Planning underway for facility to honor Hawaii's Japanese-American WWII veterans

Published On: Sep 08 2013 12:33:14 PM HST   Updated On: Sep 08 2013 05:58:00 PM HST

Plans are moving ahead for a legacy center honoring Hawaii's Japanese-American veterans who served in the armed forces in World War II.

The design and some funding is in place, but construction on the project is now a race against time.

The legacy center will pay tribute to young Japanese-American men who fought on the battlefields in Europe and the Pacific. Back home, they fought distrust, racial prejudice and discrimination.

The Sons and Daughters of the 442nd is spearheading the effort. “Our generation owes everything, what we do and who we are, to the veterans, to the legacy of our fathers,” said Wes Deguchi, board member of the Sons and Daughters of the 442nd.

Their vision is a two-story, 18,000 square-foot facility that will house historical documents related to the famed 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service and the 1399th Engineer Construction Battalion.

More important than the artifacts, the Nisei Veterans Legacy Center would tell the story of what happened in Hawaii after the war.

Stories like that of Ted Tsukiyama, who was 20 years old when he served in the MIS.

“The generations that follow should know the story -- what it was like to be an American who was never fully accepted,” said Tsukiyama.

He, like many others, went on to break ethnic barriers in the community, workplace and schools.

“I think life is better, not only for Japanese Americans, but I think it helped to recognize and accept Americans of a lot of races,” said Tsukiyama.

“What we do with these accomplishments and these social changes and how it effects a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic community that is Hawaii -- that’s a different story, that’s a story that’s yet to be told,” said  Fujio Matsuda, a 442nd veteran.

But there is much more work to do.

Final approval is still pending on building the center on the campus of University of Hawaii - West Oahu.

While the state has appropriated $150,000 in funding for planning and design, fundraising for construction has yet to begin.

In the meantime,  the Nisei soldiers, now in their 80s and 90s, are quickly dwindling in number.

“If you lose the idea, you may never recapture it. So we have to get started,” said Matsuda.

The plan is to have the legacy center be an extension of the UH West Oahu campus and serve as a living research facility.


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