The Library of Congress Veterans History Project (VHP), a program of the American Folklife Center, celebrated Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May by adding eight fully digitized collections of Asian Pacific American veterans to the "Experiencing War" Web series at www.loc.gov/warstories/.
Titled "Asian Pacific Americans: Going for Broke," the new collections include stories from World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Iraq Wars, with special emphasis on the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the "Go for Broke" outfit of Japanese Americans who fought valiantly in Europe during World War II.
"We are honored to have oral histories from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in our collection," said Bob Patrick, director of the VHP. "Many of these veterans put their lives on the line for their country while their families were confined to internment camps back in the States. We hope this series will build awareness and appreciation for their contributions and also encourage more veterans from every ethnic background to share their experiences."
Featured narratives include the story of Jimmie Kanaya, who, in 1941 at age 20, eagerly enlisted in the military—just months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. After helping his parents relocate from their Oregon home to an Idaho internment camp, Kanaya took his skills as a medic to the 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He aggressively cared for his men and at one point negotiated a halt in the fighting to bring casualties in from the battlefield. Captured by German troops, he escaped three times; at war's end, he was the only noncaucasian in his POW camp. Kanaya continued to serve his country during the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
The collection also recounts the experience of Gordon Nakagawa, who became a naval aviator in 1958 when the American military's main concern was Cold War strategy. Ten years later, Nakagawa flew bombing missions over Vietnam in a new A-6 Intruder, capable of flying at night and in all kinds of weather. On a subsequent tour of duty in Vietnam, Nakagawa's plane was brought down, and he became a "guest" of the North Vietnamese at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. Nakagawa called on his training and the shared experiences of previous POWs to survive his stay.
Also chronicled is the experience of Matthew Braiotta. Born in Korea and raised on Long Island by adoptive parents, Braiotta joined the Army in 1999 right out of high school. His intention was to pick a military specialty in the combat arms. As part of an armored cavalry unit, he served in Bosnia and then shipped out to Iraq in March 2003. Eight months later, he was badly wounded by a roadside explosive device. Now out of the Army, Braiotta credits his military experience with giving his life purpose and direction.
As part of the continuing effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online, more than a dozen sets of individual collections—comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs—have been featured on the VHP Web site. Past themes include D-Day, prisoners of war, women veterans, military medicine, spies and African American veterans. The "Experiencing War" section of Web site includes companion pages for the project's two books: "Forever a Soldier" and "Voices of War."