The Hawai`i Nisei Veterans' Story
Digital Storytelling for Americans of Japanese Ancestry during World War II
By Shari Y. Tamashiro
The Hawaii Nisei Story, a Web-based exploration of the experiences of local Americans of Japanese Ancestry leading up to, during and following the Second World War, comprises the life stories of Hawaii-born Nisei veterans.
Some well-known, some less so, these stories – drawn from oral interviews with veterans of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (RCT), the 1399th Engineering Construction Battalion, the Military Intelligence Service (MIS)and the Varsity Victory Volunteers – are deepened, complemented and complicated by the seldom heard stories of the veterans' wives and families.
Print resources (like books) are preserved for generations on library shelves. Digital Libraries and Collections seek to make these resources discoverable online and reach new audiences. Our challenge was taking resources like oral histories and other primary source materials to create a digital collection that serves as a living digital memory.
Successive generations have no framework for the stories of their grandparents, they often have difficulty understanding the meaning and relevance of these personal narratives. They may not understand the references made, so these stories need to be placed into context.
Context is defined as, “that which surrounds and gives meaning to something else.” Digital storytelling allows limitless context, through related and supplemental information.
The Hawaii Nisei Story
Think of the Hawaii Nisei Story as a digital exhibit. When you visit an exhibit in a museum, you walk through and have to read signage to get more information on what you’re seeing. It’s okay but you cannot compare it to the experience of having the exhibit curator walking next to you and providing all of the knowledge they have accumulated.
The Hawaii Nisei Story strives to provide that “expert” walking alongside you as you navigate the stories. Take for example, the story of Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto.
In this story [http://nisei.hawaii.edu/page/whitey], we are introduced to Shiroku “Whitey” Yamamoto. Our story unfolds at his birth in 1923 in Ninole, Hawaii, where Whitey is raised by his father Asaemon, an independent sugar cane cultivator until his death in 1941. Whitey eventually volunteers for the 442nd RCT and is assigned to the Antitank Company.
The Antitank Company is detached from the 442nd RCT and trained to be glider infantry. After two weeks of tactical glider training near Rome, Italy, they participate in the D-Day invasion of southern France. "Operation Dragoon" commences on August 15, 1944. With paratroopers securing fields for landing, 44 gliders make the dangerous attempt to land. Their mission: hold the area until seaborne troops relieve them.
In Whitey’s Story, we provide context by juxtaposing supplemental historical information with the interviewee’s words. We also provide links to additional stories of the same event. In this instance, we get Lizo Honma’s and Chilly Sasaki’s accounts of the glider landing. This allows us to approach this event from more than one perspective. Readers who want to learn more are also provided with annotated bibliographies on the subject.
The people we meet are fascinating: Stanley Akita, 100th Infantry Battalion, a POW at Stalag VIIA for six months; Elbert Arakawa, 1399 th Engineer Construction Battalion, who contributed greatly to the war effort in Hawaii; Takejiro Higa, MIS, a cave flusher during the Battle of Okinawa who saved thousands of lives; Sue Isonaga, a live-in schoolgirl for Robert Shivers, FBI agent in charge; Yuki Kitaoka, who followed her husband Kit to Wisconsin while he trained at Camp McCoy; Ray Nosaka, 100 th Infantry Battalion, who was used as “dog bait” during secret training missions; and Ronald Oba, 442 nd RCT, an army cook. Read their stories at: http://nisei.hawaii.edu
The Hawaii Nisei Project is the result of collaboration between the University of Hawaii (UH) and Hawaii Nisei veterans. Funding for this project was provided by the University of Hawaii. Kapiolani Community College researched, designed and published a web site telling these stories
Using digital storytelling, we are building a framework for a community of memory with the Hawaii Nisei Story.
Shari Y. Tamashiro specializes in the Web and digital projects. She has a Masters in Library and Information Science from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. As Cybrarian at Kapiolani Community College, Tamashiro specializes in information architecture, metadata, site usage and information design, usability testing, web accessibility and design of large scale web sites. She is currently the project manager of the Hawaii Nisei Story web site, Farm Fresh Hawaii and Native Plants Hawaii.
