Museum events look at Japanese American WWII experience

The History Museum will host a special exhibit and event in January to remember the experiences of Japanese American citizens in World War II, and honor those who braved prejudices to help them or speak out against their treatment.

‘What if Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?’ exhibit, Jan. 2-Feb. 26

During World War II, Japanese Americans born and raised in Hood River, Oregon served heroically with the United States Armed Forces in the South Pacific and in Europe. At the same time, many of their family members were unjustly incarcerated in concentration camps on American soil. When these soldiers returned home to Oregon at the end of the war, the welcome they received was anything but heroic.

This exhibition uses firsthand accounts, photos, letters, and historical documents to show how wartime events brought national notoriety to the small community of Hood River. Visitors will be invited to make meaningful connections between the past and present — exploring the promise and reality of American democracy and equality.

The exhibit is curated by Linda Tamura and Marsha Matthews and is on tour through the Oregon Historical Society.

In coordination with this exhibit, The History Museum of Hood River County will also include opportunities for school and group tours as well as special activities for kids in the museum’s Exploration Space.

For tour information, contact Education Coordinator Carly Squyres at thmvolunteer@hrecn.net.

‘Heroes Unheralded’ event, Jan. 12, 2 p.m.

During World War II, the community of Hood River, Oregon gained national notoriety for discrediting Japanese American war heroes. Residents removed the names of Japanese American GIs from their community honor roll and proposed a Constitutional amendment to deprive them of their citizenship. More than 1,800 signed petitions to discourage these Japanese American citizens and their families (who had been incarcerated in wartime camps on American soil for as long as three years) from returning to their homes and farms after the war.

In the face of this overwhelming community sentiment, a small number of selfless and courageous individuals stepped forward. Facing a tide of pressure and prejudice, they were subject to public censure themselves. Yet, these ordinary citizens demonstrated principles of justice and decency. Some spoke out against unfair treatment toward those of Japanese ancestry. Others helped Japanese Americans to purchase goods or market their boycotted crops. Individually they befriended Japanese Americans with everyday acts of good will.

While these principled Americans acted without seeking thanks or recognition, it is time that we honor their selflessness. These ordinary folk demonstrated a true American spirit during extraordinary times. In our increasingly diverse society, they inspire faith and hope for children and adults alike. We are proud to take this opportunity to honor these unheralded community heroes.

Please join us on Sunday, Jan. 12, at 2 p.m. at The History Museum of Hood River County as we recognize these “Heroes Unheralded” who stepped forward on behalf of Japanese Americans during those challenging times. Although all have since died, we will posthumously honor those whose descendants are able to join us on that day.

Notable author Linda Tamura will preside over the program for this day of celebration. She will be sharing stories related to her recent book, “Nisei Soldiers Break Their Silence” as well as presenting history related to our “unheralded heroes.”

For more information related to this and all events and programs at The History Museum of Hood River County, contact Museum Coordinator Connie Nice at thehistorymuseum@hrecn.net or 541-386-6772.

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