Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II

Washington DC is full of monuments, but this is one that I have only heard about a recently.  The Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism During World War II was completed in 2001.  The idea was conceived by the Go for Broke National Veterans Association, which would later be renamed The National Japanese American Memorial Foundation.  The organization raised $13 million to construct the monument which honors Japanese Americans who fought for the United States during World War II.

The included picture is Golden Cranes, a bronze sculpture by Nina A. Akamu.  Also on the monument are the names of the Japanese Americans veterans who died fighting for the US in World War II, along with quotes from a number of prominent Japanese Americans.  There was some controversy over a quote from Mike Masaoka, but his quote was retained.

The National Park Service now is in charge of the monument.  The memorial is located at the intersection of New Jersey Ave, Louisiana Ave, and D Street NW.

<photo credit:  Cliff via the Creative Commons License 2.0>

On Memorial Day: The Last Viewing

While Memorial Day in the US usually brings up thoughts of summer and barbecue, dead Asian American and Pacific Islander veterans usually don’t come to mind. This StoryCorp animation of a father’s remembrance of his dead son reminded me of what the holiday is supposed to commemorate. Allen Hoe, a Vietnam War veteran himself, tells the story of his trip to Washington to honor his son’s memory and the surprise encounter he made while there.

StoryCorps is a great way of preserving the stories of friends and family.  I have used it to record my father’s stories, many of them about being in the US Navy, and plan to do so soon for my mother.

Japanese MMA Promoter uses WWII Images to Hype Fight vs American

The Japanese MMA promotion Dream wanted something to hype up a Japanese crowd before a fight between Hayato “Mach” Sakurai and American Nick Diaz at its event Dream 14.  With the recent loss of its lightweight champion Shinya Aoki against American Gilbert Melendez, Dream decided to play up the idea of American vs Japanese  – including using images of World War II! They played this video, which some say has images from Pearl Harbor.    As the fight was also shown live in the United States, this was a particularly interesting choice to show during the  Memorial Day weekend.

What happened after that?   It seems that using World War II as a metaphor wasn’t such a good idea, as Diaz submitted Sakurai with an armbar.

Chinese-American Marine Kurt Chew-Een Lee Featured in “Uncommon Courage: Breakout at Chosin”

I asked my Dad what he was doing on Memorial Day, and he said that he was attending a Memorial Day commemoration for Veterans.   I wasn’t surprised, as he was a 20 year Navy Veteran.  One thing I’d like to do on Memorial Day is see Uncommon Courage:  Breakout at Chosin.  This documentary, debuting on the Smithsonian Channel on this Memorial Day, features Kurt Chew-Een Lee, the first Chinese-American commissioned as a US Marine.   Lee,  in addition to battling prejudice, led 500 Marines through hilly country in a blizzard to enable the breakout of 8,000 surrounded U.S. and U.N. troops.  While he won a Navy Cross for his efforts and saved the 8,000 troops from certain capture or death, the documentary says his greatest accomplishment may have been changing attitudes toward Asian-Americans.

Lee was put in the position of being a Chinese-American fighting against Chinese troops.  In the trailer, Lee acknowledges that soldiers had issues with his ethnicity, but in this Washington Post interview, Lee downplays this.  Lee accomplished his march in 30 degrees below zero weather, at night, and with a broken arm.  “He was ferocious,” says Lt. Joseph R. Owen who served alongside Lee.  “Certainly, I was never afraid,” Lee says. “Perhaps the Chinese are all fatalists. I never expected to survive the war. So I was adamant that my death be honorable, be spectacular.”

Lee enlisted to counter the stereotype of the “meek, obsequious, bland Asian.”  His one regret was telling his mother that he enlisted only on the day before he was to leave.  “She did not say anything when I told her. Not a single word. But I could tell by her face she was totally crushed.”

This documentary sounds fascinating, but I won’t be able to see this on Memorial Day as my cable company doesn’t carry the Smithsonian Channel.  If you do see it, let us know what you think.