‘American Heroes’ Closes This Weekend in S.F.

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From left: House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Lawson Sakai of Family and Friends of Nisei Veterans, and Harriet Ishimoto, aide to Pelosi, at the opening of the exhibition.

SAN FRANCISCO — “American Heroes: Japanese American World War II Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal” opened on June 29 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and will close on Sunday, Aug. 4.

The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Services (SITES) has partnered with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the National Veterans Network to share the story of the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and Military Intelligence Service, who collectively received the Congressional Gold Medal during Washington, D.C. ceremony in November 2011.

Konrad Ng of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and his wife, Maya Soetoro-Ng, President Obama’s sister.

Several Northern California Nisei veterans were special guests at the opening. Speakers included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Colin Bailey, director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Konrad Ng, director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center; Daphne Kwok, chair of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders; Christine Sato-Yamazaki, director of the National Veterans Network; and Lawson Sakai, 442nd veteran and president of Family and Friends of Nisei Veterans.

“Let everybody who comes to the de Young Museum over this period of time … be educated in a way that will make them proud of this country,” Pelosi said. “You helped us correct not only the prejudice in the world, but the injustice in our own country, and for that, you are our heroes and we are very grateful. Congratulations on receiving this medal.”

Other special guests included writer and photographer Tom Graves, author of “Twice Heroes: America’s Nisei Veterans of WWII and Korea”; Hiroshi Inomata, consul general of Japan in San Francisco; Masashi Oka, CEO of Union Bank; Greg Kimura, CEO of the Japanese American National Museum; Emily Murase of the San Francisco Board of Education; Donna Fujimoto Cole, founder of Cole Chemical; and author and educator Maya Soetoro-Ng, Konrad Ng’s wife and President Obama’s sister.

The de Young is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive. Museum hours are Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 8:45 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.

There is no charge for access to public areas of the museum. These areas include Wilsey Court, where the medal is displayed. Fees apply for general admission to the galleries and for special exhibitions. For more information, call (415) 750-3600 or visit http://deyoung.famsf.org/.

Left: Daphne Kwok of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Right: Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata and his wife, Midori.

The traveling exhibition has been shown at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans (Jan. 12-Feb. 17), the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu (March 9-April 14), and the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles (May 4-June 9).

Upcoming venues are the Oregon Historical Society in Portland (Aug. 24-Sept. 29), Chicago History Museum (Oct. 19-Dec. 8), and the Houston Holocaust Museum (Dec. 21-Jan. 24, 2014).

At the conclusion of the tour, the Congressional Gold Medal will be on permanent display in an exhibition, “The Price of Freedom,” at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

For more information on the tour, visit www.nationalveteransnetwork.com.

From left: Rev. Grace Kaori Suzuki, MIS veteran Warren Eijima, MIS veteran Koji Oka and his wife Betty.

Among the veterans in attendance were (left) artist and MIS veteran Lewis Suzuki, pictured with his daughter, Fumi, and (right) 100-year-old Roy Matsumoto, an MIS veteran who served with Merrill’s Marauders in Burma. His story is told in “Honor and Sacrifice,” a documentary co-produced by his daughter, Karen.

MIS Learning Center

Also on June 29, in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, the National Japanese American Historical Society held a sneak peek of the MIS Historic Learning Center at the Presidio of San Francisco.

The center, which is nearing completion, is located in Building 640, the original home of the MIS Language School, which was established in November 1941, prior to Pearl Harbor, to train soldiers to become translators and interpreters in the Pacific Theater. It includes a replica of an MIS classroom and displays on the role of the MIS in Allied campaigns in Asia and the Pacific as well as the postwar occupation of Japan.

In her remarks at the de Young Museum, Pelosi said of the MIS Historic Learning Center, “In years to come it will serve as a source of education of the diverse dimension of the immigrant experience — the Japanese American experience.”

During the program, Inomata presented NJAHS Executive Director Rosalyn Tonai with the Consul General Award for her leadership on the Building 640 project.

Another sneak peek is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3-4, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, visit http://njahs.org/640/.

Photos by KAHN YAMADA

The MIS Historic Learning Center, located in the Presidio of San Francisco’s Crissy Field, is the former home of the Army’s MIS Language School.

The interior of the center, still being developed, will include exhibits about the Japanese American World War II experience.

A model shows what the building looked like in late 1941/early 1942.

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