HONOLULU — The highly awaited Congressional Gold Medal exhibit opening this weekend at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum honors the World War II Nisei soldiers in the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and the Military Intelligence Service.
The exhibit will be on view from March 9 through April 14 in the Castle Memorial Building, and panel discussions will be taking place each weekend throughout the exhibit’s run, in Bishop Museum’s Atherton Halau.
On opening day, Saturday, March 9, at 11:15 a.m., a special 90-minute panel discussion entitled “After WWII — Hawaii’s Political War” will feature former governors George Ariyoshi and Ben Cayetano, retired Chief Judge James Burns, and Aina Haina Elementary School Principal Brendan Burns. Political reporter Dan Boylan will serve as the panel moderator.
“We hope to share varying perspectives on the political and social discrimination suffered by people of Japanese ancestry in Hawaii prior to, during, and after World War II, relevant events that occurred during World War II, the successful post-World War II political revolution, organized and led by former Gov. John A. Burns and the Americans of Japanese ancestry (AJAs), and the positive changes resulting from that successful revolution,” explains Judge Burns, youngest son of the late governor.
In addition, the panel will discuss the leadership skills of Gov. Burns and the AJAs, and the importance of having current and future leaders with those qualities.
The public is invited to view the exhibit and to attend the panel discussion. Prior to the conclusion of the discussion, the panelists will respond to questions from the audience. Admission to Bishop Museum is free on March 9 only, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., for kama‘aina (local residents) and military with I.D.
An opening ceremony will be held on the Great Lawn on March 9 at 10 a.m., with special guest speakers and a keynote address by Maj. Gen. Robert Lee, U.S. Army (retired), former Hawaii adjutant general, followed by the traditional maile untying to officially open the exhibit.
Other scheduled speakers include Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center (his wife, Maya Soetoro-Ng, sister of President Obama, will be in attendance); Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell; and leaders of the veterans clubs from the 100th, 442nd, and MIS.
At 1 p.m. at Atherton Hālau, there will be a sneak preview of “All That Remains,” a Kumu Kahua Theatre production about the World War II Nisei experience, followed by Q&A with playwright Mona Z. Smith and director Traci Mariano.
About the Exhibit
“American Heroes” was developed by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in collaboration with the National Veterans Network and circulated by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). Accompanying educational materials were developed by the National Veterans Network in partnership with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center.
The national tour of seven cities — New Orleans, Honolulu, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland (Ore.), Chicago, and Houston — is made possible by the support of AARP, Cole Chemical, Comcast/NBC Universal, the Japanese American Veterans Association, Pritzker Military Library, the Shiratsuki family, and Southwest Airlines.
The 100th Infantry Battalion was a unit within the U.S. Army’s 34th Infantry Division. Composed mostly of AJAs from the Hawaii Army National Guard, the 100th also included volunteers from the internment camps.
Battalion members’ stature, fitness levels, and unified camaraderie during training, prior to their deployment, made the 100th a strong unit heading into combat. With the “Remember Pearl Harbor” motto, they were consistently motivated to prove their loyalty to the United States.
During their 20-month combat term in Europe, the unit became known as the “Purple Heart Battalion” for the number of casualties. They fought in six campaigns in Italy and France, earning four Presidential Unit Citations. http://www.100thbattalion.org/
Considered to be one of the most decorated combat units in U.S. military history, the 442nd Regimental Combat Team consisted of a share of enlisted soldiers as well as volunteers who fought in Europe. Two-thirds of the original unit were Nisei from Hawaii, while the rest were Nisei from the Mainland.
The “Go For Broke” motto means to risk everything in order to win. Activated under the command of Col. Charles W. Pence, the 442nd worked closely with the 100th Infantry Battalion. Intelligent and zealous in learning their military duties, the 442nd understood patience and the importance of strategy while in combat situations. Over 14,000 men served in the 442nd. Their values of service, loyalty and sacrifice earned the unit over 9,000 Purple Hearts, eight Presidential Unit Citations, 21 Medals of Honor, and 560 Silver Stars. http://www.the442.org/
The Military Intelligence Service was a group of smaller units consisting of Nisei soldiers. Their average unit size was between 10-20 men. Playing a vital role in the U.S. military tactics, the MIS units used linguistic skills to gather intelligence, read captured enemy maps and documents, and conduct translations and interrogations. MIS unit members were at heightened risk because they could be confused for enemy troops by their fellow U.S. military personnel.
MIS post-war work proved crucial for the transition during the occupation of Japan. MIS servicemen provided indispensible assistance during Japanese war crime trials, in the repatriation of Japanese prisoners of war, and in establishing positive relations between U.S. military forces and Japanese civilians. Working under mostly classified orders, the MIS units did not receive the recognition other units and battalions had during and immediately after the war.
The Bishop Museum was founded in 1889 by Charles Reed Bishop in memory of his wife Bernice Pauahi Bishop, the last direct descendant of King Kamehameha I. Today, the museum is recognized as the principal museum of the Pacific, housing the world’s largest collection of Hawaiian and Pacific artifacts and natural history specimens. More than 350,000 people visit the museum each year, including over 40,000 schoolchildren. For more information, call (808) 847-3511 or visit www.bishopmuseum.org.