2019 was a big year for World War 2 related anniversary dates and commemorations of events that took place in 1944 and 2020 would have seen even larger gatherings to remember the end of the war in 1945.
The impact of the corona virus pandemic worldwide decided otherwise.
75th Anniversary tours
Last year, several tour groups visited the battlefields of France and Italy to honor the actions of the Nisei soldiers who made up the 100th/442nd RCT and the impact they had on bringing the war to an end.
From the small groups travelling across Italy to the larger group joining the Texans for commemorations of the Rescue of the Lost Battalion in Bruyères, and the super-sized group covering both the Champagne Campaign in the South of France as well as The Vosges, all had a common goal: see where the Nisei fought for the liberation of Europe while their families were incarcerated at home.
More groups were due to visit this year. Since March however – normally the start of the tour season in Europe – most countries have gone into complete or partial lockdown. To date, travel restrictions still remain.
All kinds of alternative ways to keep people engaged with venues have been applied. Who hasn’t watched a webinar or attended a virtual event by now? Sometimes, the connection comes in the simplest of forms though.
Throughout the lockdown, former tour members have been reaching out via email. Whether to check on each other’s well-being or talk about last year’s trip which – after months of suppressed wanderlust – seems already an eternity away.
Others have been prompted by the one-year anniversary of the 75th Anniversary tour of France to reminisce online. Many sharing stories and pictures of the 2019 July trip, now exactly a year ago. One of the enduring stories of that trip is getting stranded at the airport and the chicken pot pie…
Why visiting makes a difference
So why are people still talking about their past trips to places where the 100th/442nd were?
There are 3 main reasons:
- Lasting friendships formed between tour members
- Connections forged with local communities
- A much deeper understanding of the Nisei’s challenges
Tour groups consist of people who know one another beforehand as well as travellers with no connections to other members. By the end of a tour, there are no strangers left though!
Seeing how the Nisei are still revered in the towns and communities they helped liberate and hearing the stories from the perspective of the locals strengthens the bonds between generations.
One of the most often expressed sentiments that people have shared with me over the years of leading these tours is how much of a visual and emotional impact visiting those places have.
“I have read a lot about the Nisei and heard many of their stories, but I could never quite picture it. Seeing it for real, now I really understand.“
Be part of the story
The best way to experience for yourself the role the 100th/442nd played in France and Italy is to join a tour. Sign up for our newsletter and be the first to hear about new tour dates.
The 75th Anniversary Tour to France last July was a long time in the making due to its size – 3 big coaches! – and the logistics involved to cover the two distinct areas. Announcements about the 2019 tour were made shortly after the 70th Anniversary tour ended in 2014.
It was therefor perhaps no surprise that the tour filled up almost overnight once it did open up. Spaces on the other tours filled equally fast.
Travel may not be possible at the moment, but dreaming and planning is! If you need a little help with where to go, have a look at our tours page.
The time will come when travel will be possible again. Visiting the areas where the Nisei fought doesn’t have to happen in “big” anniversary years alone. Anytime is a good time to go on a trip to honor the Nisei legacy.
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