WASHINGTON — To recognize the Day of Remembrance, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History will host a screening of the Emmy Award-winning documentary “The Legacy of Heart Mountain” on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 6 p.m.
During the presentation, the museum will also display a signed softball that belonged to George Hirahara and was donated by his granddaughter, Patti Hirahara. The softball was discovered among other Heart Mountain artifacts, including photos that tell the story of the camp through pictures.
Also on view will be a baseball uniform worn by Tets Furukawa, who played first baseman as a teenager at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, documenting how baseball was an expression of American identity and citizenship.
The audience will also be able to see a hand-carved wooden ashtray in the shape of a cat made by actor Sab Shimono’s father and photos and a script by actress Takayo Fischer, who started her acting career as a child in camp.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion and a spoken-word performance by 2014 National Poetry Slam champion G. Yamazawa.
“The Legacy of Heart Mountain” recalls the lives of Japanese Americans held captive in a Wyoming prison camp during World War II. Ten thousand Japanese and Japanese American citizens were imprisoned there, behind barbed wire and under the watch of armed guards, solely because of their heritage.
David Ono, an anchor for ABC7 Eyewitness News in Los Angeles, investigates what happened through one of the largest private photo collections of its kind, taken by George and Frank Hirahara, who had a secret darkroom under their barracks. In the years they were imprisoned, they took thousands of photographs of camp life. Each photograph is a window into the daily struggles of American citizens imprisoned in their own country, yet desperately attempting to live a normal life.
This documentary features such notables as former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lance Ito. The film also addresses the contributions of the Nisei soldiers of the 100th Infantry Battalion and 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who were the most highly decorated unit in U.S. military history. It follows the journey of 442nd RCT member Stanley Hayami, who was killed in action, through the sketchbook he left behind.
It also reveals the story of imprisoned Japanese American young men who resisted the draft in protest of their country’s violation of their constitutional rights.
The panelists are Ono, Mineta, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Chairperson Shirley Higuchi, former Jerome, Ark. internee Alice Takemoto, and journalist Paul Takemoto, author of “Nisei Memories: My Parents Talk About the War Years.” The moderator is Dr. Franklin Odo, professor at University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
The lead sponsor is the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, with support from the Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese American Veterans Association, Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation, Patti Hirahara and Terry K. Takeda.
This event is free and open to the public. The closest Metro station is Federal Triangle. Location: Warner Bros. Theater, first floor, National Museum of American History, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W. (use the Constitution Avenue entrance).
To commemorate the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066, the museum is planning an exhibition in 2017. The three-page document changed the course of history for a segment of Americans and challenged their constitutional rights. Curators are actively reaching out to the Japanese American community to help identify and collect artifacts to document this history.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the museum explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. It is currently renovating its west exhibition wing, developing galleries on business, democracy and culture.