WW2 finished 75 years ago, before most of the Sansei were born and certainly before any of the Yonsei were around. So why should WW2 still matter to younger generations? The centenary of WW1 has seen an upturn in interest over the past 4 years, but we rarely spend a lot of time on other conflicts from long ago, like the Napoleonic wars or the Wars of the Roses.
At best, those conflicts return to the general public’s consciousness because of a new Hollywood blockbuster or TV series rather than actual historical interest.
Levels of impact
So why should we expect our younger generations to still care about World War II?
Grandads/vets are disappearing fast and with them, living memory. Once they are gone, we will no longer have access to first-hand accounts. Of course, many stories have been documented by now, either in written form or through voice recordings. However, a common heard statement is that many vets never talked about their war experiences. That means a lot of stories will be lost forever. We have all experienced situations where we wish we had asked more questions sooner…
Many nations got involved, but the Nisei found themselves in a unique position. Their families were stripped of their properties and held in camps. Yet they wanted to prove their loyalty to the US as its citizens. Far too many people outside the AJA community these days are unaware that fellow Americans were ever held in camps.
History tends to repeat itself if we don’t learn from past events and mistakes. Today, we live in an ever-faster changing world. Not everything is necessarily new though and old ideologies are finding ways back to the forefront. The better we know their impact in the past, the better we can prevent recurrence.
How we can maintain interest in WW2
So… what does all this mean in practice?
Should you run out and get a history degree? Of course not. There are a number of ways to explore history.
Listening to the storytelling by the vets is not only interesting, it is often immensely entertaining! It has drawn me to the FFNV reunion in Las Vegas for many years now. You can also find them acting as volunteer ambassadors at the Go for Broke Monument in LA for example or museums.
Visiting museums and exhibits can offer valuable insights as well as offer ongoing education through special events. Whether during an individual visit or on one of the regular pilgrimages to the concentration camps at Manzanar, Tule Lake or Minedoka among others, you are bound to pick up on things you weren’t aware of before.
Some organizations now offer great resources in the form of libraries, searchable databases like the unit roster on the Sons & Daughters of the 442 RCT’s website or the Hanashi Oral History Archives collected by the GfBNEC.
Take a trip to the front lines. Making a dedicated journey to the places where the Nisei fought offers clarity in more ways than one. Place names you read somewhere, but couldn’t quite place, become connected in time and space. Descriptions of “heavy terrain” deemed exaggerated, suddenly seem tame. Reports of gratitude from liberated communities swiftly turn to moving personal experiences during welcomes by the locals who pass on that regard from one generation to the next.
To find out more about tours to areas where the 100th/442nd were active in France and Italy, visit www.nisei-legacy-tours.com.
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