The Library of Congress Veterans History Project, a program of the American Folklife Center, will celebrate Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month throughout May. Eight fully digitized collections of Asian Pacific American veterans will be added to the “Experiencing War” Web series on May 1.
The new series includes eight 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. Learn more at www.loc.gov/warstories
“We’re honored to have oral histories from the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in our collection,” said Bob Patrick, director of the Veterans History Project. “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, at age 20, eagerly enlisted in the military in 1941—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 looked out for his men and negotiated a halt to the fighting to bring in casualties from the battlefield. Captured by German troops, he escaped three times and at war’s end was the only non-Caucasian 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.
More than a dozen sets of individual collections—comprising interviews, letters, photographs and written memoirs—have been featured on the Veterans History Project Web site. Past themes include D-Day, prisoners of war, women veterans, military medicine, spies and African-American veterans. Companion sites to the Project’s two books, “Forever a Soldier” and “Voices of War,” can be viewed on the “Experiencing War” section of the Veterans History Project Web site.
Veterans from World War I through current conflicts and the civilians who supported them are encouraged to come forward to record their experiences and contribute personal documents for the growing archive within the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. The goal is to collect, preserve and share the stories of all American war veterans with future generations. To date, more than 45,000 individuals have contributed their recollections to the Veterans History Project. As part of the continuing effort by the Library to make its collections accessible online, almost 4,000 of those stories can be accessed via the Web.
Become involved in the Veterans History Project. Request a VHP “how-to” kit via e-mail at [email protected]
, download a kit from the Veterans History Project Web site at www.loc.gov/vets
, or call the toll-free message line at (888) 371-5848.