainland from 1924 through 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed, leading to the Japanese-American evacuation and internment on the West Coast.
The story of the Japanese-American soldier in World War II emerges, including the story of the 100th Btn, the 442nd RCT, and the history of Japanese-Americans of the MIS and Language Service.
Also included is the role of Japanese-Americans in the occupation of Japan following the war.
The coverage features individuals who helped Japanese-American soldiers during the war; the soldiers coming home; the closing of the internment camps; and the Japanese-American veterans in the civil rights movement. It closes with the Redress Movement, the passage of House Resolution 442, Civil Liberties Act of 1988, and the continuing legacy.
“The reception by the people on the Neighbor Islands has been overwhelming,” exhibit organizer Byrnes Yamashita wrote in an email. “We look forward to bringing the exhibit to Kauai to share with the island residents.”
Susan Honjiyo, a daughter of the West Kauai Club 100, said the exhibit came to Oahu only in 1984 and is not scheduled to return to Kauai again.
“This is considered ‘once in a lifetime’ for us,” Honjiyo said. “When it was displayed in Hilo, more than 1,600 people turned out for the month. On Maui, 1,100 people showed up, but due to space limitations, the entire display could not be put up at one time. Kona had 500 people viewing the exhibit, including two private and charter school groups.”
Kauai Area Complex Superintendent William “Bill” Arakaki, whose dad is connected with the 442nd and 100th, encourages students to view the free exhibit, noting that elements of the exhibit “connects well with social studies standards and U.S. history.”
Call 246-1135 for more information, or to register as a volunteer.