Nisei Veterans Share War Stories With Alvah Scott Students

Herbert Yamamura (center), a WWII Nisei veteran who served in the 442nd, then in the Military Intelligence Service, spoke to 63 fourth-graders from Alvah Scott Elementary School. Here he is with one group. Photos from Alvah Scott Elementary.

Alvah Scott Elementary fourth-graders recently received a history lesson impossible to find in books.

Fifty-six students met with Herbert Yamamura, a World War II Nisei veteran and member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, and asked him questions related to his experiences. The event was in conjunction with “American Heroes: World War II Nisei Soldiers and the Congressional Gold Medal,” an exhibit at Bishop Museum ended last week.

Annual trips to Bishop Museum are part of the grade 4 curriculum at the Aiea school.

“This year, we were fortunate to have our visit coincide with the Nisei Veterans exhibit as well,” said teacher Alena Wong.

Yamamura, who was a linguist and helped to translate Japanese to English during the war, provided a firsthand perspective on topics ranging from wartime duties to internment camps.

Beyond that, Yamamura also helped the children to understand the societal changes and difficulties during the war, specifically for Japanese-Americans in combat.

“Students mentioned how they came to realize that even though Mr. Yamamura was of Japanese descent, he was very committed to his country (America) and fought alongside other Americans to try to defeat his own nation of Japan.

“They thought that it must have been hard on all the Japanese people in America because they could easily be called a ‘traitor’ even if they lived as an American,” shared Wong.

Bishop Museum is one of seven museums nationwide to host the exhibit, which was developed by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in collaboration with National Veterans Network.

“We wanted to make the exhibit come alive for these students,” stated Mona Wood-Sword, member of the organizing committee. “Meeting these true American heroes, talking story with them, will make the exhibit that much more meaningful for them, and that was part of our mission: to teach the next generation about the heroism of these brave soldiers.”

In addition to talking to students, 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team members and the Military Intelligence Service shared stories with the community at the museum’s Atherton Halau. All members have been honored with the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The exhibit next opens May 4 in Los Angeles at Japanese American National Museum.