The Legacy — Why It Still Matters Today
The Nisei soldiers fought the hard fight on the battlefields and on the home front. They instilled the core values taught to them by their Issei parents who immigrated to Hawaii in the late 1800s seeking a better life.
When the men of the 442nd RCT stopped in Washington, D.C. on July 15, 1946, on their way home from Europe, they were greeted by President Harry Truman who said to them,
“You are now on your way home. You fought not only the enemy, but you fought prejudice — and you have won. Keep up that fight, and we will continue to win — to make this great Republic stand for just what the Constitution says it stands for: the welfare of all the people all the time.”
President Truman reviewing the 442nd RCT in Washington, D.C. (1946). (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration)
Calligraphy by Mrs. Minako Kamuro
When the veterans returned to Hawaii, they worked with others in Hawaii’s multi-ethnic community to challenge the Big Five corporations that controlled the business environment and the existing plantation society to create a more broadly equitable society. The results of waging this second battle were expanded political, economic and social opportunities which were profound, wide-spread and long-lasting.
(Photo: Auriza Ugalino, courtesy of the International Examiner)
Former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with former President Barrack Obama at Pearl Harbor
(2016). (Photo: Japan Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
The legacy remains as relevant today, as it was powerful back then. As we continue to witness the growth of deep divisions in our country and the world, and a rise in anti-Asian sentiment, we are reminded of the lessons from the Nisei soldier story:
- Values passed from generation to generation can help focus and energize large scale transformation.
- Hawaii’s unique multi-cultural milieu was an essential factor in the collaborative movement for social equity.
- Advancing recurring themes of justice and equity must be constantly nurtured by subsequent generations so that past injustices are not repeated.
- Healing the wounds of war between former enemies is both possible and a step toward peace.