By Roy Alameida
David La‘amea Kamanakapu‘u Mahinulani Naloia‘ehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua was born on November 16, 1836. During his reign as king, the Hawaiian Kingdom experienced the revival of Hawaiian cultural traditions, the building of a royal palace that included electricity for the first time in the Islands and the first Hawaiian monarch to travel around the world. But, Kalākaua also had to contend with the increase of foreign influence and the growing sugar plantations owned by many of the descendants of American missionaries.
Sailing to San Francisco to help improve his health, Kalākaua died January 20, 1891 never to see his island home again. After his death in San Francisco, his body returned home on board the U.S.S.Charleston on January 29th, 1891. The news of his death had not reached the Islands but as the ship slowly came into view off Diamond Head, the keeper of the lighthouse “leveled his strong telescope upon the ship…and was aghast! It couldn’t be true. Flags were at half-mast. There could be but one explanation. The King was dead.”
After the funeral services and burial of the King at Mauna ‘ala (the Royal Mausoleum in Nu‘uanu), his sister, Lili‘uokalani, expressed her deep feelings for her brother: “…So the King went cheerfully and patiently to work for the cause of those who had been and were his enemies…He sacrificed himself in the interests of the very people who had done him so much wrong, and given him such constant suffering. With an ever-forgiving heart he forgot his own sorrows, set aside all feelings of animosity, and to the last breath of his life he did all that lay in his power for those who had abused and injured him. If ever there was a man who was pure in spirit, if ever there was a mortal who had perfect charity, he was that man. In spite of all the revilings uttered against him, he never once opened his lips to speak against another, whomsoever it might be. And so my poor brother said goodbye to us all…and bade farewell to his beautiful Islands, which he was never to look on again…”
Source: Zambucka, K. (1983). Kalakaua Hawaii’s Last King. Honolulu, HI: Mana Publishing Co. and Marvin/Richards Enterprises, Inc.
Ikua Purdy Inducted into Wyoming Hall of Fame
Waimea, Hawaii – Ikua Purdy, Hawaiian paniolo who epitomized the skills and romance connected with the American West, was recently inducted into the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum Hall of Fame.
A premier cultural and historical center in Southeast Wyoming, the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum offers year-round programming, exhibits and activities that celebrate the pioneer spirit of the American West and the thrilling history of the world’s larges outdoor rodeo and western celebration, Cheyenne Frontier Days (www.oldwestmuseum.org). The ceremony was attended by members of the Purdy family, Paniolo Preservation Society members and Chris Kanazawa, CEO of Parker Ranch [in Waimea on the island of Hawai`i,] where Purdy once worked.
Purdy was nominated by the Paniolo Preservation Society (PPS) of Waimea.
“We are thrilled and gratified that our nomination has been deemed worthy,” enthused PPS President Dr. Billy Bergin. “Our organization is dedicated to gaining recognition both locally and nationally for the role ranching has played in Hawaii’s heritage and the American West.”
Ikua Purdy, a former Parker Ranch paniolo, set the cowboy world on its ear by winning the steer roping competition in the 1908 Cheyenne Rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyoming. [Hawaiian songs such as “Kilakila Rough Riders” and “Waiomina” were inspired by Purdy and other paniolo.] A year-long celebration marking this fairytale win is being planned for 2008 by PPS in Waimea and Wyoming under the banner, “The Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration.” Waiomina is Hawaiian for Wyoming.
Preparations for the Waiomina Centennial Celebration have been underway for the last year and a half. A relationship between Cheyenne and Waimea has blossomed and a “ Sister City” bond has been established.
Established in 1998, Paniolo Preservation Society works to increase public awareness of the historical, present-day and future significance of Hawaii’s ranching industry, with emphasis on the roles and traditions of the paniolo. A long-range goal of PPS is to establish a regional Ranching and Paniolo Cultural Center that will house artifacts and natural history representing the paniolo heritage, as well as an archival center for historical documents, maps and photos. For more information on the Paniolo Preservation Society and “The Great Waiomina Centennial Celebration,” visit www.paniolopreservation.org.
~from the Paniolo Preservation Society
By NWHT Staff